Tag Archives: Awards

The Man Booker International Prize Longlist is here!

We are getting extraordinarily spoiled for book awards around here lately, dear readers!  Today, we present the Man Booker International Prize Longlist, celebrating the best books not originally written in English, and the people who translate them so beautifully.

Every culture, and every language, has its own literary traditions.   The English language tradition has Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Austen–all the names that we learned about in school, and whose skill shaped, and continue to shape, the books we read today.

But now, imagine growing up in a world where those authors….weren’t the ones you grew up reading.  A world where you had other authors–other traditions–other phrases that called up your emotions.

It’s really hard to do.  But that is what makes books not written in English so incredible.  They are based in different cultures, different linguistic structures, different overall world experiences.  And I don’t know if there is a more intimate way to experience a different culture than to read its literature.

Better yet, the Man Booker Prize celebrates translations, as well.  If writing a book is a difficult process, translating that book is another matter entirely.  The ability to interpret not only an author’s words, but his or her intentions is a rare one.  To be able to keep one foot in the original language and one in the new is a balancing act that few can pull off with grace.  Vladimir Nabokov explained the complicated art of a translator far better than I ever could, in an article he wrote for the New Republic in 1941:

We can deduce now the requirements that a translator must possess in order to be able to give an ideal version of a foreign masterpiece. First of all he must have as much talent, or at least the same kind of talent, as the author he chooses…Second, he must know thoroughly the two nations and the two languages involved and be perfectly acquainted with all details relating to his author’s manner and methods; also, with the social background of words, their fashions, history and period associations. This leads to the third point: while having genius and knowledge he must possess the gift of mimicry and be able to act, as it were, the real author’s part by impersonating his tricks of demeanor and speech, his ways and his mind, with the utmost degree of verisimilitude.

So while we celebrate these remarkable books, let’s not forget the remarkable translators who made it possible for us to read them in English.  And be sure to check out these longlisted books soon!*

*Note: The full longlist can be found here.  Because so many books have not yet been released in the US, only the available ones are provided below.

We’ll be back with more information when the shortlist is produced in April!  Until then, dear readers–enjoy!

Time for a Baileys (Women’s Prize for Fiction)!

And right in time for International Women’s Day, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction announced the Longlist for the 2017 award!

The 2017 longlist and judges! Courtesy of http://www.womensprizeforfiction.co.uk/

This is the last year that Baileys will be sponsoring the award…insert loud, long sigh here…but the plus is that prize founder, Kate Mosse, has declared that whomever the next sponsor is will be spending the whole year promoting women’s writing, not only once a year, which, at least, makes me happy.  But, for now, let’s celebrate these phenomenal women and the stunning works they’ve given us!

For those who haven’t heard us go on and on about the greatness that is the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, here’s a brief (but no less enthusiastic) recap:  This prize was was set up in 1996 to celebrate excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women throughout the world.  In the 20 years since its establishment, the prize has become one of the most respected, most celebrated and most successful literary awards in the world, and remains one of the only prizes to recognize the unique contributions of women in fiction.   In a world where men (and white men…and middle-to-upper class white men) carry away a disproportionate amount of awards, where books about women are relegated to “Women’s Fiction” shelves, apart from the others (because Reasons), where female authors are categorized differently than male authors, where we desperately need more stories from different voices, the Baileys Prize (and whatever prize it shall soon be called) is a vital way to encourage new and diverse storytellers to set their voices free.  And, as readers, that means that their award is really our gain!

So without further ado…

If the book is available in the US, it will have a link.  If not, then the release information will be provided.  Enjoy!

