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2013 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

The nominees for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award -- presented annually for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original format -- were announced this morning. The 2013 judge panel -- led by chair Elizabeth Bear and including Siobhan Carroll, Michael Kandel, Jamil Nasir, and Timothy Sullivan -- selected the following works for the final ballot:

The winner will be announced April 19 during Norwescon in Seattle, Wa.

2013 National Book Award Winners Announced

Good-Lord-Bird-CoverThe Amazon Books editors are thrilled to be in New York for the National Book Awards. The after-party calls, so we'll tell you about our favorite moments tomorrow.

Tonight, we salute the magnificent work of this year's winners.

Winner--Literarian Award: Dr. Maya Angelou

Winner--Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters: E. L. Doctorow

Fiction Winner: James McBride for The Good Lord Bird

Nonfiction Winner: George Packer for The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America

Young People's Literature Winner: Cynthia Kadohata for The Thing About Luck

Poetry Winner: Mary Szybist for Incarnadine

See this year's full longlist and finalists.

Newbery Medal Winners Applegate and Gantos: Read or Rot!

Ivan180 NorveltNowhere180At the beginning of the year, Katherine Applegate won the 2013 Newbery Medal for her beautiful book about courage and kindness, The One and Only Ivan Her predecessor was the incomparable Jack Gantos, who won the Medal in 2012 for Dead End in Norvelt, the funny and heartwarming story of one strange summer in the life of a boy named...Jack Gantos. 

In the Q&A below, Applegate checked in with Gantos to find out about memorable school visits, where he keeps his Newbery Medal, and his newest book--the sequel to his Newbery winner and a September best book of the month pick--From Norvelt to Nowhere.

Katherine Applegate: Your alter-ego Jackie Gantos is back! Of all his hysterical new antics in From Norvelt to Nowhere, which scene did you have the most fun writing?

Jack Gantos: That’s a tough question. There are so many good scenes. There is the harpoon scene, and the pistol escapade, and the over imbibing, the creepy bathroom stall scene ... I’ll settle on the scene where Miss Volker is using the sandwich bread to wipe the unending tears from her guilty crying while the soggy bread balls roll down her face like they were little white garden snails. That scene sinks into chaos for Jack.

KA: In the new book, Jack and Miss Volker visit some odd historical sites on their wild road trip, including a real ghost town. Is Rugby, Tennessee, still abandoned?

JG: Rugby is a great old town started by Thomas Hughes, who had written Tom Brown's School Days. He traveled from England and began the town which was built on socialist/utopic principles. The town was a perfect fit for Miss Volker’s childhood back story, and it had been abandoned for many years. But it has had a bit of a revival. The fabulous library has always been intact, though it was boarded up for many decades. The town’s origins parallel the origins of Norvelt.

KA: Is there a memorable, silly, or just plain embarrassing question you recall being asked at a school visit? 

JG:  After a Rotten Ralph presentation a baby faced first grader stood up and with a very sincere voice asked me what had happened to the real cat that inspired Rotten Ralph. The boy seemed very troubled. I replied as sincerely as possible, “Well, he lived a wonderful life for many, many years until finally ... he expired.”

He shifted from foot to foot and thought about that last word. Finally he asked, “What does expired mean?”

I paused. Time was passing. The other kids were getting restless so I got to the point. “It means he died,” I said.

He thought about that, then asked, “Well, did you stuff him?”

“I should have,” I replied while thinking, dang, I really should have. But it was too late for that. 

KA: When you autograph books, you often write “Read or Rot!” Why?

JG: Oh, it’s just a fun little motto that basically boils down to Read books or your brain will Rot. I usually draw a skull and write READ OR ROT! in blood red ink across the forehead. Kids like it.

KA:  Writing pre-Newbery.  Writing post-Newbery.  Any difference?

JG: There are differences but they are all very shadowy. There are no statements to be made about the differences. There are only questions. I honestly don’t spend a lot of time pondering this as I’ll probably invent a problem where none exists.

KA: Where do you keep your Medal? 

JG: In the freezer. When I have guests over for dinner and make individual butter pats for each plate I use the medal to imprint the butter. This way the conversation starts off about me.

YA Wednesday: NBA Finalists in Young People's Literature

Of the 10 nominees for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature (now there's a mouthful...) the five finalists were announced this morning.  The shortlist includes a great mix of titles, including a couple of our recent YA favorites, Gene Luen Yang's graphic novel, Boxers & Saints and October Best of the Month pick, Meg Rosoff's Picture Me Gone.  Both of these authors won awards for their first books: Gene Luen Yang was a National Book Award finalist for American Born Chinese, which didn't take home the NBA, but did win the Printz Award; Rosoff's first novel, How I Live Now, won the Printz Award along with awards in the UK and Germany.  In fact, nearly all of the finalists on this year's list are already award-winning authors, though none of them have won the NBA before.  The winner of the 2013 National Book Award in Young People's Literature will be announced on November 20 in a gala ceremony in New York.  Which one of the finalists would you pick to win?

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Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata

If you want to see the NBA finalists in Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry you can see them here.

