Maine Readers’ Choice award winner announced

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BANGOR — The Maine Readers’ Choice Award Committee has announced the winner of the second annual Maine Readers’ Choice Award. The 2014 recipient is Donna Tartt for her novel, “The Goldfinch.” The award was announced at the Maine Library Commission meeting in Augusta on Sept. 22.

The award was officially established in 2013 by the Maine State Library and the Maine Library Association with the aim of increasing awareness and reading of adult literary fiction.

The launch also came on the heels of a controversial decision regarding one of the literary world’s top prizes for fiction. “In 2012 the Pulitzer Prize committee did not award a Fiction Prize,” says Valerie Osborne, committee chair and consultant, Northeastern Maine Library District. “Members of the library community, booksellers, publishers, authors and avid readers were outraged with the indecisiveness of this esteemed group of judges. We set out to do it better.”

In order to be considered, books must be published in the United States in the previous year, appeal to a wide audience and be judged by the committee to be notable works of exceptional quality.

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The committee, which was comprised of 20 librarians, booksellers, literacy advocates, reviewers and writers, selected the following from an initial field of more than 140 works of fiction: “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt; “Benediction” by Kent Haruf; “The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker; and “TransAtlantic” by Colum McCann.

“Our four finalists perfectly express what we were looking for in an award winner,” said committee member Mamie Anthoine Ney, director, Auburn Public Library. “These books will definitely not disappoint.”

The final selection was done by the readers of Maine who were encouraged by Maine libraries and booksellers to read the finalists over the summer months. Online voting took place in September. Book discussions were offered in a number of libraries across the state to promote the four finalists.

“The Goldfinch,” Donna Tartt’s third novel, is the story of Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker who survives a terrorist explosion in the Metropolitan Museum in New York that kills his beloved mother. Abandoned by his father and unable to fit into the elite social circle after he’s taken in by a wealthy family, Decker stays connected to his mother through a small painting by Carel Fabritius (1654) that eventually draws him into the art underworld. It is also a book of profound intelligence and complexity which hauntingly raises the biggest of moral questions.

The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Andrew Carnegie Award for Excellence in Fiction. It was shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. In July, Warner Brothers announced that it had purchased the movie rights.

The committee is hard at work reviewing titles for the 2015 Maine Readers’ Choice Award. The 2015 long list will be announced later this fall. To learn more about the award, visit www.mainereaderschoiceaward.org.

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