Presenter of the National Book Awards

The Literarian Award, 2015

This is the eleventh year the Foundation has presented its Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. The Award honors individuals for a lifetime of achievement in expanding the audience for literature.

Kyle Zimmer imageThe National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, announces the recipient of its 2015 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community will be novelist and literary activist James Patterson. Patterson will receive the award at the 66th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on November 18, 2015 at Cipriani, 55 Wall Street, in New York City. This year marks the eleventh year that the Foundation has presented the Literarian Award, which honors individuals for a lifetime of achievement in expanding the audience for books and reading. Past recipients include Dr. Maya Angelou, Joan Ganz Cooney, Dave Eggers, Barbara Epstein and Robert Silvers, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Terry Gross, Mitchell Kaplan, Barney Rosset, Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., and Kyle Zimmer.
The award recognizes Patterson for his contributions to the vitality of American literary culture. For the past decade, Patterson has been a passionate campaigner to make books and reading a national priority. A generous supporter of universities, teachers colleges, independent bookstores, school libraries, and college students, Patterson has donated millions of dollars in grants and scholarships with the purpose of encouraging Americans of all ages to read more books. Patterson has donated over 250,000 books to children in the United States and over 650,000 books to U.S. soldiers, and created the website ReadKiddoReada National Book Foundation Innovations in Reading Prize Winner—to help families develop healthy reading
“James Patterson’s dedication to the expansion of reading is closer to a crusade than an avocation,” said Harold Augenbraum, the Foundation’s executive director. “Its fervor seems to increase with each passing year.”

about James Patterson

“James Patterson’s dedication to the expansion of reading is closer to a crusade than an avocation. Its fervor seems to increase with each passing year.”

—Harold Augenbraum, Executive Director, National Book Foundation

Born on March 22, 1947 in Newburgh, New York, James Patterson attended Manhattan College as an undergraduate before starting coursework for a doctorate in English literature at Vanderbilt University. After leaving Vanderbilt, Patterson took a job as a copywriter for the J. Walter Thompson ad agency, where he eventually rose to become the agency’s creative director and chief executive. In 1976, Patterson published his first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, a mystery, which won the Edgar Award for best first novel. Twenty years later, Patterson left his advertising career to focus on writing. He has written detective stories, thrillers, science fiction, romance, young adult novels, and children’s books, and created some of fiction’s most popular series, including the Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club, and Michael Bennett series. The world’s top-selling author, Patterson holds the Guinness World Record for having had more New York Times' bestsellers than any other writer.  In addition to receiving the Edgar Award, Patterson has won the International Thriller Writers Thrillermaster Award and the Children’s Choice Book Award for Author of the Year.
James Patterson is also known for his literary activism. For the past decade, he has been championing books, reading, independent bookstores, and libraries. In 2009 the National Book Foundation awarded Patterson’s website,, an Innovations in Reading Prize for demonstrating passion, creativity, dedication, and leadership in the service of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading. To remind the public about the importance of reading, he has used diverse media and channels, such as ad space in major media outlets, grants to independent bookstores, book donations, and scholarships for teaching careers. He has established scholarships in teacher education at twenty-four schools, including Vanderbilt University, the University of Wisconsin, and Manhattan College, and distributed over $1 million in grants to independent bookstores to help them promote themselves. In a recent partnership with Scholastic Reading Club, Patterson established a grants program with funding of $1.75 million through which school libraries will receive funds to purchase books and other resources. In May of this year, he launched his own publishing imprint, Jimmy Patterson, with the goal of inspiring children to make reading a habit.
Patterson has donated over 250,000 books to children across the United States and over 650,000 books to soldiers at home and overseas. He has awarded book-shopping sprees to college-bound students through his My College Book Bucks essay competition and to children through the Summer Book Bucks and Winter Book Bucks, where parents enter their children’s pledge to read books through the summer and winter school breaks.
Patterson’s concern about how digital innovation is changing the publishing landscape led him to take out full-page ads the New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews that asked "Who will save our books? Our bookstores? Our libraries?" To remind the public about this country’s amazing literary canon, the ads included a list of several dozen books by such authors as William Faulkner, Toni Morrison and Thomas Pynchon. Through a television ad campaign featuring a public book burning, a request was made to President Obama to make reading a national priority.
Presenting the Award, Carmen Fariña, New York City Schools Chancellor
Mary Pope OsborneCarmen Fariña is Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, the largest school district in the nation, serving 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools. During her five-decade career, she has distinguished herself as an innovative teacher, principal, superintendent, and deputy chancellor. As Chancellor, her agenda focuses on meeting the needs of the whole child; engaging parents and families; ensuring collaboration, trust, and accountability within the system; and supporting rigorous Common-Core based standards to raise student achievement. Fariña is co-author of A School Leader’s Guide to Excellence: Collaborating Our Way to Better Schools (Heinemann, 2008).
Nominations for the Literarian Award are made by former National Book Award Winners, Finalists, and Judges, and other writers and literary professionals from around the country. Final selections are made by the National Book Foundation’s Board of Directors.