2003 National Book Award Finalists:
Press Release


Winners to be Announced at November 19th Benefit Ceremony
Hosted by Novelist Walter Mosley

NEW YORK (8:30 AM EST, October 15, 2003) - Twenty books by American authors were named Finalists for the 2003 National Book Award today. Novelist Walter Mosley, who will serve as Master of Ceremonies at the Award Ceremony and Benefit Dinner next month, made the announcement on behalf of the National Book Foundation from the steps of The New York Public Library.

As a group, the Finalists have all received critical acclaim for these and other books they have published in their literary careers. Nine of the authors are previous National Book Award Finalists, and one is the son of a 1979 Finalist in the same category, Young People's Literature. [See notes.]

A strong sense of place also characterizes the work of this year's Finalists, with settings that include the Russian Gulag, Havana in the pre-revolutionary 1950s, the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, a century of summers on Cape Cod, a Sonoma Valley commune, Philadelphia during the 1793 yellow fever epidemic, and a Los Angeles traffic jam.

Four of the books - two novels, one biography, and a historical novel for young people - explore complex issues of race in America.

At the 54th annual National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on Wednesday, November 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel in midtown Manhattan, the Finalists will be honored and judges will announce the Winners in each of the four categories. The evening will benefit the Awards' institutional sponsor, the National Book Foundation, celebrating its 15th anniversary. The Foundation presents educational outreach programs throughout the year for readers and writers across the country.

Also that evening, the Board of Directors of the Foundation will confer its 2003 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters upon Stephen King, who will deliver an address to an audience of more than 1,000 authors, editors, publishers, friends, and supporters of books and book publishing.

Commenting upon the list of Finalists, Foundation Executive Director Neil Baldwin said, "We were thrilled to receive a record number of entries for the National Book Awards competition this year: 1,030 titles from 198 publishers and imprints. From this huge group of titles, these twenty special selections underscore our belief that National Book Award Finalists have been - and always will be - as varied as a mirror held up to American culture.

"Their only common denominator is astonishing literary quality."

Mr. Baldwin will step down from his position as Executive Director on December 31, after presiding over fifteen National Book Award ceremonies since the Foundation was created in the spring of 1989.

EVENTS in New York City the week of the National Book Awards Ceremony:

Monday, November 17, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Young People's Literature Finalists will participate in a "Meet the Author" panel discussion and question-and-answer session with local middle and high school students.
Donnell Library Center, 20 West 53rd Street, New York City

Tuesday, November 18, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
The twenty Finalists in Young People's Literature, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry will participate in "Meet the Author" readings and book signings at four Barnes & Noble stores in New York City.
Free and open to the public. More information will be made available on this Web site.

Tuesday, November 18, 7 p.m.
All twenty Finalists will read selections from their work at the highly anticipated "Finalists Reading," co-sponsored by the National Book Foundation and The New School University Writing Program.
The New School's Tishman Auditorium, 66 West 12th Street, New York City. Admission is $5. Tickets can be purchased in advance through The New School box office (212) 229-5488.

NOTES on the 2003 National Book Awards:

Chaired by Antonya Nelson, the Fiction Panel includes Peter Cameron, Alice Elliott Dark, Jay Parini, and Jean Thompson.

Chaired by Jonathan Kirsch, the Nonfiction Panel includes Catherine Clinton, Wendy Gimbel, Lawrence Jackson, and Terry Teachout.

Chaired by Bruce Weigl, the Poetry Panel includes David Baker, Kate Daniels, Kwame Dawes, and Jane Hirshfield.

Chaired by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, the Young People's Literature Panel includes Lulu Delacre, Jean Craighead George, Barbara Harrison, and Margaret Tice.