2019 National Book Awards Finalists Announced

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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 National Book Foundation announced the 2019 National Book Awards finalists! It’s a fascinating list, with a range of debut authors and notable names like Marlon James, Laila Lalami, and László Krasznahorkai. None of the 25 finalists have previously won a National Book Award, and the majority of the finalists are first time nominees!

The winners in each of the five categories—Young People’s Literature, Translated Literature, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction—will be announced November 20, 2019, at the 70th National Book Awards Ceremony. Edmund White will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Acclaimed actor, producer, and television veteran LeVar Burton will host the ceremony.

🎉📚 Announcing the 2019 National Book Award Finalists! 📚🎉 #NBAwards

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Young People’s Literature

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Make Me a World / Penguin Random House

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books / Simon & Schuster

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
Kokila / Penguin Random House

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby

Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins Publishers

1919 The Year That Changed America by Martin W. Sandler
Bloomsbury Children’s Books / Bloomsbury Publishing

Translated Literature

Death Is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa
Translated from the Arabic by Leri Price
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers

Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai
Translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet
New Directions

The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga
Translated from the French by Jordan Stump
Archipelago Books

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder
Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House

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


The Tradition by Jericho Brown
Copper Canyon Press

I: New and Selected Poems by Toi Derricotte
University of Pittsburgh Press

Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky
Graywolf Press

Be Recorder by Carmen Giménez Smith
Graywolf Press

Sight Lines by Arthur Sze
Copper Canyon Press


The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
Grove Press / Grove Atlantic

Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom
The New Press

What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance by Carolyn Forché
Penguin Press / Penguin Random House

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House

Solitary by Albert Woodfox with Leslie George
Grove Press / Grove Atlantic


Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
Henry Holt and Company / Macmillan Publishers

Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
One World / Penguin Random House

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami
Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
Alfred A. Knopf / Penguin Random House

Curious about the other nominated titles? Looking for more great recommendations? Check out the 2019 National Book Awards Longlists.