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National Book Award
The National Book Awards were established in 1950 to celebrate the best writing in America. Since 1989, they have been overseen by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture. The Awards currently honors the best Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature published each year.
*Book titles listed in the Adult Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Translated Literature categories can be considered challenge books.
National Book Award - Adult Fiction Category 2019. Winner and Finalists
Trust Exercise by
In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive in a rarified bubble, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes. When within this striving "Brotherhood of the Arts," two freshmen, David and Sarah, fall headlong into love, their passion does not go unnoticed--or untoyed with--by anyone, especially not by their charismatic acting teacher, Mr. Kingsley. The outside world of family life and economic status, of academic pressure and of their future adult lives, fails to penetrate this school's walls--until it does, in a shocking spiral of events that catapults the action forward in time and flips the premise upside-down.
Sabrina & Corina by
Against the remarkable backdrop of Denver, Colorado--a place that is as fierce as it is exquisite--these women navigate the land the way they navigate their lives: with caution, grace, and quiet force. In "Sugar Babies," ancestry and heritage are hidden inside the earth but tend to rise during land disputes. "Any Further West" follows a sex worker and her daughter as they leave their ancestral home in southern Colorado only to find a foreign and hostile land in California. In "Tomi," a woman leaves prison and finds herself in a gentrified city that is a shadow of the one she remembers from her childhood.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by
Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own. As Tracker follows the boy's scent--from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers--he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him?
The Other Americans by
Late one spring night, Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant living in California, is walking across a darkened intersection when he is killed by a speeding car. The repercussions of his death bring together a diverse cast of characters: Guerraoui's daughter Nora, a jazz composer who returns to the small town in the Mojave she thought she'd left for good; his widow, Maryam, who still pines after her life in the old country; Efraín, an undocumented witness whose fear of deportation prevents him from coming forward; Jeremy, an old friend of Nora's and an Iraq War veteran; Coleman, a detective who is slowly discovering her son's secrets; Anderson, a neighbor trying to reconnect with his family; and the murdered man himself. As the characters tell their stories, connections among them emerge, even as Driss's family confronts its secrets.
Disappearing Earth by
One August afternoon, on the shoreline of the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern edge of Russia, two girls--sisters, eight and eleven--go missing. In the ensuing weeks, then months, the police investigation turns up nothing. Echoes of the disappearance reverberate across a tightly woven community, with the fear and loss felt most deeply among its women. Taking us through a year in Kamchatka, Disappearing Earth enters with astonishing emotional acuity the worlds of a cast of richly drawn characters, all connected by the crime: a witness, a neighbor, a detective, a mother.
National Book Award - Nonfiction Category 2019. Winner and Finalists
The Yellow House by
In 1961, Sarah M. Broom's mother Ivory Mae bought a shotgun house in the then-promising neighborhood of New Orleans East and built her world inside of it. It was the height of the Space Race and the neighborhood was home to a major NASA plant--the postwar optimism seemed assured. Widowed, Ivory Mae remarried Sarah's father Simon Broom; their combined family would eventually number twelve children. But after Simon died, six months after Sarah's birth, the Yellow House would become Ivory Mae's thirteenth and most unruly child.
In these eight ... explorations on beauty, media, money, and more, Tressie McMillan Cottom--award-winning professor and ... author of Lower Ed--embraces her ... role as a purveyor of wit, wisdom, and Black Twitter snark about all that is right and much that is wrong with this thing we call society.
What You Have Heard Is True by
Describes the author's deep friendship with a mysterious intellectual who introduced her to the culture and people of El Salvador in the 1970s, a tumultuous period in the country's history, inspiring her work as an unlikely activist.
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by
Beginning with the tribes' devastating loss of land and the forced assimilation of their children at government-run boarding schools, Treuer shows how the period of greatest adversity also helped to incubate a unifying Native identity. He traces how conscription in the US military and the pull of urban life brought Indians into the mainstream and modern times, even as it steered the emerging shape of their self-rule and spawned a new generation of resistance. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is an essential, intimate history - and counter-narrative - of a resilient people in a transformative era.
This is the unforgettable life story of a man who served more than four decades in solitary confinement--in a 6-foot by 9-foot cell, 23 hours a day, in notorious Angola prison in Louisiana--for a crime he did not commit.
