It’s pretty rare for a 600-page tome written by a federal committee to be a compelling read. But The 9/11 Commission Report has not only proved to be a populist bestseller, but it’s also earned a citation as one of five nonfiction nominees for this year’s National Book Awards. The report, issued in July by the commission investigating the security failures behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is the first such book nominated in more than 30 years; in 1973, a similar government report on the riot at New York’s Attica prison also made the list. The 9/11 Commission Report joins Kevin Boyle’s Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age, David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing, Jennifer Gonnerman’s Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett, and Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare among nonfiction books cited.
Big-name authors were generally absent from the list, announced Wednesday by Garrison Keillor. That was especially true on the fiction list, where heavyweights like Philip Roth were bypassed in favor of first-time novelists Sarah Shun-lien Bynum (Madeleine is Sleeping) and Christine Schutt (Florida), as well as Joan Silber (Ideas of Heaven), Lily Tuck (News of Paraguay), and Kate Walbert (Our Kind: A Novel in Stories). The winners are to be named at a Nov. 17 banquet in Manhattan. The top authors win $10,000 and a bronze statue, while the nominees get $1,000 and a bronze medal. Not sure how the 10 authors of The 9/11 Commission Report will divide that.