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The National Book Awards would like your vote.

Organizers of the prestigious literary prize are asking the public to choose the best fiction winner in the awards' 60-year history.

The six finalists, announced by the National Book Foundation, are:

* The Stories of John Cheever
* Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
* Collected Stories of William Faulkner
* The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor
* Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
* The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty

Votes can be cast through the Web site through Oct. 21. The winner will be announced Nov. 18.


Chimp memoir on Booker long list

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me cheeta

The purported autobiography of a movie-star chimpanzee is among the contenders for Britain's most prestigious literary award.

Me Cheeta: My Life in Hollywood is one of 13 novels on the Booker Prize longlist.

Originally published anonymously, James Lever's book claims to tell the life story of the chimp who gained 1930s Hollywood stardom in "Tarzan" movies.

Other contenders announced Tuesday are former Booker winners A.S. Byatt and J.M Coetzee, as well as Adam Foulds, Sarah Hall, Samantha Harvey, Hilary Mantel, Simon Mawer, Ed O'Loughlin, James Scudamore, Sarah Waters, William Trevor and Colm Toibin.

The shortlist will be announced Sept. 8 and the winner of the 50,000 pound (about $82,000) prize on Oct. 6.

The Booker is open to writers from Britain, Ireland or the Commonwealth.


Local authors among Great Lakes finalists

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Among the finalists for the 2009 Great Lakes Book Awards are several Chicago area authors. To be eligible for the Great Lakes Book Awards, books must have a Great Lakes theme or setting or be written by an author living in the region and have been published between June 2008 and the end of May 2009. The winners will be announced in late August and awards presented in October in Cleveland. Following is a list of all finalists. (Local authors' books marked with *)

* Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Random House)
* The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno (W.W. Norton)
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)
* Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley (Simon & Schuster)
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (Harper Collins)

Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting by Michael Perry (Harper Collins)
* The Foie Gras Wars by Mark Caro (Simon & Schuster)
Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton (Simon & Schuster)
* Ripped by Greg Kot (Simon & Schuster)
A Splintered History of Wood by Spike Carlsen (Harper Collins)

After the Trains by Gloria Whelan (Harper Collins)
* The Blind Faith Hotel by Pamela Todd (Simon & Schuster)
* I Put a Spell on You by Adam Selzer (Random House)
Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka (Penguin Group)
* The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming (Random House)
My Brother Abe: Sally Lincoln's Story by Harry Mazer (Simon & Schuster)

Baby Dragon by Amy Ehrlich and Will Hillenbrand (Illus.) (Candlewick Press)
Birds by Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek (Illus.), (Harper Collins)
Old Bear by Kevin Henkes (Harper Collins)
That Book Woman by Heather Henson and David Small (Illus.) (Simon & Schuster)
The Underwear Salesman by J. Patrick Lewis and Serge Bloch (Illus.) (Simon & Schuster)

Teen panel picks its own Orange Prize winner

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blonde roots

Bernardine Evaristo's novel Blonde Roots did not make the short list for this year's Orange Prize, but The Guardian reports today that a panel of teenagers has selected it as an alternative winner.

Six teens, age 16-19 chose their own short list from the 20 titles on the long list, and then selected their own winner. Other titles on the teens' short list included: Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold; The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser; Mercy by Toni Morrison; The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight by Gina Oscher, and The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews.

The Orange Prize is one of the UK's most presigious literary prizes, awarded to the best full-length novel by a female author of any nationality. The prize is 30,000 pounds (about $50,000). The prize will be awarded tonight.

Read the Sun-Times' review of Blonde Roots, which reimagines the slave trade when a white European girl is kidnapped and forced into slavery by her "Aphrikan" masters.

All Lincoln all the time

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Tried by War Lincoln and His Admirals

Civil War scholars James McPherson and Craig L. Symonds have been named winners of the Lincoln Prize, organizers announced today, the 200th anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln's birth.

McPherson, who previously won the prize in 1998 for For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, was cited for Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief (Penguin, $35). Symonds was cited for Lincoln and His Admirals: Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Navy, and the Civil War (Oxford University Press, $27.95).

