Honor roll: National Book Award for Fiction

Each of these books has been nominated for a National Book Award for Fiction. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:Waiting

Waiting

Ha Jin

This is the story of Lin Kong, a man living in two worlds, struggling with the conflicting claims of two utterly different women as he moves through the political minefields of a society designed to regulate his every move and stifle the promptings of his innermost heart.

For more than seventeen years, this devoted and ambitious doctor has been in love with an educated, clever, modern woman, Manna Wu. But back in the traditional world of his home village lives the wife his family chose for him when he was young—a humble and touchingly loyal woman, whom he visits in order to ask, again and again, for a divorce. In a culture in which the ancient ties of tradition and family still hold sway and where adultery discovered by the Party can ruin lives forever, Lin’s passionate love is stretched ever more taut by the passing years. Every summer, his compliant wife agrees to a divorce but then backs out.…[more]

Book:The Shipping News: A Novel

The Shipping News: A Novel

Annie Proulx

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, The Shipping News is a celebration of Annie Proulx’s genius for storytelling and her vigorous contribution to the art of the novel.

Quoyle, a third-rate newspaper hack, with a “head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair…features as bunched as kissed fingertips,” is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just deserts. An aunt convinces Quoyle and his two emotionally disturbed daughters to return with her to the starkly beautiful coastal landscape of their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Here, on desolate Quoyle’s Point, in a house empty except for a few mementos of the family’s unsavory past, the battered members of three generations try to cobble up new lives.

Newfoundland is a country of coast and cove where the mercury rarely rises above 70 degrees, the local culinary delicacy…[more]

Book:Underworld: A Novel

Underworld: A Novel

Don DeLillo

Our lives, our half century.

Nick Shay and Klara Sax knew each other once, intimately, and they meet again in the American desert. He is trying to outdistance the crucial events of his early life, haunted by the hard logic of loss and by the echo of a gunshot in a basement room. She is an artist who has made a blood struggle for independence.

Don DeLillo’s mesmerizing novel opens with a legendary baseball game played in New York in 1951. The glorious outcome—the home run that wins the game is called the Shot Heard Round the World—shades into the grim news that the Soviet Union has just tested an atomic bomb.

The baseball itself, fought over and scuffed, generates the narrative that follows. It takes the reader deeply into the…[more]

Book:All the Pretty Horses: Volume 1 of The Border Trilogy

All the Pretty Horses: Volume 1 of The Border Trilogy

Cormac McCarthy

The national bestseller and the first volume in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds himself at the end of a long line of Texas ranchers, cut off from the only life he has ever imagined for himself. With two companions, he sets off for Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes comic journey to a place where dreams are paid for in blood.

Book:Wartime Lies

Wartime Lies

Louis Begley

As the world slips into the throes of war in 1939, young Maciek’s once closetted existence outside Warsaw is no more. When Warsaw falls, Maciek escapes with his aunt Tania. Together they endure the war, running, hiding, changing their names, forging documents to secure their temporary lives—as the insistent drum of the Nazi march moves ever closer to them and to their secret wartime lies.

Book:Charming Billy

Charming Billy: A Novel

Alice McDermott

Billy Lynch’s family and friends have gathered at a small Bronx bar. They have come to comfort his widow and to eulogize one of the last great romantics, trading tales of his famous humor, immense charm, and unfathomable sorrow. As they linger on into this extraordinary night, their voices form Billy’s tragic story and their mourning becomes a gentle homage to all the lives in their small community fractured by grief, shattered by secrets, and sustained by the simple dream of love.

Book:Cold Mountain: A Novel

Cold Mountain: A Novel

Charles Frazier

One of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain is a masterpiece that is at once an enthralling adventure, a stirring love story, and a luminous evocation of a vanished American in all its savagery, solitude, and splendor.

Sorely wounded and fatally disillusioned in the fighting at Petersburg, Inman, a Confederate soldier, decides to walk back to his home in the Blue Ridge Mountains and to Ada, the woman he loved there years before. His trek across the disintegrating South brings him into intimate and sometimes lethal converse with slaves and marauders, bounty hunters and witches, both helpful and malign. At the same time, Ada is trying to revive her father’s derelict farm and learn to survive in a world where the old certainties have been swept away. As it interweaves their stories, Cold Mountain asserts itself as an authentic American Odyssey—hugely powerful, majestically lovely, and keenly moving.

Book:Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer

Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer

Steven Millhauser

Young Martin Dressler begins his career as an industrious helper in his father’s cigar store. In the course of his restless young manhood, he makes a swift and eventful rise to the top, accompanied by two sisters—one a dreamlike shadow, the other a worldly business partner. As the eponymous Martin’s vision becomes bolder and bolder he walks a haunted line between fantasy and reality, madness and ambition, art and industry, a sense of doom builds piece-by-hypnotic piece until this mesmerizing journey into the heart of an American dreamer reaches its bitter-sweet conclusion.

Book:Sabbath's Theater

Sabbath's Theater

Philip Roth

Sabbath’s Theater is a comic creation of epic proportions, and Mickey Sabbath is its gargantuan hero. Once a scandalously inventive puppeteer, Sabbath at sixty-four is still defiantly antagonistic and exceedingly libidinous. But after the death of his long-time mistress—an erotic free spirit whose adulterous daring surpassed even his own—Sabbath embarks on a turbulent journey into his past. Bereft and grieving, besieged by the ghosts of those who loved and hated him most, he contrives a succession of farcical disasters that take him to the brink of madness and extinction.

Book:Ship Fever and Other Stories

Ship Fever and Other Stories

Andrea Barrett

The elegant short fictions gathered hereabout the love of science and the science of love are often set against the backdrop of the nineteenth century. Interweaving historical and fictional characters, they encompass both past and present as they negotiate the complex territory of ambition, failure, achievement, and shattered dreams. In “Ship Fever,” the title novella, a young Canadian doctor finds himself at the center of one of history’s most tragic epidemics. In “The English Pupil,” Linnaeus, in old age, watches as the world he organized within his head slowly drifts beyond his reach. And in “The Littoral Zone,” two marine biologists wonder whether their life-altering affair finally was worth it. In the tradition of Alice Munro and William Trevor, these exquisitely rendered fictions encompass whole lives in a brief space. As they move between interior and exterior journeys, “science is transformed from hard and known fact into malleable, strange and thrilling fictional material” (Boston Globe).

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