The 2009 First Novel Prize (then called the John Sargent, Sr. First Novel Prize) was awarded to John Pipkin for his debut novel Woodsburner (Doubleday/Nan A. Talese). Read about Woodsburner below and browse 2009’s shortlisted titles.
This annual award was created in 2006 to honor the best first novel of the year. Debut novels published between January 1 and December 31 of the award year are eligible.
- Woodsburner by John Pipkin (Doubleday/Nan A. Talese)
- American Rust by Philipp Meyer (Spiegel & Grau)
- The Cradle by Patrick Somerville (Little, Brown and Co.)
- Tinkers by Paul Harding (Bellevue Literary Press)
- The Vagrants by Yiyun Li (Random House)
By John Pipkin
Published by Doubleday/Nan A. Talese
The early American tree-hugger and pioneering thinker Henry David Thoreau did a bad, bad thing back on April 30, 1844. A year before he settled into the “simple life” at Walden Pond, he struck a match to start a cooking fire in the dry woods around Concord, Massachusetts and accidentally ignited a forest fire that consumed 300 acres. The events of that chaotic day appear to have altered the course of Thoreau’s life and American history. More recently, this historical footnote sparked the creation of Woodsburner. Woodsburner offers a beautifully nuanced portrait of a young and less recognizable Thoreau, whose philosophy begins to materialize as the flames lay waste.