The 2013 National Book Awards
November 27, 2013
The winners of the National Book Award, an annual prize of $10,000 and a bronze trophy, awarded in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature were announced at a ceremony in New York City on November 20. The award for fiction went to James McBride for his novel The Good Lord Bird. George Packer won the nonfiction category with The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. The poetry award went to Incarnadine by Mary Szybist. The young people’s literature award went to Cynthia Kadohata for The Thing About Luck. The winners were chosen from 1,432 submissions reviewed by five judges, and narrowed down to five finalists in October. Among this year’s finalists were Thomas Pynchon, George Saunders, Jhumpa Lahiri, Lawrence Wright, Frank Bidart, and Tom McNeal.
This year, the National Book Award, established in 1950, chose to expand the criteria for judges to include literary critics, librarians, and booksellers. Past award recipients include literary names such as William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Alice Walker, John Updike, and Bernard Malamud. The latest name on the list of fiction winners, James McBride graduated from Columbia University with a master’s in journalism. He is also an accomplished musician and Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University. The National Book Foundation judges called The Good Lord Bird, “daringly irreverent, but also wise, funny and affecting.” The novel centers around a disguised black child nicknamed “onion” caught up in John Brown’s abolitionist crusade. McBride said, of writing the book, “It was always nice to have somebody whose world I could just fall into and just follow him around.”