A National Book Award Sampler

Stories by previous winners, including John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, and E.L. Doctorow.
6 stories

The National Book Award Finalists were announced this week and included Junot Diaz and Dave Eggers. Here are some great stories by some of the better-known previous winners of the illustrious prize.

John Updike won the 1964 fiction prize for The Centaur. This story, from a 2008 The New Yorker, is narrated by an near-octogenarian ruminating upon aging. It opens: "Approaching eighty, I sometimes see myself from a little distance, as a man I know but not intimately."

This short story by 1970 fiction winner Joyce Carol Oates was published in this fall's Virginia Quarterly Review. It follows two characters on an emotional and suspenseful journey. Its riveting beginning: "Yes. I want this. He asked if she was sure. She said it again, Yes."

And E.L. Doctorow, who won the 1966 fiction award, published this story also in The New Yorker in 2008. It traces the aftermath of a marriage. "People will say that I left my wife and I suppose, as a factual matter, I did, but where was the intentionality? I had no thought of deserting her."

From the Web

The Full Glass

May 2008
From the Web


Jan 2008
From the Web

A Book of Martyrs

From the Web

In Sable and Dark Glasses

Joan Didion remembers her distaste for being a child and her yearning for a glamorous, grown up life.
Oct 2011
From the Web

An Open Letter to Wikipedia

After failing to get a change made to the entry for my novel “The Human Stain” through the usual channels, I don’t know how else to proceed …

Sep 2012
From the Web

The Half-Skinned Steer

He said he would be at the funeral. No point talking about flights and meeting him at the airport. He intended to drive. Of course he knew how far it was. He had a damn fine car, never had an accident in his life, knock on wood.
Nov 1997