By David Canfield
October 08, 2019 at 10:39 AM EDT

After releasing their longlists last month, the National Book Foundation has revealed the finalists for the biggest prize in American literature.

Twenty-five books will compete across five categories for the 2019 National Book Awards, set to take place in New York on Nov. 20. In Fiction, the nominees consist of five first-time finalists: Susan Choi, for Trust Exercise; Laila Lalami, for The Other Americans; Marlon James, for Black Leopard, Red Wolf; Julia Phillips, for Disappearing Earth; and Kali Fajardo-Anstine, for Sabrina & Corina. Phillips and Fajardo-Anstine compete with their debut books, while the rest of the field has been acclaimed for their past work elsewhere. (Both Choi and Lalami are Pulitzer Prize finalists, while James won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings.) Notable longlisted authors who did not make the cut here include Taffy Brodesser-Akner (Fleishman Is in Trouble) and Colson Whitehead (The Nickel Boys).

Last year’s winner, Sigrid Nunez (author of The Friend), proved an upset against supposed-frontrunners Rebecca Makkai (The Great Believers) and Lauren Groff (Florida).

Other notable longlisted authors to advance this year include Sarah M. Broom (The Yellow House, see video above) and Tressie McMillan Cottom (Thick) in Nonfiction, and Jason Reynolds (Look Both Ways) and Akwaeke Emezi (Pet) in Young People’s Literature.

See the full lists of finalists, also featuring Poetry and Translated Literature, below.


  • Susan Choi, Trust Exercise
    Henry Holt and Company / Macmillan Publishers
  • Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Sabrina & Corina: Stories
    One World / Penguin Random House
  • Marlon James, Black Leopard, Red Wolf
    Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House
  • Laila Lalami, The Other Americans
    Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House
  • Julia Phillips, Disappearing Earth
    Alfred A. Knopf / Penguin Random House


  • Sarah M. Broom, The Yellow House
    Grove Press / Grove Atlantic
  • Tressie McMillan Cottom, Thick: And Other Essays
    The New Press
  • Carolyn Forché, What You Have Heard is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance
    Penguin Press / Penguin Random House
  • David Treuer, The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present
    Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House
  • Albert Woodfox with Leslie George, Solitary
    Grove Press / Grove Atlantic


  • Jericho Brown, The Tradition
    Copper Canyon Press
  • Toi Derricotte, “I”: New and Selected Poems
    University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Ilya Kaminsky, Deaf Republic
    Graywolf Press
  • Carmen Giménez Smith, Be Recorder
    Graywolf Press
  • Arthur Sze, Sight Lines
    Copper Canyon Press


  • Khaled Khalifa, Death Is Hard Work
    Translated from the Arabic by Leri Price
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers
  • László Krasznahorkai, Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming
    Translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet
    New Directions
  • Scholastique Mukasonga, The Barefoot Woman
    Translated from the French by Jordan Stump
    Archipelago Books
  • Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police
    Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder
    Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House
  • Pajtim Statovci, Crossing
    Translated from the Finnish by David Hackston
    Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House


  • Akwaeke Emezi, Pet
    Make Me a World / Penguin Random House
  • Jason Reynolds, Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks
    Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books / Simon & Schuster
  • Randy Ribay, Patron Saints of Nothing
    Kokila / Penguin Random House
  • Laura Ruby, Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All
    Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins Publishers
  • Martin W. Sandler, 1919 The Year That Changed America
    Bloomsbury Children’s Books / Bloomsbury Publishing


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