Tommy Orange's There There wins the 2018 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize! Awarded to the best debut novel published between January 1 and December 31 of the award year, the winner is given $10,000. This year's judges were Jeffery Renard Allen, Julie Lekstrom Himes, Katie Kitamura, Rachel Kushner, and Dana Spiotta. There There was featured in our 2018 Great Book Preview, snagged a spot in The Millions Top Ten, and made an appearance in multiple Year in Reading entries. About the novel, YiR alum Ada Limón wrote: Tommy Orange’s There There had me deeply disturbed and enthralled, not only for the characters and cultural veracity, but because I think he’s an incredible master of time. Here are the authors that made this year’s short and long lists.
We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semi–annual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around). Here’s what we’re looking out for this month (the last of 2018!). Find more December titles at our Great Second-Half Preview, and let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments! North of Dawn by Nuruddin Farah: Farah has been writing about the world’s greatest catastrophes for years, and his novels, especially Hiding in Plain Sight, have been about the tragedy that accompanies the loss of one’s original country. That strong theme is the centrifugal force of this novel about a calm home engulfed when a son leaves quiet and peaceful Oslo to die back in Somalia. His widow and children return to Norway to live with his parents, and in bringing their devoted religiosity with them, threaten to explode the family once again. Farah is a master of shifts and turns, so this novel promises to be among the year’s most exciting publications. (Chigozie) Revolution Sunday by Wendy Guerra (translated by Achy Obejas): Translated for the first time into English, internationally bestselling novelist Guerra’s book follows a writer from Cuba to Spain, where her expat compatriots assume she is a spy for Castro. Back home in Cuba, she is treated with equal suspicion by her government. (Lydia) America and Other Fictions by Ed Simon: In a collection of essays, Millions staffer writes about the complicated history of religion in America—especially in the context of this particular moment of cultural and political crisis. Simon touches on everything from mortality, legacies of American violence, Walt Whitman, Bob Dylan, and the need for an Augustinian left. About the collection, writer Tom Bissel wrote: "His goal as an essayist is a kind of secular reenchantment of the old, dead creeds—to acknowledge, and cherish, truths that go deeper than mere belief. Most remarkable of all is how often he succeeds." (Carolyn) The Day the Sun Died by Yan Lianke (translated by Carlos Rojas): Winner of the Dream of the Red Chamber Award, Lianke's newest novel takes place in a town over the course of one haunted night. In their small village, fourteen-year-old Li Niannian helps his parents run a funeral parlor. One night he notices something strange: dreamwalking neighbors are gathering outside to continue on with their daily routines, seemingly unaware it's nighttime. Over one chaotic, disturbing evening, Li Niannian and his parents must save their town from the brink of collapse. (Carolyn) The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash: Freshly off a stint in the Peace Corps, 23-year-old Anton Winter returns to find his father, a popular night talk show host, has suffered a mental breakdown. In an effort to help reignite his father's career, Anton travels far and wide—to Lake Placid, the Hollywood Hills, the Bermuda Triangle—and rubbing elbows with the likes of Johnny Carson and John Lennon. About the book, Publisher's Weekly wrote it's "packed with diverting anecdotes and a beguiling cast, making for an immensely entertaining novel." (Carolyn) Milkman by Anna Burns: Winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize, the novel is set in an unnamed city and focuses on middle sister, a young woman who must navigate political and social pressures in a tight-knit, paramilitary-patrolled community. In a starred review, Kirkus called it a "deeply stirring, unforgettable novel that feels like a once-in-a-generation event." (Carolyn)
