By Heidi Simmons

It’s award season!  We all assume that means awards for movies.  The most exciting award shows are aired on television.  A few award shows are celebrated privately by industry guilds with the results quickly shared before the next award event.

Whether movies are significant or not, every year we look forward to the glamour of the runway and the fun of a live show.  We love to share our opinions about the movies we’ve seen and enjoy speculating about who will win best actor, actress, director and film.

But what about books?

Many of the movies produced today come from literary sources.  Of course, there is one award that acknowledges the original published work — Academy Award® for Best Adapted Screenplay.

But where are the broadcast award programs celebrating Best Written Character in a fiction story?  Or Best Written Setting?  Best Foreign Translated Book.  Best Short Story.  Best Short Story Collection by a single author.  Best Editor.  Best YA.  And let’s not forget Best Poetry.

How fun would it be to see the 2015 “Best Writer” climb the steps toward a podium in a tux or a gown to receive a heavy, strangely sculpted metallic statue?

I suppose the publisher would accept the award for Best Book.  It would be a wonderful event with fiction and non-fiction writers all in one room.  Graphic novel authors and illustrators would be a fun category.  Perhaps the awards could have separate categories for men and women.

Think what a televised awards program celebrating literature, authors and publishers would do for reading.  Until there is a singular literary organization with selected nominating and voting members that are made of industry professionals and published authors, we shall just have to wait.

There are indeed many literary awards given each year.  They are just not hyped or publicized like movies.  The categories generally stay with fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature.

For now, the closest event that celebrates and honors literature in the form of an award show is the National Book Awards.  If you are so inclined, The 66th National Book Awards Ceremony, presented by the National Book Foundation, is available to stream online.  It may not be as glamorous or slick a production as the Oscars® but it is literary.  Just so you know, they wear tuxedos and gowns, it has live music and the winners give speeches while they clutch a chunky, tall, bronze-like award.

Here is a list of the 2015 National Book Award winners and finalists:


Fortune Smiles: Stories by Adam Johnson (Random House)


Refund: Stories by Karen Bender (Counterpoint Press)

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House)

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday/Penguin Random House)

Fiction judges included: Daniel Alarcón, Jeffery Renard Allen, Sarah Bagby, Laura Lippman and David Ulin.


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel& Gru/Penguin Random House)


Hold Still by Sally Mann (Little, Brown/Hachette Book Group)

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery (Atria/Simon & Schuster)

If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran by Carla Power (Henry Holt and Co)

Ordinary Light by Tracy Smith (Alfred A. Knopf)

Nonfiction judges included: Diane Ackerman, Patricia Hill Collins, John D’Agata, Paul Holdengräber and Adrienne Mayor.


Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis (Alfred A Knopf)


Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay (University of Pittsburgh Press)

How to be Drawn by Terrance Hayes (Penguin Random House)

Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón (Milkweed Editions)

Elegy for a Broken Machine by Patrick Phillips (Alfred A. Knopf)

Poetry judges included:  Sherman Alexie, Willie Perdomo, Katha Pollitt, Tim Seibles and Jan Weissmiller.