National Book Awards Names 2019 Winners

The 2019 National Book Award winners were announced in New York City tonight. The big prize for fiction went to Trust Exercise by Susan Choi. (Bonus: Read our 2019 interview with Choi).

 In his opening remarks for the 70th annual ceremony, host Levar Burton spoke about the power of books personally and politically.

During his speech, Burton—television’s most beloved bibliophile—credited his mother with instilling him with a lifelong love of literature, and went on to wax poetic about the power of literacy: “Literature is the birthright of every one of us—if you can read in at least one language, you are in my definition, free. No one can pull the wool over your eyes.”

As for the awards, they went as follows:

The award in the Young People’s Literature category went to 1919: The Year That Changed America by Martin W. Sandler.

The award for translated literature went to Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai; translated by Ottilie Mulzet. (Bonus: Read our review).

The poetry award went to Arthur Sze for Sight Lines.

The nonfiction award went to The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom.

 Bonus Links: Earlier in the year, we dove into both the shortlist and the longlist to share excerpts and reviews where available.

Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo Win 2019 Booker Prize

In a stunning turn of events (and perhaps even taking a page out of the Nobel’s playbook), the 2019 Booker Prize has been awarded to two books: Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments and Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. The two winners will share the £50,000 prize.

Peter Florence, the chair of the 2019 judges, said: “This ten month process has been a wild adventure. In the room today we talked for five hours about books we love. Two novels we cannot compromise on. They are both phenomenal books that will delight readers and will resonate for ages to come.”

A few fun facts about this years prize:

The Booker Prize has been awarded to two works twice before, but this is the first joint-winner since 1993—when the rules were changed to allow only one author to win the prize at a time.
Evaristo is the first black woman to have ever won the Booker Prize.
This is Atwood’s second win (she won in 2000 for The Blind Assassin), and she has been shortlisted four times: The Handmaid’s Tale (1986), Cat’s Eye (1989), Alias Grace (1996), and Oryx and Crake (2003). 

Here are the authors that made this year’s short and long lists.

Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke Win Nobel Prizes in Literature

This morning’s Nobel Prize in Literature announcement marked a first in the award’s 118-year history: two awards will be bestowed—one for 2018 and one for 2019.

Shortly after Kazuo Ishiguro won the prize in 2017, the Academy was rocked by a multi-faceted scandal: Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of Katarina Frostenson, an academy member, was accused (and later convicted) of sexual abuse, exploitation, and rape, The husband and wife are also accused of misusing academy funding. In the wake of those crises and multiple resignations, the 2018 prize and ceremony were cancelled.

This morning, however, Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke were awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature as well as the its 9m Swedish krona purse ($910,000+) prize.

Polish author Olga Tokarczuk won the 2018 prize for “a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”

Tokarczuk is no stranger to awards. For her novel Flights, she won the 2008 Nike Award—Poland’s most prestigious literary prize—and the English translation by Jennifer Croft would go on to win the 2019 Man Booker International award. Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Tokarczuk’s second novel, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, was longlisted for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize and longlisted for the National Book Award in Translated Literature.

She also recently cracked into The Millions Top Ten as well—which may be the most exciting feat of all (depending on who you’re asking, I guess). To learn more about Tokarczuk, The Millions has a fantastic review of her novel Flights, as well as an astute profile of the author by Gabe Habash.

Austrian author Peter Handke won the 2019 prize for “an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.” The Millions predicted Handke’s chances to win in 2009. Handke is a controversial figure that even called for the Nobel Prize to be abolished in 2014 in an Austrian newspaper. 

Center for Fiction Names 2019 First Novel Prize Shortlist

The Center for Fiction named its 2019 First Novel Prize shortlist over at LitHub this morning. The award is given to the “best debut novel published between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 of the award year,” and the prize-winning author receives $10,000.

This year’s judges—Maaza Mengiste, Claire Messud, Emma Straub,  Monique Truong, and Tommy Orange (last year’s winner)—whittled the 27-title longlist down to just seven titles.

