Winners of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction were announced on Sunday, January 22, at the Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) Book and Media Awards Ceremony at the America Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits conference in Atlanta. The fiction medal winner is Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (Doubleday), a searing reimagining of slavery in the antebellum South that also won the National Book Award. The nonfiction medal winner is Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown), a chronicle of two landlords and several struggling families in Milwaukee that highlights the dangers of those sliding into homelessness in America today. Both books were LJ Best Books.
The Notable Books List, an annual list of best adult titles published in the United States and including literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, was also announced at the ceremony. The fiction list was distinguished by several outstanding debuts, including Nathan Hill’s The Nix (Knopf), an LJ Best Book; Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing (Random), winner of the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize; Max Porter’s Grief Is the Thing with Feathers (Graywolf), a Dylan Thomas Prize winner that also received multiple awards short-listings; Shoba Rao’s An Unrestored Woman (Flatiron), a distinctively structured story collection; Iain Reid’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Scout: Gallery), well-wrought suspense about a man who abandons his girlfriend on a drive to see his parents; Tim Murphy’s Christodora, a multilayered look at New York City over time; and Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers (Knopf), the affecting story of an immigrant couple. Whitehead’s Carnegie Medal winner, The Underground Railroad, also made the list.
The nonfiction list ranged widely, from Patrick Phillips’s Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America (Norton), Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Gene: An Intimate History (Scribner), and Susan Faludi’s In the Darkroom (Metropolitan: Holt), all LJ Best Books, to Sarah Bakewell’s At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails (Other), an LJ Honorable Mention title. Already the recipient of nearly a dozen best book citations, Ruth Franklin’s Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life also made the list, as did Desmond’s Carnegie medal winner, Evicted. The poetry titles, which include U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins’s urbane and witty The Rain in Portugal: Poems (Random) and Safiya Sinclair’s Cannibal (Univ. of Nebraska), which uses a blended Eve/Caliban figure to examine postcolonial identity, are a study in useful contrast.
Titles on the Notable Books List are chosen by the Notable Books Council, which includes ten readers’ advisory and collection development librarians. The Carnegie Medals, cosponsored by ALA’s Booklist and RUSA and made possible, in part, by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, are chosen by an annually appointed selection committee that includes a member of the American Booksellers Association, three Booklist editors or contributors, and three former members of RUSA CODES Notable Books Council. The committee was chaired this year by Booklist adults books editor Donna Seaman. Carnegie Medal winners and finalists will be honored at ALA’s 2017 Annual Conference in Chicago.