collage image of a close-up of an medal and a group of award winners

2012 Winner: Philip Roth

Philip Roth

One of world's greatest writers, Philip Roth received the National Book Award in 1960 for the novella "Goodbye, Columbus" and received the award again in 1995 for "Sabbath's Theater." He gained worldwide fame for his 1969 novel, "Portnoy's Complaint." His 1997 novel, "American Pastoral," won the Pulitzer Prize; it features Nathan Zuckerman, who appears in several Roth novels. In 2000 he published "The Human Stain," concluding a trilogy that depicts the ideological ethos of postwar America. For "The Human Stain" Roth received his second PEN/Faulkner Award as well as Britain's W.H. Smith Award for the Best Book of the Year. In 2001 he received the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, given every six years "for the entire work of the recipient." "Nemesis," Roth's most recent novel, focuses on the effects of a polio epidemic in 1944 in Newark, N.J.

2011 Winner: Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

The work of Toni Morrison has gained worldwide acclaim. The 1993 Nobel Prize in literature was awarded to Morrison, "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality." Her novel "Beloved" won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1998. Morrison is this year's recipient of the Library of Congress National Book Festival Creative Achievement Award. Her most recent novel is "A Mercy" (Vintage). Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities Emeritus at Princeton University.

2010 Winner: Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is a best-selling Chilean-American writer who was born in Lima, where her father, Tomás Allende, was Chile's ambassador to Peru. Her uncle was Chilean President Salvador Allende, who was assassinated in 1973 during a military coup. Believing it was unsafe to remain in Chile, Isabel, her husband and two children fled to Venezuela. While in exile, she wrote her first novel, "The House of the Spirits," which was made into a film in 1994. Isabel Allende's works weave elements of magical-realism into her stories of women and their struggles. Since then, Allende has written many novels and other works, such as plays and children's stories. Her most recent novel is "The Island Beneath the Sea" (HarperCollins). Allende will receive this year's Library of Congress National Book Festival Creative Achievement Award.

2009 Winner: John Grisham

John Grisham

Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, John Grisham was working 60 to 70 hours a week at a small Mississippi law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby: writing his first novel, "A Time to Kill." It initially sold a modest 5,000 copies. His next book was the beginning of one of publishing's greatest success stories. When Grisham sold the film rights to "The Firm," he suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. "The Firm" became the best-selling novel of 1991. Since first publishing "A Time to Kill" in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year and all of them have become international best-sellers, with more than 235 million John Grisham books in print worldwide. His latest smash hit is "The Associate" (2009). Grisham lives in Mississippi and Virginia

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