This is the 14th year that the Year in Reading series has run at The Millions. It's the third year that I've blearily written the introduction to kick off the series the night before it's set to begin, and I'm running out of ways to say it: this is the best thing we do here at the site. There are so many things competing for our attention, and most of them are bad. So at a time of year when people are recovering from family drama or girding their loins for more, when election results are being processed or contested, when writers are licking their wounds or thanking their stars about the year-end lists, Year in Reading feels like a place for enthusiasts to gather and compare notes about the things that brought meaning to life as we hurtle into the future. 2018 was the year of solastalgia; Year in Reading is a place of solace. The series is a record of love and this year, as ever, I am grateful for it. The names of our 2018 contributors will be unveiled throughout the month as entries are published (starting with our traditional opener from Languagehat’s Stephen Dodson later this morning). Bookmark this post, load up the main page, subscribe to our RSS feed, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to make sure you don’t miss an entry — we’ll run at least three per day. -Lydia Kiesling Stephen Dodson, co-author of Uglier Than a Monkey’s Armpit, proprietor of Languagehat. Ling Ma, author of Severance. Bryan Washington, author of Lot. Elizabeth McCracken, author of Bowlaway. Shobha Rao, author of Girls Burn Brighter. Brandon Hobson, author of Where the Dead Sit Talking. Ada Limón, author of Bright Dead Things. Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman. M.C. Mah is a writer in Brooklyn. Samantha Hunt, author of Mr. Splitfoot. Crystal Hana Kim, author of If You Leave Me. Colin Winnette, author of The Job of the Wasp. Laila Lalami, author of The Other Americans. Brian Phillips, author of Impossible Owls. Lauren Wilkinson, author of American Spy. Jianan Qian, The Millions staff writer. Hannah Gersen, The Millions staff writer and author of Home Field. Il’ja Rákoš, The Millions staff writer. Edan Lepucki, The Millions staff writer and author of Woman No. 17. Marie Myung-Ok Lee, The Millions staff writer. Nick Moran, The Millions special projects editor. Jordy Rosenberg, author of Confessions of the Fox. Angela Garbes, author of Like a Mother. Neel Patel, author of If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi. Hernán Diaz, author of In the Distance. Adrienne Celt, author of Invitation to a Bonfire. Donald Quist, author of For Other Ghosts. Lisa Halliday, author of Asymmetry. Ayşegül Savaş, author of Walking on the Ceiling. Octavio Solis, author of Retablos: Stories From a Life Lived Along the Border. Namwali Serpell, author of The Old Drift. Chelsey Johnson, author of Stray City. Daniel Torday, author of The Last Flight of Poxl West. May-lee Chai, author of Useful Phrases for Immigrants. Casey Gerald, author of There Will Be No Miracles Here. Etaf Rum, author of A Woman Is No Man. Lucy Tan, author of What We Were Promised. Do you love Year in Reading and the amazing books and arts content that The Millions produces year round? We are asking readers for support to ensure that The Millions can stay vibrant for years to come. Please click here to learn about several simple ways you can support The Millions now. Don't miss: A Year in Reading 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 [millions_ad]
The Costa Book Awards announced their 2018 shortlist. The award, which honors works by UK- and Ireland-based authors, is given in five categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry, and Children’s Book. Each shortlist category included four nominees. The First Novel category included the following fiction debuts: Pieces of Me by Natalie Hart; An Unremarkable Body by Elisa Lodato; The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton; and Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson. The Novel category included the following nominees: The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker; The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman; Normal People by Sally Rooney; and From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan. Winners in each category, as well as the overall Costa Book of the Year, will be announced in January. [millions_ad]
The Aspen Words Literary Prize announced their 2019 longlist today. The prize, which operates out of the Aspen Institute, awards $35,000 annually to "an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture." The prize was awarded for the first time last year; books must be published between January 1 2018 and December 31 2018 to be eligible. This year's longlist finalists are: Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (our interview with Adjei-Brenyah) The Boat People by Sharon Bala Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley (our interview with Brinkley; Brinkley's 2017 Year in Reading) America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo (seen in our April Book Preview) Brother by David Chariandy (featured in Claire Cameron's 2017 Year in Reading) Gun Love by Jennifer Clement Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi Small Country by Gaël Faye Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Jones' 2017 Year in Reading) The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon (Kwon's 2017 Year in Reading) Severance by Ling Ma Bring Out the Dog by Will Mackin There There by Tommy Orange (featured in our June Book Preview) If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (recommended by Lillian Li) The winner will be announced on April 11, 2019 in NYC.
