Summer Reading Goals from NBF-Honored Authors

Summer is here, and so is summer reading.

The National Book Foundation asked authors recognized by the National Book Awards and 5 Under 35 to share a book—new, classic, or somewhere in between—that they’re planning to read (or re-read) this summer.

Do you have summer reading goals? Share them with @NationalBook on Twitter.

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, by Rita Williams-Garcia

“This summer I’ll be reading Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia because my young son has the gift of music, because I just lost my own grandfather, and because I’ll follow Rita wherever she leads us.”

-William Alexander

The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson

“I am reading The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. This has been on my TBR pile for a while, but I had the chance to hear the author speak at the Nantucket Book Festival and that made me move it to the top. Every American should read it!!!”

–Laurie Halse Anderson

The Dark Dark, by Samantha Hunt

“It’s been awhile since I felt so moved by a story as I was by Samantha Hunt’s “A Love Story,” which appeared in the New Yorker this summer. I kept sending it to friends, especially friends who are new mothers. I also loved her novel about Nikola Tesla, so I was excited to learn that she has a new collection, The Dark Dark, out soon. And three of my favorite writers, Victoria Redel, Claire Messud and Jesmyn Ward, have new novels out soon—I’m hoping to shut off the internet for a few weeks this summer and hide out with these books.”

–Molly Antopol

The American Way of Death, by Jessica Mitford

“It’s summertime, and I’ll be spending a few lazy afternoons reading about the funeral business—or rereading Jessica Mitford’s witty 1963 expose The American Way of Death, to be exact. TAWD is some of the greatest take-no-prisoners muckraking ever to see print, and a textbook on investigative reporting; it is chock full of dark anecdotes (memorably, Mitford’s story of the salesman who tells a grieving woman that if she insists on purchasing the cheapest casket, he’ll have to cut off the deceased’s feet to make him fit); and it is a healthy reminder of something George Bernard Shaw observed long ago: that all professions are conspiracies against the laity.”

–Adam Cohen

Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin

“I was cruising my bookshelves for something else when a slim burgundy spine, title erased by the sun, stopped me. It was Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin. “Gotta read this,” said the friend who bought it for me, ten years ago, when we were together at a bookshop. Paris, passion, heartbreak, secrets—and Baldwin: isn’t that a recipe for the heat of high summer?”

–Julia Glass

Hunger, by Roxane Gay

“As a weight-lifting vegan who privately questions why all people are not eating and exercising like me, I am scared to read Hunger. I fear the condescending ignorance of my latent and inhuman fat-phobia—for starters—will be exposed and brutally murdered by Roxanne Gay’s brutally honest exposition of the life and meaning of her overweight body. But I will read Gay’s Hunger this summer. Look for me to grow some more humanity by forcing myself into another bombshell book I fear.”

–Ibram X. Kendi

Revulsion: Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador, by Horacio Castellanos Moya

“I was fascinated by all of Castellanos Moya’s previous books, and was intrigued to read that he wrote this one in order to exorcise himself of Bernhard’s influence. I have only sympathy for that, having barely survived my own Bernhard addiction.”

–Nicole Krauss

Fever Dream, by Samanta Schweblin

“I’m looking to reading Fever Dream—Argentinian Samanta Schweblin’s novel, translated by Megan McDowell. From what I’ve heard, it’s a brief and unsettling dialogue between characters who have been poisoned by the toxic physical world. Fiction is always on the forefront of navigating what is coming for us—or in this case, as we turn the corner on being able to bring our planet back from the ecological brink—navigating what is already here.”

–Megan Kruse

Planetary Noise: Selected Poetry of Erin Mure, by Erin Mure

“I’m looking forward to Planetary Noise: selected poetry of Erin Moure, just out from Wesleyan University Press. Moure is one of strangest and strongest poets writing in English—although her experiments cross so many languages and idioms that “English” doesn’t begin to cover it. Hence the planetary. As for the noise: in Moure’s poems, music and thought are beautifully joined.”

–Ben Lerner

The Left-Handed Fate, by Kate Milford

“Right now I am reading  The Left-Handed Fate, by Kate Milford. I just finished her Blue Crowne, both of which are prequel/companion books to her Boneshaker and Green Glass House books. I love how everything is interconnected but separate stories in completely different time periods. It’s something I try to do in my own work, but she does it with such panache! Her world is so realized that you really do feel like the Nagspeake is a place that is real and you can go visit.”

