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US National Book Award Finalists Announced - 2003-10-16

The 20 finalists for the National Book Award, one of the United States's top literary prizes, were announced Wednesday in New York.

Each year, four panels of five book writers, many of whom have won the National Book Award in the past, are charged with choosing from as many as 1,000 new books to find the best nonfiction, fiction, young people's literature, and poetry.

This year, the finalist books cover topics ranging from the World's Fair to a life on a California commune to the yellow fever epidemic of 1793.

Several of the books deal with the issue of race in America. Neil Baldwin, head of the National Book Foundation, says the books tend to reflect cultural trends.

"They hold a mirror up to our society," he said. "Every year we seem to get a selection of books that is the pulse of society in a given year. That is probably why issues of race are prominent if not predominant this year."

The winners in each category will be announced at a ceremony on November 19, where author Stephen King will also receive the National Book Foundation's medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.