Matt Grant

Miscellany

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National Book Awards are announced tonight!

Tonight the 2016 National Book Awards are announced! 

I may not have read all 20 finalists, but I'm excited to see which book wins the coveted prize, so I can immediately put them on my reading list. If you're interested in watching the ceremony hosted by Larry Wilmore, it begins at 7:40pm EST and you can watch live on Facebook, Twitter, or the National Book Awards site. 

Are there any books you're hoping will win? What's your vote for best book of 2016? Leave a message in the comments! 

UPDATE, 10:37pm: 

If you didn't watch, you should have.

The National Book Awards ceremony tonight was an emotional and powerful display of diversity in literature. Three out of the four top prizes in Young People's Literature, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction went to black men, and all of the books that won focus on themes of racism, civil rights, and inclusion. The National Book Foundation has its first woman of color in the Executive President's chair

The night started off with U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia getting emotional as he accepted the award for the third part of the graphic novel series March, about his role in the 1963 Civil Rights Movement and the march on Selma. Lewis was drawn to tears as he remembered going to apply for a library card in Alabama and being told it was for whites only. He recalled a teacher he had as a child who told him, "Read, child, read," and he tried to read everything he could. 

Then Ibram X. Kendi won for his nonfiction book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. After telling the audience that his six month old daughter, Imani, which means "faith," was actually the best gift of the year, he talked about how after looking at the absolute worst sides of America while researching his book, "I never lost faith that the terror of racism would one day end; in the midst of the human ugliness of racism, there is the human beauty of the resistance to racism."

The final award of the night went to, unsurprisingly, Colson Whitehead for his novel The Underground Railroad. I recently saw Mr. Whitehead read from his book at Barnes and Noble on the Upper West Side, and it sounds like an enormously powerful and innovative book on the history of slavery and colonialism in America. 

As I mentioned on Twitter, I think it's really interesting to see the type of work being honored tonight, especially after the political season we just had. Larry Wilmore, the host of the evening, said at one point: "Seriously, the National Book Foundation is woke." While it was disheartening to see that no women won, it was still an evening to remember that literature has the power to educate, inform, instruct, entertain, and ultimately, to give hope.

I'm really excited to add these books to my to-read shelf.    

You can see the full list of tonight's winners here.