July 1, 2014
Carnegie Medals go to Donna Tartt, Doris Kearns Goodwin
by Nick Davies
The Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were presented over the weekend in Las Vegas, going this year to Donna Tartt for her novel The Goldfinch, and Doris Kearns Goodwin for The Bully Pulpit, a history of Progressive Era politics in the US.
Hillel Italie reports for the Associated Press (published here in the Seattle Times) that the medals were presented the the American Library Association’s annual conference on Saturday. The prize itself is a relatively new one, established by the ALA in 2012 to recognize, per the organization’s website, “the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the US the previous year.” They’re given by a seven-person committee of library professionals, chaired by librarian Nancy Pearl; nominees are selected from the Notable Books lists from Booklist (the ALA’s magazine) and the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA).
Both authors extolled the virtues of libraries upon accepting the award. Italie writes that Tartt “recalled the importance of libraries during her childhood — whether it was the librarians who recommended books to her, or the books she recommended to patrons. ‘You can really change someone’s life by giving them the right book at the right time,’ she said. ‘All writers are readers before we write a word, so there’s a kinship and it’s very deep.'”
Goodwin, meanwhile, discussed the appeal of doing the research for her political histories at places like the Library of Congress and Franklin Roosevelt’s presidential library in Hyde Park: “I loved how you had to leave your pocketbook outside and could only bring in a pencil. And then to have the chance to look through actual documents from World War II really made you feel you were back in that time.”
The other finalists for the Carnegie Medal — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Americah and Edwidge Danticat for Claire of the Sea Light in fiction, and Nicholas A. Basbanes for On Paper and Sherri Fink for Five Days at Memorial in nonfiction — each receive a $1,500 cash prize, and winners Tartt and Goodwin will receive $5,000.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.