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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Susan Choi
Henry Holt and Company/Macmillan Publishers

Kali Fajardo-Anstine
One World/Penguin Random House

Marlon James
Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House

Laila Lalami
Pantheon Books/Penguin Random House

Julia Phillips
Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House



Sarah M. Broom
Grove Press/Grove Atlantic

Tressie McMillan Cottom
The New Press

Solitary (Hardcover)

Albert Woodfox with Leslie George
Grove Press/Grove Atlantic



Jericho Brown
Copper Canyon Press

Toi Derricotte
University of Pittsburgh Press


Ilya Kaminsky
Graywolf Press


Arthur Sze
Copper Canyon Press

Translated Literature

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

László Krasznahorkai
Translated from Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet
New Directions

Scholastique Mukasonga
Translated from French by Jordan Stump
Archipelago Books

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

Jason Reynolds
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/Simon & Schuster

Randy Ribay
Kokila/Penguin Random House

Laura Ruby
Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins Publishers

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

Here Are Your 2019 National Book Awards Finalists