Rice English professor Tim Morton selected as National Book Award judge

National Book Award judge

Timothy Morton, Rice University’s Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English, has been selected as a judge for the National Book Award in the nonfiction category.

“The director of the National Book Association phoned me up a few weeks ago,” Morton said, adding that they learned that Terry Tempest Williams had suggested them as a judge. “I was really touched that she said that.”

Morton, a prolific author of 25 books that have been translated 46 times in 19 languages, will be tasked with evaluating roughly 120 submissions alongside four other panelists, adding up to roughly 600 books overall.

“That’s quite a lot of books,” said Morton, who’s had to purchase additional shelving in their new home to accommodate their rapidly growing library. “They offered to send PDFs, but honestly, there’s nothing like holding a book.”

Morton has already received half of the assigned submissions and expects to have them all by June. They planned to hold off reading them until the full collection arrives to ensure a fair and comprehensive evaluation process, which will involve collaborating with fellow nonfiction judges to create a shortlist. Ultimately, the five panelists will determine the winner of the coveted National Book Award.

“Then we’ll be doing the National Book Awards ceremony in November,” Morton said.

With their latest book “Hell: In Search of a Christian Ecology” due for release soon, Morton said they see their National Book Award judge role as a form of giving back to the literary community.

“This feels in tune with where I’m at in my life right now,” they said. “It seems important to sort of give something back.”