Courtesy of http://www.womensprizeforfiction.co.uk/

Stay With Me, Ayobami Adebayo Will be released in August, 2017
The Power, Naomi Alderman Will be released in October, 2017
Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood
Little Deaths, Emma Flint
The Mare, Mary Gaitskill
The Dark Circle, Linda Grant  Will be released in June, 2017
The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride
Midwinter, Fiona Melrose Will be released in July, 2017
The Sport of Kings, C.E. Morgan
The Woman Next Door, Yewande Omotoso
The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Heather O’Neill
The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry Will be released in June, 2017
Barkskins, Annie Proulx
First Love, Gwendoline Riley Will be released in March, 2017
Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien
The Gustav Sonata, Rose Tremain

And the (Stoker) nominees are….

Just in case you haven’t had your fill of awards this season, dear readers, we are delighted to bring you this year’s Stoker Award Nominees, celebrating the best in English-language horror writing!

Each year, the Horror Writer’s Association presents the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement, named in honor of Bram Stoker, author of the horror novel to beat all horror novels (and Free For All favorite), Dracula. The Bram Stoker Awards were instituted immediately after the organization’s incorporation in 1987.  The first awards were presented in 1988 (for works published in 1987), and they have been presented every year since. The award itself, designed by sculptor Steven Kirk, is a stunning haunted house, with a door that opens to reveal a brass plaque engraved with the name of the winning work and its author.

How amazing is this?!

The Stoker Awards specifically avoid the word “best”, because it recognizes that horror itself is a genre that is constantly moving, changing, and pushing its own boundaries (and can often be very specific to a place, or a generation).  Instead, it uses the words “Superior Achievement”.  The categories of award have changed over the years, as well, as the genre has evolved, but since 2011, the eleven Bram Stoker Award categories are: Novel, First Novel, Short Fiction, Long Fiction, Young Adult, Fiction Collection, Poetry Collection, Anthology, Screenplay, Graphic Novel and Non-Fiction.

And can I just say, that the HWA also hosts an academic conference on horror alongside its annual conference, known as the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference, after the pioneer of the Gothic novel, and a lady author to boot?  I think that is the coolest thing ever, not only because the HWA remains so devoted to celebrating and studying horror as a genre in the past and the future, but it also creates a wonderfully inclusive atmosphere where all kinds of readers are accepted.

So here, without further ado, are the 2016 nominees for the Stoker Awards.  There are a few titles here that we’ve covered previously at the Free For All, which is proof that we know how to pick ’em, and many that I will be added to my To Be Read list promptly!   The final announcement will be made at StokerCon, the annual conference of the HWA.

Superior Achievement in a Novel

Superior Achievement in a First Novel

Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction

Superior Achievement in Short Fiction

Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection

Superior Achievement in an Anthology

Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction

Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection

Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel

Superior Achievement in a Screenplay

All hail the Nebulas!

It’s award season, dear readers, and while the Oscars may indeed be just around the proverbial corner, today, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) announced their nominees for the 2017 Nebula Awards, and I could not be more excited.

The Nebula Awards were first awarded in 1966, and have grown in prestige to be recognized as one of the most significant awards for science fiction and fantasy in publishing.  Each year, a novel, novella, novelette, and short story are chosen…and just in case you, too, were wondering what a “novelette’ is, it is defined by SFWA as “a work between 7,500 and 17,500 words”, while a “novella” is between 17,500 and 40,00 words.  Any book written in English and published in the United States is eligible for nomination, and members of SFWA cast their ballots for the favorite books.  This means that, essentially, the awards are chosen by readers and genre devotees, which means that they are not only of high quality in terms of genre and style, but that they are also a darned good read.  As you will see, screenplays are also recognized with the Ray Bradbury Award, and middle grade and young adult fiction is nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

In a world that is proving increasingly hostile to difference, this year’s Nebula nominees represent a really impressive diversity, both in terms of their subjects and their authors.  As we’ve noted here, science fiction and fantasy are both genres that provide room to critique the world around us, and offer ways to explore change without remaining beholden to current cultural structures, times, or locales.  And these nominees showcase some of the most daring, imaginative, and courageous authors at work today.  From Nisi Shawl’s re-creation, re-assessment, and re-invention of the Belgian Congo in Everfair to Victor LaValle’s scathing, terrifying, and wonderful commentary on race, class, and power in The Ballad of Black Tom (one of my favorite reads of last year!), to Fran Wilde’s story of female friendships and adventure, these stories all, in their own way, have something to say about the world we live in, as well as the world that might be, somewhere, sometime, some day.  In addition, the presence on this list of small, independent publishers, print, and online magazines, provide a diversity of story type, audience, and format that make this list so different from a lot of other awards out these today.