Here’s the 2019 shortlist, with bonus links when applicable:

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson (Read Wilkinson’s 2018 Year in Reading)

Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad (Read Sudbanthad’s 2018 Year in Reading)

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips (Recently longlisted for the National Book Award in Fiction)

Fall Back Down When I Die by Joe Wilkins

In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow (Featured in our June Preview)

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Featured in two Year in Reading posts)

The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin (Featured in Julia Phillips’s list of eight books set in the middle of nowhere)

The winner will be announced at The Center for Fiction’s annual Benefit and Awards Dinner on December 10.

National Book Awards Names 2019 Longlists

Award season is back in full swing!

The National Book Foundation spent the week slowly revealing the National Book Award longlists. Established in 1950, the NBAs seek to “celebrate the best writing in America.” Starting on Monday, the 10-title longlists in nonfiction, poetry, young people’s literature, and translated literature were released on The New Yorker‘s Page Turner blog.

Here’s some fun facts about this year’s nominees:

The fiction list includes one previous winner, Colson Whitehead (2016), and one previous NBA judge, Laila Lalami (2018).
The nonfiction list includes three debut titles and one previous NBA finalist, Greg Grandin.
Olga Tokarczuk is a two-time nominee in the translated literature category, following last year’s inaugural award.
The Young Adult list includes one “5 Under 35” nominee, Akwaeke Emezi; one previous NBA winner, Cynthia Kadohata (2013); and four previous NBA nominees: Jason Reynolds (2016, 2017); Laura Ruby (2015); and Laurie Halse Anderson (1999, 2008, 2014).

Here’s a list of the finalists in all five categories, with bonus links where applicable:

Fiction:

Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner (Featured in our June preview)
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi (Read our 2019 interview with Choi)
Sabrina & Corinas by Kali Fajardo-Anstine (Featured in our Great First-Half 2019 Book Preview)
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James (Read a profile about James)
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami (Read Lalami’s 2018 Year in Reading entry)
Black Light by Kimberly King Parsons (Read our 2019 interview with Parsons)
The Need by Helen Phillips (Featured in our Great Second-Half 2019 Book Preview)
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips (Featured in our Great First-Half 2019 Book Preview)
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Read our review of Vuong’s debut)
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Featured in our Great Second-Half 2019 Book Preview)

Nonfiction:

Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib (A 2016 Year in Reading alum)
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom (Featured in our Great Second-Half 2019 Book Preview)
Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom (Featured in our Great First-Half 2019 Book Preview)
What You Have Heard is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance by Carolyn Forché
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America by Greg Grandin
Burn the Place: A Memoir by Iliana Regan
Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
Solitary by Albert Woodfox with Leslie George



Poetry:

Variations on Dawn and Dusk by Dan Beachy-Quick
The Tradition by Jericho Brown (Read an excerpt from Brown’s collection)
“I”: New and Selected Poems by Toi Derricotte (Read our 2019 interview with Derricotte)

Build Yourself a Boat by Camonghne Felix
Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky (Featured in March’s Must-Read Poetry roundup)
A Sand Book by Ariana Reines
Dunce by Mary Ruefle
Be Recorder by Carmen Giménez Smith (Read an excerpt from Smith’s collection)
Sight Lines by Arthur Sze
Doomstead Days by Brian Teare


Translated Literature

When Death Takes Something from You Give It Back: Carl’s Book
by Naja Marie Aidt, translated by Denise Newman
The Collector of Leftover Souls by Eliane Brum, translated by Diane Grosklaus Whitty
Space Invaders by Nona Fernández, translated by Natasha Wimmer
Will and Testament by Vigdis Hjorth, translated by Charlotte Barslund
Death Is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa, translated by Leri Price
Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai, translated by Ottilie Mulzet (Read our review]
The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated by Jordan Stump
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder (Featured in our Great Second-Half 2019 Book Preview)
Crossing by Pajtim Statovci, translated by David Hackston
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Read Gabe Habash’s profile of Tokarczuk)

Young People’s Literature:

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander; illustrations by Kadir Nelson
Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (Featured in our Great Second-Half 2019 Book Preview)
A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata; illustrations by Julia Kuo
Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby
1919: The Year That Changed America by Martin W. Sandler
Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve
Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable; illustrations by Ellen T. Crenshaw


The five-title shortlists will be announced on October 8, and the awards will be revealed in New York City on November 20.

