November 7th through the 13th is National Book Awards Week! It is meant to shine a spotlight on great literature, up-and-coming authors, and books in general. This prestigious award has been bestowed upon authors nationwide and abroad for over 70 years. The original judges consisted of a panel by the American Booksellers Association president, Publishers Weekly, Virginia Kirkus (of Kirkus Reviews), three bookshops, and the American News Company. The American Booksellers Association presented an award to authors annually from 1936 to 1942 for the Most Distinguished Novel, Biography, and General Non-Fiction, or Most Original Novel. However, World War II disrupted further events and it ceased until 1950.
On May 16th of that year a new awards ceremony was jointly sponsored by the American Book Publishers Council, American Booksellers Association, and Book Manufacturers Institute. The categories changed to Best Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry. These expanded to include Children’s Books, Original Paperback, First Novel, Translation, Arts & Letters, History & Biography, Autobiography, Contemporary Thought, Philosophy & Religion, and Science. By 1980, the American Booksellers Association tried to emulate the Academy Awards by scraping the old ceremony and beginning a new one: the American Book Awards. It consisted of 28 prizes awarded to authors in 16 different categories. Alas, the change was not popular and by the late 1980s the National Book Awards ceremony was back with only two awards for Fiction and Non-Fiction. At this time, a not-for-profit organization called the American Book Foundation took charge of the National Book Awards in an effort to increase readership and appreciation of literature. The award categories again grew to include Poetry (1991), Young People’s Literature (1996), and Translated Literature (2018).
The 73rd annual National Book Awards ceremony is held on November 16th. Finalists get $1000, a finalist medal, and citation from the panel of judges the night before the big ceremony. The winners get $10,000, a winner’s medal, and a bronze sculpture. Join us at the Gilroy Library to celebrate the week before the ceremony. Check out past award winners from our upstairs display, discover new authors on the long and shortlist of nominees, share your opinions on American literature with #BookAwardsWeek on social media.