Fresh from our successful prediction of the Booker Prize last month, we now turn our attention to the USA’s pre-eminent literary award – the National Book Awards. It’s certainly a close-run thing but we think we’ve spotted a winner in each of the Fiction, Non-Fiction and Young Adult categories (apologies to the Poetry finalists – there simply weren’t enough tweets on these books to allow us to make a prediction). Read on to find out what we think will triumph, and why.
We use our one-of-a-kind technology to detect Twitter discussions around the 5 finalists in each category. We look at how each book has been building momentum on Twitter, the size of the audience that has seen tweets about a particular book and the level of support that tweeters are lending to each title.
Interestingly, the race was very close between two books in each category and we were forced to use very subtle signals to pick a victor in each case.
An Unnecessary Woman – Rabih Alameddine
★All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
Redployment – Phil Klay
★Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
Lila – Marilynne Robinson
Anthony Doerr VS Emily St. John Mandel
Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See is about a blind French girl and a German boy who meet in occupied France during the devastation of World War II. Instead of focusing on the war, Doerr takes on a nuanced focus on his characters’ life choices, transforming this novel into a mezmerising mosaic of character portraits.
Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic tale about a group of traveling performers who roam from town to town to entertain the public after a flu epidemic wipes out most of humanity. With a glitteringly beautiful use of language, Mandel has created a page-turner that will stay with you long after the book’s end.
Verdict: Both novels have surpassed the others in terms of mentions by far, and it is Mandel’s book that has generated the most electrifying buzz over many months. Although Doerr might be the initial go-to bet because of an overwhelmingly positive response from critics, the numbers don’t lie–– and that, coupled with strong public sentiment, makes us think that Station Eleven will emerge as victor.
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? – Roz Chast
★Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh – John Lahr
The Meaning of Human Existence – Edward O. Wilson
John Lahr VS Evan Osnos
John Lahr’s Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh gives readers intimate access to the mind of one of the greatest American playwrights in history. The creator of A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Lahr captures Williams’ failures and successes so accurately and vividly that readers can’t help but weep and triumph along with the man who reshaped theater.
Evan Osnos’ Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, catapults the reader into the middle of modern-day China during a moment of profound transformation. Osnos utilizes great literary verve to take the audience through China’s history of political, economic, and cultural upheaval––and in the process, creates moving portraits of the everyday Chinese people we know so little about.
Verdict: The race is close, but in the end, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh wins out. The novel, has enjoyed wide publicity on Twitter from an army of influential tweeters and has been consistently mentioned for months, with many users declaring their avid support.
Young People’s Literature
Threatened – Eliot Schrefer
★Noggin – John Corey Whaley
Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two – Deborah Wiles
★Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson
John Corey Whaley VS Jacqueline Woodson
John Corey Whaley’s Noggin relates how confusing it is to be a teenager with a unique plot device. When 16-year old Travis Coates was dying of leukemia, he allowed his head to be “chopped off and shoved into a freezer.” Due to amazing medical advances, Travis wakes up five years later to find his head on somebody else’s body, and what follows during his adjustment period is exciting and unconventional, highlighting Whaley’s truly ingenious plot.
In Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson presents an unforgettable story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse. In a collection of moving poems, Woodson shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960’s and 70’s, and makes her tale relatable—every emotionally charged line offers a glimpse into a child’s soul.
Verdict: Woodsen’s novel has inspired a storm of recent tweets, but Whaley’s Noggin has been casting spells on users for quite some time and could be viewed as ‘The People’s Choice’. In addition, it connects with its target reader base of young adults more strongly and succeeds in engaging young readers from all backgrounds.
We may have our predictions, but we’ll find out the winners November 19th!
What are your thoughts on who the winners might be, and why?