Man Booker Prize Names 2019 Shortlist

The 2019 Man Booker Prize shortlist is here!

The literary prize, among the most prestigious of its kind, aims “to promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom.” (Feel free to brush up on the longlist before diving into the shortlist below.)

Announced during a press conference at London’s British Library, 2019 Chair of Judges Peter Florence said: “We have a shortlist of six extraordinary books and we could make a case for each of them as winner, but I want to toast all of them as ‘winners.’ Anyone who reads all six of these books would be enriched and delighted, would be awe-struck by the power of story, and encouraged by what literature can do to set our imaginations free.”

This year’s shortlist includes former winner and six-time nominee, Margaret Atwood, for her heavily guarded sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale (out next Tuesday!); former winner Salman Rushdie; Lucy Ellmann for an experimental 1,000-page monologue; British novelist Bernardine Evaristo; our own Chigozie Obioma, who was a 2015 finalist; and Turkish novelist Elif Shafak.

Here’s the 2019 Man Booker shortlist (and applicable bonus links):


The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Read our 2015 interview with Atwood)
Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma (Read our interview with Obioma)
Quichotte by Salman Rushdie (Read a recent profile of Rushdie)
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak 

The Man Booker Prize winner will be announced on October 14 at a ceremony in London.

Man Booker Prize Names 2019 Longlist

The Man Booker Prize, which “aims to promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom,” announced its 2019 longlist.

Whittled down from 151 novels published in the U.K. or Ireland between Oct. 1, 2018 and Sept. 30, 2019, the 13-title longlist includes two previous winners (Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood), one American author (Lucy Ellmann), and one debut novelist (Oyinkan Braithwaite). We are also extremely excited that our own contributing editor Chigozie Obioma made the list!

Here’s the 2019 “Booker Dozen,” featuring 13 novels—plus applicable bonus links:


The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Read our 2015 interview with Atwood)
Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry (Read Barry’s 2017 Year in Reading entry)
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Featured in our November Most Anticipated List)
Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
The Wall by John Lanchester
The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy (Featured in our Great Second-Half Book Preview)
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (Read reviews of Luiselli’s other works here and here)
An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma (Our interview with Obioma)
Lanny by Max Porter (Read our review of Lanny)
Quichotte by Salman Rushdie
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak 
Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

The Man Booker Prize shortlist will be announced on Sept. 3rd.

Women’s Prize for Fiction Names 2019 Shortlist

The Women’s Prize for Fiction announced its 2019 shortlist.

Formerly the Orange Prize and Baileys Prize, the Women’s Prize for Fiction recognizes the best English-language novel by a woman published in the U.K. in the previous year. The award celebrates “excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world.”

The shortlist includes one debut author (Oyinkan Braithwaite), one previously shortlisted author (Anna Burns), a previous Orange Prize for Fiction winner (Madeline Miller), and an Orange Award for New Writers winner (Diana Evans). The list also includes a few Year in Reading alums, and all the books were featured in our 2018 First-Half and Second-Half Book Previews.