The two authors will share the $50,000 cash award.

* * * * *

And speaking of Lincoln, no less than 30 Lincoln-related titles have come through the Book Room in the past few months. We can't cover them all in the Sunday Books pages -- though check them out this Sunday, because it's all about Lincoln this week -- so I've listed a bunch more here:

In Lincoln's Hand Lincoln Shot Lincoln's Men A. Lincoln Mrs. Lincoln Race & Slavery 1864 Gettysburg Extraordinary Era

In Lincoln's Hand: His Original Manuscripts, edited by Harold Holzer and Joshua Wolf Shenk (Bantam, 196 pages, $35): Check out facsimilies of Lincoln's handwritten letters, speeches and childhood notebooks in this companion volume to the LIbrary of Congress 2009 Bicentennial Exhibition.

Lincoln Shot: A President's Life Remembered, researched, written, illustrated, and designed by The National News staff (Feiwel and Friends, 40 pages, $24.95): The oversize pages of this book evoke a newspaper from the mid-1800s, to illustrate a memorial edition one year after Lincoln's assassination. All aspects of newspaper design, including typefaces and advertisements, have been exacted to evoke the era.

Lincoln's Men: The President and His Private Secretaries, by Daniel Mark Epstein (Collins, 244 pages, $26.99): Epstein, an award-winning Lincoln biographer, offers the first narrative portrait of the three men -- John Nicolay, John Hay and William Stoddard -- who knew the 16th president better than anyone outside his immediate family.

A. Lincoln: A Biography, by Ronald C. White Jr. (Random House, 679 pages, $35): After researching the newly complete Lincoln Legal Papers, as well as recently discovered letters and photographs, the author decided to focus on Lincoln as a man of integrity, whose moral evolution holds the key to understanding his life.

Mrs. Lincoln: A Life, by Catherine Clinton (Harper, 336 pages, $26.99): The first biography of Mary Todd Lincoln in more than 20 years puts a human face on one of the most notorious and possibly misunderstood first ladies in American history.

Lincoln on Race & Slavery, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Princeton, 328 pages, $24.95): The contradictory nature of Abraham Lincoln's views on race are debated here, through his own words. Readers can sift through his writings from the late 1830s to the 1860s, and draw their own conclusions.

1864: Lincoln at the Gates of HIstory, by Charles Bracelen Flood (Simon & Schuster, 434 pages, $30): HIstorian and novelist Flood asserts that Lincoln was more activist than passive president, a shrewd politician and commander in chief who firmly seized control of the nation's destiny at its most critical moments.

Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel, by C.M. Butzer (Collins, 80 pages, $9.99, ages 9-14): Lincoln's most famous speech is detailed in comic-book style here, alongside depictions of related historical events before and after the speech.

Abraham Lincoln's Extraordinary Era: The Man and His Times, by K.M. Kostyal (National Geographic, 215 pages, $35): This is the official book of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, offering up stories, anecdotes and never-before-seen images and artifacts from the museum's vault.

Joe Meno
Joe Meno
(Photo by John H. White/Sun-Times)

Chicago author Joe Meno is a finalist in the fifth annual Story Prize for outstanding short fiction for his most recent collection, Demons in the Spring (Akashic Books, $24.95).

Sun-Times theater critic and frequent book reviewer Hedy Weiss said Meno's stories were "thoroughly modern -- at once quirky and accessible."

Meno is in good company. The other finalists are Jhumpa Lahiri for Unaccustomed Earth (Knopf, $25) and Tobias Wolff for Our Story Begins (Knopt, $26.95).

"Short fiction of this caliber should be on everyone's reading list," wrote Sun-Times book reviewer Mary Houlihan of Lahiri's collection. Reviewer John Barron wrote that Wolff's book "offers both greatest hits and evidence of Wolff's continued prowess."

The winner, who receives $20,000, will be announced March 4.

Read full reviews of Demons in the Spring; Unaccustomed Earth; Our Story Begins.

Demons in the Spring Unaccustomed Earth Our Story Begins

ALA launches award for YA novels

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Five novels for teens are finalists for the American Library Association's first-ever William C. Morris YA Debut Award.

