Though well-reviewed, James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird has not been on the many Best of 2013 Lists that have started circulating, so the New York Times describes its win of the National Book Award as a surprise. The novel beat out Jhumpa Lahiri’s multi-nominated and shortlisted The Lowland, Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, Rachel Kusher’s The Flamethrowers, and George Saunders’ Tenth of December. McBride himself was shocked by the win, the Times says, reporting a “stunned expression” as he took the stage at the 64th Annual Awards ceremony held at Manhattan’s Cipriani Wall Street on Wednesday November 20th, no speech in hand or committed to memory.
George Packer’s The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America won the non-fiction award. Mary Szybist’s Incarnadine won the Poetry honor. Cynthia Kadohata’s YA novel The Thing About Luck earned the Young Adult Literature prize. The winners, selected earlier that day over a lunch by the judges, each received $10,000 and a statue.
Special honors went to Maya Angelou, who sang part of her acceptance of the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community; and E.L. Doctorow, recipient of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In his speech, Doctorow asserted books are the foundation of interactivity, even in a digital world. “Reading,” he explained, “[brings] sentences to life in the mind.”
Media Bistro lists all the National Book Award finalists.