US National Book Award’s 20 Finalists Are Named: Four Categories

In News by Porter Anderson

Five finalists are named in each of four categories for a total 20 contenders for National Book Award. Winners will be announced in mid-November.

On the top row are the five finalists for the 2017 National Book Award in fiction. On the lower row, finalists in nonfiction.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Four of the 20 Titles Are Debuts
Continuing its busy season of prize news releases, the United States’ National Book Award Foundation has released its National Book Awards shortlists. The program’s terminology for this is “finalists,” rather than shortlists. The news today (October 4) comprises finalist announcements in four categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature.

Each category’s finalists are selected by a panel that includes a former winner of the National Book Awards. Those jurors are:

  • 2011 National Book Award Winner Jesmyn Ward for fiction
  • 1973 Winner and 1980 Finalist Frances FitzGerald for nonfiction
  • Five-time Finalist Frank Bidart for poetry
  • 2009 and 2010 Finalist Rita Williams-Garcia for young people’s literature

The foundation fields very strong selection panels. In fiction this year, for example, the jurors are Alexander Chee, Dave Eggers, Annie Philbrick, Karolina Waclawiak, and Jacqueline Woodson.

In its brief discussion of this year’s awards process, the foundation tells members of the media that publishers submitted a total 1,529 books for this year’s National Book Awards: 394 in fiction, 553 in nonfiction, 245 in poetry, and 337 in young people’s literature.

Winners will be announced on November 15 at the annual dinner at Cipriani Wall Street in Manhattan. As covered earlier by Publishing Perspectives, author Annie Proulx and Scholastic’s Dick Robinson are to be honored with lifetime achievement recognitions.

On the top row are 2017 finalists for the National Book Award in poetry. On the lower row, in young people’s literature

2017 National Book Award Finalists


  • Elliot Ackerman, Dark at the Crossing (Knopf / Penguin Random House)
  • Lisa Ko, The Leavers (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill / Workman Publishing)
  • Min Jin Lee, Pachinko (Grand Central Publishing / Hachette Book Group)
  • Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties: Stories (Graywolf Press)
  • Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing (Scribner / Simon & Schuster)


  • Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge (37 INK / Atria / Simon & Schuster)
  • Frances FitzGerald, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America (Simon & Schuster)
  • Masha Gessen, The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia (Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House)
  • David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (Doubleday / Penguin Random House)
  • Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (Viking / Penguin Random House)


  • Frank Bidart, Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers)
  • Leslie Harrison, The Book of Endings (University of Akron Press)
  • Layli Long Soldier, WHEREAS (Graywolf Press)
  • Shane McCrae, In the Language of My Captor (Wesleyan University Press)
  • Danez Smith, Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems (Graywolf Press)

Young People’s Literature

  • Elana K. Arnold, What Girls Are Made Of (Carolrhoda Lab / Lerner Publishing Group)
  • Robin Benway, Far from the Tree (HarperTeen / HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Erika L. Sánchez, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House)
  • Rita Williams-Garcia, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground (Amistad / HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Ibi Zoboi, American Street (Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins Publishers)

To be eligible for a 2017 National Book Award, a book must have been published in the United States between December 1, 2016 and November 30 of this year. The author must e  and must have been written by a US citizen.

Judges’ decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors; deliberations are strictly confidential.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.