The American Library Association (ALA) selects “The Great Believers,” by Rebecca Makkai, published by Viking, as the winner of the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and “Heavy: An American Memoir,” by Kiese Laymon, published by Scribner, as the winner of the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. The selections were announced this evening at the Reference and User Services Association’s Book and Media Awards (BMAs) sponsored by NoveList, during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington.
The awards, 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 the American Library Association and reflect the expert judgment and insight of library professionals and booksellers who work closely with adult readers.
Makkai’s ambitious novel explores the complexities of friendship, family, art, fear, and love in meticulously realized settings––WWI-era and present-day Paris, and 1980s Chicago––while insightfully and empathically illuminating the early days of the AIDS epidemic.
In his artfully crafted and boldly revealing memoir, writing professor Laymon recalls the traumas of his Mississippi youth; the depthless hunger that elevated his weight; his obsessive, corrective regime of diet and exercise; his gambling, teaching, activism, and trust in the power of writing.
“It was an incredible year of reading and discussing the best books of 2018 alongside the dedicated and insightful readers on the committee. Everything came into focus when we selected these two very powerful Andrew Carnegie Medal winners,” said Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction selection committee chair Annie Bostrom, who is Booklist’s associate editor for adult books. “We think that readers across the country will find the winning titles as affecting and unforgettable as we did.”
2019 nonfiction finalists include “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America,” by Beth Macy, published by Little, Brown; “Heavy: An American Memoir,” by Kiese Laymon, published by Scribner; and “The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border,” by Francisco Cantú, published by Riverhead.
The 2019 fiction finalists include “The Great Believers,” by Rebecca Makkai, published by Viking; “There There,” by Tommy Orange, published by Alfred A. Knopf; and “Washington Black,” by Esi Edugyan, also published by Knopf.
The Carnegie Medal winner announcements take place during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, which now offer all ALA book and media award announcements in the same 24 hours, with the Book & Media Awards (BMA) preceding the ALA Youth Media Award (YMA) announcements. Carnegie Medal winners will each receive $5,000. All the finalists will be honored during a celebratory event at ALA’s 2019 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.
The Medals are made possible, in part, by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York in recognition of Andrew Carnegie’s deep belief in the power of books and learning to change the world and are co-sponsored by ALA’s Booklist and the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA).
About Carnegie Corporation of New York
Carnegie Corporation of New York was established in 1911 by Andrew Carnegie to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation’s work focuses on the issues that Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy.