Young Lions Fiction Award Goes to Colson Whitehead for a Book Sense 76 Pick

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On March 20, at a ceremony held at the New York Public Library, author Colson Whitehead was honored with the Young Lions Fiction Award [YLFA] for his novel John Henry Days (Doubleday). Established in 2001, YLFA awards a $10,000 prize to a writer age 35 or younger for a novel or a collection of short stories. Remarkably, this year, all the nominees for YLFA were also Book Sense 76 picks. John Henry Days was a July/August Book Sense 76 pick.

John Henry Days is Whitehead’s second novel. The story revolves around the 19th century folk-hero John Henry, a black railroad worker who defeated a steam drill in a contest, but died in the act. Wrapped around this legend is the tale of a modern-day, freeloading, freelance journalist named J. Sutter who is covering the John Henry Days festival in West Virginia. The book won rave reviews from a number of prominent book reviews, including the New York Times Book Review and the Washington Post Book World.

It also received a thumbs-up from independent booksellers. "Absolutely first-rate," said Kevin Ryan, of Green Apple Books in San Francisco, about John Henry Days in the July/August Book Sense 76. "A complex, yet highly entertaining (and occasionally hilarious) yarn … that explores the effects of technological revolutions on the souls and bodies of two black men."

Other finalists for YLFA were, The Muse Asylum by David Zuchlewski (Putnam); The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, by Brady Udall (Norton) -- all July/August Book Sense 76 picks; Paradise Park by Allegra Goodman (Dial Press/Random House), a May/June 76 pick; and Esther Stories by Peter Orner (Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin), on the March/April 76 list.

YLFA was created by wthe Young Lions, a membership group at the New York Public Library for library supporters in their 20s and 30s. For more information regarding YLFA, or the Young Lions group, visit