By Story Star correspondent Elinor Rees
The National Book Foundation has launched an online exhibtion of the 373 National Book Award Fiction Finalists from 1950 to 2011 in American literature. Some of the books are very famous whereas others may have been forgotten. The exhibition can be seen at www.nationalbook.org and each finalist’s page includes an image of the original book cover, the author’s photograph, a list of the National Book Award Judges and the winner as well as the finalists for that year.
The exhibition also encourages people visiting the pages to contribute their own thoughts on the books and any extra information they may have, making it more of an interactive experience.
This exhibition is an excellent way of reminding ourselves of the great pieces of literature that have been created over the last sixty years and can ensure that these books are read by more and more new readers each year. So many people want to read books that have helped to shape the world’s thinking but are not always sure where to begin; this exhibition is an encyclopaedia for these kinds of books with authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Heller taking pride of place.
This exhibition opens up in depth discussion and reviews of the books so that anyone interested in the books can get a real feel for its content before deciding if it’s for them or not, making it unlike any other exhibition which usually just shows the artefact in question and it’s up to you whether you research it further or not.
The National Book Foundation has essentially launched a site that gives us an insight in to American history as so many of the books on the list, including those that didn’t win, reflect the issues and worries of their time. It’s very important that we use our history to our advantage in that we can learn from the mistakes and successes that we have made and literature is always brilliant at highlighting that.
It would be brilliant to see a British equivalent as not only do we have a lot of history but we also have a huge back catalogue of literature that documents it and the nation’s feeling at the time. It would be an incredible resource for people to have so that we can see some of our greatest literary achievements collated in one place not only to help us decide on our next read but also to see just how talented our writers are. It’s not a very British thing to do but maybe we should just show off how brilliant we are just a little bit more as it could inspire a whole new generation of great writers that can capture our thoughts and feelings.