The 2018 National Book Award winners were announced tonight in New York City. The big prize for Fiction went to The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. For the 69th Awards ceremony, host Nick Offerman's opening remarks were rife with innuendo and earnest musings on the importance of literature. In a nod to the night's finalists, Offerman remarked that this year's finalists including five debut authors and 10 titles published by independent presses. About the newly added category "Translated Literature," Offerman quipped: "Suck on that, Muslim ban." The award in the Young People’s Literature category went to The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. The inaugural award for Translated Literature went to The Emissary by Yoko Tawada; translated by Margaret Mitsutani (Bonus: Tawada's 2017 Year in Reading). The Poetry award was won by Justin Phillip Reed for Indecency. The Nonfiction award went to The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke by Jeffrey C. Stewart. Bonus Links: Earlier in the year we dove into both the Shortlist and the Longlist to share excerpts and reviews where available.
The Baillie Gifford Prize (previously the Samuel Johnson Prize), which celebrates the best in non-fiction writing, awarded the 2018 prize to Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe by Serhii Plokhy. Chernobyl recounts the story behind the worst nuclear disaster in history: on April 26, 1986, a reactor at the Chernobyl power plant in Soviet Ukraine exploded, putting everyone on the planet at risk of nuclear annihilation. Plokhy examines the variety of factors that made Chernobyl possible, including a deeply flawed nuclear industry and the Soviet political system that created it. The judges praised Chernobyl for its precise account of a nuclear disaster and its exploration of the event's long-lasting implications. Said official judge Fiammetta Rocco, Chernobyl "is about political cynicisms, scientific ignorance, and the importance of holding people to account. It's an incredibly moral book."
We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semi–annual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around). Here’s what we’re looking out for this month. Find more November titles at our Great Second-Half Preview, and let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments! NOVEMBER All the Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy: This is Roy’s latest offering after a powerful showing in Sleeping on Jupiter, which was longlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2015. This novel centers around Myshkin, a boy whose life is changed when his mother elopes—no, vanishes—with a German man who appears naked at a river near their house one day and insists he has come for her after first meeting her in Bali. The novel follows the anamnesis of what happened, and his ruminations on its effect on his life. Already published in Britain, the novel has been called “elegiac,” compelling, and powerful, among other things. Conceived during a time Roy spent in Bali—at a festival where I had the pleasure of meeting her in 2015—this is an affecting novel. Readers should look for a conversation between Roy and me on this site around publication date. (Chigozie) Evening in Paradise by Lucia Berlin: Can you remember a better short story collection in recent years than Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women? I can’t. Maybe once a week I think about that dentist, ripping his own teeth out in front of his granddaughter. Now, Berlin’s estate is back with even more stories, this time all previously uncompiled. In the case of a less talented writer, I’d be worried about publishers scraping the barrel. But with Berlin, there are surely unplucked molars. (Nick M.) Insurrecto by Gina Apostol: A story that takes across time and place in the Philippines, from the American occupation to the Duterte era, by the winner of the PEN Open Book Award for Gun Dealer’s Daughter. Publishers Weekly calls the novel a "pyrotechnical marvel" and named it one of the best books of 2018. (And don’t miss Apostol’s astute essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books on Francine Prose and textual appropriation.) (Lydia) The End of the End of the Earth by Jonathan Franzen: Today Franzen is best known as a novelist—even a “Great American Novelist”—but it’s worth noting that he first appeared on many readers’ radar with his 1996 Harper’s essay “Perchance to Dream” about the difficulties of writing fiction in an age of images. Franzen’s essays, like his novels, can be a mixed bag, but he is a man perennially interested in interesting things that others overlook, such as, in this book, the global devastation of seabirds by predators and climate change. (Michael) My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: As the title makes clear, the Nigerian