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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.
*The Young People's Literature winner and finalists are not included as reading options.
National Book Award Adult Fiction Category - 2020 Winner and Finalists
Interior Chinatown by
From the infinitely inventive author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe comes a deeply personal novel about race, pop culture, assimilation, and escaping the roles we are forced to play.
Leave the World Behind by
A magnetic novel about two families, strangers to each other, who are forced together on a long weekend gone terribly wrong.
A Children's Bible by
Follows a group of twelve eerily mature children on a forced vacation with their families at a sprawling lakeside mansion. Contemptuous of their parents, who pass their days in a stupor of liquor, drugs, and sex, the children feel neglected and suffocated at the same time. When a destructive storm descends on the summer estate, the group's ringleaders--including Eve, who narrates the story--decide to run away, leading the younger ones on a dangerous foray into the apocalyptic chaos outside.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by
Explores the raw and tender places where black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church's double standards and their own needs and passions.
Shuggie Bain by
Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh "Shuggie" Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in public housing in Glasgow, Scotland.
National Book Award Translated Literature Category - 2020 Winner and Finalists
Tokyo Ueno Station by
A surreal, devastating story of a homeless ghost who haunts one of Tokyo's busiest train stations. Kazu is dead. Born in Fukushima in 1933, the same year as the Japanese Emperor, his life is tied by a series of coincidences to the Imperial family and has been shaped at every turn by modern Japanese history.
High As the Waters Rise by
One night aboard an oil drilling platform in the Atlantic, Waclaw returns to his cabin to find that his bunkmate and companion, Mátyás, has gone missing. A search of the rig confirms his fear that Mátyás has fallen into the sea. Grief-stricken, he embarks on an epic emotional and physical journey that takes him to Morocco, to Budapest and Mátyás's hometown in Hungary, to Malta, Italy, and finally to the mining town of his childhood in Germany.
The Family Clause by
"The son did as he was told. All his bloody life, he has done as he has been told. Time to change that, he thinks, grabbing a pen. He doesn't write that this will be the last time his father stays here. He doesn't write that he wants to break the father clause. Instead, he writes: Welcome, Dad. Hope you had a good flight."
Minor Detail by
Minor Detail begins during the summer of 1949, one year after the war that the Palestinians mourn as the Nakba--the catastrophe that led to the displacement and exile of some 700,000 people--and the Israelis celebrate as the War of Independence. Israeli soldiers murder an encampment of Bedouin in the Negev desert, and among their victims they capture a Palestinian teenager and they rape her, kill her, and bury her in the sand. Many years later, in the near-present day, a young woman in Ramallah tries to uncover some of the details surrounding this particular rape and murder, and becomes fascinated to the point of obsession, not only because of the nature of the crime, but because it was committed exactly twenty-five years to the day before she was born.
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 - 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 Nonfiction Category - 2020 Winner and Finalists
The Dead Are Arising by
An epic biography of Malcolm X finally emerges, drawing on hundreds of hours of the author's interviews, rewriting much of the known narrative.
Unworthy Republic by
In this powerful, gripping book, Claudio Saunt upends the common view that "Indian Removal" was an inevitable chapter in US expansion across the continent. Instead, Saunt argues that it was a contested political act--resisted by both indigenous peoples and US citizens--that passed in Congress by a razor-thin margin.
My Autobiography of Carson Mccullers by
While working as an intern in the archives at the Harry Ransom Center, Jenn Shapland encounters the love letters of Carson McCullers and a woman named Annemarie-letters that are tender, intimate, and unabashed in their feelings.
The Undocumented Americans by
One of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard reveals the hidden lives of her fellow undocumented Americans in this deeply personal and groundbreaking portrait of a nation.
How to Make a Slave and Other Essays by
Personal essays exploring identity, family, and community through the prism of race and black culture. Confronts the medical profession's racial biases, shopping while black at Whole Foods, the legacy of Michael Jackson, raising black boys, haircuts that scare white people, racial profiling, and growing up in Southside Chicago.
National Book Award Poetry Category - 2020 Winner and Finalists
DMZ Colony by
A new book by Don Mee Choi that includes poems, prose, and images.
A Treatise on Stars by
These are poems of deep listening and patient waiting, open to the channeling of daily experience, to gestalt and angel, dolphins and extraterrestrials. Here, family is a type of constellation and 'thought is a form of organized light.'
Postcolonial Love Poem by
Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness.
Borderland Apocrypha by
The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo marked an end to the Mexican--American War, but it sparked a series of lynchings of Mexicans and subsequent erasures, and long-lasting traumas. This pattern of state-sanctioned violence committed towards communities of color continues to the present day. Borderland Apocrypha centers around the collective histories of these terrors, excavating the traumas born of turbulence at borderlands.
Fantasia for the Man in Blue by
In his debut collection Fantasia for the Man in Blue, Tommye Blount orchestrates a chorus of distinct, unforgettable voices that speak to the experience of the black, queer body as a site of desire and violence.
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 - 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.