Special Collections

National Book Award Winners - Fiction

Description: The National Book Awards are presented annually "to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America." Here we present the Fiction medal winners. #award #adults


Showing 1 through 25 of 79 results
 

The Hair of Harold Roux

by Thomas Williams

In The Hair of Harold Roux, we are introduced to Aaron Benham: college professor, writer, husband, and father. Aaron-when he can focus-is at work on a novel, The Hair of Harold Roux, a thinly disguised autobiographical account of his college days. In Aaron's novel, his alter ego, Allard Benson, courts a young woman, despite the efforts of his rival, the earnest and balding Harold Roux-a GI recently returned from World War II with an unfortunate hairpiece. What unfolds through Aaron's mind, his past and present, and his nested narratives is a fascinating exploration of sex and friendship, responsibility and regret, youth and middle age, and the essential fictions that see us through.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1975

Augustus

by John A. Williams

A brilliant and beautifully written novel in the tradition of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius, Augustus is a sweeping narrative that brings vividly to life a compelling cast of historical figures through their letters, dispatches, and memoirs.

A mere eighteen years of age when his uncle, Julius Caesar, is murdered, Octavius Caesar prematurely inherits rule of the Roman Republic. Surrounded by men who are jockeying for power–Cicero, Brutus, Cassius, and Mark Antony–young Octavius must work against the powerful Roman political machinations to claim his destiny as first Roman emperor. Sprung from meticulous research and the pen of a true poet, Augustus tells the story of one man’s dream to liberate a corrupt Rome from the fancy of the capriciously crooked and the wildly wealthy.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1973

The Eighth Day

by Thornton Wilder

On a Sunday afternoon in 1902 in Coaltown, Illinois, mine manager Breckenridge Lansing is shot and killed at a target practice. John Ashley, a longtime family friend, is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. On his way to the execution a mysterious rescue party takes over the prisoner's railway car and spirits him away. This sprawling novel lays bare the lives of the Ashley and Lansing families, each marked with tragedy yet sustained by hope. Wilder sees this story as part of the vast weave of human history. The novel examines large philosophical themes - faith, hope, love, and the meaning of life. The intricate plot is powered by two questions: who really killed Breckenridge Lansing? And who were the rescuers who saved John Ashley's life?

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1968

The Underground Railroad

by Colson Whitehead

Amagnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

Oprah's Book Club 2016 Selection

National Book Award Winner

A New York Times Bestseller

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2016

Birdie

by William Wharton

An amazement. . . a combination of flashback and interior monologue that Freud and Joyce would both be proud of. . . [Birdy] is a philosophical romance of the highest order. It gleams with remembered youth, and desire, and the emancipating dream. It is at home with the irrational. . . an enchanting book.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1980

The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty

by Eudora Welty

This complete collection includes all the published stories of Eudora Welty.

There are forty-one stories in all, including the earlier collections A Curtain of Green, The Wide Net, The Golden Apples, and The Bride of the Innisfallen, as well as previously uncollected stories.

With a Preface written by the Author especially for this edition.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1983

Sing, Unburied, Sing

by Jesmyn Ward

A searing and profound Southern odyssey by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward.

In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Ward is a major American writer, multiply awarded and universally lauded, and in Sing, Unburied, Sing she is at the height of her powers.

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.

Date Added: 11/21/2017


Year: 2017

Salvage the Bones

by Jesmyn Ward

As Hurricane Katrina is building over the Gulf of Mexico, a poor family deals with the life and breeding of a winner pitbull and a teen's hidden pregnancy.

Each family member has their own story and strong character.

A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch's father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn't show concern for much else until he gets word of the approaching hurricane.

Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn't much to save. Lately, Esch can't keep down what food she gets; she's fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull's new litter, dying one by one in the dirt.

Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child's play and short on parenting.

As the twelve days that make up the novel's framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family-motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce-pulls itself up to face another day.

A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bones is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.

