By Ashly Moore Sheldon • October 10, 2021
First awarded in 1950, the National Book Awards are granted to authors in five distinct categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translation, and young people's literature. Last year's winners included Charles Yu's Interior Chinatown and Kacen Callender's King and the Dragonflies, as well as The Dead are Arising, a Malcolm X biography by father-daughter team Les and Tamara Payne. Here are this year's five finalists for each category.
A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance
In this collection of essays, Hanif Abdurraqib offers an exploration on how Black performance is inextricably woven into the fabric of American culture.
Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains
Anthropologist Lucas Bessire's intimate reckoning with environmental change in the place where five generations of his family have lived as farmers and ranchers.
Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America
An absorbing chronicle by Nicole Eustace examining a little-known, yet pivotal, act of brutality that challenged the definition of justice in colonial America.
All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake
Renowned historian Tiya Miles traces an object handed down through three generations of Black women, from slavery and into the twentieth century.
The Sunflower Cast A Spell to Save Us From The Void
By sharing her personal index of dreams with scenes of solidarity and resilience, Jackie Wang embodies historical trauma and communal memory.
When We Cease to Understand the World
Chilean author Benjamín Labatut imagines the lives of real-life scientists and thinkers whose discoveries wreaked substantial moral consequences. Translation by Adrian Nathan West.
The Legend of Auntie Po
By Shing Yin Khor, this is the story of thirteen-year-old Mei, working in a Sierra Nevada logging camp in 1885 and telling stories about Paul Bunyan—reinvented as a Chinese heroine.
Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party's Promise to the People
With passion and precision, Kekla Magoon relays an essential account of the Black Panthers as human rights advocates working to defend their community.
The winners, to be announced on November 17, will receive $10,000. In addition, the National Book Foundation bestows two lifetime achievement awards. This year's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters will be presented to groundbreaking Japanese-American author Karen Tei Yamashita and the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community will go to renowned Seattle librarian and author Nancy Pearl.