The OF Blog: Ranking the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction Finalists

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ranking the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction Finalists

The 2014 National Book Awards will be announced on Wednesday, November 19.  I haven't read all of the finalists for Young People's Literature, Non-Fiction (zero here, in fact), or Poetry yet, but I have read all 5 of the Fiction finalists (and 9/10 of the longlist), so I feel comfortable listing my personal favorites out of that list even before I write my review of Marilynne Robinson's Lila Wednesday morning.  Mind you, in the past, those I've liked the most ended up not winning at all and those I liked least have won it, so take this with the appropriate grains of salt:

1.  Phil Klay, Redeployment 

2.  Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See

3.  Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman

4.  Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven

5.  Marilynne Robinson, Lila

The difference between the first three is minuscule.  Even Robinson's work, which I think suffers for me not having read other related novels, is well-written and worth reading.  But if I were to factor in the longlist, it'd go like this (leaving aside Jane Smiley's Some Luck, which I won't have time to read before the announcement Wednesday):

1.  Klay

2.  Doerr

3.  John Darnielle, Wolf in White Van

4.  Alameddine

5.  Richard Powers, Orfeo

6.  St. John Mandel

7.  Elizabeth McCracken, Thunderstruck & Other Stories

8.  Molly Antopol, The UnAmericans

9.  Robinson

Again, little differentiates the books on this list; I enjoyed reading the 9 I've read so far quite a bit.  I just happen to prefer some just a tiny bit more than others.  Multiple ones from this list will make my year-end Top 25, after all, maybe as many as 5-6.  It will be interesting to see how many, if any, from the longlist/finalists make the upcoming National Book Critics Circle Award or the Pulitzer Prize.  I suspect there'll be a bit of overlap, but not too much, as there are certainly dozens of worthy contenders that didn't make this particular list.


montsamu said...

Darnielle's was to me the most powerful of the longlist.

Larry Nolen said...

It's a very powerful story, no doubt, but the Klay (which won) and the Doerr were just a tiny bit, maybe just only a smidgen, more powerful for me. But it certainly is an impressive novel. Will review it this weekend, hopefully.

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