writer Oyinkan Braithwaite’s first novel is a dark comedy of sibling rivalry. The beautiful Ayoola leads a charmed life, and thanks to the cleanup efforts of her older sister, Korede, she suffers no repercussions from killing a string of boyfriends. Korede’s loyalty is tested, however, when a man close to her heart asks out her sister. Film producers are already getting in on the fun, as Working Title has optioned what the publisher calls a “hand grenade of a novel.” (Matt) Those Who Knew by Idra Novey: Following up her debut novel, Ways to Disappear, Novey's latest tells the story of a woman who suspects a senator's hand in the death of a young woman on an unnamed island. The great Rebecca Traister says the book "speaks with uncommon prescience to the swirl around us. Novey writes, with acuity and depth, about questions of silence, power, and complicity. The universe she has created is imagined, and all too real." (Lydia) Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants by Mathias Énard (translated by Charlotte Mandell): From the author of the brilliant, Prix Goncourt-winning Compass, a work of historical fiction that follows Michelangelo to the Ottoman Empire, where he is considering a commission from the Sultan to build a bridge across the Golden Horn. The novel promises to continue Énard’s deep, humanistic explorations of the historical and ongoing connections between Europe and Asia, Islamdom and Christendom. (Lydia) The April 3rd Incident by Yu Hua (translated by Allan H. Barr): A collection of his best early stories from a pioneer in China’s 1980 avant-garde literary movement, renowned for approaching realist subject matters through unconventional techniques. In his writings, reality is punctured and estranged, leading up to a new look at things familiar. Yu Hua is one of the best acclaimed contemporary Chinese authors. His previous works include China in Ten Words, Brothers, and the stunning To Live. (Jianan) The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem: Charles Heist lives in a trailer in the desert outside L.A. and keeps his pet opossum in a desk drawer. Phoebe Siegler is a sarcastic motormouth looking for a friend’s missing daughter. Together, they explore California’s sun-blasted Inland Empire, searching for the girl among warring encampments of hippies and vagabonds living off the grid. In other words, we’re in Lethemland, where characters have implausible last names, genre tropes are turned inside out, and no detective is complete without a pet opossum. The Patch by John McPhee: McPhee’s seventh collection of essays is finely curated, as expected for an essayist who lives and breathes structure. Essays on the sporting life fill the first part; the second includes shorter, previously uncollected pieces. The collection’s titular essay is an elegiac classic, which begins with the pursuit of chain pickerel in New Hampshire but soon becomes an essay about his dying father. McPhee flawlessly moves from gravity to levity, as in his writing about the Hershey chocolate factory. Such pieces are tastes of his willingness to let the world around him just be and to marvel at mysteries of all variety: “Pools and pools and pools of chocolate—fifty-thousand-pound, ninety-thousand-pound, Olympic-length pools of chocolate—in the conching rooms...Slip a little spatula in there and see how it tastes. Waxy? Claggy? Gritty? Mild? Taste it soft. That is the way to get the flavor.” One wishes John McPhee would write about everything, his words an introduction to all of life’s flavors. (Nick R.) Useful Phrases for Immigrants by May-lee Chai: Winner of the Doris Bakwin Award selected by Tayari Jones, Chai's collection comprises eight stories detailing life in a globalized world. Edward P. Jones called Useful Phrases "a splendid gem of a story collection...Complementing the vivid characters, the reader has the gift of language―‘a wind so treacherous it had its own name,' 'summer days stretched taffy slow'....Chai's work is a grand event." (Lydia) A Stranger's Pose by Emmanuel Iduma: From Cassava Republic Press, a new Nigerian publishing powerhouse that recently opened up a U.S. office, comes a collection of travel essays describing the New York-residing, Nigerian-born Iduma's peregrinations through over twenty African cities (read an excerpt from the collection here at the site). "I want this book to occupy the space between home and disapora," Iduma narrates in a lovely trailer for the book. The collection also features a foreword by Teju Cole. (Lydia) The Naked Woman by Armonía Somers (translated by Kit Maude): First published 50 years ago, this is Somers' (1914–1994) first work translated into English. The novella follows one woman's feminist awakening and the ways her transformation leads a rural village to ruin with violent desire. About the novel, Carmen Maria Machado wrote: “I am so grateful