Bookslut’s Daphne Shortlists Honors Top Titles of 1964

In News by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

Daphne — the inspiration for Bookslut's new prize.

Daphne, the Naiad from Greek mythology who was pursued by Apollo before turning into a laurel tree, a myth that inspired Ovid, also serves as the eponymous  inspiration for Bookslut’s new prize.

Last month, we wrote about the Daphnes, a new award launched by the website Bookslut, to celebrate (or re-celebrate?) the best books of 50 years ago, which were eligible for book awards, like the Pulizter, in 1964. As Bookslut editor Jessa Crispin wrote, “We will write the wrongs of the 1964 National Book Awards, which ugh, decided that John Updike’s The Centaur was totally the best book of that year.” (The runners up that year were Idiots First by Bernard Malamud, The Group by Mary McCarthy, The Will by Harvey Swados, and the title that’s probably the most still read of all of them, a little book called V by Thomas Pynchon.)

Well, now the first ever Daphne short lists have been released, and they’re a beaut:

Fiction

Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar (Pantheon Modern Writers Series)
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
The Grifters by Jim Thompson (Vintage; 1st Black Lizard/Vintage Crime edition)
The Clown by Heinrich Boll (Melville House)
Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas (Peter Owen Publishers)
Dreambook for Our Time by Tadeusz Konwicki (Penguin Books)
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima (Vintage)

Nonfiction

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (Vintage Reissue)
Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter (Vintage)
The Destruction of Dresden by David Irving (Focal Point Publications)
Eichmann In Jerusalem by Hanna Arendt (Penguin Classics)
The Reawakening by Primo Levi (Touchstone, Reprint edition)
The Making of the English Working Class by EP Thompson (Vintage)

Poetry

Burning Perch by Louis MacNeice (Ulan Press)
Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law by Adrienne Rich (W.W. Norton and Company)
Requiem by Anna Akhmatova (Zephyr Press; Exp Upd Su edition)
Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
Five Senses by Judith Wright (Angus and Robertson)
Poems by Gwen Harwood (University of Queensland Press)
At the End of the Open Road by Louis Simpson (Wesleyan University Press)

Children’s Literature

The Dot and the Line by Norton Juster (Chronicle Books; First Edition edition)
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (HarperCollins; 50 ANV edition)
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present by Charlotte Zolotow (HarperCollins; First Edition edition)
Harold’s ABC by Crockett Johnson (HarperCollins; Purple Crayon Book edition)
Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back by Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins; 50 Anv edition)
The Moon by Night by Madeline L’Engle (Square Fish)
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol (Puffin)
Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

For me, any award that pits Julio Cortazar against Jim Thompson is already a winner. But if I had to select, I’d vote for Hopscotch, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (perhaps more timely then ever), Requiem, and…Where the Wild things Are, although I’ll always have a place in my heart for Encyclopedia Brown.

What are your picks?

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on February 24. Bookslut editor’s name is Jessa Crispin, not Jenna Crispin. Books on this year’s first Daphne Awards list were published in 1963 but eligible for the National Book Award, Pulitzer, etc. in 1964.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.