US National Book Awards Finalists: This Year Including Translations

In News by Porter Anderson

As the 2018 Frankfurter Buchmesse continues with its trade visitors days, special interest in the international industry is going to the new category for translated literature, opened by the 2018  National Book Awards program in America.

This year sees the addition of a new category in the States’ National Book Awards program,

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

Five Catetories This Year
The 25 shortlisted titles—referred to as finalists in National Book Foundation terminology—have been announced this week during Frankfurter Buchmesse for the United States’ 2018 National Book Awards.

They were selected by literary specialists and were advanced from the longlists announced in September, as covered by Publishing Perspectives.

This year there are five categories, as the newly created National Book Award in Translated Literature goes through its first cycle.

As Publishing Perspectives wrote at the end of January on the announcement of this newly created category, the new National Book Award for Translated Literature is not unlike the Man Booker International Prize, which similarly recognizes work translated into English and published in the UK.

Also like the Man Booker International (which is a different prize from the Man Booker Prize for Fiction), the new American award honors both a winning book’s author and translator, and is intended, according to the organization’s messaging to the press, “to broaden readership for global voices and spark dialogue around international stories.”

2018 National Book Award Finalists


  • Jamel BrinkleyA Lucky Man, Graywolf Press
  • Lauren GroffFlorida, Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House
  • Brandon HobsonWhere the Dead Sit Talking, Soho Press
  • Rebecca MakkaiThe Great Believers, Viking Books / Penguin Random House
  • Sigrid Nunez, The Friend, Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House


  • Colin G. CallowayThe Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation, Oxford University Press
  • Victoria JohnsonAmerican Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic, Liveright/W. W. Norton & Company 
  • Sarah SmarshHeartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, Scribner/Simon & Schuster
  • 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


  • Rae ArmantroutWobble, Wesleyan University Press
  • Terrance HayesAmerican Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, Penguin Books / Penguin Random House
  • Diana Khoi NguyenGhost Of, Omnidawn Publishing 
  • Justin Phillip ReedIndecency, Coffee House Press
  • Jenny Xie, Eye Level, Graywolf Press

Translated Literature

  • Négar DjavadiDisoriental, translated by Tina Kover, Europa Editions
  • Hanne ØrstavikLove, translated by Martin Aitken, Archipelago Books
  • Domenico StarnoneTrick, translated by Jhumpa Lahiri, Europa Editions
  • Yoko Tawada, The Emissary, translated by Margaret Mitsutani, New Directions Publishing 
  • Olga TokarczukFlights, translated by Jennifer Croft, Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House

Young People’s Literature

  • Elizabeth AcevedoThe Poet X, HarperTeen/HarperCollins Publishers
  • MT Anderson and Eugene YelchinThe Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, Candlewick Press
  • Leslie ConnorThe Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Publishers
  • Christopher Paul CurtisThe Journey of Little Charlie, Scholastic Press/Scholastic, Inc.
  • Jarrett J. KrosoczkaHey, Kiddo, Graphix/Scholastic, Inc.
Winners Announced November 14

Publishers are reported by the National Book Foundation to have submitted a total of 1,637 books for this year’s National Book Awards, and they break out, by award category this way:

  • 368 in fiction
  • 546 in nonfiction
  • 256 in poetry
  • 142 in translated literature
  • 325 in young people’s literature

And five of the shortlisted writers have been previously honored by the National Book Awards: MT Anderson, Rae Armantrout, Lauren Groff, Terrance Hayes, and Jhumpa Lahiri.

The winners are to be will be announced on November 14 at the 69th National Book Awards ceremony and benefit dinner at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.

Two lifetime achievement awards will also be presented at the awards dinner, also as Publishing Perspectives has reported: Isabel Allende will be recognized with the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by Luís Alberto Urrea, and Doron Weber will receive the Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Contribution to the American Literary Community, presented by Margot Lee Shetterly.

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

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

Download our Publishing Perspectives Show Dailies published at Frankfurter Buchmesse so far this week. 

Download the Wednesday Show Daily Download the Thursday Show Daily


And watch for Friday’s edition when you arrive at the book fair tomorrow, October 12.

Join us at 10:30 a.m. Friday for our Publishing Perspectives Talk with augmented reality specialist Galit Ariel, on the International Stage, Hall 5.1, A128.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson 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 (Fellow, 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.