–Grace Lin

We Need New Names, by NoViolet Bulawayo

“I’m planning to read NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names. I love natural writers—people who write ringing, unforced prose—and Bulawayo appears to be one of them. Zimbabwe’s also been a dark mirror to the whole postcolonial experiment, and I’m interested in reading a native’s fictional take on the place.”

–Karan Mahajan

Coming Through Slaughter, by Michael Ondaatje

“This summer I’m re-reading a book that transformed my understanding of how to tell a story: Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter. The book is a loosely historical portrait of the early jazz cornetist Buddy Bolden and is every bit as musical as its subject. Ondaatje wrote poetry at the start of his career, but began writing prose in the 1970s. Coming Through Slaughter is his first novel and combines both styles of writing in elegant and unexpected ways. it is a captivating book—in style and in story—one I continue to return to for inspiration.”

–Adrian Matejka

So Far From God, by Ana Castillo

“On my summer reading list is Ana Castillo’s So Far from God. I know Castillo primarily from her poetry, but a fellow writer, who’s also a fellow Latina, told me, “You have to read this book. You will get this book, and you will feel like book gets you.” So much of my reading comes from friends’ recommendations, and my friend recommended this one for its unexpected humor, chilling storytelling, and deep heart of Mexican-American heritage.”

–Anna-Marie McLemore

Slavery By Another Name, by Douglas A. Blackmon

“This summer I’m reading “Slavery By Another Name” by Douglas Blackmon. It was recommended to me by artist and civil rights activist Titus Kaphar. It describes our country’s shockingly racist and oppressive history between the Civil War and WWII, and helps me understand the historical context that is picked up and deftly described in Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” a major inspiration for my book.”

–Cathy O’Neil

Solo, by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess

“On my bedside table for next is an advanced reader’s copy of Solo by Kwame Alexander in collaboration with Mary Rand Hess. It’s due in bookstores August 1, just in time for late summer reading. I’m eager to read it because Alexander is one of my all-time favorite writers and a poet who has turned young people into poetry lovers. Besides, his novels in poetry always tell a great story.”

–Katherine Paterson

Field Theories, by Samiya Bashir

“I’m about to re-read Field Theories (Nightboat, 2017) by Samiya Bashir. The language of these poems is slowly re-orienting me to the layered relationships of scientific, social, and historical spheres; it is astute, challenging and incredibly moving. I’m riveted by its rhythms, its blues in many keys, by its urgent formal restlessness, by the way it journeys, unafraid to move ‘not toward/ exit but through the broken core.'”

–Mary Szybist

Teen Press Conference 2014

At the annual National Book Awards Teen Press Conference, middle and high school students from New York City’s public and private schools played the role of reporters as they directed questions to the five Finalists for the 2014 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature.

The day before the 65th National Book Awards, the highly anticipated 2014 Teen Press Conference took place at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York and was attended by 300 enthusiastic students. The conference featured that year’s Finalists for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literautre: Eliot Schrefer, Threatened (Scholastic Press); Steve Sheinkin, The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights (Roaring Brook Press/ Macmillan Publishers); John Corey Whaley, Noggin (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster); Deborah Wiles, Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two (Scholastic Press); and Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Group (USA)). It was hosted by Rachel Fershleiser.


Jaqueline Woodson speaking about writing her book in verse from National Book Foundation on Vimeo.

Writer's Block – Eliot Schrefer from National Book Foundation on Vimeo.

Mix of Fact and Fiction from National Book Foundation on Vimeo.

Becoming an Author from National Book Foundation on Vimeo.

Biggest Obstacle in Writing – Steve Sheinkin from National Book Foundation on Vimeo.


About the host:

Rachel Fershleiser is Director of Publisher Outreach at Tumblr. Previously she was the Community Manager at Bookish and the Director of Public Programs at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, where she now serves on the board of directors. She is also the co-creator of Six-Word Memoirs and co-editor of the New York Times Bestseller Not Quite What I Was Planning and three other books.

>  Twitter: @RachelFersh


Teen Press Conference 2015

At the annual National Book Awards Teen Press Conference, middle and high school students from New York City’s public and private schools will play the role of reporters as they direct questions to the five Finalists for the 2015 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature.

The Teen Press Conference gives middle and high school students from New York City’s public and private schools who are interested in writing, reading, and journalism the opportunity to meet and interview the current five National Book Award Finalists in Young People’s Literature on a professional level. Students are encouraged to demonstrate the curiosity and ambition of a reporter who is granted an interview with an important public figure. At the event authors read from their honored work, respond to questions and comments from the students, and sign the students’ books. The event is moderated by a published author or a prominent figure in the book world.