that a new generation will be able to read this surreal, nightmarish book about women’s struggle for autonomy—and how that struggle is (always, inevitably) met with violence.” (Carolyn) Death and Other Holidays by Marci Vogel: Winner of the inaugural Miami Book Fair/de Groot Prize for Best Novella, Vogel's debut follows April, the 27-year-old narrator, as she grieves her stepfather's death over the course of one year. In a starred review, Kirkus called it "a moving and graceful novella of overcoming sorrow." (Carolyn) In/Half by Jasmin B. Frelih (translated by Jason Blake): First published in 2013 in Slovenian, Frelih's debut novel won the 2016 European Union Prize for Literature. Set twenty-five years in the future, the experimental, post-modern novel follows three millennials as they navigate a crumbling world and attempt to find their place in an unrecognizable world. Publisher's Weekly wrote the novel "sustains its ghostly, ethereal tone and will be appreciated by readers looking for a mind-bending puzzle." (Carolyn) Northwood by Maryse Meijer: A genre-bending novella written in short, formally-transgressive passages. Imbued with myths, fairy tales, and horror, the book follows a young woman who flees to the woods to pursue her artwork and what happens when she falls in love with a violent, married man. Samantha Hunt writes "Meijer has made her own form, something new and wide-open, something as blissful and broken as the language of lovesickness itself.” (Carolyn)
Anna Burns' Milkman has won the 2018 Man Booker Prize, which makes her the first Northern Irish winner in the prize's history—and breaks the dreaded potential outcome: three straight years of U.S. winners. Set in an unnamed city with unnamed characters, the novel focuses on middle sister as she "navigates her way through rumour, social pressures and politics in a tight-knit community." About her own novel, Burns told the Man Booker website that "‘The book didn’t work with names. It lost power and atmosphere and turned into a lesser — or perhaps just a different — book. In the early days I tried out names a few times, but the book wouldn’t stand for it. The narrative would become heavy and lifeless and refuse to move on until I took them out again. Sometimes the book threw them out itself’." In a unanimous decision, Kwame Anthony Appiah, the Booker's chair of judges, said the experimental novel—which is a novel about a young woman being sexually harassed by a powerful man—was "incredible original" and that "none of us has ever read anything like this before." Here are the authors that made this year's short and long lists.
The National Book Foundation announced the National Book Award finalists today on Buzzfeed News' AM to DM. Each category - fiction, nonfiction, poetry, young people's literature, and (the newest one) translated literature - has been narrowed down from the longlist ten to the finalist five. The awards will be revealed in New York City and online on November 14. Here’s a list of the finalists in all five categories with bonus links where available: Fiction: A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley (Our interview with Brinkley; Brinkley's 2017 Year in Reading) Florida by Lauren Groff (Our review; The Millions interview with Groff) Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson (Featured in our February Book Preview) The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (Our interview with Makkai) The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (Nunez's 2010 Year in Reading) Nonfiction: The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation by Colin G. Calloway American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic by Victoria Johnson Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh (Smarsh's 2017 Year in Reading) The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke by Jeffrey C. Stewart We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights by Adam Winkler Poetry: Wobble by Rae Armantrout American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes (Our review) Ghost Of by Diana Khoi Nguyen Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed Eye Level by Jenny Xie (ft. in our April Must-Read Poetry preview) Translated Literature: Disoriental by Négar Djavadi; translated by Tina Kover (Featured in our 2018 Great Book Preview) Love by Hanne Ørstavik; translated by Martin Aitken Trick by Domenico Starnone; translated by Jhumpa Lahiri (An essay on learning new languages) The Emissary by Yoko Tawada; translated by Margaret Mitsutani (Tawada's 2017 Year in Reading) Flights by Olga Tokarczuk; translated by Jennifer Croft (Our review; 2018 Man Booker International Prize) Young People's Literature: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin (Our three-part conversation from 2009 with Anderson) The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka