The US National Book Awards Program Names Its 2020 Longlists

In News by Porter Anderson

Longlisted authors and translators for all five categories of the National Book Awards’ 71st outing have been announced this week.

A shot from the usual setting of the National Book Awards ceremony at New York City’s Cipriani Wall Street. Image: National Book Foundation

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

Shortlists Are To Be Announced October 6
Released sequentially to a distracted world over the course of several days, a National Book Awards tradition, the longlists for the National Book Foundation’s 71st awards cycle can today (September 18) be seen together in all four categories.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the program’s two special awards were announced first. The late Carolyn Reidy has been named to receive the Literarian Award posthumously, and author Walter Mosley will be recognized with the 2020 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

What we list here today are the five book categories in which the awards are presented annually. The newest of the categories is Translated Literature—a welcome addition made under the executive direction of Lisa Lucas and the board leadership of David Steinberger.

The shortlists in all five categories are to be announced on October 6. Winners will be named live in the digital National Book Awards ceremony on November 18.

Winners receive US$10,000. In the case of the Translated Literature award, the author and translator split the money.

National Book Award Longlist: Translated Literature

Publishers submitted a total 130 titles for the Translated Literature award, which was inaugurated in 2018. Jurors for this category are Dinaw Mengestu (chair), Heather Cleary, John Darnielle, Anne Ishii, and Brad Johnson.

Author Translator Title Publisher, Imprint
Shokoofeh Azar Anonymous The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree Europa Editions
Linda Boström Knausgård Rachel Willson-Broyles The Helios Disaster World Editions
Anja Kampmann Anne Posten High as the Waters Rise Catapult
Jonas Hassen Khemiri Alice Menzies The Family Clause Macmillan / Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Fernanda Melchor Sophie Hughes Hurricane Season New Directions
Yu Miri Morgan Giles Tokyo Ueno Station Penguin Random House / Riverhead
Perumal Murugan N. Kalyan Raman The Story of a Goat Grove Atlantic / Black Cat
Cho Nam-Joo Jamie Chang Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 WW Norton / Liveright
Pilar Quintana Lisa Dillman The Bitch World Editions
Adania Shibli Elisabeth Jaquette Minor Detail New Directions
National Book Award Longlist: Fiction

Publishers submitted 388 books for consideration in this category. The jurors for this category are Roxane Gay (chair), Cristina Henríquez, Laird Hunt, Rebecca Makkai, and Keaton Patterson.

Author Title Publisher, Imprint
Rumaan Alam Leave the World Behind HarperCollins / Ecco
Christopher Beha The Index of Self-Destructive Acts Tin House
Brit Bennett The Vanishing Half Penguin Random House / Riverhead
Randall Kenan If I Had Two Wings WW Norton
Megha Majumdar A Burning Penguin Random House / Knopf
Lydia Millet A Children’s Bible WW Norton
Deesha Philyaw The Secret Lives of Church Ladies West Virginia University Press
Douglas Stuart Shuggie Bain Grove Press / Grove Atlantic
Vanessa Veselka The Great Offshore Grounds Penguin Random House / Knopf
Charles Yu Interior Chinatown Penguin Random House / Pantheon
National Book Award Longlist: Nonfiction

Publishers submitted 609 books for consideration in this category. The jurors for this category are Terry Tempest Williams (chair), James Goodman, Yunte Huang, Hannah Oliver Depp, and David Treuer.

Author Title Publisher, Imprint
Michelle Bowdler Is Rape a Crime?: A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto Macmillan / Flatiron
Karla Cornejo Villavicencio The Undocumented Americans  Penguin Random House / One World
Jill Lepore If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future WW Norton / Liveright
Les Payne, Tamara Payne The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X WW Norton / Liveright
Claudio Saunt Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory WW Norton
Jenn Shapland My Autobiography of Carson McCullers Tin House
Jonathan C. Slaght Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl  Macmillan / Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Jerald Walker How To Make a Slave and Other Essays Ohio State University / Mad Creek
Frank B. Wilderson III Afropessimism WW Norton / Liveright
Isabel Wilkerson Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents Penguin Random House / Random House
National Book Award Longlist: Young People’s Literature

Publishers submitted 311 books for consideration in this category. The jurors for this category are Joan Trygg (chair), Randy Ribay, Neal Shusterman, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Colleen AF Venable.

Author Title Publisher, Imprint
Kacen Callendar King and the Dragonflies Scholastic
Traci Chee We Are Not Free Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Evette Dionne Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box Pentuin Random House / Viking for Young Readers
Eric Gansworth Apple (Skin to the Core) Levine Querido
Candice Iloh Every Body Looking Penguin Random House / Dutton for Young Readers
Victoria Jamieson, Omar Mohamed When Stars Are Scattered Penguin Random House / Dial for Young Readers
Marcella Pixley Trowbridge Road  Candlewick Press
John Rocco How We Got to the Moon Penguin Random House / Crown for Young Readers
Gavriel Savit The Way Back Penguin Random House / Knopf for Young Readers
Aiden Thomas Cemetery Boys Macmillan / Swoon
National Book Award Longlist: Poetry

Publishers submitted 254 books for consideration in this category. The jurors for this category are  Layli Long Soldier (Chair), Rigoberto González, John Hennessy, Diana Khoi Nguyen, and Elizabeth Willis.

Author Title Publisher, Imprint
Rick Barot The Galleons Milkweed Editions
Mei-mei Berssenbrugge A Treatise on Stars New Directions
Lillian-Yvonne Bertram Travesty Generator Noemi Press
Tommye Blount Fantasia for the Man in Blue Four Way Books
Victoria Chang Obit Copper Canyon Press
Don Mee Choi DMZ Colony Wave
Anthony Cody Borderland Apocrypha Omnidawn
Eduardo C. Corral Ghuillotine Graywolf
Natalie Diaz Postcolonial Love Poem Graywolf
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers The Age of Phyllis Wesleyan University Press

Below is a retrospective video on the first 70 years of the National Book Awards program, from the National Book Foundation.

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

More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

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.