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9th Annual Massachusetts Book Awards

Celebrating books published in 2008.

Fiction  |   Nonfiction  |   Poetry  |   Children's/Young Adult  | MassBook Judges |
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Fiction Award

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (Viking)

Brooks explores the history of a rare illuminated manuscript, the Sarajevo Haggadah, which survives through centuries of upheaval because people of all faiths risked their lives to
safeguard it. People of the Book reminds us of the best that we are capable of as it depicts a series of protectors who surmount factionalism to preserve a work whose importance they recognize even though it arises from a cultural tradition quite different from their own. --The MassBook Judges

Reading Guide (from Viking/Penguin)

Fiction Honors

Map of Ireland by Stephanie Grant (Scribner's)

Against the tumultuous backdrop of Boston during the school busing crisis, a young Irish-American lesbian infatuated with her French teacher, a Parisian of African descent, sets out to find love on a journey that takes her through the fringes of the Black Power movement. This is a novel that demands we confront the turbulence that was mid-1970s America. -- The MassBook Judges

Reading Guide (from Scribner's/Simon & Schuster)

American Savior by Roland Merullo (Algonquin)

Merullo presents readers with a hilarious and inventive novel of church and state, a subject that he knows is deadly serious in contemporary political and civic life in the Commonwealth and throughout our nation. -- The MassBook Judges

Reading Guide -- forthcoming

See all Fiction Recommendations

Nonfiction Award

Snow Falling in Spring by Moying Li (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This moving memoir begins with the Great Leap Forward when the author is four years old; it concludes at the end of the Cultural Revolution when she is permitted to travel to the United
States to study. Li tells of her family’s efforts to follow Chairman Mao’s dictates through the most turbulent time in modern China. Recounting events without anger or judgment in the
voice of the child that she was at that time, Li gives us a book for all ages about the values of family and education, particularly about the refuge that is reading. -- The MassBook Judges

Reading Guide -- forthcoming

Nonfiction Honors

Through an Uncommon Lens by Patricia Fanning (U Mass Press)

Based on newly discovered archival sources, this is an important biography of often-overlooked Norwood, Massachusetts, native F. Holland Day, considered one of the world’s most influential photographers at the turn of the twentieth century, someone who challenged conventional sensibilities and was an early practitioner of photography as an art form. -- The MassBook Judges

Reading Guide -- forthcoming

White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson & Thomas Wentworth Higginson by Brenda Wineapple (Knopf)

Wineapple reveals another side of Emily Dickinson through her friendship and correspondence with Thomas Wentworth Higginson, offering readers new insights into the personality and character of one of Massachusetts’ most reclusive poets. -- The MassBook Judges

Reading Guide -- forthcoming

See all Nonfiction Recommendations

Poetry Award

The Ghost Soldiers by James Tate (Ecco)

James Tate brushes aside poetic cliché and artifice to offer a fresh and compelling vision. His narratives explore the lives of a series of interchangeable protagonists who struggle in a world of surveillance, missing children, and neighbors who remain forever strangers--a world in which an army tank can appear suddenly in the middle of a meadow. Tates' figures search for that which is lost, deal with political restlessness and uncertainty, and seek meaning in a world of starvation, disease and war. But his vision is anything but bleak; ultimately, these are restorative poems, their implicit tenderness quite the "necessary angel." -- The MassBook Judges

Reading Guide -- forthcoming

Poetry Honors

Spring by Oni Buchanan (U Illinois P )

This is a work that grips down and awakens the very roots of a poetic process that is still and still moving, a "journeywork" as Whitman might have called it, a multidimensional text that will transform the way Buchanan’s generation and future generations of poets approach poem-making. -- The MassBook Judges

Reading Guide -- forthcoming

Sea Change by Jorie Graham (Ecco)

An ethical text of the highest magnitude, demanding that we arrive at that hardest of all creeds: a belief in the unarrestable destiny of the Other, whether that “other” be our dead and the "garden of continuing to think about them" or our fellow creatures suffering from a sea change induced by global warming, pollution, warfare. -- The MassBook Judges

Reading Guide -- forthcoming

See all Poetry Recommendations

Children's / Young Adult Literature Award

One Hen by Katie Smith Milway (Kids Can Press)

Milway gives young readers a lesson in microfinance as well as a cultural introduction to life in rural Ghana, framed by the story of an enterprising young boy named Kojo, a character so engaging , and with a story so inspiring, that children will enjoy learning about how "one small loan made a big difference.” --The MassBook Judges

Reading Guide (from Kids Can Press)
Read about the non-profit organization that has grown out of the book!

Children's / Young Adult Honors

The Willoughbys byLois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin)

A witty, wicked, and yet old-fashioned story of despicable parents, an affable nanny, and her badly behaved charges who long to be orphans. Award-winning author Lois Lowry presents a winsome parody of thirteen classic titles that is a comical confection. -- The MassBook Judges

Reading Guide -- forthcoming


Impossible by Nancy Werlin (Dial )

In a successful crossing of the genres of realistic fiction and fantasy, Werlin presents readers with a compelling heroine, Lucy Scarborough, a foster teen who must work to
perform three impossible tasks to free her from an ancient family curse. -- The MassBook Judges

Reading Guide (from Dial/Penguin)

See all Children's/Young Adult Recommendations

MassBook Judges for the 9th Annual Awards

Betsy Clarke, Boston Public Library
Charles Coe, Massachusetts Cultural Council & Mass Poetry Outreach Project
Christina Davis, Woodberry Poetry Room, Widener Library, Harvard U
Karen Demers, Wilbraham Public Library
Deborah Doulette, Neilson Library, Smith College
Janet Eckert, Western Massachusetts Regional Library System
Karen Kosko, Haggerty School Library, Cambridge
Teresa Pfeifer, Zanetti Montessori Library, Springfield
Mary Rose Quinn, North Andover Public Library & Mass Board of Library Commissioners
Suzanne Terry, Boston Athenæum
Forest Turner, Suffolk County House of Correction Library
John Warner, Commonwealth Archives

Press Release Announcing Awards