The 2014 PEN Literary Awards happened last week, and there are some must-reads from the list that I am impatient to recommend!
The PEN Literary Awards focus on contemporary literature, but honors both recently published authors and those who have helped craft the writing scene over time. This year, the prize-winning books ranged from deep dives into the world of sports medicine to playful children's stories to enchanting literary fiction.
The whole list is fantastic, but there seven are a great start:
1. The King of Little Things by Bil Lepp
This book follows the King of Little Things, with his little subjects, as they work to fight their enemy. Readers can learn about how power can come from anybody, no matter what size, and that sometimes keeping it simple will win out in the end.
2. The Diaries of Exile by Yannis Ritsos, translated by Karen Emmerich and Edmund Keeley
The PEN Award for Poetry in Translation was awarded to The Diaries of Exile this year. This collection of poetry transmits the life of a prisoner during the Greek Civil War in the 1940s in Greece: you can really travel far in this piece of literature!
3. Cowboys and East Indians by Nina McConigley
One of two authors award with the PEN Open Book Award went to Cowboys and East Indians by Nina McConigley. This book explores characters living in both Wyoming and India for an interesting look at diversity.
4. "And West is West" by Ron Childress
PEN America awarded "And West is West" with the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction this year. This prize is given to an unpublished novel that deals with issues of social justice: the winner gets $25,000 and a contract with Algonquin Books. Childress' manuscript which explores corruption in both the military and Wall Street.
5. League of Denial by Mark Fainaur-Wada and Steve Fainaru
Recently, the NFL has been betting involved in a lot of controversies, and these brothers don't want you to forget it! League of Denial deals with the violence in the NFL, as well as the work the NFL has done to prevent and cover up research done about long lasting brain damage caused in the sport. League of Denial won the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing and was billed by the judges this year as "the [book] the National Football League fervently hopes you don't read."
6. Louise Erdrich's Works
PEN America gave Louise Erdrich the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction this year. This award goes to an author who has been helping to shape the literary world for some time. Her poetry, story collections and novels have added depth and brilliance to contemporary literature.
7. Godforsaken Idaho by Shawn Vestal
The PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize is intended to introduce a newly debuted work that shows exceptional promise: this year, it went to Shawn Vestal for Godforsaken Idaho.