Category Archives: Awards

Nonfiction To Win Over Book Club Readers @MassBook

Looking to add some nonfiction to your book club’s reading list? Try one of these Massachusetts Book Award honorees – narrative nonfiction titles selected for their literary quality and discussablity in libraries and book groups.

They’re all either written by Massachusetts authors and/or have a connection to Massachusetts, but take a look and you’ll see that the subjects of these books are wide-ranging and of broad interest. The first-place winner, The Sixth Extinction, also won the Pulitzer Prize.

In other words, you don’t have to be from the Bay State to enjoy reading these award-winning nonfiction titles with your book club!

Massachusetts Book Award 2015 Nonfiction
2015_winnerThe Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert  (Holt)cover image of The Sixth Extinction

Over the last half-billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before.  – from the publisher

The Court-Martial of Paul Revere by Michael M. Greenburg (ForeEdge)

cover imageThe single event defining [Paul] Revere to this day is his ride from Charlestown to Lexington on the night of April 18, 1775, made famous by Longfellow’s poem of 1860. Greenburg’s is the first book to give a full account of Revere’s conduct before, during, and after the disastrous Penobscot Expedition, and of his questionable reputation at the time, which only Longfellow’s poem eighty years later could rehabilitate. Thanks to extensive research and a riveting narrative that brings the battles and courtroom drama to life, The Court-Martial of Paul Revere strips away the myths that surround the Sons of Liberty and reveals the humanity beneath. – from the publisher

John Quincy Adams by Fred Kaplan (Harper)

cover imageIn this fresh and lively biography rich in literary analysis and new historical detail, Fred Kaplan brings into focus the dramatic life of John Quincy Adams — the little known and much misunderstood sixth president of the United States and the first son of John and Abigail Adams — and persuasively demonstrates how Adams’s inspiring, progressive vision guided his life and helped shape the course of America. – from the publisher

The Map Thief by Michael Blanding  (Gotham Books)

Once considered a respectable cover imageantiquarian map dealer, E. Forbes Smiley spent years doubling as a map thief — until he was finally arrested slipping maps out of books in the Yale University library. The Map Thief delves into the untold history of this fascinating high-stakes criminal and the inside story of the industry that consumed him. – from the publisher

Other People’s Houses by Jennifer Taub  (Yale)

cover image of Other Peoples HousesIn the wake of the financial meltdown in 2008, many claimed that it had been inevitable, that no one saw it coming, and that subprime borrowers were to blame. This accessible, thoroughly researched book is Jennifer Taub’s response to such unfounded claims…. Taub chronicles how government officials helped bankers inflate the toxic-mortgage-backed housing bubble, then after the bubble burst ignored the plight of millions of homeowners suddenly facing foreclosure. – from the publisher

The Race Underground by Doug Most (St Martin’s)

cover image of The Race UndergroundDoug Most chronicles the science of the subway, looks at the centuries of fears people overcame about traveling underground and tells a story as exciting as any ever ripped from the pages of U.S. history. The Race Underground is a great American saga of two rival American cities, their rich, powerful and sometimes corrupt interests, and an invention that changed the lives of millions. – from the publisher

Bringing writers and readers together in libraries for meaningful conversation about books that matter to our shared lives in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Center for the Book

Massachusetts Book Awards

The Massachusetts Book Awards is a program of Massachusetts Libraries administered by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Find out more about your state’s Center for the Book here (USA).

Nonfiction Friday badge from doing dewey decimal dot comThis post is linked up to Doing Dewey’s Nonfiction Friday post. Check out other nonfiction-related content from Katie and other book bloggers there.


Massachusetts Book Awards Ceremony at the State House @MassBook

Massachusetts State House front of building sunny dayThe Massachusetts Center for the Book hosted a lovely gathering of authors, poets, illustrators, legislators, librarians, readers, and writers, Tuesday, at the State House, to present Massachusetts Book Awards for books published in 2014 and 2015, and also to award the first annual Library of Congress Literacy Award for Massachusetts to the Literacy Volunteers of the Montachusett Area.

Group photo on the Grand Staircase at the State House.
Group photos were taken on the Grand Staircase at the State House after the awards ceremony.

For complete information about the 2014 and 2015 winners, please visit Massachusetts Center for the Book. Today I thought I’d share a few photos and some impressions from the event, which celebrated books and reading and libraries as well as recognizing and honoring the talents of the authors and illustrators.

