BREAKING NEWS: RUSA’s 2014 Notable Books List announced; outstanding fiction, nonfiction and poetry for adult readers

PHILADELPHIA —The expert readers advisory and collection development librarians of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, have selected the winning titles for the 2014 Notable Books List — an annual literary award that identifies outstanding and noteworthy fiction, nonfiction and poetry for adult readers.

Since 1944, the goal of the Notable Books Council has been to make available to the nation’s readers a list of 25 very good, very readable and, at times, very important fiction, nonfiction and poetry books for the adult reader. This year’s list was selected by the Notable Books Council, whose members include William Kelly – Chair (Cuyahoga County Public Library), Terry Beck (Sno-Isle Libraries- WA), Victoria Caplinger (Novelist), Sharon Castleberry (DeSoto Public Library) Stacey Hayman (Rocky River Public Library) Sarah Jaffa (Kitsap Regional Library) Liz Kirchhoff (Barrington Area Library) Julie Ann Murphy (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) Katharine Phenix – Vice-Chair (Anythink Libraries) Jason A. Reuscher (The Pennsylvania State University Libraries) Sara Taffae (Independent) Mary Callaghan “Cal” Zunt (Cleveland Public Library).

The 2014 winners are:


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf)

The nuances and challenges of race, emigration and cultural identification are explored through the lives of two Nigerian lovers.


Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Reagan Arthur)

What would happen if death were just a new beginning?


Claire of  the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf)

A bittersweet fable of modern Haiti told in luminous prose.


Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See by Juliann Garey (Soho Press)

The fragmented and unsettling perspective of a man grappling with mental illness.


Enon by Paul Harding (Random House)

A father struggles with the accidental death of his 15 year-old daughter. Grief on paper.


Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma (Viking)

Around the world with a charmingly unreliable narrator in this coming-of-age tale.


The Dinner by Herman Koch (Hogarth)

If they sat next to us in a restaurant, we would do well to simply study our forks.


Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (Hogarth)

An affirmation of life amidst the chaos of war-torn Chechnya.


The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud (Knopf)

A taut psychological drama of slow-burning anger.


Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Viking)

Tokyo meets Sunnyvale and British Columbia through a purple gel pen, a tsunami and a Hello Kitty lunchbox with a side of quantum physics.


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Little Brown)

A terrorist bomb blows apart a 13-year-old boy’s world.



Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East

by Scott Anderson (Doubleday)

A biography of place viewed through some of its most enigmatic and iconic historical figures.


Year Zero: A History of 1945 by Ian Baruma (Penguin)

A fresh look at the aftermath of World War II challenges the traditional, heroic narrative.


On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand Year History

by Nicholas Basbanes (Knopf)

The most valuable, useful, pervasive invention after the wheel and before the computer.


To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care

by Cris Beam (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

When every person and social system you’ve trusted has let you down, can there be happy endings for anyone involved?


The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (Viking)

Eight oarsman and their coxswain struggle to overcome the choppy waters and the hardships of the Great Depression in their pursuit of glory.


Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink (Crown)

After Hurricane Katrina, systematic failures lead to morally ambiguous decisions.


The Riddle of the Labyrinth: the Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox (Harper Collins)

Unsung classicist Alice Kober’s research provides to the key to unlock “Linear B”, a 3,500 year-old language.


On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks by Simon Garfield (Gotham Books)

Wherever you go, you are here.


Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn (Little, Brown)

The Man in Black in full color.


The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking by Brendan I. Koerner (Crown)

High-flying tale of twisted romance and seventies politics.


Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of our Fellow Creatures by Virginia Morell (Crown)

No critters were harmed in the making of this book.


Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser (Penguin)

An expose of dropped wrenches and lost bombs. Whoops!



Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit (Viking)

Apricots and Alzheimer’s come together in a meditation on how lives are created and sustained through story.



The Ogre’s Wife: Poems by Ron Koertge (Red Hen)

Odd, eclectic and magical verse.