National Book Award - Translated Literature Category 2019
Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming by
Set in contemporary times, Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming tells the story of a Prince Myshkin-like figure, Baron Béla Wenckheim, who returns at the end of his life to his provincial Hungarian hometown. Having escaped from his many casino debts in Buenos Aires, where he was living in exile, he longs to be reunited with his high-school sweetheart Marika. Confusions abound, and what follows is an endless storm of gossip, con men, and local politicians, vividly evoking the small town's alternately drab and absurd existence.
Death Is Hard Work by
Abdel Latif, an old man from the Aleppo region, dies peacefully in a hospital bed in Damascus. His final wish, conveyed to his youngest son, Bolbol, is to be buried in the family plot in their ancestral village of Anabiya. Though Abdel was hardly an ideal father, and though Bolbol is estranged from his siblings, this conscientious son persuades his older brother Hussein and his sister Fatima to accompany him and the body to Anabiya, which is--after all--only a two-hour drive from Damascus. There's only one problem: Their country is a war zone.
The Barefoot Woman by
A moving, unforgettable tribute to a Tutsi woman who did everything to protect her children from the Rwandan genocide, by the daughter who refuses to let her family's story be forgotten.
The Memory Police by
On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses--until things become much more serious. Most of the island's inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the draconian Memory Police, who are committed to ensuring that what has disappeared remains forgotten.
The death of head of state Enver Hoxha and the loss of his father leave Bujar growing up in the ruins of Communist Albania and of his own family. Only his fearless best friend, Agim--who is facing his own realizations about his gender and sexuality--gives him hope for the future. Together the two decide to leave everything behind and try their luck in Italy. But the struggle to feel at home--in a foreign country and even in one's own body--will have corrosive effects, spurring a dangerous search for new identities.
National Book Award - Poetry Category 2019. Winner and Finalists
Arthur Sze employs a wide range of voices--from lichen on a ceiling to a man behind on his rent--and his mythic imagination continually evokes how humans are endangering the planet; yet, balancing rigor with passion, he seizes the significant and luminous and transforms these moments into riveting and enduring poetry.
The Tradition by
Brown makes mythical pastorals to question the terrors to which we've become accustomed, and to celebrate how we survive. Poems of fatherhood, legacy, blackness, queerness, worship, and trauma are propelled into stunning clarity by Brown's mastery, and his invention of the duplex--a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues--is testament to his formal skill.
Deaf Republic by
Deaf Republic opens in an occupied country in a time of political unrest. When soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy, Petya, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear--they all have gone deaf, and their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language. The story follows the private lives of townspeople encircled by public violence: a newly married couple, Alfonso and Sonya, expecting a child; the brash Momma Galya, instigating the insurgency from her puppet theater; and Galya's girls,heroically teaching signing by day and by night luring soldiers one by one to their deaths behind the curtain.
Be Recorder by
The many times and tongues in these poems investigate the precariousness of personhood in lines that excoriate and sanctify.
National Book Award - Young People's Literature Category 2019. Winner and Finalists
In Jam and Redemption’s hometown of Lucille, there are no monsters anymore — or so they’ve always been taught. But when a creature emerges from Jam’s mother’s painting and claims it’s here to hunt a monster, Jam and Redemption must reconsider what they thought they knew, and answer the question: how do you hunt monsters if no one will admit they even exist?
Look Both Ways by
This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky. But no one saw it happen. They were all too busy-- Talking about boogers. Stealing pocket change. Skateboarding. Wiping out. Braving up. Executing complicated handshakes. Planning an escape. Making jokes. Lotioning up. Finding comfort. But mostly, too busy walking home.
Patron Saints of Nothing by
Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte's war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story. Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth -- and the part he played in it. As gripping as it is lyrical, Patron Saints of Nothing is a page-turning portrayal of the struggle to reconcile faith, family, and immigrant identity.
Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by
Frankie and her sister, Toni, are abandoned alongside so many other orphans--two young, unwanted women doing everything they can to survive. And as the embers of the Great Depression are kindled into the fires of World War II, and the shadows of injustice, poverty, and death walk the streets in broad daylight, it will be up to Frankie to find something worth holding on to in the ruins of this shattered America--every minute of every day spent wondering if the life she's able to carve out will be enough. I will admit I do not know the answer. But I will be watching, waiting to find out. That's what ghosts do.
1919 the Year That Changed America by
1919 was a world-shaking year. America was recovering from World War I and black soldiers returned to racism so violent that that summer would become known as the Red Summer. The suffrage movement had a long-fought win when women gained the right to vote. Laborers took to the streets to protest working conditions; nationalistic fervor led to a communism scare; and temperance gained such traction that prohibition went into effect. Each of these movements reached a tipping point that year.