By Bianca Smith • November 15, 2017
Tonight the National Book Foundation is changing things up for the 2017 National Book Awards. We'll still discover the best of American literature in fiction, poetry, nonfiction and young people's literature, but this year we'll get to watch the awards live. Traditionally, the awards dinner has been invite-only and rather exclusive, with a large charity-assisting ticket price. While that's still going on, if you log into Facebook at 7:20 p.m. Eastern you can see the winners and hear the speeches.
Originating in 1937 by American booksellers the awards have recognized books supporting its mission "to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America." Each category has five judges who spend summer reading all submissions (this year 394 fiction books were submitted), for a long list of 10, announced in September. A month later the five finalists are named, and tonight we discover the winners. Judges can include writers, librarians, booksellers, and literary critics, so while only publishers can submit books, many can judge. Categories have come and gone with the current four implemented in 2013. Previous fiction prize winners include Colson Whitehead, who won last year for his novel The Underground Railroad, as well as Louise Erdrich, in 2012, Denis Johnson in 2007 and Jonathan Franzen in 2001.
Many praised this year's awards for honoring many debut authors and independent publishers. Fiction prize finalists are a mix of new and previously honored. Jesmyn Ward won the fiction prize in 2011 for Salvage the Bones.
As well as the four category awards, the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community are given. The former goes to Annie Proulx, and Dick Robinson the latter. Dick is the president and C.E.O. of Scholastic.