Lifetime Achievement

The National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (DCAL) and Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community are honors that recognize a lifetime of achievement in writing and serving readers, respectively. Both awards are presented by the Foundation’s Board of Directors, and come with a prize of $10,000.

Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

2019 recipient Edmund White. (Photo credit: Andrew Fladeboe)

The DCAL is presented each year to a person who has enriched our literary heritage over a life of service, or a corpus of work. Since it was first presented in 1988 to Jason Epstein, a number of beloved literary icons have been DCAL medalists, including Toni Morrison, Oprah Winfrey, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Judy Blume, and Maxine Hong Kingston.

Recent DCAL Medalists

  • Isabel Allende
  • Annie Proulx
  • Robert Caro
  • Don DeLillo
  • Ursula K. Le Guin
  • E.L. Doctorow

See full list


Literarian Award

2019 recipient Oren Teicher. (Photo credit: Phil Davies, ABA)

The annual Literarian Award is traditionally presented to an individual for a lifetime of achievement in expanding the audience for books and reading. The recipients of the Literarian Award represent a veritable pantheon of literary activists, helping to increase access to and diversity in literature.

Recent Literarians:

  • Doron Weber
  • Dick Robinson
  • Cave Canem
  • James Patterson
  • Kyle Zimmer
  • Dr. Maya Angelou

See full list