9/11 Report A Book Award Finalist

A patron of the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Springfield, Ill., reads a copy of the "The 9/11 Commission Report" on July 22. The United States government could not protect its citizens from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because it failed to appreciate the threat posed by al Qaeda operatives who exploited those lapses to carry out the deadliest assault ever on American soil, the chairman of the Sept. 11 commission Tom Kean said. AP

The final report of the Sept. 11 Commission led the list of finalists for the National Book Awards announced Wednesday.

The commission's report was among five finalists in the nonfiction category. The authorized edition published by W.W. Norton has been praised as a compelling narrative and has sold well, too, with more than 1 million books in print.

Government reports have traditionally been considered bland and unreadable, so the inclusion is unusual if not unprecedented. In 1973, a report by a special commission in New York on a deadly riot at the state prison in Attica two years earlier was nominated but did not win.

Among the other nominations, read by author and radio show host Garrison Keillor at a ceremony, was Donald Justice in the poetry category. Justice, who died earlier this year, was nominated for "Collected Poems."

Notably absent from the list were several big-name authors, including Philip Roth, whose "The Plot Against America" was well-received by critics. Bob Dylan, whose memoir "Chronicles" was also praised, wasn't on the list, either. Nor was Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, one of the country's founders.

The National Book Foundation, which bestows the awards, will present Judy Blume with an honorary award for distinguished contribution to American letters.

The winners in each of four categories — young people's literature, nonfiction, poetry and fiction — are named at a dinner Nov. 17 in New York. Keillor will also host the dinner. Each winner receives $10,000 plus a bronze statue; finalists get a bronze medal and $1,000.

The nominees for young people's literature: Deb Caletti, "Honey, Baby, Sweetheart"; Pete Hautman, "Godless"; Laban Carrick Hill, "Harlem Stomp!: A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance"; Shelia P. Moses, "The Legend of Buddy Bush"; and Julie Anne Peters, "Luna: A Novel."

Nonfiction nominees: Kevin Boyle, "Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age"; David Hackett Fischer, "Washington's Crossing"; Jennifer Gonnerman, "Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett"; Stephen Greenblatt, "Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare"; and The Sept. 11 Commission, "The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States-Authorized Edition."

Poetry nominees: William Heyen, "Shoah Train"; Donald Justice, "Collected Poems"; Carl Phillips, "The Rest of Love"; Cole Swensen, "Goest"; and Jean Valentine, "Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965-2003."

In fiction: Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, "Madeleine is Sleeping"; Christine Schutt, "Florida"; Joan Silber, "Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories"; Lily Tuck, "The News from Paraguay"; and Kate Walbert, "Our Kind: A Novel in Stories."

By Jeff Baenen
  • Lloyd Vries

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