Here is the 2019 shortlist, with Publishers Weekly reviews:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Read Publishers Weekly’s review here: Barker, author of the Booker-winning The Ghost Road, speculates about the fate of the women taken captive during the Trojan War, as related in Homer’s Iliad. Briseis, queen of the small country of Lyrnessus, was captured by the Greek forces and awarded to Achilles, fated to serve him as slave and concubine. Through her eyes readers see the horror of war: the sea of blood and corpses, the looting, and the drunken aftermath of battle. When Agamemnon demands that Briseis be handed over to him, Achilles reacts with rage and refuses to fight, and when his foster brother and lover Patrocles is killed, having gone into battle in Achilles’s stead, Briseis becomes the unwitting catalyst of a turning point in the war. In Barker’s hands, the conflict takes on a new dimension, with revisionist portraits of Achilles (“we called him the butcher”) and Patroclus (he had “taken his mother’s place” in Achilles’s heart). Despite its strong narrative line and transportive scenes of ancient life, however, this novel lacks the lyrical cadences and magical intensity of Madeline Miller’s Circe, another recent revising of Greek mythology. The use of British contemporary slang in the dialogue is jarring, and detracts from the story’s intensity. Yet this remains a suspenseful and moving illumination of women’s fates in wartime.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Here’s what Publishers Weekly’s starred review had to say: Braithwaite’s blazing debut is as sharp as the knife that twists in the chest of Femi, the now-dead boyfriend of Ayoola, whose boyfriends, curiously, seem to keep winding up dead in her presence. Femi makes dead boyfriend number three—each were killed in self-defense, according to Ayoola—and, per usual, Ayoola’s older sister, Korede, is called upon to help dispose of the body. The only confidante Korede has is a coma patient at the Lagos hospital where she works, which is the only place she can go to escape Ayoola. It is also where she can see the man she loves, a handsome and thoughtful doctor named Tade. Of course, this means that when the capricious Ayoola decides to start visiting her sister at work, she takes notice of him, and him of her. This is the last straw for Korede, who realizes she is both the only person who understands how dangerous her sister is and the only person who can intervene before her beloved Tade gets hurt, or worse. Interwoven with Korede, Ayoola, and Tade’s love triangle is the story of Korede and Ayoola’s upbringing, which is shadowed by the memory of their father, a cruel man who met a tragic and accidental death—or did he? As Korede notes when she considers her own culpability in her sister’s temperament: “His blood is my blood and my blood is hers.” The reveal at the end isn’t so much a “gotcha” moment as the dawning of an inevitable, creeping feeling that Braithwaite expertly crafts over the course of the novel. This is both bitingly funny and brilliantly executed, with not a single word out of place.

Milkman by Anna Burns

Here’s Publishers Weekly’s starred review: In her Booker-winning novel, Burns (No Bones) gives an acute, chilling, and often wry portrait of a young woman—and a district—under siege. The narrator—she and most of the characters are unnamed (“maybe-boyfriend,” “third brother-in-law,” “Somebody McSomebody”)—lives in an unspecified town in Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the 1970s. Her town is effectively governed by paramilitary renouncers of the state “over the water,” as they call it. The community is wedged between the renouncers, meting out rough justice for any suspected disloyalty, and the state’s security forces. One day, “milkman,” a “highranking, prestigious dissident” who has nothing to do with the milk trade, offers the narrator a ride. From this initial approach, casual but menacing, the community, already suspicious of her for her “beyond-the-pale” habit of walking and reading 19th-century literature, assumes that she is involved with the rebel. Milkman, however, is in essence stalking her, and over the course of several months she strives, under increasing pressure, to evade his surveilling gaze and sustained “unstoppable predations.” There is a touch of James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus in the narrator’s cerebral reticence, employing as she does silence, exile, and cunning in her attempt to fly the nets of her “intricately coiled, overly secretive, hyper-gossippy, puritanical yet indecent, totalitarian district.” Enduring the exhausting “minutiae of invasion” to which she is subjected by milkman, and the incursion of the Troubles on every aspect of life, the narrator of this claustrophobic yet strangely buoyant tale undergoes an unsentimental education in sexual politics. This is an unforgettable novel.

