National Book Awards

At age 86, Peter Matthiessen has written what he says "may be his last word" — a novel due out Tuesday about a visit to a Nazi extermination camp. It's called In Paradise, and it caps a career spanning six decades and 33 books.

Matthiessen is the only writer to ever win a National Book Award in both fiction — for his last book, Shadow Country, and adult nonfiction for his 1978 travel journal, The Snow Leopard.

James McBride won the National Book Award for fiction Wednesday for The Good Lord Bird, about a young slave in the 1850s who meets and travels with abolitionist John Brown.

The annual awards, presented by the National Book Foundation, honor American authors for works published over the past year in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

(This post was updated at 10:30 a.m.)

James McBride won the prestigious National Book Award for fiction on Wednesday for his novel The Good Lord Bird about a young slave who joins the abolitionist John Brown in his anti-slavery mission. Also honored were George Packer, who won in the nonfiction category, Mary Szybist, for poetry, and Cynthia Kadohata, for young people's literature.

Robert Stone won the National Book Award in 1975, for his second novel, Dog Soldiers. Since then, he's twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and nominated for or the recipient of a florist's display of other honors. Recently, when I asked some writers and English professors at a party to name the best novel ever written about Hollywood, Stone's Children of Light was the top choice.

Gene Luen Yang broke out in 2006 with American Born Chinese, the first graphic novel nominated for a National Book Award. It weaves three stories — about a Chinese-American boy, a terrible stereotype named Chin-Kee and the mythical Monkey King — into a complex tapestry of identity and assimilation.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

You may be hearing a lot about the National Book Awards this week — at least that's what the National Book Foundation hopes. That's because they've made some changes to the awards that they hope will get more people talking about them. Over four days starting Monday, they will roll out their nominees in four different categories — beginning with Young People's Literature and ending Thursday with Fiction.