ALA announced its shortlist for the second annual Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction on Monday, April 22nd, naming three nominees each in fiction and nonfiction. The winner will be announced at ALA’s annual conference in Chicago on June 30th. Founded in 2012, the award is co-sponsored by Booklist and ALA’s Reference and User Services Association (RUSA). Last year’s inaugural prizes went to Man Booker Award-winner Anne Enright for her novel The Forgotten Waltz and Pulitzer Prize winner Robert K. Massie for his biography of Catherine the Great. The nominees this year are similarly well-established: none wants for awards or accolades.
In fiction, Louise Erdrich’s National Book Award–winning 14th novel, The Round House (Harper); Junot Díaz’s latest collection of short fiction, This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead); and Richard Ford’s first novel in six years, Canada (Ecco), were named as the finalists. Our reviewers thought highly of all three of their most recent books, giving both the Díaz and Erdrich starred reviews. You can read snippets of that coverage below:
Through the lens of the women that Yunior, his older brother Rafa (who dies of cancer while Yunior is in high school), and their mostly absent father love, leave, and are left by, Díaz maps out a painful, aching geography of desire.…Díaz’s third book is as stunning as its predecessors. These stories are hard and sad, but in Díaz’s hands they also crackle.
The novel is pervaded by a profound sense of loss—of connectedness, of familiarity, of family—set against a profound sense of discovery. By piecing together the random events in his life, Dell transcends the borders within himself to find a philosophy of life that is both fluid and cohesive.…[T]he narrative slowly builds into a gripping commentary on life’s biggest question: Why are we here? Ford’s latest work successfully expands our understanding of and sympathy for humankind.
Erdrich skillfully makes Joe’s coming-of-age both universal and specific. Like many a teenage boy, he sneaks beer with his buddies, watches Star Trek: The Next Generation, and obsesses about sex. But the story is also ripe with detail about reservation life, and with her rich cast of characters, from Joe’s alcoholic and sometimes violent uncle Whitey and his former-stripper girlfriend Sonja, to the ex-marine priest Father Travis and the gleefully lewd Grandma Thunder, Erdrich provides flavor, humor, and depth. Joe’s relationship with his father, Bazil, a judge, has echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird.
In nonfiction, the finalists are veteran science writer David Quammen’s medical science thriller, Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic (Norton); Pulitzer Prize-winner Timothy Egan’s Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a biography of a controversial white photographer of Native Americans; and The Mansion of Happiness (Vintage), Harvard historian Jill Lepore’s collection of essays from The New Yorker, which together illustrate Americans’ changing views on the various stages of life. LJ reviewed all three:
Zoonoses, most simply described as diseases transmitted from animals to humans, include exotic horrors like Ebola and far more common ailments such as influenza, HIV, and Lyme disease. Vividly describing the work of field biologists and laboratory scientists, Quammen (The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution) takes readers on a series of journeys, including tracking gorillas in the jungles of Gabon and catching bats on the roof of a Bangladeshi warehouse.…Quammen’s is a compelling and quietly alarming book.
Edward Curtis’s photographs have been controversial since their rediscovery in the 1970s. Although his work documented Native American cultures, he was also guilty of framing his subjects in ways that emphasized his belief that they were a dying people.…Egan seeks to restore Curtis to a deserved high reputation. This fascinating biography is recommended to readers interested in the American West from the late 19th through early 20th century.
Lepore chooses quirky, though always revealing, lenses through which to examine the changing definitions of conception, infancy, childhood, puberty, marriage, middle age, parenthood, old age, death, and immortality. Readers learn more than they may have bargained for about board games, the Time magazine—New Yorker rivalry, scientific management, and psychologist G. Stanley Hall. Through sheer force of charisma, Lepore keeps her readers on track: this book, with all its detours and winding turns, is a journey worth taking.