The prize is given for books that "illuminate the teen experience and enrich the lives of its readers through its excellence."

The nominees are:

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Absolute Brightness by James Lecesne
Madapple by Christina Meldrum
Me, the Missing and the Dead by Jenny Valentine

The winner will be announced Jan. 26.


2008 National Book Awards announced

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National Book Awards
National book award winners, from left; Mark Doty for poetry; Annette Gordon-Reed for nonfiction; Judy Blundell for young people's literature and Peter Matthiessen for fiction. (Robin Platzer~AP)

Though several Chicagoans were nominated for the National Book Award, none came home with the prize. But as the Oscar hopefuls always say: "It's an honor just to be nominated." Very true, but someone has to win.

In the fiction category, Peter Matthiessen -- who beat out our own Aleksandar Hemon -- won for Shadow Country, a revision of a trilogy of novels originally released in the '90s.

''This book was quite a trial for everybody, including me,'' Matthiessen said at the awards ceremony last night in New York. ''[The original books] weren't best-sellers. They didn't make a lot of money.''

The 81-year-old Matthiessen, founder of the Paris Review, also won a National Book Award in 1979, for his nonfiction book The Snow Leopard.

Other awards included:

Nonfiction: Annette Gordon-Reed for The Hemingses of Monticello.
Young People's Literature: Judith Blundell for What I Saw and How I Lied.
Poetry: Mark Doty for Fire to Fire.
Honorary awards: Maxine Hong Kingston and Barney Rosset.

Each winner received $10,000.

Chicagoans among National Book Award nominees

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lazarus creatures blood

Chicago is well represented in this year's National Book Awards, with three of city's authors making the list of finalists: Aleksandar Hemon in the fiction category and Reginald Gibbons and Patricia Smith in the poetry category.

Hemon, who adopted Chicago as his home in 1992, when the fighting in his homeland of Bosnia stranded him here, is nominated for his novel The Lazarus Project (Riverhead, $24.95). (Read review)

Hemon's competition includes: Rachel Kushner for Telex From Cuba (Scribner); Peter Matthiessen for Shadow Country (Modern Library); Marilynne Robinson for Home (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), and Salvatore Scibona for The End (Graywolf)

Gibbons, a professor of English and classics at Northwestern in Evanston, is nominated for his latest poetry collection, Creatures of a Day (Louisiana State University Press, $16.95). And Smith, a Chicago native and four-time National Poetry Slam champion who now makes her home in New York, is nominated for Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press, $16). (Read review of Blood Dazzler)

The rest of the competition in the poetry category includes: Frank Bidart for Watching the Spring Festival (Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Mark Doty for Fire to Fire (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), and Richard Howard for Without Saying (Turtle Point).

Nonfiction nominees:
Drew Gilpin Faust for This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Knopf)
Annette Gordon-Reed for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (Norton)
Jane Mayer for The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Doubleday)
Jim Sheeler for Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives (Penguin)
Joan Wickersham for The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order (Harcourt)

Young People's Literature nominees:
Laurie Halse Anderson for Chains (Simon & Schuster)
Kathi Appelt for The Underneath (Atheneum)
Rudy Blundell for What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic)
E. Lockhart for The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion)
Tim Tharp for The Spectacular Now (Knopf)

The winners will be announced Nov. 19 in New York.

'White Tiger' wins Man Booker prize

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Aravind Adiga was considered the longshot to win the prestigious Man Booker prize, according to an Associated Press report this morning, but the Indian author impressed the judges panel and won the 50,000-pound (about $88,0000) prize for his debut novel, The White Tiger.

Aravind Adiga
Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger is the story of a man's dreams of escaping his poor village life, by any means necessary, to attain success in the big city.

The 34-year-old Adiga was the youngest of the finalists, who included: Sebastian Barry for The Secret Scripture; Amitav Ghosh for Sea of Poppies; Steve Toltz for A Fraction of the Whole; Linda Grant for The Clothes on Their Backs, and Philip Hensher for The Northern Clemency.