2021 National Book Awards Finalists

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The National Book Foundation has unveiled the finalists for the 2021 National Book Awards on October 5. The nominees were chosen from the 50 longlists announced in September in the following categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature.

This year, among the finalists are five writers and two translators previously honored by the National Book Awards: Hanif Abdurraqib, longlisted in 2019 for Nonfiction; Anthony Doerr, selected as a finalist in 2014 for Fiction; Nona Fernández and Natasha Wimmer, longlisted in 2019 for Translated Literature; Lauren Groff, chosen as a finalist for Fiction in 2015 and in 2018; Kekla Magoon, longlisted in 2015 for Young People’s Literature; and Leri Price, selected as a finalist for Translated Literature in 2019.

In the Poetry category, all five of the poets are first-time nominees. Meanwhile, four of the 25 finalists are debuts.

The list of finalists also features numerous writers of color.

The winners will be announced on November 17, where each will receive $10,000 and a bronze medal and statue. Each finalist will also get $1,000 and a bronze medal.

The finalists competing for this year’s National Book Awards are:


Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony DoerrMatrix by Lauren GroffZorrie by Laird HuntThe Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.Hell of a Book by Jason Mott


A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance by Hanif AbdurraqibRunning Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains by Lucas BessireTastes Like War: A Memoir by Grace M. ChoCovered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America by Nicole EustaceAll That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles


What Noise Against the Cane by Desiree C. BaileyFloaters by Martín EspadaSho by Douglas KearneyA Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure by Hoa NguyenThe Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void by Jackie Wang

Translated Literature

Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin, translated from the French by Aneesa Abbas HigginsPeach Blossom Paradise by Ge Fei, translated from the Chinese by Canaan MorseThe Twilight Zone by Nona Fernández, translated from the Spanish by Natasha WimmerWhen We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut, translated from the Spanish by Adrian Nathan WestPlanet of Clay by Samar Yazbek, translated from the Arabic by Leri Price

Young People’s Literature

The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin KhorLast Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda LoToo Bright to See by Kyle LukoffRevolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People by Kekla MagoonMe (Moth) by Amber McBride

Among this year’s National Book Awards judging panel are Alan Michael Parker, Emily Pullen, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Charles Yu for Fiction; Eula Biss, Aaron John Curtis, Nell Painter, Kate Tuttle, and Jerald Walker for Nonfiction; Don Mee Choi, Natalie Diaz, Matthea Harvey, A. Van Jordan, and Ilya Kaminsky for Poetry; Jessie Chaffee, Sergio de la Pava, Madhu H. Kaza, Achy Obejas, and Stephen Snyder for Translated Literature; and Pablo Cartaya, Traci Chee, Leslie Connor, Cathryn Mercier, and Ibi Zoboi for Young People’s Literature.

The National Book Foundation’s plan to return its awards ceremony as a live, in-person event was scrapped in late September due to public health concerns and the ongoing uncertainty on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although we were cautiously optimistic about the opportunity to gather, the National Book Foundation Board and staff have carefully considered the options for this year’s National Book Awards and closely monitored best health and safety practices associated with COVID-19, especially the news surrounding the Delta variant,” said David Steinberge, chair of the organization’s board of directors, in a news release.

In July, the organization had announced an in-person awards ceremony for November at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City after holding it online for the first time in 2020 because of the pandemic.

“The National Book Awards have always been a unique—and sizeable—event, with authors, publishers, and guests traveling from all over the country to attend. Given the current reality of the ongoing global pandemic, this year’s National Book Awards Ceremony will be a fully virtual event to best protect the health and safety of the book community,” Steinberger continued.

Following the recent announcement, the event will be broadcast in full via the organization’s website, YouTube, and Facebook, and will have “virtual elements” as well.

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