Wildly acclaimed elsewhere, Freedom has failed to make the finalists for the prestigious American honours

Peter Carey and Lionel Shriver are there, and so is Nicole Krauss – but Jonathan Franzen isn’t. Franzen’s acclaimed novel Freedom is the surprise omission from the finalists in the fiction category of this year’s National Book Awards in the US, announced yesterday.

The 20 finalists, a record 13 of whom are women, were named by author Pat Conroy at a ceremony held in the childhood home of writer Flannery O’Connor in Savannah, Georgia. Harold Augenbraum, executive director of the National Book Foundation, acknowledged that Franzen’s much-praised novel – which received ecstatic US reviews and saw the author appearing on the cover of Time magazine – was “the big book of the year”. But the instructions to judges were to ignore “outside chatter” and “just to look at the books”, he said.

The five novels chosen for the fiction award include Peter Carey’s Parrot and Olivier in America, which earlier this week was pipped to the Man Booker prize by Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question, and Lionel Shriver’s novel about illness and healthcare, So Much For That. Nicole Krauss’s third novel Great House, a story of memory and loss which Viking will publish in the UK early next year, is also on the shortlist. Karen Tei Yamashita’s novel about Asian-Americans, I Hotel, and Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule, which is set among horse trainers in West Virginia, are the remaining candidates.

The winners of the National Book Awards will be announced on 17 November at a ceremony in New York, with each receiving $10,000 (£6,200). Among America’s pre-eminent literary awards, they have run annually since 1950.

The full list of award finalists is:

Fiction

Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America
Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule
Nicole Krauss, Great House
Lionel Shriver, So Much for That
Karen Tei Yamashita, I Hotel

Non-fiction

Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
John W Dower, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq
Patti Smith, Just Kids
Justin Spring, Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward
Megan K Stack, Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War

Poetry

Kathleen Graber, The Eternal City
Terrance Hayes, Lighthead
James Richardson, By the Numbers
CD Wright, One With Others
Monica Youn, Ignatz

Young people’s literature

Paolo Bacigalupi, Ship Breaker
Kathryn Erskine, Mockingbird
Laura McNeal, Dark Water
Walter Dean Myers, Lockdown
Rita Williams-Garcia, One Crazy Summer

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