To celebrate, expand, and enhance the cultural value of great writing, the National Book Foundation partnered with the 92nd Street Y for the 2015 Teen Press Conference to increase the number of students attending the event in New York City from 300 to 600. This year, for the first time, the Teen Press Conference will go on the road, its first stop in Miami, at the 2015 Miami Book Festival International and include authors Longlisted for the National Book Award. In Miami, over 200 students will attend the Teen Press Conference event.

Below is the live stream from the Teen Press Conference at the 92nd St Y.

Teen Press Conference 2016

At the annual National Book Awards Teen Press Conference, middle and high school students from New York City’s public and private schools will play the role of reporters as they direct questions to the five Finalists for the 2016 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature.

Tuesday, November 15
92nd Street Y, New York City

The Foundation is partnering with the 92nd Street Y for the second year in a row to invite over 600 students to the Teen Press Conference to meet and engage with the 2016 National Book Award Young People’s Finalists. In addition, the event will be live streamed to give students across the country the opportunity to view the event and “meet” the authors.

Hosted by Brendan Kiely.


Miami Book Festival International, Miami Florida

This year, the Teen Press Conference will return to the Miami Book Fair International. The winner, Finalists, and longlisted authors for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature are invited to meet with 200 students at one of the nation’s largest book fairs.

Hosted by George O’Connor.

LA Times announces the 2016 5 Under 35 Honorees

In an exclusive with the Los Angeles Times, Michael Schaub revealed our 2017 5 Under 35 Honorees, and shared the stories of how they’d learned they were selected.

When Brit Bennett got the phone call that could change her career, she was sitting in a Coffee Bean in Encino, the neighborhood where the 26-year-old novelist now makes her home.

“I got a phone call from an unknown New York number,” Bennett recalled. Minutes later, she learned that she’d been selected as one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 honorees for her not-yet-published debut novel, “The Mothers” (it will hit shelves Oct. 11).

Read more.

Robert Silvers and Barbara Epstein Receive the 2006 Literarian Award

At the 57th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner in New York City on Wednesday, November 15, 2006, the National Book Foundation awarded Robert Silvers and, posthumously, Barbara Epstein, co-founders of The New York Review of Books, with The Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, presented the Award.


Robert Silvers and Barbara Epstein were co-founders of the New York Review of Books, which they edited for over 40 years until her death earlier this year. Robert Silvers continues to edit the magazine.

Prior to joining the Review, Silvers was, from 1959 to 1963, associate editor of Harper’s magazine, editor of the book Writing in America and translator of the multi-author La Gangrene. Before that, Silvers lived in Paris for six years (1952 to 1958), where he served with the U.S. Army at SHAPE Headquarters and attended the Sorbonne and Ecole des Sciences Politiques. He joined the editorial board of The Paris Review in 1954 and became Paris editor in 1956. He also worked as press secretary to Governor Chester Bowles in 1950. Silvers graduated from the University of Chicago in 1947.

Barbara Epstein worked in publishing and at The Partisan Review before becoming editor of The New York Review of Booksin 1963. She began her publishing career at Doubleday & Co., where she served as junior editor after graduating from Radcliffe College in 1949.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti Accepts the 2005 Literarian Award

November 16, 2005

Garrison Keillor (host): It’s my honor to introduce for the purpose of introducing somebody else a woman of letters who has written just about everything that a person can write. She’s written poems and fiction. She has written plays, plays that are actually produced. She’s written screen plays that are actually produced, “Fresh Kill,” and has written fiction. In fact, she has sat in a dark room, as many of you are sitting here tonight, and waited for her name to be announced as a nominee for the National Book Awards. Unfortunately, it was not a book with a really award winning title. It was a great book but Dogeaters? Gangster of Love. Better title. Please welcome Jessica Hagedorn. [Applause]

Jessica Hagedorn (introducing Lawrence Ferlinghetti): He’s a funny man. That’s Minnesota for you. Good evening, everyone. This year, the National Book Foundation decided to create the Literarian Award in order to recognize and honor the people who have dedicated their lives to loving, nurturing, publishing and making great literature available to a wider audience in America. I feel an enormous sense of hometown pride in introducing tonight’s recipient of this award. He is a beloved poet and prolific author, a visionary publisher, and after all these years, still the hippest and coolest bookseller around. [Applause]

Yeah. Coney Island of the Mind his best known, best selling collection of poetry is considered a modern classic. He founded City Lights, the legendary San Francisco bookstore in 1953 with Peter Martin. Soon after, he launched City Lights Publishing House. His courageous publication and defense of Allen Ginsburg’sHowl led to his arrest on obscenity charges. The trial and his subsequent acquittal brought national attention to the San Francisco renaissance and the literary movement known as the Beats. As you can read in the program, this historic First Amendment case established a legal precedent for the publication of controversial work.

