National Book Critics Circle Award Finalists Announced

The National Book Critics Circle announced their 2018 Award Finalists, and the winners of three awards: the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, John Leonard Prize, and Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

The finalists include 31 writers across six different categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, Autobiography, Fiction, Poetry, and Criticism. Here are the finalists separated by genre:

Milkman by Anna Burns (winner of the Man Booker Prize)
Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau (translated by Linda Coverdale)
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú (part of our 2018 Great Book Preview)
Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Steve Coll
The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights by Adam Winkler
God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright

Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous by Christopher Bonanos
Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown
Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang
The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century by Mark Lamster
The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created by Jane Leavy

The Day That Went Missing: A Family’s Story by Richard Beard
All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung
What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth: A Memoir of Brotherhood by Rigoberto Gonzalez
Belonging: A German Reckons With History and Home by Nora Krug
Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over by Nell Painter
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes (read our review)
The Carrying by Ada Limón (found in our August 2018 Must-Read Poetry list)
Holy Moly Carry Me by Erika Meitner
Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl by Diane Seuss
Asymmetry by Adam Zagajewski (translated by Clare Cavanagh)

Is It Still Good to Ya?: Fifty Years of Rock Criticism, 1967-2017 by Robert Christgau
Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics by Stephen Greenblatt
To Float in the Space Between: A Life and Work in Conversation with the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight by Terrance Hayes
The Reckonings: Essays by Lacy M. Johnson
Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith (found in our February 2018 Monthly Book Preview)

Here are the winners of the three stand-alone awards: Arte Público Press won the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award for their contributions to book culture. Maureen Corrigan won the Nona Balakin Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Tommy Orange’s There There won the John Leonard Prize for a first book in any genre. (Read Orange’s 2018 Year in Reading entry).

The winners of the National Book Critics Circle awards will be announced on March 14, 2019.

2018 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize Announced

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.

2018 Costa Book Awards Shortlist Announced

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.

2019 Aspen Words Literary Prize Longlist Announced

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.

2018 National Book Award Winners Announced

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.

Serhii Plokhy Wins the 2018 Baillie Gifford Prize

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.”


Anna Burns Wins the 2018 Man Booker Prize

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.


2018 National Book Awards Finalists Announced

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:


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)


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


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 review2018 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

2018 Baillie Gifford Prize Shortlist Announced

The Baillie Gifford Prize (previously the Samuel Johnson Prize), which celebrates the best of non-fiction writing, announced their shortlist last week. The nominees’ works explored topics such identity, gender, algorithmic governing, and geopolitical dynamics through history, popular science, and memoir. The award will be announced on November 14.

This year’s shortlist includes the following six titles:

Hello World: How to be Human in The Age of The Machine by Hannah Fry
The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre
Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man by Thomas Page McBee
Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age by Stephen R Platt
Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe by Serhii Plokhy
She Has Her Mother’s Laugh:  The Powers, Perversions and Potential of Heredity by Carl Zimmer

2018’s Literary Geniuses

This year’s “Genius grant” winners have been announced. The MacArthur grant awards $625,000 “no strings attached” to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Alongside scientists, artists and scholars are some newly minted geniuses with a literary focus. This year’s literary geniuses are:

Natalie Diaz is a poet who connects her experiences as a Mojave American and Latina woman to cultural and mythological systems of belief and Indigenous love in America. Her first collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec (2012), focuses on her brother’s drug addiction and her childhood on the reservation. Manuel Gonzalez described the collection as “stellar” in his Year in Reading 2016, and Nick Ripatrazone, in his Must-Read Poetry 2018, said this about her poem, included in the New Poets of Native Nations (ed. Heid E. Erdrich): “And then there’s Natalie Diaz, who will stop you, sit you right up: “Native Americans make up less than / one percent of the population of America. / 0.8 percent of 100 percent. / O, mine efficient country.”

John Keene  is a translator and writer of fiction, poetry, and cultural criticism whose work includes Annotations (1995), a semi-autobiographical novel and essay collection about coming of age as a black, queer, middle-class child in 1970s and ’80s-era St. Louis, and Counternarratives (2015), a book of stories and novellas that Katrina Dodson described in her Year in Reading 2015 as a collection of “hypnotic, quasi-historical tales” jumping between various hubs of the New World in their examination of the legacies of slavery and colonialism. 

Kelly Link, short story writer, is described by the MacArthur Foundation as “pushing the boundaries of literary fiction in works that draw on genres such as fantasy, science fiction, and horror while also engaging fully with the concerns and emotional realism of contemporary life.” Her work includes Stranger Things Happen (2001), which Arthur Phillips described as “funny and bookish, charming and ghoulish, original even when she’s referential,” and Get in Trouble (2015), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. (You can read her conversation about it with Keith Lee Morris here.) In our interview with Link, she discussed the weirdness of the Florida landscape and the ways that writers’ particular strengths are the result of the way in which they see the world: “the things they notice, the kinds of rhythms or structures that they are drawn toward.” She runs Small Beer Press with her husband, Gavin Grant.

Dominique Morisseau is a playwright who has examined the complicated realities of urban black communities, most recently in her trilogy, The Detroit Project, inspired by August Wilson’s Century Cycle. The trilogy is composed of Detroit ’67 (2013), Paradise Blue (2015), and Skeleton Crew (2016), the last of which is set in an automotive stamping plant during the 2008 recession. In an interview with The Millions, Morisseau discussed her intention to “contribute a different Detroit narrative,” one in which its inhabitants appear as “more than sound bites.” Bill Morris described the ways in which “calamity is always hovering in Morisseau’s Detroit,” where the question “is how her Detroiters will retain their dignity and their humanity in the face of forces that yearn to crush them.”