The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were established in 2012 by the American Library Association to recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the U.S. the previous year.
This year the ALA has selected Julie Otsuka’s The Swimmers to receive the Medal for Fiction and Ed Yong’s An Immense World for Nonfiction.
The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka
The swimmers are unknown to each other except through their private routines (slow lane, fast lane), and the solace each takes in their morning or afternoon laps. But when a crack appears at the bottom of the pool, they are cast out into an unforgiving world without comfort or relief.
One of these swimmers is Alice, who is slowly losing her memory. For Alice, the pool was a final stand against the darkness of her encroaching dementia. Without the fellowship of other swimmers and the routine of her daily laps she is plunged into dislocation and chaos, swept into memories of her childhood and the Japanese internment camp in which she spent the war. Narrated by Alice’s daughter, who witnesses her stark and devastating decline, The Swimmers is a searing, intimate story of mothers and daughters, and the sorrows of implacable loss, written in spellbinding, incantatory prose.
An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Yong
The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. But every animal is enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble, perceiving but a tiny sliver of an immense world. This book welcomes us into a previously unfathomable dimension–the world as it is truly perceived by other animals.
We encounter beetles that are drawn to fires, turtles that can track the Earth’s magnetic fields, fish that fill rivers with electrical messages, and humans that wield sonar like bats. We discover that a crocodile’s scaly face is as sensitive as a lover’s fingertips, that the eyes of a giant squid evolved to see sparkling whales, that plants thrum with the inaudible songs of courting bugs, and that even simple scallops have complex vision. We learn what bees see in flowers, what songbirds hear in their tunes, and what dogs smell on the street. We listen to stories of pivotal discoveries in the field, while looking ahead at the many mysteries which lie unsolved.