National Book Foundation

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National Book Foundation
Founded 1989 by Strauss Zeinich and Steve Leeven[citation needed]
Type Non-profit
Headquarters New York City, USA
Services Celebrating literary achievements
Fields Media attention
Key people
David Steinberger (President & CEO)[when?]

The National Book Foundation is an American nonprofit organization established "to raise the cultural appreciation of great writing in America".[1] Established 1989 by National Book Awards, Inc.,[2] the foundation is the administrator and sponsor of the National Book Awards, a changing set of literary awards inaugurated 1936 and continuous from 1950. It also organizes and sponsors public and educational programs.

To broaden its scope, the National Book Awards is establishing the National Book Foundation to administer its annual literary awards program and to develop programs to promote reading and literacy. The chairman of the National Book Awards, Al Silverman, said his group intended to take on "a more central and influential role in the literary, intellectual, and publishing life of this country."

The National Book Foundation's Board of Trustees comprises representatives of American literary institutions and the book industry. For example, in 2009 the Board included the President of the New York Public Library, the Chief Merchandising Officer of Barnes & Noble, the President/Publisher of Grove/Atlantic, Inc., and others.[3]

The National Book Foundation states the mission "to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America."[1]


The original task of the National Book Foundation was to award the National Book Award. The Award was given without the foundation from 1950 until it was replaced with The American Book Awards in 1980, with 16 different categories. Many prominent authors of the time refused to participate in the new awards, and over 40 authors signed a petition saying that the new awards focused to much on popular literature and were not good for the literary culture of the nation. The new awards were largely a failure, and scaled back in future years. In 1987, the National Book Award was reestablished. The award split into 4 categories in 1996: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature. The winner in each category is decided by an independent panel of writers, librarians, book sellers, and critics.[4]

In addition to four National Book Awards to authors for particular books, the Foundation presents two lifetime awards to people, the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.

The Foundation annually awards the Innovations in Reading Prize ($2500) to "individuals and institutions—or partnerships between the two—that have developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading."[5]


Book Up

Book Up is a program meant to encourage middle-schoolers in underdeveloped communities to continue reading. The program is designed in a way meant to show kids how enjoyable reading can be, and to improve their confidence in their reading abilities. Middle School students are chosen as studies have shown that this is the age that students are the most likely to stop reading.

The Program is typically ran by authors with experience in teaching. Sessions last for at least 24 weeks, over which students share their reading interests and previous experiences with reading. Students are also given $25 to purchase books. The program started in 2010 on the outskirts of New York City and expanded into Huntsville, Texas.[6]

5 Under 35

The 5 Under 35 program was started in 2005 in order to honor 5 young writers, all under the age of 35. The winners are all chosen by previous finalists of the National Book Award. Each award comes with a cash prize of $1000.[7]


In 2011, the National Book Foundation accidentally published the young adult novel "Shine" by Lauren Myracle as one of the five candidates for the National Book Award. This was a mistake, as the fifth candidate was intended to be "Chime" by Franny Billingsley. At first, the National Book Foundation decided to still allow "Shine" as a candidate, and would have 6 finalists. However, shortly after Lauren Myracle revealed that the National Book Foundation asked her to withdraw herself from consideration. In order to compensate for this mistake, the National Book Foundation donated $5,000 to the Matthew Shepheard Foundation, which advocates for LGBT youths.[8]

At the 2014 National Book Awards, author Daniel Handler, the presenter of the event, invoked controversy when making a remark about award winner Jacqueline Woodson's watermelon allergy. This comment based on a common stereotype about African Americans offended many people, and caused the National Book Foundation to post a statement on their website stating that Handler's remarks were inappropriate and not authorized by the organization.[9] The statement also contained an apology to all offended, including Woodson. In order to make amends, Handler apologized over Twitter, as well as donating $10,000 to the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books, and offered to match donations of up to $100,000 within a 24-hour period.[10]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 National Book Foundation: "History of the National Book Foundation".
  2. Edwin McDowell. "Book Notes: 'The Joy Luck Club' is to be in paperback ... The National Book Awards' new foundation". The New York Times, July 5, 1989, page C19.
  3. National Book Foundation: "Board of Directors".
  4. Lynn Neary. "National Book Awards Look to Raise Profile". NPR books. September 16, 2013. National Public Radio. Retrieved 2014-12-06.
  5. National Book Foundation: "Innovations in Reading Prize".
  6. National Book Foundation: "National Book Foundation's BookUp". Retrieved 2014-12-06.
  7. National Book Foundation: "5 Under 35 ...{Ninth Annual} ...". Released September 30, 2014. Retrieved 2014-12-06.
  8. Julie Bosman. "An Author Withdraws as Book Award Finalist". The New York Times. October 17, 2011. Retrieved 2014-12-06.
  9. Joanna Rothkopf. "“This is why we are tired”: Racist remarks mar National Book Award ceremony (UPDATED)". Salon ( November 20, 2014. Retrieved 2014-12-06.
  10. Abby Ohlheiser."Daniel Handler does more than apologize for his 'watermelon joke' ". Style Blog. November 21, 2014. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-12-06.
  • National Book Foundation.
National Book Foundation: Presenter of the National Book Awards. This home page retrieved 2014-12-06 carries the internal title "2014 National Book Award Winners".

External links

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