Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Award-winning historical novels at ALA Midwinter, 2012

The American Library Association's 2012 Midwinter conference just wrapped up in Dallas, and a number of literary awards were announced there.  Once again (see last year's list), historical fiction made a good showing.

Relevant winners include:

The Newbery Medal and Newbery Honor books, recognizing the best in American children's literature.

- The winner: Jack Gantos' Dead End in Norvelt, an off-the-wall adventure set in small-town America in 1962;
- The Honor books: Thanhha Lai's Inside Out and Back Again, about a Vietnamese refugee family in the American South; and Eugene Yelchin's Breaking Stalin's Nose, middle-grade fiction set in Stalinist Russia.

The 2012 Reading List Awards, which recognize the best books in eight genres.

- For Historical Fiction:  Mary Doria Russell's Doc, a reinterpretation of the life of Doc Holliday.
- On the Historical Fiction shortlist:  Dominic Smith's Bright and Distant Shores, Amor Towles' Rules of Civility, Sharon Kay Penman's Lionheart, and Beth Powning's The Sea-Captain's Wife.  [links to my reviews]
- For Fantasy, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, a magical tale of lovers in a mysterious late 19th-century circus.
- For Romance, Loretta Chase's Silk is for Seduction, set in 1830s England.

ALA Notable Books, honoring excellent, important fiction for the adult reader.  (Understood to be literary fiction; the Reading List looks at genre fiction.)

- Patrick deWitt, The Sisters Brothers, a darkly comic Western; and Michael Ondaatje's The Cat's Table, in which a young boy comes of age aboard ship in the 1950s.  These were the only historical novels on the list; see the full slate for other honorees (including nonfiction and poetry).


On a personal note, I was notified of some very exciting news last Friday that was formally announced at ALA on Sunday night.  The awards chair phoned me to say I'd been selected as the winner of the 2012 Louis Shores Award from the Reference & User Services Association, which is given for excellence in book reviewing for libraries.  This blog was mentioned in the press release (how cool to have a press release of my own!).

Unfortunately I wasn't able to be at the conference in person I got word just after I'd finished up my afternoon reference desk shift at the library ‒ but there'll be an awards reception at the ALA Annual convention in Anaheim this summer, and I plan on being there.  No big speeches here, but I was completely surprised and thrilled, and still am.  A huge thanks to the librarian who nominated me and to the members of the award committee.


  1. A very well-deserved honor - congratulations! I depend on your blog and the HNS Review to help me choose the best in historical fiction from among the embarrassment of riches available nowadays. Kudos to you!

  2. Good one, Sarah :) Congratulations!

  3. Congratulations on the award.

  4. Sarah, I read your blog through my Google Reader, but hopped over here in order to comment. Congratulations on your honor. I rely on your recommendations. And, I was thrilled to se that Doc was recognized as best HF. I just finished reading it and absolutely agree that it is truly great historical fiction.

  5. Congratulations on the award, that is great news, indeed!

  6. I am thrilled to find you site! It popped up due to a "google alert" for middle grade historical fiction. Congrats on your award!

  7. Hi everyone, and thanks!

    I haven't read Doc, but I've yet to hear anything but positive recommendations for it. It's especially exciting because it's a Western, a once-thriving subgenre that's no longer as popular as it used to be... but this proves that many bright spots still exist.

  8. Anonymous10:57 AM

    Hot Darn!! And you certainly deserve this award!!

    In other words, I totally agree with the above posters!!

    Sarah Other Librarian

  9. My comment from yesterday seems to have vanished, so I'm trying again. LOL - and thanks, Sarah!

    Another nice surprise - I seem to have made it into American Libraries Direct yesterday (with a nice pic of me in Vegas during our Thanksgiving holiday!).

  10. I hear "The Cats Table" is an adventurous book full of interesting people and mischievous escapades by a young boy and his friends on a ship.
    I heard Michael Ondaajte talk about his book on Elaine Charles's radio show 'The Book Report" which has earlier recordings of the show on bookreportradio.com.
    I was amazed when I heard that Michael has written 13 poetry books.
    one of the phrases mentioned in Michales book is "Free of the realities of Earth" which gives you the idea that the life on a ship is different to the daily life back home on land.
    I really can't wait to read 'The Cats Table'