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Longlists for 2015 PEN Literary Awards Announced

On March 17, PEN American Center announced the longlists for its 2015 PEN Literary Awards for fiction, nonfiction, biography, essays, translation, and other genre categories.

The finalists will be announced on April 15, and winners for all the 2015 awards, including PEN’s career achievement awards, will be made public on May 13.

Winners will be honored at PEN’s Literary Awards Ceremony on June 8 at The New School in New York City.

National Book Critics Circle Names 2015 Award Winners

On March 12, the National Book Critics Circle announced the following award winners for 2015:

  • Fiction: Lila by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Nonfiction: The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation by David Brion Davis (Knopf)
  • Poetry: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press)
  • Autobiography: Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast (Bloomsbury)
  • Biography: Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh by John Lahr (Norton)
  • Criticism: The Essential Ellen Willis, edited by Nona Willis Aronowitz (University of Minnesota Press)

The National Book Critics Circle Awards are given annually “to honor outstanding writing and to foster a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature.”

Rankine’s Citizen, this year’s poetry winner, was also nominated in the category of criticism, making it the first book in the prize’s history to be a finalist in two categories.

NBCC’s special award winners, who were announced earlier this year, are Marine-turned-author Phil Klay, who won the 2014 John Leonard Prize for Redeployment (Penguin Press); Alexandra Schwartz, who won the 2014 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing; and Toni Morrison, who took home the 2014 Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

Louise Erdrich Wins Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction

Erdrich, who won the National Book Award for her latest novel, The Round House, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Love Medicine, and received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her 2009 novel The Plague of Doves (all published by Harper Perennial), is the daughter of a German-American father and a mother who is half Ojibwe.
In a career spanning three decades, Erdrich has published 14 novels as well as poetry, children’s books, short stories, and nonfiction. She is also an independent bookseller and owner of Birchbark Books in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“Louise Erdrich has portrayed her fellow Native Americans as no contemporary American novelist ever has,” James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, said in a statement. “Her prose manages to be at once lyrical and gritty, magical yet unsentimental, connecting a dreamworld of Ojibwe legend to stark realities of the modern-day.”
Past winners of the prize, which will be awarded during the National Book Festival on September 5, include John Grisham, Toni Morrison, and E.L. Doctorow.

Grateful American Book Prize Established for American History Books for Children

A new award, the Grateful American Book Prize, has been established to honor children’s fiction and nonfiction books that feature events and people that shaped American history.

“Of the more than five dozen literary awards for children’s books in the U.S., the Grateful American Book Prize is the only one awarded for excellence in writing, storytelling, and illustration in the category of historically accurate works for children,” said the award’s co-founder David Bruce Smith in a March 17 statement. “Our aim is to restore the role of history in the education of America’s children at a time when the focus in the classroom is on math and science.”

Smith, an author and publisher founded the prize with former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities Dr. Bruce Cole. The winner will receive a $13,000 cash award in commemoration of the 13 original colonies, as well as a work of art to be created by Smith’s mother, artist Clarice Smith.

The deadline for submissions is August 31, and contest forms can be downloaded from the Grateful American Book Prize website. A broad-based outreach to publishers of children’s books will be under way in the coming days, Smith said.

Richard Russo to Receive NAIBA Legacy Award 

The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) will present its 2015 Legacy Award to author Richard Russo at the NAIBA Fall Conference.

The award recognizes a lifetime of literary achievements and contributions to independent booksellers. Past Legacy Award recipients include authors such as Jules Feiffer, Judy Blume, Paul Auster, Joyce Carol Oates, and Pete Hamill, and industry leaders such as Morgan Entrekin, publisher of Grove/Atlantic. The prize is a donation to the recipient’s charity of choice.

Russo, who received the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for his novel Empire Falls (Vintage), will be the keynote speaker at the conference’s Awards Banquet on October 3 at the DoubleTree in Somerset, New Jersey.

NAIBA Issues Bookstore Visit Challenge

On the heels of a recent column by Politics & Prose’s Mark LaFramboise that highlighted the many benefits booksellers can find when visiting other indie bookstores, the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association has issued the Bookstore Visit Challenge 2015.

To inspire booksellers to actively learn from one another, NAIBA is urging booksellers to visit other bookstores between now and September 18. Points will be awarded based on visits, and the bookstore earning the most points through the challenge will win two free nights at the DoubleTree in Somerset, New Jersey, during the NAIBA Fall Conference, to be held October 2 – 4.

The bookstore visits must take place between now and September 18. Each bookstore staffer that visits another bookstore earns one credit for the home store. Additionally, each bookstore staffer that attends a NAIBA event will earn two points for their store.

Bookstore visits must include discussions with the staff or owners about the operations of the store. To earn points, the visit must be documented by sending a photo and description of the visit, including an idea shared or something admired about the visited store, to [email protected]. Comments and photos may be included on the NAIBA website and in future newsletters.

Rakuten Buys OverDrive

Rakuten, the owner of Kobo, has announced its acquisition of OverDrive, a marketplace for e-books and audiobooks, for $410 million, according to TechCrunch. The deal is expected to close next month.

Given Rakuten’s acquisition of Kobo in 2011, TechCrunch said, “It stands to reason then that U.S.-based OverDrive, which was founded way back in 1986 and offers over 2.5 million titles from more than 5,000 publishers today, will be put to work providing greater choice and reading material for Kobo owners.”

“OverDrive’s deep content library and relationships with publishers, libraries, schools, and retailers will allow Rakuten to extend our mission of empowerment to new market segments and accelerate the growth of our digital content businesses,” said Takahito Aiki, the head of Rakuten’s global eBook business, in a statement.