National Book Award 2013 Finalists Announced


This morning, the National Book Foundation revealed the finalists in the Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature categories for this year's National Book Awards. Among the finalists are Jhumpa Lahiri for The Lowland (our September Best of the Month spotlight pick!), whom Sara Nelson interviewed just last week, and Gene Luen Yang, whom I spoke with about his comic Boxers & Saints the week before that.

Here's the full list of finalists:




Young People's Literature

The National Book Foundation has also compiled excerpts from the finalists called The Contenders, all available as free Kindle books.

The winners in each category will be announced in just over a month at the National Book Award Ceremony and Benefit Dinner in New York on November 20.

Man Booker Prize Goes to "The Luminaries"

41Adtc6kT7LShe’s young, she’s talented, and she just won the Booker. 28-year-old Eleanor Catton started writing her doorstop of a novel, The Luminaries, when she was 25 years old. She must have had an idea she was good:  she’d already written one book, The Rehearsal, which received critical praise, and in 2008 she was awarded a fellowship to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

But to go on to win the Booker, the UK’s preeminent book award, is quite a feat. She beat out a who’s who of authors to get the award: Jhumpa Lahiri, Colm Toibin, Ruth Ozeki, even Jim Crace (who, Philip Roth-style, had announced his retirement from writing earlier in the year).

The Luminaries, which was an Amazon Best of the Month selection in Literature & Fiction, is part historical fiction, part mystery, and a whole lot of good writing. The story takes place in New Zealand in 1866. Walter Moody, just-arrived to find his fortune, fairly quickly discovers himself among twelve important men of the community who are trying to solve a recent crime. As Lucy Scholes put it in a Guardian review from last month (and let’s face it, she nailed it), the book is “a tale of adultery, theft, conspiracy, trafficking, blackmail and murder set against the backdrop of the gold rush, opium dens, seances and tarot cards -– but The Luminaries is a dazzling feat of a novel, the golden nugget in this year's Man Booker longlist, a pastiche quite unlike anything I've ever come across, so graceful is its plotting and structure.”

As I read this book, I kept going back to Scholes' review in my mind, to its accurate description of the novel and to her almost-prediction that it should win. Would the Man Booker Committee agree with her?

Now we have our answer.

Congratulations to Eleanor Catton. We can't wait to see what you do next.

A Look at the National Book Awards Longlists --With Poll Results

The National Book Foundation took a new approach to its award nominee announcements this year, releasing longlists for each of four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young Adult Literature. The lists each consist of 10 nominees, which will be halved in the next few weeks. The winners will be announced at the National Book Awards ceremony in New York on Nov. 20.

But you don't have to wait that long to learn the winners of public opinion. We presented each longlist as a poll in which our readers could vote for their favorites. The results are in! The full longlists and those results follow. And a big thank you to everyone who participated!


Lowlands New York's big publishing houses have swept the fiction category this year, with each nominee representing a different imprint. Three of our Best of the Month picks made this perfectly gender-balanced list: Anthony Marra's debut novel, George Saunders' short story collection, and Jhumpa Lahari's sophomore novel.

From the get-go, our readers kept Lahiri and Saunders neck-and-neck, but ultimately it was Lowland that ended up on top with 28 percent of the vote.

Here's the complete list of nominees:



Two themes can be immediately gleaned from the Nonfiction contenders. First, all are first-time NBA nominees, except for Lawrence Wright (who was previously nominated in 2006 for The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11). Second, it's almost all about America, Gretel Ehrlich and Wendy Lower offering international exceptions.

Wright was our readers' favorite, taking 31 percent of the votes.

Here's the complete list of nominees:


Lowlands Again including many first-time nominees, the veterans here are, within poetry circles, familiar names. Frank Bidart -- a Pulitzer Prize finalist -- has received three NBA nods, and Andrei Codrescu should be known to NPR listeners.

It was Adrian Matejka's The Big Smoke, a collection of poems about heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, that our readers are rooting for, garnering 26 percent of the votes.

Here's the complete list of nominees:

Young Adult


The list includes some great books for younger readers, representing a range of ages, genres, and themes. Four of our own Best of the Month picks (indicated by * below) made the cut. But for our readers, it seems, the clear winner is Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, which earned an impressive 44 percent of the votes.

Here's the complete list of nominees:

Read our resident YA expert Seira Wilson's take on this longlist here.

National Book Award for Young People's Literature: The Longlist

It's award time again, and today the first of the category longlists for the National Book Award was announced--the Young People's Literature award.  The other category lists (poetry, fiction, nonfiction) will be announced over the next three days.  Last year Goblin Secrets took home the Young People's prize and the 2013 longlist includes familiar names and past award winners like Kate DiCamillo, David Levithan, Kathi Appelt, and Gene Luen Yang, to name a few.  Teen romance, graphic novels, mystery, fantasy--a wonderful variety of themes and genres, and all truly great books to choose from.  The judges have their work cut out for them...

Four of the titles made our Best Books of the Month lists and a couple (Picture Me Gone and The Real Boy) release over the next couple of weeks. Around the office, we all have a favorite horse in the race, so it will be exciting to see how we fare when the finalists come out on October 16 and the winner announced at a black-tie event in New York on November 20.  Do you have a favorite book on this list?

