On November 15, the American Library Association (ALA) announced the six books shortlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. The awards recognize the previous year’s best fiction and nonfiction books written for adult readers and published in the United States. The two medal winners will be announced at 4:30 p.m. Central on January 29, 2023, during the Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) Book and Media Awards virtual event, held during LibLearnX.
The 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction shortlist titles include:
Greenland, by David Santos Donaldson (Amistad). While working on a historical novel about British author E. M. Forster’s Egyptian lover, Mohammed el Adl, writer Kip confronts his own trauma and alienation. Donaldson delivers a psychologically acute portrayal of a queer Black man crumbling under the weight of personal, historical, and racial trauma. Despite heavy subject material, Kip’s irreverent narration provides moments of memorable levity.
Night of the Living Rez, by Morgan Talty (Tin House). At the heart of this collection of linked stories is David, a member of the Penobscot Nation in Maine. In his small world, Native traditions mix matter-of-factly with binge-watches of The Sopranos. With a clear-eyed and compassionate gaze, Talty reveals the complexity of his characters and the ways they are shaped by their community and their pasts.
The Swimmers, by Julie Otsuka (Knopf). In an underground pool, a collective “we” reports the comings and goings of the titular swimmers—regulars who have established their schedules, lanes, and paces with comforting familiarity—until a crack in the pool floor causes upheaval. The water was an essential haven for Alice, whose story aboveground is a polyphonic reveal through her fading memories. Otsuka’s devastating masterpiece is an extraordinary examination of the fragility of human relationships.
Constructing a Nervous System, by Margo Jefferson (Pantheon Books). Blending the multicolored threads of Black cultural life with memories of her past in this impressionistic memoir, Jefferson reflects on the Black icons who shaped her worldview, from jazz great Bud Powell to legendary entertainer and French Resistance hero Josephine Baker. Jefferson is a critic’s critic, turning her keenly honed analysis on herself, her family, and her class, while relentlessly interrogating the broader underlying context of white racism.
An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden World around Us, by Ed Yong (Random House). The animals and their unique perceptual abilities that Yong examines here range from the platypus with a bill that detects electric fields, the echolocation prowess of bats and dolphins, the ultrafast vision of killer flies, and the outstanding olfaction of elephants. Yong’s scientific curiosity is contagious, and his writing is empathetic, impeccably researched, imaginative, and entertaining.
Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Voyage, by Rachel E. Gross (W. W. Norton & Company). Realizing the terminology for what medicine refers to as “the female reproductive system” was insufficient, Gross set out to correct this. The result expertly balances authoritative sources, history, and scientific data with frank discussions by medical professionals, scientists, and people of all genders.
Carnegie Medal winners will each receive $5,000. All the finalists will be honored at a celebratory event during ALA’s 2023 Annual Conference in June.
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 ALA and reflect the expert judgment and insight of library professionals and booksellers who work closely with adult readers.
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 cosponsored by Booklist and RUSA.