New Best of Young American Novelists list announced

originally posted April 16, 2007
May 2021: reformatted; most links updated; text revised as noted

Granta magazine has just published its second Best of Young American Novelists list (see the right sidebar for author names). The first list, in 1996 (the summer issue, no. 54), helped launch the careers of Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections), Chris Offutt (The Good Brother and a variety of Kentucky-oriented memoirs), Stewart O’Nan (Snow Angels and A World Away), David Guterson (Snow Falling on Cedars and East of the Mountains), Mona Simpson (Anywhere But Here, The Lost Father, and A Regular Guy), Melanie Rae Thon (Meteors in August, Sweet Hearts, and Iona Moon), Sherman Alexie (The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Reservation Blues, Indian Killer, and a forthcoming young adult novel‚ The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), Allen Kurzweil (A Case of Curiosities, The Grand Complication, and the “Leon” series of children’s books), Edwidge Danticat (Breath, Eyes, Memory and The Farming of Bones), and Jeffrey Eugenides (The Virgin Suicides). The new 2007 list contains twenty-one names of another crop of rising authors (now limited to those under the age of 35), who were culled from nearly two hundred original submissions.

An interesting description of the judging process is available as part of the introduction to the list (at the initial link to this year’s list), but an interview on NPR with Granta editor Ian Jack and Paul Yamazaki of City Lights Books in San Francisco also shares some information about how the twenty-one authors were chosen. Judging criteria included the basic evaluations of story and language but also some author talents: the ability to persuade readers that the novel’s world is “believable,” the ability to interpret existing information in a new way or to teach new ideas, and the ability to enable readers to experience pleasure as they read.

Begun in 1889 as the student literary and political journal at Cambridge University, Granta magazine was reborn in 1979. The London-based magazine is currently published four times each year to showcase, according to the corporate website, “new writing—fiction, personal history, reportage, and inquiring journalism, [as well as occasional] documentary photograph[s].” Excerpts of each American author’s works make up the Spring 2007 issue (No. 97), which is available for single purchase.

UPDATE: April 2017 saw the release of Granta 139: Best of Young American Novelists 3, which provided a new list for a new decade. As always, the special announcement issue features work from each of the selected novelists.

image information: The featured image at top is the cover of Granta magazine’s 2007 special issue naming its second list of the best young American novelists.