I was 15 years old, fresh off the boat from the Philippines, when the poet, Kenneth Rexroth, took me on my first outing to City Lights in North Beach, a glamorous, grown up, and to my feverish teenage mind, delightfully dangerous destination. I’ll never forget that it was close to midnight, yet the cozy, colorful bookstore was humming with activity. Scruffy bohemian types lounged about downstairs, browsing through the paperback books and the latest issues of Umbra andEvergreen Review. The friendly staff didn’t seem to feel the need to pressure anyone into buying. Poetry by Lorca, Neruda, Mayakovsky, Apollinaire, plays by Samuel Beckett and LeRoy Jones, novels by Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey and James Baldwin, William Burroughs. Quite a boys’ club, right?

Teenage me was in heaven. After that first night, I kept going back, sometimes alone or with one or two likeminded book-loving teenage rebel pals. City Lights was our haven, a sort of funky alternative school for kids like us who dreamed of becoming writers and artists. The welcoming beautiful energy in this independent unpretentious first class bookstore has much to do with the poet and activist who is its public face. To this day, City Lights remains a vibrant San Francisco literary landmark and a Mecca for writers and readers from all over the world. Thanks to his unflagging vision and generous open spirit, the Press continues to thrive, publishing a remarkable list of cutting edge authors while keeping many hard-to-find books in print.

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation, it gives me great pleasure to present the first Literarian Award for outstanding service to the American literary community to Lawrence Ferlinghetti.


Lawrence Ferlinghetti: For a while, I thought we were on “Prairie Home Companion”. I don’t have half the wit that Garrison does, that makes me a halfwit. Anyway, I am honored indeed and I’m also glad to have published a book by my introducer.

What is a “literarian” anyway? Sounds a bit old school, doesn’t it? A smart friend of mine said, “It’s for old guys.” Well, it’s for young guys of both sexes and many colors to carry forward the tradition of great literacy. I come from a New York generation which was before the Beat Generation, a generation that assumed that you would know the allusion when you referred to such things as Prufrock or Stephen Daedalus or Maud Gonne or Godot or Penelope’s unraveling her knitting at night or Dover Beach or Walden Pond or “lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d”. The absence of Third World writers, authors of color, from the list is shocking but, at that time, nobody even thought of such a thing back then, in the last white century.

Photo Credit: Robin Platzer/Twin ImagesToday it’s a cliché at this point. But faced with the dumbing down of America, the literarian is really an endangered species. It is not true that President Bush believes that anyone caught reading a book should be banned from government but the barbarians certainly are at the gates and our commercial dominant culture welcomes them. The dominant American mercantile culture may globalize the world but it is not the mainstream culture of our civilization. The true mainstream is made, not of oil but of literarians, publishers, bookstores, editors, libraries, writers and readers, universities and all the institutions that support them. That is the real mainstream of our civilization.

It will survive, if anything survives, after the electricity goes off and electronic civilization fades away, when Nature strikes back in retaliation for what the dominant culture is doing to it. Coming to your local theater soon, the day after tomorrow. See you at the show.

I’ll end with a poem I wrote just before 9/11:

Are there not still fireflies?
Are there not still fireflies?
Are there not still four leaf clovers?
Is not our land still beautiful, our cities
Never bombed by foreign invaders,
Never occupied by iron armies speaking iron
Are not our warriors still valiant, ready to defend
Are not our Senators still wearing fine togas?
Are we not still a great people in the greatest
country in all the world?
Is this not still a free country?
Are not our views still ours, our gardens still
full of flowers, our ships with full cargoes?
Why then do some still fear the barbarians coming,
coming, coming in their huddled masses?
What is that sound that fills the air, drumming,
Is not Rome still Rome?
Is not Los Angeles still Los Angeles?
Are these really the last days of the Roman Empire?
Is not beauty still beauty and truth still truth?
Are there not still poets? Are there not still
Are there not still mothers, sisters and brothers?
Is there not still a full moon once a month?
Are there not still fireflies?
Are there not still stars at night?
Can we not still see them in bold night signaling
to us our so-called manifest destinies?


Thank you.