Flora150 FarFarAway150  BoxersSaints150 Luck150 TrueBlue150


  TangleKnots150 SummerPrince150 RealBoy150 PictureMe150TwoBoys150 


Remembering "Birmingham-1963": Guest Author Christopher Paul Curtis

WatsonsGoToBirmingham A few weeks ago we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s ground-breaking I Have a Dream speech.  Today is a more somber civil rights anniversary, the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.  The event that outraged a nation 50 years ago had a profound effect on Christopher Paul Curtis and led to his award-winning career as a children's book author.  In the guest post below, Curtis shares his story and that of The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963, now a beloved classic of children's literature and airing as a television movie on September 20th.

September 15, 2013, is the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, the event that inspired The Watsons Go To Birmingham-1963. I was ten years old at the time of the bombing, and I was stunned to see my parents cry when they heard the news. Not only did my mother’s and father’s reactions terrify me, their pain also showed me how momentous this act of terrorism was.  As I write this, I’m preparing to go to Birmingham this September to be part of the city’s observance of the anniversary. I am deeply honored by this invitation.

I’m also looking forward to the release of the Hallmark Channel Original Movie on September 20, 2013 of TWGTB.  As any author would, I initially had doubts and worries about how my novel would be treated in the transition from the page to the screen.  After seeing some of the filming and meeting the producers, the director,  the amazing cast, and the production crew my doubts are gone.  The team has done a wonderful job of making the novel come alive on the screen.  I am proud of the fact that I am a member of that team.

Christopher-Paul-Curtis_credit-University-of-Michigan-Flint_200The Watsons Go To Birmingham-1963  came at the right time in my life, a time when I was deeply unhappy in every job I’d held, (working in an automobile factory for thirteen years, unloading trucks in a warehouse) and felt there was more that I could be doing.  When my editor Wendy Lamb accepted The Watsons for publication I don’t think either of us had any idea of the impact the book would have.  We never dreamed Kenny Watson’s voice would be heard by millions of children and used for city wide reads and as a tool to help communities address racism.  Wendy and I would like to give our sincerest thanks to the many booksellers, teachers, parents and librarians everywhere who have been a crucial part of making this happen.  Without their care and understanding the voice of Kenny Watson would still be locked in the head of an unhappy Flint autoworker.

Finally, as we look back on the fiftieth anniversary of the summer of ’63 I am hopeful that Kenny’s story will help children understand the power that comes from committed people acting together to bring about change.  I hope my readers will be inclined to use this occasion to celebrate the courage of those who fought for Civil Rights.  As I say in the epilogue of TWGTB, “These are the people who believe as long as one person is being treated unfairly, we all are. These are our true American heroes and they still walk among us today.  One of them may be sitting next to you as you read this, or standing in the next room making your dinner, or waiting for you to come outside and play.

One of them may be you.

Christopher Paul Curtis

Graphic Novel Friday: LGBT in Comics

Since 1997 (although their efforts date back to the late 1980s), the Lambda Literary Foundation “nurtures, celebrates, and preserves LGBT literature through programs that honor excellence, promote visibility and encourage development of emerging writers.” Their scope expanded last week with the following good news for comics fans:

"For the first time ever, the Lambda Literary Awards will honor LGBT Graphic Novels in their own category in keeping with the explosion of titles, and talent, that have enriched LGBT literature for years. The new LGBT Graphic Novels category is defined as “any work –fiction or nonfiction– that uses a combination of words and sequential art to convey a narrative and is published in book form (as distinguished from periodical comic books). Open to any genre or topic this category includes graphic novels, graphic memoirs and comic anthologies.”

While we wait for the award winners to be announced in spring of 2014, here is a list of our favorite graphic novels that have LGBT themes and/or characters. It’s by no means comprehensive, and we’re hoping Omni readers will add their favorites to the comments!

  • Love and Rockets by Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics): Ongoing for over 30 years, the rich world created by an artistic band of brothers is still ahead of its time, involving LGBT characters and issues without pandering or overt “special messages.” These are life stories, told as life unfolds—with humor, heartbreak, and perseverance.  (See also the recent and very cool Covers collection and our reading guide to the series.)
  • Dykes to Watch Out for by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): Here is another long-running literary comics staple, this time focusing on a predominantly lesbian cast that ages and grows as the stories publish.
  • Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III (DC Comics): DC certainly made headlines when it announced the first openly lesbian character in the Bat-family, but Rucka and Williams transformed her into more than a costumed hero; she’s imbued with true character, full of pride, mistakes, and—yes—heroics.
  • Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse (Vertigo): Set in the early 1960s and in the American South, protagonist Toland Polk maneuvers his sexuality in a tumultuous time period, set against civil rights, racism, activism, and coming-out culture.
  • Wandering Son by Shimura Takako and Matt Thorn (Fantagraphics): This beautiful literary manga follows the lives of two fifth graders, Shuichi Nitori Yoshino Takatsuki, as they both question their gender identities in the wide-eyed and often cruel period of adolescence.

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: LGBT in Comics" »

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