Writers Phil Klay and Evan Osnos win top National Book Awards

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[November 20, 2014]  By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Phil Klay and Evan Osnos were given the top prizes at the 65th National Book Awards, among the most prestigious literary prizes in U.S. publishing, at a gala dinner on Wednesday that honored the best fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young adult writers.

Klay was awarded the fiction prize for "Redeployment," his book of stories about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Osnos earned his award for "Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China" in the non-fiction category.

"Redeployment" was picked from a short list of fiction works by authors Rabih Alameddine, Marilynne Robinson, Anthony Doerr and Emily St. John Mandel.

"I did not think I would be up here," a surprised Klay, who is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq, said accepting the award.

In their citation, the judges described the book as a "kaleidoscopic vision of conflict and homecoming" and Klay as the "quintessential storyteller of America's Iraq conflict."

Osnos, who wrote about China's drive toward modernization and the role of the individual and the Communist Party, competed among non-fiction works by Roz Chast, John Lahr, Anand Gopal and Edward O. Wilson.

Louise Gluck was awarded the poetry prize for "Faithful and Virtuous Night" in the category in which four of the five finalists were women. Jacqueline Woodson took home the young people's literature prize for "Brown Girl Dreaming."

The National Book Awards, which are administered by the National Book Foundation, were established in 1950 to celebrate the best of American literature. Judges in each of the four categories select the winner from entries submitted by American publishers.

Ursula K. Le Guin, an award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction works, children's books and short stories, received the 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters for her transformative impact on American literature.

"The Left Hand of Darkness" and "The Dispossessed" are among her works. Previous winners of the medal include E.L. Doctorow, Arthur Miller, Elmore Leonard and John Updike.

Kyle Zimmer, the president and CEO of First Book, a non-profit that provides new books to educators and programs serving children in need, received the National Book Foundation's 2014 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the America Literary.

Last year the award went to author Maya Angelou, who died on May 28 the age of 86.

The finalists in the four categories were selected more than 1,400 entries.

(Editing by Michael Perry)

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