If you have never picked up a science fiction or fantasy book, this list is an excellent indication of where to start your exploration of the genres.  If you are a longtime fan eager to find more reading fodder, then look no further.  And if you are one of those lucky and remarkable people who have read all the tales on this list, then let us know which you liked best, and where a new reader should begin!

And here, without further ado, are this year’s nominees for the 2017 Nebula Awards, with links, where possible, to the books in the NOBLE or MetroBoston network.  Where that isn’t possible, for example, in the case of online or specialty magazines (like Lightspeed, F&SF, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, to name a few), links have been provided for you to find an access to the stories.  Many of them are published online, making them easily accessible through the links.  Enjoy!




Short Story


  • Arrival, Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Screenplay by Eric Heisserer, 21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films/Xenolinguistics
  • Doctor Strange, Directed by Scott Derrickson, Screenplay by Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill, Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures
  • Kubo and the Two Strings, Directed by Travis Knight, Screenplay by Mark Haimes & Chris Butler; Laika Entertainment
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Directed by Gareth Edwards, Written by Chris Weitz & Tony Gilroy; Lucusfilm/ Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures
  • Westworld: ‘‘The Bicameral Mind’’, Directed by Jonathan Nolan, Written by Lisa Joy & Jonathan Nolan; HBO (Coming Soon!)
  • Zootopia, Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, & Jared Bush, Screenplay by Jared Bush & Phil Johnston; Walt Disney Pictures/Walt Disney Animation Studios 


And if you’re interested to see all the nominated books, the SFWA website has the full list.  Check back here after the awards are announced on May 20th for the winners!

The Wellcome Book Prize Longlist!

For those of you beloved patrons who live to read to learn, let me tell you about the Wellcome Book Prize.

Let me start by telling you a little bit about the Wellcome Collection.  Located right across the street from Euston Station in London, the Wellcome Collection is dedicated to uniting the fields of science, medicine, and the arts, declaring itself “The free destination for the incurably curious”.  The institute was originally funded by Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome (pictured at right), a fascinating entrepreneur, born in Wisconsin in 1853, whose first business was peddling invisible ink (it was lemon juice).  He later went into pharmaceuticals, where he revolutionized medicine by developing medicine in tablet form, though he called them ‘Tabloids’.  Upon his death, Wellcome vested the entire share capital of his company in individual trustees, who were charged with spending the income to further human and animal health, and even left specifics in his will as to the building in which the collections were to be housed.  Today, the Wellcome Trust, which funds all this gloriousness, is now one of the world’s largest private biomedical charities.

Yay for Science! (From the Wellcome Collection)

I cannot recommend exploring the Wellcome Collection online to you enough.  Because of their dedication to education and engagement, a surprisingly vast amount of their exhibits have online components, and a good deal of their archives and library are digitized, making it possible to access their treasure trove of educational riches from the comfort of your living room (or local Library!).  Their exhibits range from the emotional and contemporary, such as videos and talks on military medicine, to the sublimely bizarre, like this gallery on curatives and quack medicine.  Throughout their work is a very firm dedication not only to education, but to sparking a love of learning in their visitors, and that work pays huge dividends.

I personally adore the Wellcome because of it’s 1) incredible library, which has allowed me to write my dissertation, it’s 2) stupendous archive, which is also helping me with The Dissertation, and 3) Their ridiculously welcoming, air-conditioned building (I don’t know if Sir Wellcome thought of central air, but if he did, I tip my proverbial hat to him).  There is a section of their library with chaise lounges and beanbags, for pity’s sake.  And the security guards encourage you to wander around and learn all you can–and don’t mind that you have a cold and look like you got hit by a truck. That, my friends, is an institution dedicated to learning.