S Is for Sea Glass cover imageIn addition to receiving book awards, many of the authors and illustrators received citations from their senators or representatives. At the podium after receiving a citation from his legislator, poet Richard Michelson, whose children’s picture book S Is for Sea Glass (Sleeping Bear, 2014) was a 2015 Must Read honor book, quipped that it was nice to receive “a different kind of citation” for a change.

Poet Richard Michelson and author Jennifer Taub
Richard Michelson and Jennifer Taub before the start of the program.

Jennifer Taub, author of Other People’s Houses, a book about the housing bubble that preceded the 2008 financial crash, spoke sobering words about the current situation and said that Other People’s Houses (Yale, 2014) is still very relevant now.

Jennifer Taub at the podium
Jennifer Taub, author of Other People’s Houses (Yale), a 2015 Must Read Nonfiction honor title.
Poet January Gill O'Neil at the podium
January Gill O’Neil, author of the 2015 Massachusetts Book Award 2015 Poetry winner, Misery Islands.

“Thank you to all of you who support literature, especially poetry. I think it is the least-selling genre, but the one that we reach for when we need it the most.” — January Gill O’Neil, author of the poetry collection, Misery Islands, winner of the 2015 Massachusetts Book Award for Poetry.

Randy Susan Meyers standing beside MassBook Awards poster
Jamaica Plain resident Randy Susan Meyers, author of Accidents of Marriage, a Massachusetts Must Read 2015 for Fiction.

“I grew up in a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn and, without libraries, instead of standing here I’d be in rehab. Of that, I am positive!” — Randy Susan Meyers, author of Accidents of Marriage, a Must-Read 2015 Fiction honor title.”

News from HeavenI didn’t get a decent photo of Jennifer Haigh, who was there to receive the award for News from Heaven (HarperCollins, 2013), the Massachusetts Book Award 2014 Fiction winner, but she joined many of the honorees and legislators in saying how much of a role libraries have played in her life. Because of where she grew up, in a small Pennsylvania town, she commented that “Without books and libraries, unlike Randy, I wouldn’t be in rehab, I’d be doing hair somewhere. So thank you to libraries and the Massachusetts Center for the Book!”

Anita Diamant at the podium
Anita Diamant, author of The Boston Girl, a Must Read 2015 in Fiction.

“We are an immigrant nation…The Boston Girl reminds us of the gifts people bring when they come to our shores.” — Anita Diamant, author of The Boston Girl (Scribner, 2015), a Must Read 2015 Fiction honor book.

Author Celeste Ng at the podium
Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You, Massachusetts Book Award 2015 winner for Fiction.

Accepting the Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction 2015 for her book, Everything I Never Told You (Penguin, 2014), author Celeste Ng said she grew up in Ohio but came to Massachusetts as a child and when she got out of the car she told her mother, “I want to live here.” She came here for college and never left.”I did the math and realized I’ve now lived longer in Massachusetts than anywhere else.” – Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You, Massachusetts Book Award 2015 for Fiction winner.

at the podium holding copy of Jubilee
Homegrown children’s book illustrator Matt Tavares and author Alicia Potter holding a copy of Jubilee: One Man’s Big, Bold, and Very, Very Loud Celebration of Peace (Candlewick,2014).

Massachusetts native Alicia Potter, author of Jubilee: One Man’s Big, Bold, and Very, Very Loud Celebration of Peace, a Must Read 2015 children’s picture book honoree, said she was a teen librarian in the 80s and was sure that had an influence on her becoming a children’s book author. Jubilee illustrator, Matt Tavares, said he had never heard about the National Peace Jubilee of 1869 before receiving the assignment to illustrate this book, “and it took place right here.”

Young adult author Katherine Howe, told a story of getting angry with her parents as a teen and fleeing the house, but her parents knew her well enough to find her right where she had fled to…the local bookstore.

Katherine Howe at podium with legislator off to side
Katherine Howe, author of Conversion, a Must Read 2015 Children’s/YA honor title.

“Thank you to libraries for young readers’ being able to ‘flee their parents’ into worlds of imagination and literature.” – Katherine Howe, author of Conversion, a Must Read 2015 young adult honor title.

at the podium
Peter H. and Paul A. Reynolds collaborated for the first time as illustrator and author on the children’s picture book, Going Places. (First time I have met identical twin author/illustrators!)

