October 16 – 23, 2008 Edition National Book
Award Finalists
Named for 2008

Chicago, Illinois (Authorlink, October 15, 2008) -The 20 Finalists for the 2008 National Book Awards, announced today, represent an extraordinary range of background and writing styles.  Judges recognized both long-established writers, including two previous National Book Award winners, as well as three debut novelists.

Among the Fiction Finalists are Peter Matthiessen, a National Book Award winner in 1979 for a work of nonfiction, for his epic novel Shadow Country, and Marilynne Robinson, a Finalist in 1983 and in 1989, for her novel Home.  Two of the Fiction Finalists are first novelists:  Rachel Kushner for Telex from Cuba and Salvatore Scibona for The End.  The third writer nominated for a debut novel is Kathi Appelt in the Young People’s Literature category.  Journalist Jane Mayer, poets Frank Bidart, Mark Doty, and Richard Howard as well as young adult fiction writer Laurie Halse Anderson have all been Finalists in previous years and are up for the award again this year.  In the nonfiction category, American history and the war on terror are major themes.

The announcement was made by bestselling author Scott Turow at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago and transmitted by videolink (go to to view).

The Winner in each of the four categories – Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature – will be announced at the 59th National Book Awards Benefit Dinner and Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City on Wednesday, November 19.  Writer and actor Eric Bogosian will emcee the event.  Each Winner receives $10,000 plus a bronze statue; each Finalist receives a bronze medal and a $1,000 cash award. The dinner and ceremony are chaired this year by Morgan Entrekin, Sonny Mehta, Lynn Nesbit and Holly Peterson.

The Finalists were selected by four distinguished panels of judges who were given the charge of selecting what they deem to be the best books of the year.  Their decisions are made independent of the National Book Foundation and their deliberations are strictly confidential.  To be eligible for a 2008 National Book Award, a book must have been published in the United States between December 1, 2007 and November 30, 2008 and must have been written by a United States citizen.

"One interesting aspect of this year’s Finalists is the range of experience," said Harold Augenbraum, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, "from first books by young writers to well-known and highly respected authors who have been writing and publishing for decades. And several Finalists books come from small presses."

Also on the evening of November 19, the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation will bestow its 2008 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters on writer Maxine Hong Kingston and the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community to Barney Rosset, the legendary publisher.

In addition to the invitation-only gala awards ceremony, National Book Awards Week includes the following events: 5 Under 35, the Foundation’s evening of emerging fiction writers, on November 17; The National Book Awards Teen Press Conference featuring all of the Finalists in the Young People’s Literature Category on the morning of November 18 at The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research In Black Culture;  and the Finalists Reading at The New School on the evening of November 18.

Following is the list of the 2008 National Book Award Finalists in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature.  For more information about the Finalists as well as National Book Awards Week events, visit or call Camille McDuffie at Goldberg McDuffie Communications at (212)446-5106.

The Judges for the 2008 National Book Awards:

Fiction panel:  Gail Godwin (chair), Rebecca Goldstein, Elinor Lipman, Reginald McKnight, Jess Walter

Nonfiction panel:  Marie Arana (chair), Farah Jasmine Griffin, Russell Jacoby, Megan Marshall, Kevin Starr

Poetry panel:  Robert Pinsky (chair), Mary Jo Bang, Kimiko Hahn, Tony Hoagland, Marilyn Nelson

Young People’s Literature panel:  Daniel Handler (chair), Holly Black, Angela Johnson, Carolyn Mackler, Cynthia Voigt



Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project (Riverhead)
Rachel Kushner, Telex from Cuba (Scribner)
Peter Matthiessen, Shadow Country (Modern Library)
Marilynne Robinson, Home (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Salvatore Scibona, The End (Graywolf Press)


Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War         (Alfred A. Knopf)
Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family    (W.W. Norton & Company)
Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a      War on American Ideals (Doubleday)

Jim Sheeler, Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives (Penguin)
Joan Wickersham, The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order (Harcourt)


Frank Bidart, Watching the Spring Festival (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Mark Doty, Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (HarperCollins)
Reginald Gibbons, Creatures of a Day (Louisiana State University Press)
Richard Howard, Without Saying (Turtle Point Press)
Patricia Smith, Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press)

Young People’s Literature

Laurie Halse Anderson, Chains (Simon & Schuster)
Kathi Appelt, The Underneath (Atheneum)
Judy Blundell, What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic)
E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion)
Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now (Alfred A. Knopf)