national book awards

Behold, Your 2019 National Book Awards Finalists

Photo: Vulture

Ah, fall, the perfect time to curl up with your favorite hot beverage and catch up on all of the best books of the year. The National Book Awards know this; today, they’ve announced their finalists across five categories — the 25 books to move to the top of your stack. Just two of the writers on this year’s list have been previous finalists, and both are in young people’s literature — Jason Reynolds and Laura Ruby. Among the other nominees are four debuts — Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s short-story collection Sabrina & Corina and Julia Phillips’s novel Disappearing Earth in fiction, along with Sarah M. Broom’s memoir The Yellow House and Albert Woodfox’s memoir Solitary (with Leslie George, also a debut writer) in nonfiction. The translated-literature category, now in the second year of its current incarnation, recognizes work translated from Arabic, French, Hungarian, Japanese, and Finnish (including international sensations László Krasznahorkai and Yoko Ogawa).

The longlists came out last month, and if you’re keeping score, a few notable picks didn’t make the latest cut, including Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s debut Fleishman Is in Trouble (currently being adapted into an FX limited series), Ocean Vuong’s debut novel On Earth, We’re Briefly Gorgeous (which just earned the writer a MacArthur “Genius” Grant), previous winner Colson Whitehead’s novel The Nickel Boys, and Hanif Abdurraqib’s fanboy essay collection Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest. Among the happy finalists are Vulture subjects Susan Choi (for her Rashomon-like teen #MeToo saga Trust Exercise) and Marlon James (whose Black Leopard, Red Wolf, is being adapted into a film by Michael B. Jordan). We won’t learn the winners until the ceremony on November 20, leaving you plenty of time to study up. Your reading list is below.

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Trust Exercise (Hardcover)

Susan Choi
Henry Holt and Company/Macmillan Publishers

Sabrina & Corina: Stories (Hardcover)

Kali Fajardo-Anstine
One World/Penguin Random House

Black Leopard, Red Wolf (Hardcover)

Marlon James
Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House

The Other Americans (Hardcover)

Laila Lalami
Pantheon Books/Penguin Random House

Disappearing Earth (Hardcover)

Julia Phillips
Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House


The Yellow House (Hardcover)

Sarah M. Broom
Grove Press/Grove Atlantic

Thick: And Other Essays (Hardcover)

Tressie McMillan Cottom
The New Press

What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance

Carolyn Forché
Penguin Press/Penguin Random House

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present (Hardcover)

David Treuer
Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House

Solitary (Hardcover)

Albert Woodfox with Leslie George
Grove Press/Grove Atlantic


The Tradition (Paperback)

Jericho Brown
Copper Canyon Press

"I": New and Selected Poems (Hardcover)

Toi Derricotte
University of Pittsburgh Press

Deaf Republic (Paperback)

Ilya Kaminsky
Graywolf Press

Be Recorder (Paperback)

Carmen Giménez Smith
Graywolf Press

Sight Lines (Paperback)

Arthur Sze
Copper Canyon Press

Translated Literature

Death Is Hard Work (Hardcover)

Khaled Khalifa
Translated from Arabic by Leri Price
Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan Publishers

Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming (Hardcover)

László Krasznahorkai
Translated from Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet
New Directions

The Barefoot Woman (Paperback)

Scholastique Mukasonga
Translated from French by Jordan Stump
Archipelago Books

The Memory Police (Hardcover)

Yoko Ogawa
Translated from Japanese by Stephen Snyder
Pantheon Books/Penguin Random House

Crossing (Hardcover)

Pajtim Statovci
Translated from Finnish by David Hackston
Pantheon Books/Penguin Random House

Young People’s Literature

Pet (Hardcover)

Akwaeke Emezi
Make Me a World/Penguin Random House

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks (Hardcover)

Jason Reynolds
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/Simon & Schuster

Patron Saint of Nothing (Hardcover)

Randy Ribay
Kokila/Penguin Random House

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All (Hardcover)

Laura Ruby
Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins Publishers

1919 The Year That Changed America (Hardcover)

Martin W. Sandler
Bloomsbury Children’s Books/Bloomsbury Publishing

Here Are Your 2019 National Book Awards Finalists