1979 -- Going After Cacciato

In a 1984 interview, O'Brien tried to distinguish between his first book, If I Die in a Combat Zone (1973), and his third, the novel Going After Cacciato. Read more...

1978 -- Blood Tie

In her autobiographical Learning to Fly, Settle notes that Blood Tie marked another phase of her roller-coaster career. Read more...

1977 -- The Spectator Bird

For years I have wondered why no western writer has been able to make a continuity between the past and the present, why so many are sunk in the mythic twilight of the horse opera, why the various Wests seem to have produced no culture or literature comparable to those of New England, the South and the Midwest, why no westerner had managed to do for this territory what Faulkner did for Yoknapatawpha County. Read more...

1976 -- JR

I feel like part of the vanishing breed that thinks a writer should be read and not heard, let alone seen. I think this is because there seems so often today to be a tendency to put the person in the place of his or her work, to turn the creative artist into a performing one, to find what a writer says about writing somehow more valid, or more real, than the writing itself. Read more...

1975 -- Hair of Harold Roux

If the word is sacred, and it is — what else is? — fiction occupies the inner temple. It alone may reveal a universe; all other voices merely inform. Read more...

1974 -- Gravity's Rainbow

Pynchon declined to attend the NBA ceremony at which he was to be honored. This prompted Tom Guinzburg of Viking Press to organize a joke that has become legend in publishing and banqueting... Read more...

1973 -- Chimera

After graduating from high school, John Barth enrolled in New York’s Julliard School, hoping for a career in music. He soon transferred to creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, and eventually transferred his love of music into his fiction Read more...

1972 -- The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O’Connor’s NBA came eight years after her death. The acceptance speech for her award was given by Robert Giroux, O’Connor’s editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. In the outspoken spirit of his author, and amid the political scandals of the Vietnamese War and, just recently, Watergate, Giroux couched his praise for O’Conner this way. Read more...

1971 -- Mr. Sammler’s Planet

In 1968, in response to a letter admiring his short story, “The Old System,” Saul Bellow speculated that his correspondent belonged to a minority group. Read more...

1970 -- Them

Elaine Showalter begins her recent Introduction to them (Modern Library paperback edition, 2006) by pointing out that all four books in Oates’s Wonderland Quartet, these written in a remarkable five-year burst, 1967-1971, were nominated for the National Book Award. Read more...

1969 -- Steps

Since the first reports of his literary deceptions and personal quirks surfaced in the early 1980s, Kosinski has been discredited and dismissed so regularly that it is easy to forget how quickly and high his star rose in North America. Read more...

1968 -- The Eighth Day

Through the lens of a turn-of-the-century murder mystery, Mr. Wilder surveys a world that is both vanished and coming to birth; in a clean gay prose sharp with aphoristic wit and the sense and scent of Midwestern America and Andean Chile, he takes us on a chase of Providence and delivers us, exhilarated and edified, into the care of an ambiguous conclusion. Read more...

1967 -- A New Life

In a 1963 letter to his friend Rosemarie Beck, written while he was still planning his novel, Malamud said that he had originally wanted to do a book about Sacco and Vanzetti but had decided he could not match the power of the true story. Read more...

1966 -- The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter

To part is to die a little, it is said (in every language that I can read), but my farewell to these stories is a happy one, a renewal of their life, a prolonging of their time under the sun, which is what any artist most longs for—to be read, and remembered. Go little book…. Read more...

1965 -- Herzog

Moses Herzog packs a real pistol for a while, though he only manages to shoot himself in the foot. His real talent is epistolary, in a firing-blanks sort of way — his letters are never sent, and addressed mostly to dead recipients... Read more...

1964 -- The Centaur

Updike’s The Centaur, third novel in his fifty-year career, received qualified reviews, many critics not sure that the marriage of a father-son tale and Greek mythology entirely worked. Many pointed out the autobiographical details — like Updike, young Peter grows up in rural Pennsylvania, has a schoolmaster father, suffers from psoriasis, and imagines a career as a painter... Read more...

1963 -- Morte d’Urban

In his 2007 retrospective essay on Morte d’Urban, Jonathan Yardley says that he has read the novel four times, and that the fourth reading, forty-five years after the first one, left him “as convinced as ever that the oblivion into which it seems to have sunk is inexplicable and wholly undeserved”... Read more...

1962 -- The Moviegoer

Mr. Percy, with compassion and without sentimentality or the mannerisms of the clinic, examines the delusions and hallucinations and the daydreams and the dreads that afflict those who abstain from the customary ways of making do.

—from the NBA judges’ citation Read more...

1961 -- The Waters of Kronos

The most recent biography of Conrad Richter, David R. Johnson’s Conrad Richter: A Writer’s Life (2001), begins with an introductory chapter attempting to describe Richter’s “dread of public events that bordered on a phobia.” The chapter opens with Richter’s agony over the National Book Award ceremony, this a forced publicity march under the command of publisher Alfred Knopf... Read more...

1960 -- Goodbye Columbus

In The Facts, his memoir of the earlier years, Roth says that his first short stories demonstrated only how blind he was to the material that later made him famous. While he would happily regale his friends with his Jewish upbringing — stories “of somebody’s shady uncle the bookie and somebody’s sharpie son the street-corner bongo player and of the comics Stinky and Shorty…” — the idea of moving this world onto the page never occurred to him... Read more...

1959 -- The Magic Barrel

On his way home from receiving the 1958 NBA for his first novel, The Wapshot Chronicle, John Cheever ran into Bernard Malamud on a subway platform (a suitable venue for the “Chekhov of the suburbs,” as John Leonard describes Cheever). If Cheever felt a little sheepish that he, a short story specialist, had won the award over Malamud’s The Assistant, he might have had a chuckle the following year when Malamud won his first NBA for his Magic Barrel short stories... Read more...

1958 -- Wapshot Chronicle

[I’m] pleased to say that I’ve finished a novel. At least it looks like a novel. It doesn’t look like a short story, anyhow. It’s much heavier and costs more postage.

—John Cheever, in a letter written just after completing The Wapshot Chronicle Read more...

Video: 15 Books in 15 Seconds

In this video Harold Augenbraum, Executive Director of the National Book Award renders summary judgment on 15 past winners of the National Book Award for Fiction. Read more...

Video: Eudora Welty's Stories

Harold Augenbraum and James Mustich discuss Eudora Welty's collected fiction. Read more...

VIDEO: John Cheever

Harold Augenbraum and James Mustich discuss John Cheever's collection of short stories. Read more...

1957 -- Field of Vision

Field of Vision is rooted in Morris’s native Nebraska, as is Plains Song (1980), his other NBA winner, and a number of his other novels (and photographs). Although now reduced in reputation to a ‘regional novelist’ — many of the books are out of print or saved from being so only by the University of Nebraska Press — Morris was never a great popular success... Read more...

1956 -- Ten North Frederick

Ten North Frederick, published midway through John O’Hara’s thirty-five-year career was his greatest popular and critical success. In his New Yorker review, St. Clair McKelway described the new book as the best evidence so far that O’Hara was a “born novelist,” one whose “single purpose [is] to say ‘This is what happened’ and ‘This is how it came about.’” ... Read more...

VIDEO: Gravity's Rainbow

Harold Augenbraum and James Mustich on Thomas Pynchon's postmodern World War II epic. Read more...

VIDEO: Flannery O'Connor's Stories

Harold Augenbraum and James Mustich on O'Connor's legendary collection of short fiction.

Read more...

VIDEO: Invisible Man

Harold Augenbraum and James Mustich discuss Ralph Ellison's 1953 award-winning novel. Read more...

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.