The first author ever to win both The Story Prize and the National Book Award for the same book takes the $20,000 top prize.


March 2, 2016, New York, NY — At the end of an evening of readings by and conversation with the three finalists for The Story Prize, author Adam Johnson of San Francisco, California, took the stage at The New School’s auditorium and accepted the top prize of $20,000 and an engraved silver bowl for Fortune Smiles (Random House)a collection of six stories—set in locations as diverse as California, Louisiana, what was formerly East Germany, and South Korea—that present with pathos and humor characters in difficult predicaments.

Fortune Smiles also won the National Book Award for fiction in November 2015, making Johnson the first author to ever garner that honor and The Story Prize for the same book. With this award, he also becomes the first author to win The Story Prize, a National Book Award, and the Pulitzer prize for fiction, which he received in 2013, for his novel, The Orphan Master’s Son.

The other finalists for The Story Prize for books published in 2015—winners of numerous awards themselves—were authors Charles Baxter for There’s Something I Want You to Do (Pantheon) and Colum McCann for Thirteen Ways of Looking (Random House). At the event at The New School, all three finalists read from and discussed their work on-stage with Larry Dark, Director of The Story Prize, before award founder Julie Lindsey announced Johnson as the winner. The $20,000 prize he received is among the largest first-prize amounts of any annual U.S. book award for fiction. As runners-up, Baxter and McCann each received $5,000.

Dark and Lindsey selected the three finalists for The Story Prize from among 100 books entered in 2015, representing 64 different publishers or imprints. Three judges read the three short story collections chosen as finalists, and their choices determined the winner of the award. They were:

  • Anthony Doerr, best-selling author, Pulitzer prize winner, and the 2010 winner of The Story Prize for Memory Wall;
  • Rita Meade, a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library; and
  • Kathryn Schulz, a staff writer for The New Yorker.

The judges called Johnson’s book Fortune Smiles and cited his work as being astute and unsettling but also comical and bright:

Johnson writes like Rembrandt painted, richly and specifically, with an inclination toward self-portrait and a gift for making it seem like a whole world carries on not only within but beyond each of these small canvasses.”

Johnson doesn’t shy away from difficult material, but instead uses it to explore harrowing moments of human experience, blending elements of history, science fiction, and psychological horror.”

“Fortune Smiles is an electrically imaginative story collection that’s wrestling very hard with the world we’re living in right now.”

In addition to Fortune Smiles, Johnson is the author of three previous books: the story collection Emporium and the novels Parasites Like Us and The Orphan Master’s Son. His other awards and honors include the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the California Book Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Stegner Fellowship. Johnson teaches creative writing at Stanford University and lives in San Francisco with his wife and children, who attended the ceremony.

Established in 2004, The Story Prize annually honors the author of an outstanding collection of short fiction. Books by living authors, written in English and published in the U.S. in a calendar year, are eligible. The eleven previous winners of The Story Prize have been Edwidge Danticat, Patrick O’Keeffe, Mary Gordon, Jim Shepard, Tobias Wolff, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Anthony Doerr, Steven Millhauser, Claire Vaye Watkins, George Saunders, and Elizabeth McCracken.

The Story Prize was founded by Julie Lindsey and is underwritten by the Chisholm Foundation. A nineteen-member advisory board offers support and advice.

View 2015 Finalists →