Colum McCann's September 11 novel Let the Great World Spin picked up the 2009 National Book Award for Fiction, one of the most significant literary awards in the US next to the Pulitzer Prize. Winners were announced November 18 during a ceremony in New York City.
National Book Awards are given in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people's literature. Other 2009 awards went to T.J. Stiles's The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbuilt for nonfiction; Keith Waldrop's Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy for poetry; and Phillip Hoose's Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice for young people's literature. Hoose was joined onstage by the early civil rights heroine who inspired his novel.
The Best of the National Book Awards, a special prize celebrating the awards' 60th anniversary, was based on public online voting after finalists were selected. Flannery O'Connor's The Complete Stories won; finalists included books by John Cheever, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, Thomas Pynchon and Eudora Welty.
Dave Eggers won the 2009 Literarian Award, recognizing "outstanding literary service to the American literary community." His 2006 work What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, won France's Medicis literary prize in November; his other novels include A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. An author, editor, journalist, publisher, screenwriter, Eggers is co-founder of 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth, and of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house.
Author and activist Gore Vidal accepted a lifetime achievement award honoring Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
The National Book Awards have recognized excellence in American literature since 1950. The winners, who are selected by a jury, each receive a $10,000 cash prize and a bronze sculpture; finalists each receive $1,000, a medal, and a citation from the panel jury.