“Going Places is a book about collaboration. I’ve done a lot of books, but it means a lot to me to do a book with the collaborator I was born with.” – Peter H. Reynolds, illustrator of Going Places (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2014), winner of the Massachusetts Book Award 2015 for Children’s/YA.

Poet Jeffrey Harrison standing beside MassBook Awards poster
Poet Jeffrey Harrison only spent a moment at the podium, so I’m glad I nabbed this picture before the program started!

“Since poets are known to be failed talkers, I’m just going to say thank you.” – Jeffrey Harrison, author of the poetry collection Into Daylight (Tupelo, 2014), a Must Read 2015 Poetry honor book.

Thank you to Sharon Shaloo and the Massachusetts Center for the Book; the senators and representatives who took time out of their busy days to come to the ceremony and luncheon; the library community who came to Boston again right after ALA Midwinter; and especially to the authors and illustrators whose creative talents were being honored!

Massachusetts Must Reads 2015 & Advocacy Needed

Massachusetts Book Award sealThe Massachusetts Must-Reads – finalists in the Massachusetts Book Awards for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Children’s/Young Adult – are being announced this week on Facebook by the Massachusetts Center for the Book.

The 2015 Massachusetts Book Awards are for books published in 2014. Librarian judges serve for one year on a panel of three librarians plus a convener; they read, read, and read to decide on the best, most discussable books, either by a Massachusetts author or with a Massachusetts theme. I was disappointed to see that my personal favorite, The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis, didn’t make the short list of Must Reads in the fiction category, but clearly there was a lot of tough competition this year. (Check the Giveaways page for your chance to win your very own copy of The Orphans of Race Point this month, though!)

MassBook Must Read seal

The 2015 Must-Read Titles


cover imageAnita Diamant, The Boston Girl (Scribner)
Bret Anthony Johnston, Remember Me Like This (Random House)
Ward Just, American Romantic (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Randy Susan Meyers, Accidents of Marriage (Atria)
Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You (Penguin)
Annie Weatherwax, All We Had (Scribner)

Michael Blanding, The Map Thief (Gotham Books)cover image
Michael M. Greenburg, The Court-Martial of Paul Revere (ForeEdge)
Fred Kaplan, John Quincy Adams (Harper)
Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction (Henry Holt)
Doug Most, The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry that Built America’s First Subway (St Martin’s)
Jennifer Taub, Other People’s Houses (Yale University)


cover imageLiam Day, Afforded Permanence (Aforementioned Productions)
Jeffrey Harrison, Into the Daylight (Tupelo Press)
Fanny Howe, Second Childhood (Graywolf Press)
Jennifer Markell, Samsara (Turning Point)
January Gill O’Neil, Misery Islands
Afaa Michael Weaver, City of Eternal Spring (Pittsburgh UP)

To be announced

Massachusetts residents, your help is needed! The Massachusetts Center for the Book, which administers the Massachusetts Book Awards among other programs, is struggling for its funding in the state budget again.

At first, the House zeroed out funding for the Center for the Book in their proposed FY2016 budget, but then amended it to $200,000, thanks to Rep. Kate Hogan and other library advocates in the House, including Rep. Tom Calter.  However the Senate then voted to zero it out of their budget, and voted not to adopt the amendment sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Flanagan to keep funding for the Center at $200,000, despite support from Senators Eldridge, Brownsberger and (my own senator) Sen. Tom Kennedy.

Now, since the House and Senate budgets don’t match, the budget is in joint conference committee. If you live in Massachusetts and want to advocate for your local library on the state level, now is the time to contact members of the Senate/House Conference Committee to ask them to support the FY2016 Library Legislative Agenda, especially the following line items:

7000-9501 State Aid to Public Libraries (This is local aid that goes directly to support local public libraries throughout the state.)

7000-9506 Automated Networks/Library Technology & Resource Sharing (This goes straight to supporting the networks that connect libraries throughout the state, helping to lower costs for local libraries.)

7000-9508 “For the Massachusetts Center for the Book, Inc., chartered as the Commonwealth Affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress; to continue its work as a public-private partnership……$200,000”

Conference Committee (click for contact info)

Brian Dempsey, Haverhill
Steven Kulik, Worthington
Todd Smola, Warren

Karen Spilka, Ashland
Sal DiDomenico, Everett
Viriato (Vinny) deMacedo, Plymouth

Thank you!!!