This November, in addition to marking the 50th anniversary of the National Book Awards, the National Book Foundation will present a 50th Anniversary Gold Medal to Oprah Winfrey for her dedication to promoting the joys and benefits of reading.

NBF executive director Neil Baldwin called the medal "an expression of gratitude -- not only on the part of our foundation, but also on behalf of the publishing community and the millions of readers whose lives have been enriched by [Winfrey's] enthusiasm for books."

Winfrey commented, "Throughout my childhood, I thought of books as my... passports to new and exciting worlds. If I have imparted even a small amount of that joy to others, I would consider it a great accomplishment."

In addition to the Winfrey award, the NBF has invited scores of former National Book Award winners to attend the November 17 ceremony. Among those invited are Lauren Bacall, E.L. Doctorow, Alice McDermott, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, William Styron and Tom Wolfe.

The judging panels for the 1999 awards are as follows:
Fiction: Charles Johnson (chair), Dorothy Allison, Allegra Goodman, Terry McMillan, Scott Spencer.Nonfiction: Neil Gabler (chair), Buzz Bissinger, Sylvia Nasar, Nell Painter, Cristina Rathbone.P try: Lucille Clifton (chair), Deborah Garrison, Jarold Ramsey, Arthur Sze, James Tate.
Young People's Literature: Hazel Rochman (chair), Veronica Chambers, Mary Ann McGuigan, Zena Sutherland, Roger Sutton.This year's finalists will be announced on October 13.