Introducing the 2020 National Book Award Longlists!

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Rebecca Hussey

Staff Writer

Rebecca holds a PhD in English and is a professor at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. She teaches courses in composition, literature, and the arts. When she’s not reading or grading papers, she’s hanging out with her husband and son and/or riding her bike and/or buying books. She can't get enough of reading and writing about books, so she writes the bookish newsletter "Reading Indie," focusing on small press books and translations. Newsletter: Reading Indie Twitter: @ofbooksandbikes

It’s awards season! Those of you who love book prizes and reading lists (a group that includes me) have a LOT to geek out about. Earlier this week we got the shortlist for the Booker Prize, and now we have the National Book Award Longlists from the National Book Foundation! So, so many good books are on these lists. The National Book Awards include five categories: Young People’s Literature, Translated Literature, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction. Take a look at this hard-working group of judges:

Without further ado, here are the lists!


Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

The Index of Self-Destructive Acts by Christopher Beha

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

If I Had Two Wings by Randall Kenan

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

The Great Offshore Grounds by Vanessa Veselka

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

From the New Yorker announcement: “The judges for the category this year are Cristina Henríquez, the author of “The Book of Unknown Americans”; Keaton Patterson, of Brazos Bookstore, in Houston; Laird Hunt, the author of “Zorrie,” who teaches at Brown University; Rebecca Makkai, whose novel “The Great Believers” was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; and Roxane Gay, the author of “Bad Feminist” and “Hunger.”


Is Rape a Crime?: A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto by Michelle Bowdler

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future by Jill Lepore

The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne

Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory by Claudio Saunt

My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland

Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl by Jonathan C. Slaght

How to Make a Slave and Other Essays by Jerald Walker

Afropessimism by Frank B. Wilderson III

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

From the New Yorker announcement: “The judges for the category this year are James Goodman, a professor at Rutgers University, New York, whose book “Stories of Scottsboro” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Yunte Huang, a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara, whose book “Inseparable” was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award; Hannah Oliver Depp, the owner of Loyalty Bookstores in Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring, Maryland; David Treuer, whose book “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee” was a 2019 finalist for a National Book Award; and Terry Tempest Williams, the author of “Erosion: Essays of Undoing” and a writer-in-residence at Harvard Divinity School.”


The Galleons by Rick Barot

A Treatise on Stars by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge

Travesty Generator by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Fantasia for the Man in Blue by Tommye Blount

Obit by Victoria Chang

DMZ Colony by Don Mee Choi

Borderland Apocrypha by Anthony Cody

Guillotine by Eduardo C. Corral

Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz

The Age of Phillis by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

From the New Yorker announcement: “The judges for the category this year are Rigoberto González, a former Guggenheim Fellow who directs the creative-writing M.F.A. program at Rutgers-Newark; Diana Khoi Nguyen, whose collection “Ghost Of” was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award; Elizabeth Willis, whose collection “Alive” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; John Hennessy, who directs the undergraduate creative-writing program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and Layli Long Soldier, whose collection “Whereas” was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award.”

Translated Literature

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar, Translated by Anonymous

The Helios Disaster by Linda Boström Knausgård, Translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles

High as the Waters Rise by Anja Kampmann, Translated by Anne Posten

The Family Clause by Jonas Hassen Khemiri, Translated by Alice Menzies

Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, Translated by Sophie Hughes

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri, Translated by Morgan Giles

The Story of a Goat by Perumal Murugan, Translated by N. Kalyan Raman

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-joo, Translated by Jamie Chang

The Bitch by Pilar Quintana, Translated by Lisa Dillman

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, Translated by Elisabeth Jaquette

From the New Yorker announcement: “The judges for the category this year are Heather Cleary, whose translation of “Comemadre,” by Roque Larraquy, was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award; Anne Ishii, the executive director of Asian Arts Initiative; John Darnielle, the leader of the Mountain Goats, whose novel “Wolf in White Van” was longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award; Brad Johnson, the owner of East Bay Booksellers; and the writer Dinaw Mengestu, who was a 2012 MacArthur Fellow.”

Young People’s Literature

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box by Evette Dionne

Apple (Skin to the Core) by Eric Gansworth

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

Trowbridge Road by Marcella Pixley

How We Got to the Moon: The People, Technology, and Daring Feats of Science Behind Humanity’s Great Adventure by John Rocco

The Way Back by Gavriel Savit

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

From the New Yorker announcement: “The judges for the category this year are Randy Ribay, whose novel “Patron Saints of Nothing” was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award; Neal Shusterman, the author of more than thirty novels, including “Challenger Deep,” which won the 2015 National Book Award; Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education; Colleen AF Venable, whose graphic novel “Kiss Number 8” was longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award; and the bookseller and writer Joan Trygg.”

The finalists will be announced on October 6, and the winners on November 18.

There are so many great books to choose from here! It’s time to add a bunch to your TBR pile. If you would like even more National Book Award lists, check out last year’s winners and finalists.