And, as part of their outreach efforts, and in the hope of encouraging more quality and creative writing in the sciences, the Wellcome Trust also funds one of the largest book prizes around, providing 30,000 GBP (right now, about $37,500) to it chosen author.  As described on the Wellcome Book Prize site, all the books that are nominated have “a central theme that engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness.”  While this dedication to science is wonderful, the Wellcome Prize also recognizes art, standing by its core principles by recognizing that such books “can cover many genres of writing – including crime, romance, popular science, sci-fi and history.”  Thus, their list includes both non-fiction and fiction, in order to celebrate those works that “add new meaning to what it means to be human.”

The 2016 Wellcome Book Prize design (courtesy of Notcot)

So here, without further ado, is the Wellcome Book Prize Longlist.  We hope you’ll find something to whet your reading appetite either here, or in the list of past winners.  The shortlist will be announced at the London Book Fair on March 14th, and the winner will be revealed at a ceremony at the Wellcome Collection on April 24th.  Because the Wellcome Prize’s descriptions of these books are so terrific, clicking on the book title or author will take you to the Wellcome page….there is a link to the Noble Listing for the books beside each entry.  As usual with overseas prizes, some of these books haven’t come to our shores as yet, but we’ll keep you updated when they do!

How to Survive a Plague by David France non-fiction  (NOBLE)
Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari non-fiction (NOBLE)
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi non-fiction (NOBLE)
Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal trans. Jessica Moore fiction Currently unavailable in the US
The Golden Age by Joan London fiction (NOBLE)
Cure by Jo Marchant non-fiction (NOBLE)
The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss fiction Currently Unavailable in the US
The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee non-fiction (NOBLE)
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry fiction US release date to be set soon
A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford  non-fiction US Release: September, 2017
Miss Jane by Brad Watson fiction (NOBLE)
I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong non-fiction (NOBLE)

Happy reading!

National Book Award Winners!

The Free For All is delighted to congratulate the winners of the 67th annual National Book Award!  See below for the titles, and click on the “About the book” links to see interviews and footage from the awards ceremony, courtesy of the National Book Foundation!

Fiction: The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

3785384About the bookCora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.


Non-Fiction:  Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Ibram X. Kendi

3756357About the bookSome Americans cling desperately to the myth that we are living in a post-racial society,that the election of the first Black president spelled the doom of racism. In fact, racist thought is alive and well in America–more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, if we have any hope of grappling with this stark reality, we must first understand how racist ideas were developed, disseminated, and enshrined in American society.

In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Ibram X. Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois to legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading proslavery and pro-civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.

Contrary to popular conceptions, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Instead, they were devised and honed by some of the most brilliant minds of each era. These intellectuals used their brilliance to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation’s racial disparities in everything from wealth to health. And while racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much-needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose them–and in the process, gives us reason to hope.


Poetry: The Performance of Becoming Human, Daniel Borzutzky

indexAbout the book
Following in the path of his acclaimed collections The Book of Interfering Bodies (Nightboat, 2011) and In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy (Nightboat, 2015), Daniel Borzutzky returns to confront the various ways nation-states and their bureaucracies absorb and destroy communities and economies. In The Performance of Becoming Human, the bay of Valparaiso merges into the western shore of Lake Michigan, where Borzutzky continues his poetic investigation into the political and economic violence shared by Chicago and Chile, two places integral to his personal formation. To become human is to navigate borders, including the fuzzy borders of institutions, the economies of privatization, overdevelopment, and underdevelopment, under which humans endure state-sanctioned and systemic abuses in cities, villages, deserts. Borzutzky, whose writing Eileen Myles has described as “violent, perverse, and tender” in its portrayal of a “kaleidoscopic journey of American horror and global horror,” adds another chapter to a growing and important compendium of work that asks what it means to a be both a unitedstatesian and a globalized subject whose body is “shared between the earth, the state, and the bank.”