Winner of the 2011 National Book Award.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2011

The Color Purple

by Alice Walker

Alice Walker's masterpiece, a powerful novel of courage in the face of oppression

Celie has grown up in rural Georgia, navigating a childhood of ceaseless abuse. Not only is she poor and despised by the society around her, she's badly treated by her family. As a teenager she begins writing letters directly to God in an attempt to transcend a life that often seems too much to bear. Her letters span twenty years and record a journey of self-discovery and empowerment through the guiding light of a few strong women and her own implacable will to find harmony with herself and her home.

The Color Purple's deeply inspirational narrative, coupled with Walker's prodigious talent as a stylist and storyteller, have made the novel a contemporary classic of American letters.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Alice Walker including rare photos from the author's personal collection.

Winner of the National Book Award

Pulitzer Prize Winner

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1983

Rabbit Is Rich

by John Updike

The hero of John Updike's Rabbit, Run, ten years after the events of Rabbit Redux, has come to enjoy considerable prosperity as the chief sales representative of Springer Motors, a Toyota agency in Brewer, Pennsylvania. The time is 1979: Skylab is falling, gas lines are lengthening, and double-digit inflation coincides with a deflation of national self-confidence. Nevertheless, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom feels in good shape, ready to enjoy life at last--until his wayward son, Nelson, returns from the West, and the image of an old love pays a visit to the lot. New characters and old populate these scenes from Rabbit's middle age as he continues to pursue, in his zigzagging fashion, the rainbow of happiness.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1982

The Centaur

by John Updike

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD AND THE PRIX DU MEILLEUR LIVRE ÉTRANGER The Centaur is a modern retelling of the legend of Chiron, the noblest and wisest of the centaurs, who, painfully wounded yet unable to die, gave up his immortality on behalf of Prometheus. In the retelling, Olympus becomes small-town Olinger High School; Chiron is George Caldwell, a science teacher there; and Prometheus is Caldwell's fifteen-year-old son, Peter. Brilliantly conflating the author's remembered past with tales from Greek mythology, John Updike translates Chiron's agonized search for relief into the incidents and accidents of three winter days spent in rural Pennsylvania in 1947. The result, said the judges of the National Book Award, is "a courageous and brilliant account of a conflict in gifts between an inarticulate American father and his highly articulate son."

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1964

Europe Central

by Vollmann and William T.

In this magnificent work of fiction, William T. Vollmann turns his trenchant eye to the authoritarian cultures of Germany and the USSR in the twentieth century. Assembling a composite portrait of these two warring leviathans and the terrible age they defined, the narrative intertwines experiences both real and fictional: a young German who joins the SS to expose its crimes, two generals who collaborate with the enemy for different reasons, the Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich laboring under Stalinist oppression. Through these and other lives, Vollmann offers a daring and mesmerizing perspective on human actions during wartime.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2005

The News from Paraguay

by Lily Tuck

The year is l854. In Paris, Francisco Solano -- the future dictator of Paraguay -- begins his courtship of the young, beautiful Irish courtesan Ella Lynch with a poncho, a Paraguayan band, and a horse named Mathilde. Ella follows Franco to Asunción and reigns there as his mistress. Isolated and estranged in this new world, she embraces her lover's ill-fated imperial dream -- one fueled by a heedless arrogance that will devastate all of Paraguay.With the urgency of the narrative, rich and intimate detail, and a wealth of skillfully layered characters, The News from Paraguay recalls the epic novels of Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2004

Sophie's Choice

by William Styron

Sophie's Choice is William Styron's classic novel of love, survival, and regret, set in Brooklyn in the wake of the Second World War. The novel centers on three characters: Stingo, a sexually frustrated aspiring novelist; Nathan, his charismatic but violent Jewish neighbor; and Sophie, an Auschwitz survivor who is Nathan's lover. Their entanglement in one another's lives will build to a stirring revelation of agonizing secrets that will change them forever. Poetic in its execution, and epic in its emotional sweep, Sophie's Choice explores the good and evil of humanity through Stingo's burgeoning worldliness, Nathan's volatile personality, and Sophie's tragic past. Mixing elements from Styron's own experience with themes of the Holocaust and the history of slavery in the American South, the novel is a profound and haunting human drama. The result is Styron at the pinnacle of his literary brilliance.

