The National Book Foundation made some unusual choices even by its own standards when it announced the list of nominees for the 2004 National Book Awards last week, choosing a public-domain work in nonfiction, naming a number of university presses and leaving out several favored works by vaunted authors.

In its boldest choice, the committee tabbed The September 11 Commission Report as a nonfiction nominee. Despite the book receiving acclaim for its seamless narrative, the move is likely to be read as a statement in a year in which political books dominated the landscape. It is only the second time the group has ever chosen a public-domain government work. (While St. Martin's and others have editions, the nomination went to the official Norton publication.)

Norton was in fact a big winner among the nominees; it also landed a shortlist spot in nonfiction for Stephen Greenblatt's newly released Will in the World, about the life of William Shakespeare. In fiction, the committee omitted notable works by the likes of Philip Roth and also didn't include books from Random or Farrar, Straus & Giroux, two houses that usually receive nominations in the category. Instead, it looked to Northwestern UP's TriQuarterly Books, which published Christine Schutt's Florida. Norton gets its third nomination in this category with Joan Silber's collection Ideas of Heaven.

A particular kind of anomaly took place in young people's literature, where a sweep for S&S (three) and Little, Brown (two) further cements those houses' growing stature in the genre.

Eight of the 10 nonfiction or fiction spots were taken by university presses or mid-size houses such as Holt and Harcourt. This is also the first year in which the fiction category nominees were all women. The awards will be given out at New York's Marriott Marquis on November 17.

The List of Nominees:

Nonfiction:Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle (Holt); Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer (Oxford); Life on the Outside by Jennifer Gonnerman (FSG); The September 11 Commission Report (Norton); Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt (Norton).

Fiction:Our Kind by Kate Walbert (Scribner); Ideas of Heaven by Joan Silber (Norton); The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck (HarperCollins); Madeleine Is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum (Harcourt); and Florida by Christine Schutt (Northwestern Univ. Press/TriQuarterly)

Poetry:Collected Poems by Donald Justice (Knopf); Shoah Train by William Heyen (Etruscan Press); The Rest of Love by Carl Phillips (FSG); Goest by Cole Swensen (Alice James Books); and Door in the Mountain by Jean Valentine (Wesleyan Univ. Press).

Young people's literature:Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers); Godless by Pete Hautman (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers); Harlem Stomp! by Laban Carrick Hill(Little, Brown/ Megan Tingley); The Legend of Buddy Bush by Sheila P. Moses (S&S Children's Publishing/ Margaret K. McElderry Books); and Luna by Julie Anne Peters (Little, Brown/Megan Tingley).