2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Finalists

We’ve been told that after we ran a summary of last year’s Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists — complete with book jackets and summaries of each book — many of our readers headed for bookstores and libraries — newspaper in hand — to check out the winners.

It makes perfect sense: if you’re an avid reader looking for a well-written book that carries an important message, why re-invent the wheel? A group of literary experts — ranging from college professors and editors to publishers — spend months reviewing books for the prestigious prize and have done the screening for you.

Although one winner and one runner-up in fiction and nonfiction will be announced on Sept. 24, if past years are any indication, all of the books announced this week will be well worth your time. They are also great books for your book group selections.

According to Sharon Rab, founder and co-chair of the event, the number of nominations grows each year: 80 nominations were received this year.

The prizes will be awarded on Nov.9 at a gala ceremony that’s already sold out. In addition to the annual winners, a lifetime achievement award — the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award — is also given. You’ll want to add books by this year’s honoree — author Louise Erdrich — to your reading list. Her books include “Love Medicine,” “The Round House” and “The Plague of Doves.”

Here’s the run-down of this year’s books with descriptions provided by the folks at the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation.

The 2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize fiction finalists are:

  • “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” by Anthony Marra (Crown Publishing Group): Two doctors in rural Chechnya risk everything to save the life of a child hunted by Russian soldiers in this majestic debut about love, loss and the unexpected ties that bind us together.
  • “In the Night of Time” by Antonio Muñoz Molina (Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt): This sweeping, grand novel set against the tumultuous events that led to the Spanish Civil War offers an indelible portrait of a shattered society.
  • “Someone” by Alice McDermott (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): In this delicate narrative about the life of an ordinary woman, McDermott uses universal experiences — sharp pains and unexpected joys, bursts of clarity and moments of confusion — to deftly arouse deep compassion for the lives unfolding all around us.
  • “The Cartographer of No Man’s Land” by P.S. Duffy (Liveright Publishing Corporation): This haunting meditation on family, friendship and sacrifice charts a deeply felt course from the Nova Scotia coastline to the French trenches during World War I, bridging the distance between past and present, duty and honor, obligation and love.
  • “The Woman Who Lost Her Soul” by Bob Shacochis (Grove Atlantic): Renowned for his revelatory visions of the Caribbean, Shacochis sets his magnum opus in four countries over a span of 50 years and multiple wars, creating an intricate portrait of the catastrophic events that led up to the war on terror and the U.S. as it is today.
  • “Wash” by Margaret Wrinkle (Grove Atlantic): Through the character of Wash, a first-generation slave, this haunting first novel explores the often-buried history of slave breeding in the early 19th century, offering fresh insights into our continuing racial dilemmas.

The 2014 nonfiction finalists are:

  • “Contested Land, Contested Memory: Israel’s Jews and Arabs and the Ghosts of Catastrophe” by Jo Roberts (Dundurn Press, Toronto): Drawing on extensive original interview material, Canadian journalist Jo Roberts vividly examines how their tangled histories of suffering inform Jewish and Palestinian-Israeli lives today, and frame the possibilities for peace in Israel.
  • “Here on the Edge: How a Small Group of WWII Conscientious Objectors Took Art and Peace from the Margins to the Mainstream” by Steve McQuiddy (Oregon State University Press): Packed with original research and more than eighty photos, this definitive history tells the story of the artists at an Oregon camp for World War II conscientious objectors, and how they paved the way for the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s.
  • “Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death” by Katy Butler (Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster): Pondering the medical forces that stood in the way of her own parents’ desires for “good deaths,” journalist Katy Butler examines modern medicine’s potential, in its pursuit of maximum longevity, to create more suffering than it prevents.
  • “Men We Reaped: A Memoir” by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury): In this universally acclaimed memoir, Ward recounts the separate deaths of five young men – all dear to her – from her small Mississippi community, agonizingly tracing each one back to the long-term effects of racism and economic disadvantage.
  • “Thank You for Your Service” by David Finkel (Sarah Crichton Book/Farrar, Strauss and Giroux): Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Finkel follows veterans of the infamous Baghdad “surge” after they return to the U.S., creating an indelible, essential portrait of post-deployment life — not just for the soldiers, but for their families, friends, and the professionals trying to undo the damage of war.
  • “Your Fatwa Does not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism” by Karima Bennoune (W.W. Norton & Company): From Karachi to Tunis, Kabul to Tehran, Bennoune shares the inspiring stories of the Muslim writers, artists, doctors, lawyers, activists, and educators who often risk death to combat the rising tide of religious extremism in their own countries.
  • Finalists will be reviewed by prominent writers including Faith Adiele, Michelle Latiolais, Lee Martin, Ruben Martinez and Maureen McCoy. Winners receive a $10,000 honorarium and runners-up receive $1,000.
  • To be eligible for the 2014 awards, English-language books must be published or translated into English in 2013 and address the theme of peace on a variety of levels, such as between individuals, among families and communities, or between nations, religions or ethnic groups.

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