This ebook features a new illustrated biography of William Styron, including original letters, rare photos, and never-before-seen documents from the Styron family and the Duke University Archives.

Winner of the 1980 National Book Award,

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1980

Dog Soldiers

by Robert Stone

In Saigon during the waning days of the Vietnam War, a small-time journalist named John Converse thinks he'll find action - and profit - by getting involved in a big-time drug deal. But back in the States, things go horribly wrong for him. Dog Soldiers perfectly captures the underground mood of America in the 1970s, when amateur drug dealers and hippies encountered profiteering cops and professional killers - and the price of survival was dangerously high.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1975

The Spectator Bird

by Wallace Stegner

Joe Allston is a retired literary agent who is, in his own words, "just killing time until time gets around to killing me. " His parents and his only son are long dead, leaving him with neither ancestors nor descendants, tradition nor ties. His job, trafficking the talent of others, had not been his choice. He passes through life as a spectator.

A postcard from a friend causes Allston to return to the journals of a trip he had taken years before, a journey to his mother's birthplace, where he'd sought a link with the past. The memories of that trip, both grotesque and poignant, move through layers of time and meaning, and reveal that Joe Allston isn't quite spectator enough.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1977

In America

by Susan Sontag

In America is a kaleidoscopic portrait of America on the cusp of modernity. As she did in her enormously popular novel The Volcano Lover, Susan Sontag casts a story located in the past in a fresh, provocative light to create a fictional world full of contemporary resonance.

In 1876 a group of Poles led by Maryna Zalezowska, Poland's greatest actress, emigrate to the United States and travel to California to found a "utopian commune." When the commune fails, Maryna stays, learns English, and―as Marina Zalenska―forges a new, even more triumphant career on the American stage, becoming a diva on par with Sara Bernhardt.

In America is about many things: a woman's search for self-transformation; the fate of idealism; a life in the theater; the many varieties of love; and, not least of all, stories and storytelling itself. Operatic in the scope and intensity of the emotions it depicts, richly detailed and visionary in its account of America, and peopled with unforgettable characters.

In America is the winner of the 2000 National Book Award for Fiction.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2000

Blood Tie

by Mary Lee Settle

The story tells the political, social, psychological and anthropological aspects of American and European expatriates who took refugee in an ancient Turkish city.

Winner of the 1978 National Book Award.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1978

Mating

by Norman Rush

The narrator of this splendidly expansive novel of high intellect and grand passion is an American anthropologist at loose ends in the South African republic of Botswana. She has a noble and exacting mind, a good waist, and a busted thesis project. She also has a yen for Nelson Denoon, a charismatic intellectual who is rumored to have founded a secretive and unorthodox utopian society in a remote corner of the Kalahari--one in which he is virtually the only man. What ensues is both a quest and an exuberant comedy of manners, a book that explores the deepest canyons of eros even as it asks large questions about the good society, the geopolitics of poverty, and the baffling mystery of what men and women really want.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1991

Sabbath's Theater

by Philip Roth

He is relentlessly defiant. He is exceedingly libidinous. His appetite for the outrageous is insatiable. He is Mickey Sabbath, the aging, raging powerhouse whose savage effrontery and mocking audacity are at the heart of Philip Roth's astonishing new novel. Sabbath's Theater tells Mickey's story in the wake of the death of his mistress, an erotic free spirit whose adulterous daring exceeds even his own. Once a scandalously inventive puppeteer, Mickey is now in his mid-sixties and besieged by ghosts - of his mother, his beloved brother, his vanished first wife, his mistress of thirteen years. Bereft and grieving, he embarks on a turbulent journey back into his past, one that brings him to the brink of madness and extinction. But no matter how ardently he courts death, he is too exuberantly alive to succeed at dying. Sabbath's Theater is a comic creation of epic proportions, and Mickey Sabbath is its gargantuan hero.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1995

Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories

by Philip Roth

Goodbye, Columbus; The Conversion of the Jews; Defender of the Faith; Epstein; You Can't Tell a Man by the Song He Sings; and Eli, the Fanatic. Also an introduction by the author.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1960

