The 2011 National Book Award winners will be announced next week on Wednesday, Nov. 16. Below, we’ve provided a score-card for your office or at-home betting pool. To get the ball rolling, novelist Jaimy Gordon, 2010 winner for Lord of Misrule, agreed to survey the fiction field for us.

The field of finalists this year is rich in dark history, full of mythy and frightening tales and exotic places. Of this marvelous group, which includes Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones, Andrew Krivak's The Sojourner, and Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife, The Tiger's Wife is the obvious favorite, an authentically gorgeous and absorbing book that was already a best seller, with big wins on its past performance chart, even before it became a finalist for the National Book Award. But as a betting woman, of course I have a hard time putting my money on a heavy favorite, however likely a bet. There is another small jeweled volume in that group that makes America mythy and exotic by seeing it through the eyes of mail-order Japanese brides arriving in San Francisco a hundred years ago—this is Julie Otsuka's The Buddha in the Attic. I'd have to ride a little money on that one. However—as those who know me know—I've always favored classy old horses who are still running at the age of six or seven and can go the distance. There's only one of those in this field, Edith Pearlman, for her Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories; although, true, she's not really a miler but a sprinter, one of the great practitioners of the short form. How can you not want to put your money on a great American writer who has been so underrated for so long?

(Follow the links below to see each author’s NBA profile.)


Andrew Krivak, The Sojourn
(Bellevue Literary Press)

Téa Obreht, The Tiger's Wife
(Random House)

Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic
(Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House)

Edith Pearlman, Binocular Vision
(Lookout Books, an imprint of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington)

Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones
(Bloomsbury USA)


Deborah Baker, The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism
(Graywolf Press)

Mary Gabriel, Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution
(Little, Brown and Company)

Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
(W. W. Norton & Company)

Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
(Viking Press, an imprint of Penguin Group USA)

Lauren Redniss, Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout
(It Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)


Nikky Finney, Head Off & Split
(TriQuarterly, an imprint of Northwestern University Press)

Yusef Komunyakaa, The Chameleon Couch
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Carl Phillips, Double Shadow
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Adrienne Rich, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010
(W.W. Norton & Company)

Bruce Smith, Devotions
(University of Chicago Press)

Young People’s Literature

Franny Billingsley, Chime
(Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, Inc. )

Debby Dahl Edwardson, My Name Is Not Easy
(Marshall Cavendish)

Thanhha Lai, Inside Out and Back Again
(Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)

Albert Marrin, Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy
(Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)

Gary D. Schmidt, Okay for Now
(Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)