Today, the National Book Foundation announced that Drew Barrymore will serve as master of ceremonies for the 74th National Book Awards this November. She'll be joined onstage by none other than Oprah herself, who will deliver remarks as the ceremony’s special guest.
The annual National Book Awards is a night of glamour, glitz, and literary excellence honoring the year’s winners in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people’s literature.
“Throughout their careers, Drew Barrymore and Oprah Winfrey have each demonstrated their enduring belief that books have the power to change readers’ lives—by opening doors, sparking conversations, and building community,” said David Steinberger, chair of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation.
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Ruth Dickey, executive director of the National Book Foundation, described Barrymore as an “author, voracious reader, and champion for authentic storytelling” and emphasized that Oprah’s “book club, magazine, and book-to-screen adaptations have been instrumental in reaching more readers.”
This is not the first time Oprah has been celebrated on the National Book Awards stage; nearly a quarter century ago, she was presented the 50th Anniversary Gold Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters—a lifetime achievement award that has also been bestowed on the likes of Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, and Stephen King. By way of introduction, the author and 1999 ceremony host Neil Baldwin noted that Ms. Winfrey possessed “the magical quality to create bestsellers.” At the time, Oprah’s Book Club was just three years old. Now it boasts 101 selections— and nine National Book Award–winning authors.
In her own 1999 acceptance speech, Oprah confessed something that seems hard to believe—she was starstruck. “More than movie stars and rock stars and famous politicians and world leaders,” she explained, “I love authors...I may appear to be cool, but I really am just plain giddy being in your presence.”
We will have to wait until September to know which titles made the longlist—and until the night of the ceremony to know the winners. But we do know that 2023 has been an exceptional year for books, and the year is barely halfway done. Whichever authors Oprah shares the stage with this fall, she will have plenty of cause for giddiness. It’s safe to assume the feeling will be mutual.
Charley is a Books Editor at Oprah Daily where she writes about authors, writing, and reading. She is also a freelance writer and audio journalist whose work has been featured in the Atlantic, the Los Angeles Review, Agni, and on the Apple News Today podcast. She is currently completing an MFA in creative nonfiction at NYU and working on an essay collection about the intersection of grief, landscape, and urban design.