The Waters of Kronos

by Conrad Richter

From the time of its first publication in 1960, Conrad Richter's The Waters of Kronos sparked lively debate about the extent to which its story of a belated return to childhood scenes mirrored key events of Richter's own life. As was well known at the time, Richter had spent several years in the Southwest, where he collected the material for his first successful book, Early Americans and Other Stories, but by 1933, he had returned to live in his hometown, Pine Grove, Pennsylvania. John Donner, the main protagonist in The Waters of Kronos, traces a similar route from west to east, although he finds that his family home and native town have been submerged under the deep waters of a lake formed by the construction of a hydroelectric dam. As Richter narrates his alter ego's efforts to salvage his past, he moves beyond "semi-autobiography" to offer what are widely recognized as his most haunting reflections upon the power of family history, the fragility of human memory, and art's role in structuring the communal ethos.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1961

Gravity's Rainbow

by Thomas Pynchon

"A screaming comes across the sky..."

A few months after the Germans' secret V-2 rocket bombs begin falling on London, British Intelligence discovers that a map of the city pinpointing the sexual conquests of one Lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop, U.S. Army, corresponds identically to a map showing the V-2 impact sites. The implications of this discovery will launch Slothrop on an amazing journey across war-torn Europe, fleeing an international cabal of military-industrial superpowers, in search of the mysterious Rocket 00000, through a wildly comic extravaganza.

Winner of the 1974 National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1974

The Shipping News

by Annie Proulx

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Annie Proulx's The Shipping News is a vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary North American family.Quoyle, a third-rate newspaper hack, with a "head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair...features as bunched as kissed fingertips," is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just desserts. An aunt convinces Quoyle and his two emotionally disturbed daughters to return with her to the starkly beautiful coastal landscape of their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Here, on desolate Quoyle's Point, in a house empty except for a few mementos of the family's unsavory past, the battered members of three generations try to cobble up new lives. Newfoundland is a country of coast and cove where the mercury rarely rises above seventy degrees, the local culinary delicacy is cod cheeks, and it's easier to travel by boat and snowmobile than on anything with wheels. In this harsh place of cruel storms, a collapsing fishery, and chronic unemployment, the aunt sets up as a yacht upholsterer in nearby Killick-Claw, and Quoyle finds a job reporting the shipping news for the local weekly, the Gammy Bird (a paper that specializes in sexual-abuse stories and grisly photos of car accidents). As the long winter closes its jaws of ice, each of the Quoyles confronts private demons, reels from catastrophe to minor triumph--in the company of the obsequious Mavis Bangs; Diddy Shovel the strongman; drowned Herald Prowse; cane-twirling Beety; Nutbeem, who steals foreign news from the radio; a demented cousin the aunt refuses to recognize; the much-zippered Alvin Yark; silent Wavey; and old Billy Pretty, with his bag of secrets. By the time of the spring storms Quoyle has learned how to gut cod, to escape from a pickle jar, and to tie a true lover's knot.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1993

The Echo Maker

by Richard Powers

On a winter night on a remote Nebraska road, 27-year-old Mark Schluter flips his truck in a near-fatal accident. His older sister Karin, his only near kin, returns reluctantly to their hometown to nurse Mark back from a traumatic head injury. But when he emerges from a protracted coma, Mark believes that this woman–who looks, acts, and sounds just like his sister–is really an identical impostor. Shattered by her brother's refusal to recognize her, Karin contacts the cognitive neurologist Gerald Weber, famous for his case histories describing the infinitely bizarre worlds of brain disorder. Weber recognizes Mark as a rare case of Capgras Syndrome, a doubling delusion, and eagerly investigates. What he discovers in Mark slowly undermines even his own sense of being. Meanwhile, Mark, armed only with a note left by an anonymous witness, attempts to learn what happened the night of his inexplicable accident. The truth of that evening will change the lives of all three beyond recognition.

Set against the Platte River's massive spring migrations–one of the greatest spectacles in nature–The Echo Maker is a gripping mystery that explores the improvised human self and the even more precarious brain that splits us from and joins us to the rest of creation.

The Echo Maker is the winner of the 2006 National Book Award for Fiction.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2006


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