Maine Readers' Choice Award Winner Announced

BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Readers’ Choice Award Committee is pleased to announce the winner for the second annual Maine Readers’ Choice Award. The 2014 Award recipient is Donna Tartt for her novel, The Goldfinch. The award was announced at the Maine Library Commission meeting In Augusta on September 22nd.

The Maine Readers’ Choice 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. 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 (Little, Brown and Company);
  • Benediction by Kent Haruf (Vintage);
  • The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (Harper Perennial); and
  • TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (Random House).

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

The final selection for this year's winner 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 to select this year's winner. Book discussions were offered in a number of libraries across the state to promote the four finalists.

Librarians told Osborne they had to order additional copies because they just couldn’t keep up with the demand. Committee member Kenny Brechner of DDG Booksellers in Farmington said, “The Maine Readers Choice award promotes three things that are of the greatest value to independent bookselling in Maine-- community, conversation, and great books."

Donna Tartt’s debut novel, The Secret History, was a bestseller and has been published in thirty languages across the world. Her second novel, The Little Friend, won the WH Smith Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. The Goldfinch is her third novel.

It is the story of Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker who survives an 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 friend, 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 compellingly raises the biggest of moral questions. The Goldfinch is approaching its 50th week on the prestigious New York Times Best Sellers list.

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 to The Goldfinch. Despite all the notoriety, the book has also garnered some negative press from literary critics.

Nicole Rancourt from the Maine Humanities Council said, “In my experience working with a broad range of organizations and individuals across our great state, it is wonderful to see such a stellar collaborative process, complete with diverse perspectives, coming together for the Maine Readers' Choice Award. This program celebrates both contemporary great works of adult fiction and Maine's deep love of reading like none other. MRCA sparks thoughtful discussions and energizes readers creating a greater sense of community not only within our towns and cities, but throughout the entire state. This is truly the power of reading!”

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, please visit www.mainereaderschoiceaward.org.