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Read what Publishers Weekly had to say: Evans’s striking novel (following 26A) investigates the relationships of two sets of friends as they navigate pivotal moments during 2008. Melissa and Michael remain engaged after 13 years; Melissa misses her former job as a magazine’s fashion editor, which she left to care for her seven-year-old, Ria, and infant, Blake, while Michael longs for the passionate relationship they used to have. Continually feeling rebuffed at home, Michael searches for attention from others and notices a younger woman in his office. Hesitant to be unfaithful, Michael plans an outing to connect with Melissa, but the evening falls short of expectations and Melissa withdraws further. Meanwhile, in the second narrative, Michael’s friend Damian is frustrated with Stephanie, his wife of nearly 16 years, because she refuses to live in London like their friends, opting instead to raise their children in the suburbs, thereby squelching his dream of city life and ambition of being a writer. Along with coping with the recent loss of his activist father, Damian believes his wife and her family don’t share his values, and instead measure their success by the size of their home and the private lessons they provide their children. With penetrating emotional and psychological observations, Evans creates a realistic portrayal of the couples as they struggle to redefine commitment. Readers looking for careful studies of relationship dynamics will find much to contemplate.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Read Publishers Weekly’s review: Jones (Silver Sparrow) lays bare the devastating effects of wrongful imprisonment in this piercing tale of an unspooling marriage. Roy, an ambitious corporate executive, and Celestial, a talented artist and the daughter of a self-made millionaire, struggle to maintain their fledgling union when Roy is sentenced to 12 years in prison on a rape charge he is adamant is false. Before Roy’s arrest, the narrative toggles between his and Celestial’s perspectives; it takes an epistolary form during his imprisonment that affectingly depicts their heartbreaking descent into anger, confusion, and loneliness. When Roy is proven innocent and released seven years early, another narrator is introduced: Andre, Celestial’s lifelong best friend who has become very close to her while Roy has been away. Jones maintains a brisk pace that injects real suspense into the principal characters’ choices around fidelity, which are all fraught with guilt and suspicion, admirably refraining from tipping her hand toward one character’s perspective. The dialogue—especially the letters between Roy and Celestial—are sometimes too heavily weighted by exposition, and the language slides toward melodrama. But the central conflict is masterfully executed: Jones uses her love triangle to explore simmering class tensions and reverberating racial injustice in the contemporary South, while also delivering a satisfying romantic drama.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Read Publishers Weekly’s starred review here: Miller follows her impressive debut (The Song of Achilles) with a spirited novel about Circe’s evolution from insignificant nymph to formidable witch best known for turning Odysseus’s sailors into swine. Her narrative begins with a description of growing up the awkward daughter of Helios, the sun god. She does not discover her gift for pharmakeia (the art of using herbs and spells) until she transforms her first love, a poor fisherman, into a god. When he rejects her in favor of vain Scylla, Circe turns Scylla into a sea monster. Now considered dangerous, Circe is exiled to an island, where she experiments with local flora and fauna. After returning from a visit to Crete to help her sister give birth to the Minotaur, Circe is joined on the island by errant nymphs sentenced to do their penance in her service. By the time Odysseus’s ship arrives, winding its way home from the Trojan War, Circe reigns over a prosperous household. Welcome guests enjoy her hospitality; unwelcome guests are turned into wild pigs. Neither the goddess Athena nor the deadliest poison known to man makes Circe flinch. Weaving together Homer’s tale with other sources, Miller crafts a classic story of female empowerment. She paints an uncompromising portrait of a superheroine who learns to wield divine power while coming to understand what it means to be mortal.

The winner will be announced on June 5.

Man Booker International Prize Names 2019 Shortlist

The Man Booker International Prize named its six-title shortlist, narrowed down from last month’s 13-title longlist.

Honoring the best translated fiction from around the world, the prize awards £50,000 to be split evenly between authors and translators. Like the longlist, the shortlist is dominated by women and independent publishers. Five of the six nominees are women including Olga Tokarczuck, who won the 2018 prize, and her translator, Antonia Lloyd-Jones. The list also includes novels in five different languages: Arabic, French, German, Polish, and Spanish.

Here’s the 2019 Man Booker International shortlist with bonus links where applicable:

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, translated by Marilyn Booth
The Years by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison Strayer (Subject of this essay by Arthur Willemse)
The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann, translated by Jen Calleja
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Tokarczuk won last year’s prize for Flights)
The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, translated by Anne McLean (Featured in our September Preview)
The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zeran, translated by Sophie Hughes

The Man Booker International winner will be announced on May 21.

International DUBLIN Literary Award Names 2019 Shortlist

The International DUBLIN Literary Award—which is given to a novel written in or translated into English—announced its 10-title 2019 shortlist. In its 24th year, the award is administered by Dublin City Public Libraries, with nominations submitted by “library systems in major cities throughout the world.”

Here is the 2019 shortlist (with bonus links where applicable):

Compass by Mathias Énard and translated by Charlotte Mandell (Featured in Lydia Kiesling’s 2017 Year in Reading)

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (Read our review)

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Read our essay on the “world-spanning humanism” of Hamid’s work)

Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (Featured in our 2018 Second-Half Preview)

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (Read our review)

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Read our review of the 2017 Man Booker winner)

A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (Featured in numerous Year in Reading entries)

The winner will be announced on June 12th.