ALA and Carnegie Corporation of New York announce finalists for first Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction

For Immediate Release
Thu, 05/17/2012


Communications and Marketing Office

ALA Media Relations


CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA), along with Carnegie Corporation of New York, today announced six books as finalists for the 2012 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, to be awarded for the previous year's best fiction and nonfiction books written for adult readers and published in the United States.  Along with a medal to be awarded at the ALA’s annual conference in Anaheim, Calif., on June 24, each winning author will receive $5,000, and four additional finalists will each receive $1,500.  

The 2012 finalists are:

Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction:

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, by Robert K. Massie, published by Random House, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group

A compulsively readable biography of the fascinating woman who, through a combination of luck, personality, and a fine mind, rose from her birth as a minor German princess to become the Empress of all the Russias.

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, by James Gleick, published by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

A comprehensive study describing the melodious interplay between science and literature documents the transmission of human knowledge from talking drums to the Internet.

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, by Manning Marable, published by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA)

This definitive work on the life of the Malcolm X corrects previous misconceptions and offers new information about the charismatic leader’s life and death during the turbulent years of the civil rights era.


Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction:

The Forgotten Waltz, by Anne Enright, published by W. W. Norton & Company

The vicissitudes of extramarital love and the obstructions to its smooth flow—including spouses, children, and the necessary secrecy surrounding an affair—are charted in sharp yet supple prose.

Lost Memory of Skin, by Russell Banks, published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

An intelligent and fearlessly sympathetic portrait of a group of society’s outsiders—sex offenders—that illuminates the moral complexities at the heart of our justice system.

Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell, published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

This dazzlingly inventive first novel introduces 12-year-old gator-wrestling Ava Bigtree and her eccentric family, whose lives (and the Florida theme park they run) straddle the boundaries between the real and the surreal.


High-profile librarian and discerning reader Nancy Pearl serves as chair of the medals’ selection committee, and joins six other library professionals with expertise in adult literature. “Today’s selections illustrate the important role that libraries play in supporting literary excellence,” said Pearl. “The other judges and I are thrilled to have a part in this historic honor that celebrates the best in fiction and nonfiction titles for adult readers. Our hope is that finalist selections will serve as a guide for those interested in selecting quality reading material.”

This is the first time that the ALA, which sponsors the prestigious Youth Media Awards, including the John Newbery and Randolph Caldecott Medals for children’s literature, is offering single-book awards for adult trade fiction and nonfiction. The finalist authors and eventual winners reflect the expert judgment and insight of library professionals who work closely with adult readers. This is a distinct departure from most major book awards, which are judged by writers and critics.   

“Today we not only recognize superior literature, we celebrate librarians who serve as our guides to these treasure houses we call libraries,” said Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation and past president of the New York Public Library.  “The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction reaffirm our founder’s belief that reading is the key to progress for men and women in our nation and around the world. Indeed, reading is one of the great democratizing forces because it is the great equalizer, and provides knowledge to all who open a book.  And books do not discriminate.  They welcome all readers. They speak to us all and they teach us all.”

The awards are made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and are co-sponsored by ALA’s Booklist magazine and the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA).

Annotations and more information on the finalists and the awards can be found at


Members of the 2012 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction inaugural selection committee are: Chair, Nancy Pearl; A. Issac Pulver, director, Saratoga Springs (N.Y.) Public Library; Nonny Schlotzhauer, librarian, Collection Development/Social Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.; Danise Hoover, associate librarian, Public Services, Hunter College Library, New York; Brad Hooper, editor, Adult Books, Booklist, Chicago; Donna Seaman, senior editor, Adult Books, Booklist, Chicago; and Rebecca Vnuk, editor, Reference and Collection Management, Booklist, Chicago.

About Carnegie Corporation of New York
Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 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.

About Booklist
Booklist is the book review magazine of the American Library Association, considered an essential collection development and readers' advisory tool by thousands of librarians for more than 100 years. Booklist Online includes a growing archive of 135,000+ reviews available to subscribers as well as a wealth of free content offering the latest news and views on books and media. 

About Reference and User Services Association (RUSA)
The Reference and User Services Association is responsible for stimulating and supporting excellence in the delivery of general library services and materials, and the provision of reference and information services, collection development, readers' advisory, and resource sharing for adults, in every type of library.

About the ALA
Established in 1876, the American Library Association (ALA) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization created to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.


Brittnie Mabry

Macey Morales
Manager Media Relations
American Library Association