National Book Awards 2018 Longlists: Nonfiction and Poetry

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Politics, in many forms, have driven many selections on the nonfiction longest of the National Book Awards in the US, and the poetry longest includes a number of award-winning writers.

The National Book Awards’ 2018 longlisted titles in nonfiction

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

Many Shades of Politics in Nonfiction
Continuing today (September 13) with its three days of longlist announcements for the 2018 National Book Awards in the US, the National Book Foundation has announced its longlist in nonfiction and in poetry.

On Wednesday (September 12), it announced longlisted titles in its new new category of work translated into fiction and in young people’s literature. And on Friday (September 14), the organization will announce its fiction longlist for the 2018 awards cycle.

Finalists are to be named on October 10. The winners are to be announced November 14 at the invitation-only awards ceremony in New York City. Per the foundation’s arrangement with The New Yorker, it releases its lists first to the magazine, and then to the rest of the news media.

In nonfiction, publishers submitted a total 546 books for this year’s award. Jurors in this category include Rachel Cass, John Freeman, Annette Gordon-Reed (chair), Sarah Manguso, and Andrés Reséndez. In each of the categories in the National Book Awards program, jurors work independently of the foundation and their deliberations are strictly confidential.

S&S, Oxford University Press, Norton, PRH: Two Titles Each

The longlist is alphabetized by author:

  • Carol AndersonOne Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy, Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Colin G. CallowayThe Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation, Oxford University Press
  • Steve CollDirectorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Penguin Press Penguin Random House
  • Marwan Hisham and Molly CrabappleBrothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War, One World/Penguin Random House
  • Victoria JohnsonAmerican Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic, Liveright/W. W. Norton & Company 
  • David QuammenThe Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life, Simon & Schuster 
  • Sarah SmarshHeartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, Scribner/Simon & Schuster
  • Rebecca Solnit, Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays), Haymarket Books 
  • Jeffrey C. StewartThe New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, Oxford University Press
  • Adam Winkler, We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights, Liveright/W. W. Norton & Company

In points of interest provided by the National Book Foundation in its media messaging about this longlist:

  • Not surprisingly, politics—in many forms—drive many of the selections here made by Gordon-Reed and her fellow jurors.
  • Possibly the most impactful in terms of the current political cycle in the United States is One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy in which Carol Anderson follows recent changes in the electoral system, outlining ways in which gerrymandering, poll closures, and similar practices have effectively rolled back African-American voting participation in the past five years
  • In Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays), Rebecca Solnit offers meditations on environmental threats, police brutality and more
  • Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth is Sarah Smarsh’s memoir of growing up in 1980s Kansas, an explication of the much-touted disaffection of the nation’s “flyover country”
  • Steve Coll’s Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan “details a sprawling history of the United States’ involvement in the ongoing conflict in South Asia, from pre-9/11 to today,” according to media messaging
  • We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights is Adam Winkler’s account of corporate influence in the States, not least by evolving ways of emulating individuals’ rights for themselves
  • In Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War, Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple chronicle Hisham’s coming of age during the Syrian War, from the Arab Spring forward, with Crabapple’s illustrations
  • Historically contextualized political dynamics factor into Colin G. Calloway’s The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation and Victoria Johnson’s American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic about a surgeon at the turn of the 19th century whose work was important in pharmaceutical research
  • Jeffrey C. Stewart’s The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke examines a leader in the Harlem Renaissance
  • In science, The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life is David Quammen’s book on cross-species gene mobility, which can affect “the way that science understands evolution, genetics, and the history of life itself”

National Book Awards 2018 Longlist in Poetry

The National Book Awards’ 2018 longlisted titles in poetry

In poetry, publishers submitted a total 256 books for the consideration of jurors Mary Jo Bang (chair), Ken Chen, Elise Paschen, Danez Smith, and Stephen Sparks.

The poetry includes a previous National Book Award Finalist, Rae Armantrout, and one winner, Terrance Hayes, who was also a finalist in 2015.

Overall, the group of 10 includes two Pulitzer Prize winners, a former US Poet Laureate, and multiple Walt Whitman Award winners and Whiting Award recipients. Their work has been supported by fellowships and grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Cave Canem, the Academy of American Poets, Poets & Writers, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Two of the longlist titles, feeld and Museum of the Americas, came to publication with the help of the 2017 National Poetry Series Competition, and Diana Khoi Nguyen’s Ghost Of was the winner of the Omnidawn 2016/17 Open Poetry Book Prize, selected by Terrance Hayes, a fellow 2018 longlister.

Seven Independent Presses, Two Titles From PRH

The longlist is alphabetized by poet:

  • Rae ArmantroutWobble, Wesleyan University Press
  • Jos Charlesfeeld, Milkweed Editions
  • Forrest GanderBe With, New Directions 
  • Terrance HayesAmerican Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, Penguin Books / Penguin Random House
  • J. Michael MartinezMuseum of the Americas, Penguin Books / Penguin Random House 
  • Diana Khoi NguyenGhost Of, Omnidawn Publishing 
  • Justin Phillip ReedIndecency, Coffee House Press
  • Raquel Salas Rivera, lo terciario / the tertiary, Timeless, Infinite Light
  •  Natasha TretheweyMonument: Poems New and Selected, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Jenny Xie, Eye Level, Graywolf Press

In points of interest provided by the National Book Foundation in its media messaging about this longlist:

  • Three familiar poets are represented by collections that look at the state of the nation including Pulitzer winner Rae Armantrout’s Wobble,  National Book Award winner Terrance Hayes’ American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, and the former US Poet Laureate (and Pulitzer winner) Nathasha Trethewey’s Monument: Poems New and Selected
  • In lo terciario / the tertiary Raquel Salas Riverare considers the work of Marx while working to process the ravages of colonization in the poet’s birthplace of Puerto Rico
  • Systemic hostility and the struggle against oppressive institutions are the focus of Justin Phillip Reed’s Indecency, which looks at masculinity, sexuality, racism, and more
  • Loss and mourning are at issue in Forrest Gander’s Be With Ghost Of from Diana Khoi Nguyen, the latter of whom “explores the liminality of mourning,” organizers say, “reaching out toward the memories and voids left behind by a lost loved one

More from Publishing Perspectives on the National Book Awards is here, and on awards programs in general is here

And our Summer Magazine is ready for your free download and is themed on politics and publishing.

It includes our extensive preview of Frankfurter Buchmesse. Download the PDF here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.

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