Hum by Jamaal May (Alice James)

Detroit cityscapes resonate with the pulse of machinery and silence.
The Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Not a member, but interested in being part of a member community and enjoying discounted registration rates on conference, preconferences and other events? Join, renew or add RUSA to your ALA membership at Learn more about the association at

Join us for an online discussion: Navigating the RA High-Wire Act: Practicing RA When You Don’t Read Widely

We’ve scheduled another CODES Conversations event! Come participate or listen in on this vigorous online discussion.

Navigating the RA High-Wire Act: Practicing RA When You Don’t Read Widely
Happening online, April 24-25, 2013
Hosted by the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) of RUSA

With untold numbers of books out there, sometimes it seems almost impossible for readers’ advisors to keep up with all the genres and publishing trends. This raises all sorts of interesting questions for consideration: How can a “poorly-read” librarian do readers’ advisory? How do you cope with unknown titles? How much do you read, and how widely?

Join readers’ advisors across the country for a two-day CODES Conversation on the best ways to find read-alikes and do readers’ advisory–even when you feel that you have not read enough–and help address the biggest myth in RA: that librarians have to read everything they suggest.

CODES Conversations are focused electronic conversations on current issues facing collection development and readers’ advisory librarians—or anyone interested in those areas.  The conversations are open to all who wish to participate (or lurk)!

This free, moderated discussion is open to all—just subscribe to the discussion at, then follow and contribute to the conversation over the two days of the discussion.

Nominate an outstanding book reviewer for RUSA’s Louis Shores Award

Know someone(s) who should be recognized for their work in book reviewing?

RUSA is now accepting nominations for the 2013 Louis Shores Award. The deadline for all nominations is Dec. 15, 2012.

The Louis Shores Award recognizes an individual reviewer, group, editor, review medium or organization for excellence in reviewing books and other media for libraries. The winner receives a citation.

Recent past winners include:

  • Sarah L. Johnson, professor of library services at Eastern Illinois University and author of the blog Reading the Past.
  • Bill Ott, editor and publisher of Booklist magazine, was selected for his outstanding contributions to the field of reviewing.
  • Heather McCormack, managing editor of Library Journal’s Book Review section and creator and editor of Book Smack!
  • Blogging for a Good Book, Williamsburg Regional Library

For a nomination form and submission instructions go to

Contact Barry Trott, Louis Shores Award Committee Chair, btrott – at –

The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction

Dear RUSA Members:

Hopefully you have heard about two new awards sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation, the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. RUSA and Booklist are co-sponsoring and administering the awards. The first winners of these new annual literary prizes will be announced at the Awards Ceremony at the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim this June. 

These new awards are an incredible accomplishment and it is a testament to the hard work of many people in RUSA, particularly many past CODES members, that we were the division selected to administer the grant, together with Booklist.  I’d also like to convey a special thanks to our reader’s advisor stars – Joyce Saricks and Neal Wyatt – who made this possible, to Nancy Pearl who is serving as the chair of the awards committee and who will bring national recognition to this award, and to Susan Hornung and the RUSA staff who, together with others in ALA, worked incredibly hard on making this award possible. 

The awards will be given to the author of the best book for adult readers in two categories—fiction and nonfiction— each year. Two additional authors will be shortlisted as finalists in each of the categories.  Winning authors will receive a $5,000 cash award, and finalists will each receive $1,500. The list of finalists will be announced in May.  The awards are made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York on the occasion of the foundation’s centennial and in recognition of Andrew Carnegie, one of the greatest benefactors of libraries both in the United States and around the globe, who recognized libraries as indispensable to the progress of society.  The 50 titles under consideration for the prize are being drawn from the annual Booklist Editors’ Choice and RUSA CODES Notable Books lists.

This is the first time that ALA will offer single-book awards for adult trade fiction and nonfiction.  All of us at RUSA are incredibly thrilled about these new awards and we hope that you will be able to join us this June to see the first winners. The Carnegie Awards reception will be held Sunday, June 24, 2012, 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm. See you there!


Gary White

RUSA President