On March 16, 1950, publishers, editors, writers, and critics gathered at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City to celebrate the first annual National Book Awards, an award given to writers by writers. Now, over a half-century since its inception, the National Book Awards continues to recognize the best of American literature, raising the cultural appreciation of great writing in the country while advancing the careers of both established and emerging writers.
The nonfiction winner is Just Kids by Patti Smith. In this memoir, singer-songwriter Smith shares tales of New York City : the denizens of Max's Kansas City, the Hotel Chelsea, Scribner's, Brentano's and Strand bookstores and her new life in Brooklyn with a young man named Robert Mapplethorpe--the man who changed her life with his love, friendship, and genius.
The poetry winner is Lighthead by Terrance Hayes. In this fourth collection the author portrays the light-headedness of a mind trying to pull against gravity and time. It sets what it means to be "light longing for lightness" against what it means to "burn with all the humanity fire strips away."
The winner of the young people's literature category is Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. Ten-year-old Caitlin, who has Asperger's Syndrome, struggles to understand emotions, show empathy, and make friends at school, while at home she seeks closure by working on a project with her father.
The fiction winner is Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon. Thoroughbred horse trainer Tommy Hansel has a scheme to rescue his failing operation by shipping four ringers to Indian Mound Downs, run them in cheap claimers at long odds, and then get out fast before anyone notices. This title will be published on November 30, 2010; additional copies are coming.