Winners in four categories — fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature — will be announced at a ceremony in midtown Manhattan, with author-humorist Fran Lebowitz serving as host. Poet Adrienne Rich and two founders of The New York Review of Books are to receive honorary awards.
Among the better known books and authors to receive nominations: Taylor Branch's "On Canaan's Edge," the last of his acclaimed trilogy on the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement; Lawrence Wright's "The Looming Tower," a nonfiction best seller about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks; and "Averno," by former U.S. poet laureate Louise Glueck.
Two books centered on the 2001 attacks, Ken Kalfus' "A Disorder Peculiar to the Country" and Jess Walter's "The Zero," were finalists for best fiction work. Also nominated was Mark Z. Danielewski's "Only Revolutions," a time travel narrative in free verse; and two contemporary stories of memory and identity, Richard Powers' "The Echo Maker" and Dana Spiotta's "Eat the Document."
The young people's category also features a variety of styles and formats, including Gene Luen Yang's "American Born Chinese," the first graphic novel to receive a National Book Award nomination; Patricia McCormick's "Sold," another story told in free verse; and M.T. Anderson's "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1," a tale of slavery featuring letters, newspaper clippings and quill pen etchings.
The other nominees were Martine Leavitt's "Keturah and Lord Death" and Nancy Werlin's "The Rules of Survival."
Besides books by Branch and Wright, nonfiction finalists included Rajiv Chandrasekaran's "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone," Timothy Egan's "The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl" and Peter Hessler's "Oracle Bones: A Journey Between Chinas Past and Present."
Poetry nominees were Glueck's "Averno," H.L. Hix's "Chromatic," Ben Lerner's "Angle of Yaw," Nathaniel Mackey's "Splay Anthem" and James McMichael's "Capacity."
Judges chose from 1,259 books submitted by publishers. Winners receive $10,000 and runners-up $1,000.
The National Book Foundation is a nonprofit organization that sponsors numerous readings and educational programs.