US National Book Awards 2021 Longlist: Fiction

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Five of the 10 authors on the National Book Award longlist in fiction have been honored in various stages of the program—and in the poetry category—in the past.

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

See also: The National Book Awards 2021 Longlist for Translated Literature
and for Young People’s Literature

Three of 10 Titles Are Debuts
As we continue to publish the longlists released by the United States’ National Book Foundation for this year’s National Book Awards, we look today at the longlist for fiction.

Of course, fiction tends to have the broadest interest in book and publishing competitions. One of the most useful elements of the National Book Foundation’s Fiction category (one of five) in its program is the fact that much of the content honored here is literary.

Reflecting the value of fiction as one of five categories in the National Book awards, publishers submitted a total of 415 books for the 2021 competition.

Three of the 10 National Book Award nominees in this category are debut publications. Those are the novels by Jakob Guanzon, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, and Robert Jones Jr.

You’ll recognize Richard Powers’ Bewilderment (WW Norton) as one of the three American-authored shortlisted novels for Booker Prize for Fiction in the United Kingdom (which names its winner two weeks ahead of the National Book Awards this year, on November 3).

Previous attention from the National Book Awards program has gone to Powers, who was longlisted in 2014, a finalist in 1993, and a winner in 2006 for The Echo Maker. Author Lauren Goff has been named a finalist in 2015 and in 2018. Elizabeth McCracken was longlisted in 2014 and a finalist in 1996. And Anthony Doerr was a finalist in 2014.

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers was longlisted in 2020, but in the Poetry category rather than Fiction, for her collection The Age of Phillis.

Jurors in this category this year are Luis Alberto Urrea (Chair), Alan Michael Parker, Emily Pullen, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, and Charles Yu, whose biting satire Interior Chinatown (Penguin Random House / Pantheon) won the fiction award last year, and whose acceptance speech was an extraordinary blend of profound surprise and charismatic grace.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, winners in all categories will be announced live at the National Book Awards Ceremony on November 17.

Fiction 2021 Longlist
Author Title Publisher / Imprint
Anthony Doerr Cloud Cuckoo Land Simon & Schuster / Scribner
Lauren Groff Matrix Penguin Random House / Riverhead Books
Jakob Guanzon Abundance Graywolf Press
Laird Hunt Zorrie Bloomsbury Publishing
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois HarperCollins / Harper
Robert Jones Jr. The Prophets Penguin Random House / GP Putnam’s Sons
Katie Kitamura Intimacies Penguin Random House / Riverhead Books
Elizabeth McCracken The Souvenir Museum: Stories HarperCollins: Ecco
Jason Mott Hell of a Book Penguin Random House / Dutton
Richard Powers Bewilderment WW Norton & Company

As always, the jury’s decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and board of directors and 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 fiction is here.

More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

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.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As 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.

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