An initiative of the American Library Association

Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction 2019

The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were announced at the RUSA Book and Media Awards event, sponsored by NoveList, during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.

The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, established in 2012, serve as a guide to help adults select quality reading material. They are the first single-book awards for adult books given by ALA and reflect the expert judgment and insight of library professionals and booksellers who work closely with adult readers.

Learn more about the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence.

The Great Believers

by Rebecca Makkai

It’s 1985, and Yale has just lost his friend Nico to AIDS: not the first friend he’s lost, not nearly the last he’ll lose to the terrifying, still-mysterious disease. Soon after, Nico’s younger sister and Yale’s friend, Fiona, connects Yale to her nonagenarian great-aunt, who studied art in Paris in the 1910s and now wants to donate her personal collection of never-before-seen work by now-famous artists to the Northwestern University art gallery, where Yale works in development. This potentially career-making discovery arrives along with a crushing reveal in Yale’s personal life. Another thread throughout the novel begins in 2015 as Fiona flies to Paris, where she has reason to believe her long-estranged adult daughter now lives.

With its broad time span and bedrock of ferocious, loving friendships, this might remind readers of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (2015), though it is, overall, far brighter than that novel. As her intimately portrayed characters wrestle with painful pasts and fight to love one another and find joy in the present in spite of what is to come, Makkai carefully reconstructs 1980s Chicago, WWI-era and present-day Paris, and scenes of the early days of the AIDS epidemic. A tribute to the enduring forces of love and art, over everything.

Annie Bostrom

Viking, 2018.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click for a Reading Group Guide.

Heavy: An American Memoir.

by Kiese Laymon

Often in his spectacular memoir, Laymon (Long Division,​ 2013) addresses “you”: his mother, a scholar and university professor who gave him the “gifts of reading, rereading, writing, and revision.” Laymon, now a university writing professor himself, recalls the traumas of his Mississippi youth. He captures his confusion at being molested by his babysitter and at witnessing older boys abuse a girl he liked; at having no food in the house despite his mother’s brilliance; at being beaten and loved ferociously, often at the same time. His hungry mind and body grow, until, like a flipping switch, at college he’s compelled to shrink himself with a punishing combination of diet and exercise. And that’s barely the start of his life story thus far, with remembered moments in book-lined rooms and smoky casinos, conversations that leap from the page, the digits on a scale, and scrolling sentences. Laymon applies his book’s title to his body and his memories; to his inheritance as a student, a teacher, a writer, an activist, a black man, and his mother’s son—but also to the weight of truth, and writing it. So artfully crafted, miraculously personal, and continuously disarming, this is, at its essence, powerful writing about the power of writing.

Annie Bostrom

Scribner, 2018.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

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