Choosing just a few winning books out of a pool of nominees numbering in the hundreds sounds like an impossible task, but apparently, the PNBA awards committee manages to do it year after year. This year was my first time, and early on in the process, I was feeling overwhelmed.
Then All the Light We Cannot See arrived with a short and simple note inside, asking us to please consider this book for the PNBA book award. The task suddenly became more straightforward. I had been given a clear benchmark. It was as if I was blind, and Marie Laure’s father had lovingly constructed me a scale model of the territory I needed to navigate, just as he does for Marie-Laure in the book.
When Anthony Doerr appeared at the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute last January, the line to meet him and get an advance copy of the book was the longest of any at the conference. Our store chose All the Light We Cannot See for our inaugural book club pick upon its release in May and we have sold many, many copies, many more than any other hardcover book in our store, ever. It has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 27 weeks (and counting). It was also shortlisted for the National Book Award as we worked on our own PNBA shortlist. For me and I think for the rest of the committee, it was a refreshingly easy choice.
When I first read All the Light We Cannot See over a year ago, I knew it would stay with me for the rest of my life. The prose shimmers, jewel-like, each glowing paragraph and scene a bit of timeless perfection for the ages…but each chapter also builds suspense and keeps you racing through the pages. This is a rare combination. Anthony Doerr must be magic. A naturally gifted writer. Well, yes. But also, as I learned when Doerr visited our store this fall, he worked hard on this book for a decade, doing the gut-wrenching research into topics such as the Hitler Youth, organizing the complex plot structure, teasing out the symbolism and themes, and learning which bits of information gathered as a result of his prodigious curiosity could stay and which had to go.
The accolades that have come to Anthony Doerr as a result of the publication of All the Light We Cannot See are remarkably satisfying. They prove that sometimes, the universe is fair. Sometimes a work of real genius also meets with commercial success, and good people who do good, hard work are rewarded for it. The PNBA book awards committee wishes Anthony Doerr, along with all the other authors of books on the PNBA award short list, our heartfelt appreciation and congratulations.
— Carol Price Spurling, BookPeople of Moscow, PNBA Award Committee member
Members of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award Committee are sharing what they loved about the 2015 shortlist on nwbooklovers.org. For 2015 PNBA Award coverage, click here.