Andrew AlbaneseAt the National Book Awards on Wednesday night, the program ran a close second to the winning authors for its diversity and its high entertainment quotient.

The evening’s master of ceremonies, Larry Wilmore, brought to the gala the same sharp wit he had shown as host of The Nightly Show on Comedy Central. Yet the show-stealer was no TV star, but instead was a literary figure: Lisa Lucas, the newly-arrived executive director of the National Book Foundation.

“Lucas, who previously was publisher of Guernica, a highly-regarded magazine covering art and politics, drew rave reviews,” reports Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior editor. “And most notably—because she’s made the awards really fun. That’s right, fun.

“Lucas has reached out to bring more and more new people into the mix — even the National Basketball Association, the other NBA,” he tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “She’s really carried a great deal of enthusiasm to the awards, and was a breath of fresh air—exactly what the book world needs.”

Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.

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