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With no Harry Potter, book awards wide open

Quills hope to challenge National Book Awards, Pulitzers
/ Source: Reuters

E.L. Doctorow and Stephen King are up against former presidential candidate Al Gore and a man who made a fortune writing about his dog for The Quills, a book prize that aims to bring some Oscar-style glitz to publishing.

With no “Harry Potter” book published in the past year, there was no clear front runner for book of the year, which will be the chosen by the public in online voting from a list of nominees in 19 different categories.

With nominations announced Tuesday, the biggest name in the general fiction category was Doctorow, nominated for the Civil War novel “The March,” while Gore stood out in the history/current events/politics category with his nomination for the environmentalist book “An Inconvenient Truth.”

The Quills, now in their second year, are hoping to challenge the more staid National Book Awards and the Pulitzer Prizes, which have tended toward works with strong literary merit but sometimes little public recognition. The award’s promoters aim to promote literacy and gain the kind of recognition that the Booker Prize bestows on British authors.

The nominees were chosen by 6,000 booksellers and librarians from among English language books marketed to the United States in the year to June 30, 2006.

The memoir and biography category is likely to attract much attention, with big names such as CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper for “Dispatches from the Edge” and Joan Didion for her story of bereavement “The Year of Magical Thinking.”

Another popular favorite in the running against them is John Grogan’s “Marley and Me,” a hugely successful book about his dog that has dominated the best-seller lists this year.

Veteran writer Stephen King picked up a nomination in the science fiction/fantasy/horror category for his tech thriller ”Cell” about a virus spread through cell phones.

The awards will be presented on Oct. 10 and the ceremony will be broadcast by NBC on Oct. 28. Last year’s show featured an introduction by “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart and celebrity presenters including Deepak Chopra and “Sex and the City” actress Kim Cattrall.

( is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC.)

Gerry Byrne, chairman of the Quills Awards, said the awards had generated a “groundswell of enthusiasm from people who like to read and in some cases follow authors like rock stars.”

Last year J.K. Rowling won the prize for book of the year and best children’s book for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” while Bob Dylan won best biography/memoir for ”Chronicles: Volume One.”

A full list of nominees and information on voting can be seen at