The US National Book Awards Announce the 2021 Finalists

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The New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment points out that 20 of the 25 finalists were written or published in the city.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Conny Pokorny

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

New York City Adds Its Congratulations

See also: The National Book Awards 2021 Longlists  are here for Translated Literature, for Young People’s Literature, for Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry.

Today (October 5), the National Book Foundation has announced its 25 finalists across five categories’ shortlists in the 2021 National Book Awards, the 72nd presentation of these influential honors.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, each of the categories’ 10 longlisted titles were announced during September.

The foundation points out that among the five categories, there are five writers and two translators who have been previously honored by the National Book Awards:

  • Hanif Abdurraqib, a 2019 nonfiction longlister
  • Anthony Doerr, a 2014 fiction finalist
  • Nona Fernández and Natasha Wimmer, both 2019 translated literature longlisters
  • Lauren Groff, twice a finalist for fiction in 2015 and in 2018
  • Kekla Magoon, a 2015 young people’s literature longlister
  • Leri Price, a 2019 translated literature finalist

All five of the finalists for Poetry are first-time National Book Award honorees. Four of the twenty-five finalists are debuts.

In the aggregate, publishers submitted a total 1,892 books for this year’s National Book Awards:

  • 415 in fiction
  • 679 in nonfiction
  • 290 in poetry
  • 164 in translated literature
  • 344 in young people’s literature

Winners of the 2021 National Book Awards are to be announced on November 17. In that program, the two lifetime achievement winners for this year will also be honored:

  • Karen Tei Yamashita will be recognized with the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Nancy Pearl will receive the Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, presented by Ron Charles
Fiction: 2021 National Book Award Finalists
Author Title Publisher / Imprint
Anthony Doerr Cloud Cuckoo Land Simon & Schuster / Scribner
Lauren Groff Matrix Penguin Random House / Riverhead Books
Laird Hunt Zorrie Bloomsbury Publishing
Robert Jones Jr. The Prophets Penguin Random House / GP Putnam’s Sons
Jason Mott Hell of a Book Penguin Random House / Dutton
Nonfiction: 2021 National Book Award Finalists
Author Title Publisher / Imprint
Hanif Abdurraqib A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance Penguin Random House / Random House
Lucas Bessire Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains Princeton University Press
Grace M. Cho Tastes Like War: A Memoir Feminist Press at the City University of New York (CUNY)
Nicole Eustace Covered With Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America WW Norton / Liveright
Tiya Miles All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake Penguin Random House / Random House
Poetry: 2021 National Book Award Finalists
Author Title Publisher / Imprint
Desiree C. Bailey What Noise Against the Cane Yale University Press
Martin Espada Floaters WW Norton & Company
Douglas Kearney Sho Wave Books
Hoa Nguyen A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure Wave Books
Jackie Wang The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us From the Void Nightboat Books
Translated Literature: 2021 National Book Award Finalists
Author Title Original Language Translator Publisher / Imprint
Elisa Shua Dusapin Winter in Sokcho French Aneesa Abbas Higgins Open Letter
Ge Fei Peach Blossom Paradise Chinese Canaan Morse New York Review Books
Nona Fernández The Twilight Zone Spanish Natasha Wimmer Graywolf Press
Benjamin Labatut When We Cease To Understand the World Spanish Adrian Nathan West New York Review Books
Samar Yazbek Planet of Clay Arabic Leri Price World Editions
Young People’s Literature: National Book Award Finalists
Author Title Publisher / Imprint
Shing Yin Khor The Legend of Auntie Po Penguin Random House / Kokila
Malinda Lo Last Night at the Telegraph Club Penguin Random House / Dutton Books for Young Readers
Kyle Lukoff Too Bright to See Penguin Random House / Dial Books for Young Readers
Kekla Magoon Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People Candlewick Press
Amber McBride Me (Moth) Macmillan Publishers / Feiwel and Friends

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

In offering its congratulations in a message to the news media today, New York City’s Mayor’s Office for Media and Entertainment says that it has “plans to support its literary ecosystem,” although details as yet are not being described.


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