The winners of the 2021 National Book Awards will be announced in just a few days. This year, there are 25 finalists in five categories: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, translated literature and young people’s literature.
Since the National Book Awards began in 1950, hundreds of authors have been honored for their exceptional books. And many are native Pennsylvanians! To celebrate, we’ve rounded up eight National Book Award winners from the Keystone State. You’ll find all of these award-winning titles right here at Bucks County Free Library.
The Sea Around Us
Born in 1907 in Springdale, Rachel Carson was an influential conservationist and marine biologist. She’s considered a major figure of the early environmental movement. Perhaps her most famous book is Silent Spring, which explained the problems with using synthetic pesticides incorrectly.
A decade before, she wrote The Sea Around Us. This book is about the formation of the Earth’s oceans and the life inside them. It won the National Book Award in 1952.
The poet Wallace Stevens was born in Reading. Though he made a living as an insurance company executive, he’s remembered for his modernist poetry. One of his most famous poems is “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”
Stevens won the National Book Award for two poetry collections, including Collected Poems in 1955.
The Centaur and Rabbit Is Rich
John Updike was born in Reading and raised in nearby Shillington. His childhood in Berks County influenced the setting of his early books and stories.
The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback
A native of Pittsburgh, David McCullough is a prominent historian and author. He has written books about many American figures, including John Adams, Harry S. Truman and the Wright brothers.
He won the National Book Award in 1978 for The Path Between the Seas, which details the creation of the Panama Canal. He earned the award again in 1982 for Mornings on Horseback, a biography of Theodore Roosevelt.
The Path Between the Seas: Book
John D. MacDonald
The Green Ripper
Mystery and crime author John D. MacDonald was born in Sharon in western Pennsylvania. His most popular books include the Travis McGee series and a novel that was filmed as Cape Fear in 1962.
He won the National Book Award in 1980 for The Green Ripper, which is part of the Travis McGee series.
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
Nathaniel Philbrick was born in Boston and grew up in Pittsburgh. He’s written many books about American history and is an authority on the history of Nantucket.
Philbrick won the National Book Award in 2000 for In the Heart of the Sea. This book explores the real-life events that inspired Moby Dick.
Jeanne Birdsall was born in Philadelphia and grew up in the suburbs west of the city. She’s a children’s book writer and photographer.
Her first book – The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy – won the National Book Award in 2005.