Young People’s Literature: March, Book Three, Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

3783024About the bookBy the fall of 1963, the Civil Rights Movement has penetrated deep into the American consciousness, and as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis is guiding the tip of the spear. Through relentless direct action, SNCC continues to force the nation to confront its own blatant injustice, but for every step forward, the danger grows more intense: Jim Crow strikes back through legal tricks, intimidation, violence, and death. The only hope for lasting change is to give voice to the millions of Americans silenced by voter suppression: “One Man, One Vote.”

To carry out their nonviolent revolution, Lewis and an army of young activists launch a series of innovative campaigns, including the Freedom Vote, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and an all-out battle for the soul of the Democratic Party waged live on national television.

With these new struggles come new allies, new opponents, and an unpredictable new president who might be both at once. But fractures within the movement are deepening … even as 25-year-old John Lewis prepares to risk everything in a historic showdown high above the Alabama river, in a town called Selma.


Paul Beatty Wins the 2016 Man Booker Prize!

On Tuesday, at 4:50pm Eastern Standard Time, Paul Beatty, a California-born author, became the first American to win the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sellout.  


In awarding the most prestigious award for fiction in the UK, the judges of the Man Booker chose a very specifically American novel.  Beatty himself has made a career for himself by observing the beauty and horror of American life, and capturing it in his stories in a manner that is both deeply troubling and shockingly funny–and The Sellout is no exception.  The book itself opens as our narrator, Bonbon, stands in front of the Supreme Court.  A black man from a forgotten town near Los Angeles, Bonbon grew up with his father, a controversial sociologist, who used Bonbon as a subject in his racially-charged psychological studies.  Bonbon has spent his life believing that his father’s long-promised memoir will justify all their struggles–but when his father is killed in a drive-by shooting, it is revealed that there is, and never was, a memoir.  Lost, in despair, and determined to right what wrongs he can, Bonbon decides to find a way to put his tiny town on the map.  The way he does this?  By attempting to reinstate slavery and to segregate the local high school–the act that ultimately lands him in front of the Supreme Court.


A man who has built his career on challenging stereotypes, and questioning our inability to overcome the effects of history, The Sellout is Beatty’s fourth novel.  His debut novel, The White Boy Shuffle, about a black surfer in Los Angeles, came out in 1996.  He published two more novels, Tuff in 2000, and Slumberland in 2008, and edited an anthology of African-American comic writing.  The Sellout met with rave reviews when it was released; the Wall Street Journal called it ““Swiftian satire of the highest order. Like someone shouting fire in a crowded theatre, Mr Beatty has whispered ‘Racism’ in a postracial world”.  But it didn’t cause an enormous stir, perhaps, as The Guardian points out, because it is so different from the standard fare, and it’s humor is so risky.  And even though the book won the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award, it still has flown under a lot of readers’ radars–until now, of course.

6662b17b-f86d-479d-b280-4512d6cf6eb5-1020x612Amanda Foreman, the Chair of the Judges’ Panel, said that Beatty’s victory was a unanimous decision, in part because of his willingness to write a book that challenges so many, and on so many levels.  In her speech during the award ceremony, she noted, “It plunges into the heart of contemporary American society with absolutely savage wit of the kind I haven’t seen since Swift or Twain…It manages to eviscerate every social nuance, every sacred cow, while making us laugh and also making us wince … It is really a novel for our times.”  As to the language (and delicate subject matter) in the book, Foreman noted “Paul Beatty has said being offended is not an emotion. That’s his answer to the reader”, emphasizing the critical role of satire to comment on modern-day issues.

The win is also a coup for Oneworld, Beatty’s publisher, who also published last year’s Man Booker Prize winner, Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings.

If you’d like to hear Beatty’s talk after his award about race and America and stories, check out the video below–and be sure to check out The Sellout soon!