National Book Awards Finalists For 2020 Announced

National book award shortlist

The finalists for the National Book Awards 2020 have been announced. Selected from almost 1,700 submissions in five categories — fiction, nonfiction, poetry, young people’s literature, and translated literature — the finalists are a strikingly fresh group. None of the authors on the list has been a finalist for a National Book Award before, and almost a third are debuts.

Due to the pandemic, the National Book Awards ceremony will be conducted entirely online on Nov. 18. The winners will receive $10,000 each (for the Translated Literature prize, the money is split with the translator); the finalists will receive $1,000 a piece. During the ceremony, novelist Walter Mosley will formally receive the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and the late Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy will be honored with the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.

Here is the complete list of finalists:



  • Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, “The Undocumented Americans”

  • Les Payne and Tamara Payne, “The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X”

  • Claudio Saunt, “Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory”

  • Jenn Shapland, “My Autobiography of Carson McCullers”

  • Jerald Walker, “How to Make a Slave and Other Essays”

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  • Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, “A Treatise on Stars”

  • Tommye Blount, “Fantasia for the Man in Blue”

  • Don Mee Choi, “DMZ Colony”

  • Anthony Cody, “Borderland Apocrypha”

  • Natalie Diaz, “Postcolonial Love Poem”

Translated Literature

  • Anja Kampmann, “High as the Waters Rise”
    Translated from the German by Anne Posten

  • Jonas Hassen Khemiri, “The Family Clause”
    Translated from the Swedish by Alice Menzies

  • Yu Miri, “Tokyo Ueno Station”
    Translated from the Japanese by Morgan Giles

  • Pilar Quintana, “The Bitch”
    Translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman

  • Adania Shibli, “Minor Detail”
    Translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette

Young People’s Literature

  • Kacen Callender, “King and the Dragonflies”

  • Traci Chee, “We Are Not Free”

  • Candice Iloh, “Every Body Looking”

  • Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, “When Stars Are Scattered”

  • Gavriel Savit, “The Way Back”

You can check out the Longlist for the US National Book Award here.

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