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Reading List: The 2017 National Book Awards

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The National Book Awards for best books for 2017 in the categories of Fiction, Non Fiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature were presented Wednesday night. Novelist Jesmyn Ward's won the Fiction category for the second time, with Sing, Unburied, Singabout three generations of a struggling family in Mississippi. The Russian journalist, author and activist Masha Gessen who writes about Russia, autocracy, LGBT rights, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump, won the Nonfiction prize for her book The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia

In Poetry, the award-winning poet and academic, Frank Bidart, won the prize for his book Half-Light: Collected Poems 1965-2016Robin Benway's book, Far from the Tree, about three adopted siblings, won the award for Young People's Literature. 

Congratulations to all!


Sing, Unburied, Sing

In Jesmyn Ward’s intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power—and limitations—of family bonds.

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The Future is History

In The Future is History, Masha Gessen follows the lives of four Russians, born as the Soviet Union crumbled, at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children or grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own - as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers and writers, sexual and social beings. Gessen charts their paths not only against the machinations of the regime that would seek to crush them all (censorship, intimidation, violence) but also against the war it waged on understanding itself, ensuring the unobstructed emergence of the old Soviet order in the form of today's terrifying and seemingly unstoppable mafia state. The Future is History is a powerful and urgent cautionary tale by contemporary Russia's most fearless inquisitor.

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Half-Light

In Half-Light, the collected poems of Frank Bidart, the work represents the human voice in all its extreme registers, whether it's that of the child-murderer Herbert White, the obsessive anorexic Ellen West, the tormented genius Vaslav Nijinsky, or the poet's own. And in that embodiment is a transgressive empathy, one that recognises our wild appetites, the monsters, the misfits, the misunderstood among us and inside us. Few writers have so willingly ventured to the dark places of the human psyche and allowed themselves to be stripped bare on the page with such condor and vulnerability. Over the past half century, Bidart has done nothing less than invent a poetics commensurate with the chaos and appetites of our experience. Half-Light encompasses all of Bidart's previous books, and also includes a new collection, Thirst, in which the poet austerely surveys his life, laying it plain for us before venturing into something new and unknown. Here Bidart, finds himself a "Creature coterminous with thirst," still longing, still searching in himself, one of the "queers of the universe." Visionary and revelatory, intimate and unguarded, Bidart's collected works are a radical confrontation with human nature, a conflict eternally renewed and reframed, restless line by restless line.

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Far from the Tree

Being the middle child has its ups and downs. But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs. And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

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Journalist, globe trotter and food lover

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