The National Book Award shortlist is announced

This week, the National Book Foundation announced its short list for the National Book Awards.

The writers come from such places as Pittsburgh, Norway, Iran and Poland, and many of them have delved into some of the most pressing conversations of our time: racism, masculinity, addiction, the destruction of indigenous culture, class divides and corporations.

And for the first time since the 1980s, the judges will also honor a work in translation. “This year, instead of just celebrating the best American literature, we’re celebrating the best literature in America,” Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, told NPR.

The Poison Squad, by Deborah Blum
Like your milk without formaldehyde, your chocolate without arsenic and your cheese without lead? Say a posthumous thank you to pioneering chemist Harvey Washington Wiley and his daring Poison Squad, the group of human test subjects who helped him identify dangerous food additives.

Deborah Blum’s new book, The Poison Squad, tells the amazing story of Wiley, his volunteers, and their impact on food safety regulations — check out her conversation with Ari Shapiro here.

Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart, by Alice Walker
Alice Walker has a new collection of poems about issues of the world, and those in her own backyard.

Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart gathers 69 of her poems in both English and Spanish, the latter courtesy of translator Manuel García Verdecia.

She talked to our own Scott Simonabout her adopted homes, the root of her poetry and human imperfection.

“I just think it’s great for us to acknowledge that people are not finished,” Walker says. “We’re not finished!”

Finally this week: NPR’s Congressional correspondent Scott Detrow helps you put today’s politics in context with a roundup of some of the country’s most prominent historians. Critic Jean Zimmerman calls Bitter Orange a “finely crafted psychological thriller.” And Jason Sheehan says that even the quietest story in The Sadness of Beautiful Things “shakes the ground and darkens the sky.
Leadership in Turbulent Times, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Bitter Orange, by Claire Fuller
The Sadness of Beautiful Things, by Simon van Booy
Happy reading!


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