The Passive Activist #10

We Americans are living with an unprecedented absence of leadership. In the Deep South, we have lived with this void for most of our history, so we’re a little more used to it than the rest of the nation— but that doesn’t make it OK. In the face of Congressional deadlock, soaring national debt, secular/religious strife, rogue policy actions by state legislatures, mistrust of the police, declines in public education funding, exorbitant college costs, internet predators and trolls, crumbling labor unions, global warming, and the open availability of assault rifles, the Passive Activist series offers ideas for how ordinary people can create and implement positive change in our own lives. Movements are made up of people.

10. Read an awarding-winning book.

For music, the Grammys are televised. As are the Oscars for film, the Emmys for TV, and the Golden Globes for film and TV. And so are the CMAs, the BET Awards, the Radio Disney Awards . . .

But the ceremonies for two most important annual awards in American literature – The Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award – are not. (This goes back to my long-standing resentment about how literary professionals have totally failed to employ the most effectively mass communication tool in human history: TV.) So most Americans know even less about the best literature published any given year than they do about which saggy-pants clones and underdressed divas were honored for their . . . “music.”

In case you didn’t know, this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to Viet Thanh Nguyen for his novel The Sympathizer, and the prize for Poetry went to Ozone Journal by Peter Balakian. (Of course, there are more Pulitzer Prizes for literature, in Drama, History, Biography, General Nonfiction, and Music.) You can read the whole list here.

The most recent National Book Awards, awarded in 2015, have a plethora of offerings too, including Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.

The process for choosing great books may not be flawless, and certainly, every reader won’t like every book, but both of these prizes have a long tradition of recognizing some of the best books ever written. Given the fact that print book sales and time spent reading have declined in recent years, too many people are missing out on these great books.

Consider giving one of them a read.

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