Meet the 2018 National Book Award Winners

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Pierce Alquist

Senior Contributor

Pierce Alquist is a transplanted New Yorker living and working in the publishing scene in Boston. Don’t worry if she fooled you, the red hair is misleading. She’s a literature in translation devotee and reviewer and lover of small, independent presses. A voracious traveler and foodie, you can find her in her kitchen making borscht or covered in red pepper paste as she perfects her kimchi recipe.

The winners of the 69th National Book Awards have been announced! The ceremony was hosted by Nick Offerman and lifetime achievement awards were given to Doron Weber and Isabel Allende.

Here are the 2018 National Book Award Winners:

Young People’s Literature

Cover of The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. The 2018 National Book Award WinnersThe Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (HarperTeen)

A favorite among Book Riot contributors! Fans of Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds will fall hard for this astonishing New York Times-bestselling novel-in-verse by an award-winning slam poet, about an Afro-Latina heroine who tells her story with blazing words and powerful truth.

Judges this year: Robin Benway, Lamar Giles, Grace Worcester Greene,Valerie Koehler, and Mitali Perkins.

Translated Literature

The Emissary by Yoko Tawada. The 2018 National Book Award WinnersThe Emissary by Yoko Tawada and translated by Margaret Mitsutani (New Directions)

Translated Literature is a new category at this year’s National Book Awards, the first to be added in over twenty years. Yoko Tawada’s new novel is a breathtakingly light-hearted meditation on mortality and fully displays what Rivka Galchen has called her “brilliant, shimmering, magnificent strangeness”

Judges this year: Harold Augenbraum, Karen Maeda Allman, Sinan Antoon, Susan Bernofsky, and Álvaro Enrigue


Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed. The 2018 National Book Award WinnersIndecency by Justin Phillip Reed (Coffee House)

In these poems, Justin Phillip Reed experiments with language to explore inequity and injustice and to critique and lament the culture of white supremacy and the dominant social order. Political and personal, tender, daring, and insightful―the author unpacks his intimacies, weaponizing poetry to take on masculinity, sexuality, exploitation, and the prison industrial complex and unmask all the failures of the structures into which society sorts us.

Judges this year: Mary Jo Bang, Ken Chen, Elise Paschen, Danez Smith, Stephen Sparks


The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke. The 2018 National Book Award WinnersThe New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke by Jeffrey C. Stewart (Oxford UP)

A tiny, fastidiously dressed man emerged from Black Philadelphia around the turn of the century to mentor a generation of young artists including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jacob Lawrence and call them the New Negro—the creative African Americans whose art, literature, music, and drama would inspire Black people to greatness. In The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, Jeffrey C. Stewart offers the definitive biography of the father of the Harlem Renaissance, based on the extant primary sources of his life and on interviews with those who knew him personally.

Judges this year: Rachel Cast, John Freeman, Annette Gordon-Reed, Sarah Manguso, and Andrés Reséndez


The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. The 2018 National Book Award WinnersThe Friend by Sigrid Nunez (Riverhead)

When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly obsessed with the dog’s care, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unraveling. But while troubles abound, rich and surprising rewards lie in store for both of them. Elegiac and searching, The Friend is both a meditation on loss and a celebration of human-canine devotion.

Judges this year: Chris Bachelder, Laila Lalami, Min Jin Lee, Laurie Muchnick, and Chinelo Okparanta

Congratulations to this year’s winners and all the nominees!