This year, for the first time, I decided to read an entire awards longlist. I picked the National Book Award longlist for fiction, partially because two of my favorite books of the year were on it, and partially because all of the books sounded at least a little bit interesting to me. I enjoyed the process. I fell in love with a few books I doubt I would have read otherwise. I also read some books that were just not for me.
It can be fun to commit to a project like this, but the truth is that all awards lists are subjective, and it’s unlikely that any one person will love every book on any given list. If you, like me, enjoy the idea of reading a whole awards list but are hesitant to throw yourself into a reading project that may lead to mixed results, may I suggest this quiz instead?
I’ve chosen books from all of the National Book Awards longlists: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people’s literature. Answer a few questions about your reading preferences, and (hopefully!) get a book rec off the list that you’ll actually love! You don’t have to read all the NBA longlisted books to get in on the fun, and hopefully discover a new favorite that you might not have picked up otherwise.
Nobody Gets Out Alive by Leigh Newman
It sounds like you’re looking for a book that will transport you! In these beautiful, vivid stories, Newman explores the emotional lives of contemporary and historical women living in Alaska. Characters deal with harsh landscapes, complicated families, unfulfillable longings, and the ghosts of their pasts.
Shutter by Ramona Emerson
You should read Shutter, a gripping page-turner that’s part thriller, part haunting supernatural ghost story, and part moving coming-of-age story set on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. It stars Rita Todacheene, a forensic crime photographer who sees the ghosts of past victims, and uses their clues to help her solve crimes.
All This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews
You’re looking for something that will break your heart and put it back together, something emotionally vulnerable and bitingly real. All This Could be Different is the book for you! It follows Sneha, a queer Indian woman just out of college, trying to live and love and survive and maybe even thrive in late-stage capitalism in the Midwest.
The Man Who Could Move Clouds by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
You don’t let genre limit you, and neither does Ingrid Rojas Contreras! This beautiful memoir reads like a novel, even though it isn’t. Contreras blends Columbian history with her own family history and stories into a mesmerizing tale about the magic that runs in her family, memory loss, lineage, and more.
Uncommon Measure by Natalie Hodges
You’re looking for something interesting and challenging and fresh, and maybe under-the-radar, too! In Uncommon Measure, Korean American violinist and writer Natalie Hodges explores time, consciousness, music, and philosophy. She draws on her own experience as a musician, including her struggles with performance, as well as research in quantum physics and neuroscience.
Mummy Eaters by Sherry Shenoda
This unique poetry collection is told from the POV of the author’s imagined ancestor, a woman from ancient Egypt on her journey through mummification and into the afterlife. Shenoda uses this character to interrogate modern ideas about death and dying, ancient mythology, the legacies of colonialism, and more.
The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft
You’re up for anything, and you’re not afraid of big books — and it’s a good thing, because at almost 1,000 pages, The Books of Jacob is not for the faint of heart. This sprawling opus is often considered Nobel-prize winning Polish author Olga Tokarczuk’s masterpiece, and now it’s available in English. It’s a sweeping epic about a powerful religious leader and the ripple effects his actions and beliefs have throughout 18th century Europe.
The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes
You’re looking for a fun and engrossing book — who isn’t? This heartwarming YA novel is about two queer Mexican American siblings muddling their way through Catholic school, dealing with complicated family dynamics, coming out, first love, racism, mental health, and more. It’s thoughtful, laugh-out-loud funny, and full of joy, though it doesn’t shy away from hard topics.
Interested in digging deeper into the National Book Award longlists? Read about all the books! And if taking this quiz has got your revved up about awards in general, check out our coverage of the 2022 Booker Prize and 2022 Hugo Awards.