Here Are The 50 Books Nominated for 2020 National Book Awards

Sep 18, 2020
Originally published on September 18, 2020 6:19 pm

Perhaps you're an avid reader — or you're just stuck at home and suddenly have more time to read. Either way, if you're looking for reading recommendations, why not start with one of the 50 works contending for a National Book Award?

The National Book Foundation released its annual book award longlists over the past few days, ending with fiction on Friday, featuring work from seasoned and debut writers alike, as well as a collection of short stories from an author who died last month.

There are 10 nominees in each of five categories — fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature and young people's literature. The finalists will be whittled from this list and announced Oct. 6.

The winners, typically announced at a live ceremony in New York City, will be revealed in a virtual event on Nov. 18. At the ceremony, the National Book Foundation will also present American novelist Walter Mosley with a medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

The two debut fiction novel nominees are A Burning by Megha Majumdar, and Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, which was also named to the shortlist for the Booker Prize on Tuesday. Also in the running are two short story collections — If I Had Two Wings by Randall Kenan, who died in August at age 57, and The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, the debut collection from Deesha Philyaw.

In nonfiction, Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson is nominated for the prize with her book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. Historian Jill Lepore is a repeat nominee, with her new book If Then.


The 10 poets on this year's poetry longlist are all first-time contenders for the National Book Awards, with work from two debut authors: Fantasia for the Man in Blue by Tommye Blount, and Borderland Apocrypha by Anthony Cody.

View the nominees for each of the five categories below.

Fiction

Nonfiction

Poetry

Translated Literature

Young People's Literature

Fiction

  • Rumaan Alam, Leave the World Behind
  • Christopher Beha, The Index of Self-Destructive Acts
  • Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half
  • Randall Kenan, If I Had Two Wings
  • Megha Majumdar, A Burning
  • Lydia Millet, A Children's Bible
  • Deesha Philyaw, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
  • Douglas Stuart, Shuggie Bain
  • Vanessa Veselka, The Great Offshore Grounds
  • Charles Yu, Interior Chinatown

Nonfiction

  • Michelle Bowdler, Is Rape a Crime?: A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto
  • Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, The Undocumented Americans
  • Jill Lepore, If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future
  • 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
  • Jonathan C. Slaght, Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl
  • Jerald Walker, How to Make a Slave and Other Essays
  • Frank B. Wilderson III, Afropessimism
  • Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Poetry

  • Rick Barot, The Galleons
  • Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, A Treatise on Stars
  • Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Travesty Generator
  • Tommye Blount, Fantasia for the Man in Blue
  • Victoria Chang, Obit
  • Don Mee Choi, DMZ Colony
  • Anthony Cody, Borderland Apocrypha
  • Eduardo C. Corral, Guillotine
  • Natalie Diaz, Postcolonial Love Poem
  • Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, The Age of Phillis

Translated Literature

  • Shokoofeh Azar, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree. Translated from the Persian by Anonymous.
  • Linda Boström Knausgård, The Helios Disaster. Translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles.
  • 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.
  • Fernanda Melchor, Hurricane Season. Translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes.
  • Yu Miri, Tokyo Ueno Station. Translated from the Japanese by Morgan Giles.
  • Perumal Murugan, The Story of a Goat. Translated from the Tamil by N. Kalyan Raman
  • Cho Nam-Joo, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982. Translated from the Korean by Jamie Chang.
  • 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
  • Evette Dionne, Lifting as We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box
  • Eric Gansworth, Apple (Skin to the Core)
  • Candice Iloh, Every Body Looking
  • Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, When Stars Are Scattered
  • Marcella Pixley, Trowbridge Road
  • John Rocco, How We Got to the Moon: The People, Technology, and Daring Feats of Science Behind Humanity's Greatest Adventure
  • Gavriel Savit, The Way Back
  • Aiden Thomas, Cemetery Boys
: 9/18/20

A previous version of this story incorrectly said the National Book Foundation released the longlists for its awards on Friday. The lists for the five categories were announced throughout the week. The story also said the virtual awards ceremony will be Nov. 11. The event is scheduled for Nov. 18. In addition, the story had said Isabel Wilkerson had been nominated in the past. This is her first nomination for the National Book Awards.

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