Colson Whitehead, Marlon James & Taffy Brodesser-Akner longlisted for 2019 National Book Award for fiction

The U.S. National Book Awards have released their five annual longlists.
(From left): Colson Whitehead, Marlon James and Taffy Brodesser-Akner are longlisted for the 2019 National Book Awards. (, Mark Seliger, Erik Tanner)

The U.S. National Book Awards released their annual longlists for the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry young people's literature and translation this week.

With the exception of translation, the awards are only open to U.S. citizens.

Finalists will be announced on Oct. 8, 2019, followed by the winners on Nov. 20, 2019.


The 2019 National Book Award for fiction longlist. (National Book Awards)

Colson Whitehead's novel The Nickel Boys, Marlon James's fantasy Black Leopard, Red Wolf and Taffy Brodesser-Akner's debut Fleishman Is in Trouble are among the 10 books longlisted for 2019 National Book Award for fiction.

Whitehead's novel is inspired by a Florida reform school where rampant abuse against young black boys took place for over a century. The Nickel Boys follows a student named Elwood Curtis who struggles to hold onto the ideals of his hero, Dr. Martin Luther King, as he experiences a series of traumas at the academy.

Whitehead won the National Book Award in 2016 for The Underground Railroad.

James's novel Black Leopard, Red Wolf is about a man named Tracker who joins a makeshift band of characters — including a shapeshifting man-animal — to find a missing boy. James previously won the Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings.

Brodesser-Akner's first novel Fleishman Is in Trouble follows a recently divorced man named Toby who believes his life will be amazing now that his marriage has ended. When his ex-wife drops off the kids and disappears, Toby is forced to review the story of his marriage. Brodesser-Akner is a staff writer with New York Times Magazine.

Here's the full longlist for the 2019 National Book Award for fiction:


The 2019 National Book Award for nonfiction longlist. (National Book Awards)

In the nonfiction category, music writer Hanif Abdurraqib is longlisted for his third book Go Ahead in the Rain. The essay collection pays tribute to the groundbreaking rap group A Tribe Called Quest, exploring their roots and the ways they changed the music industry.

David Treuer is also longlisted for The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee. The book is a myth-shattering history of Native America from 1890 — the year of the massacre at Wounded Knee — to the present. Treuer is an award-winning Ojibwe writer from Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota.

Albert Woodfox with Leslie George are on the longlist for the memoir Solitary, in which Woodfox recounts spending 44 years and 10 months in solitary confinement in Louisiana's Angola Prison.

The 10 titles longlisted for the National Book Award for nonfiction are:


The 2019 National Book Award for poetry longlist. (National Book Awards)

Arthur Sze's Sight Lines is on the 2019 longlist. The poet's 10th collection is grand in scope, taking on the voices of Thomas Jefferson as well as ceiling lichen.

Carmen Giménez Smith is longlisted for Be Recorder, a collection of urgent poems decrying modern-day complacency. Her previous books include Milk and Filth and Cruel Futures.

The 10 titles longlisted for the National Book Award for poetry are:

  • Variations on Dawn and Dusk by Dan Beachy-Quick
  • The Tradition by Jericho Brown
  • I: New and Selected Poems by Toi Derricotte
  • Build Yourself a Boat by Camonghne Felix
  • Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky
  • A Sand Book by Ariana Reines
  • Dunce by Mary Ruefle
  • Be Recorder by Carmen Giménez Smith
  • Sight Lines by Arthur Sze
  • Doomstead Days by Brian Teare

Translated literature

The 2019 National Book Award for translated literature longlist. (National Book Awards)

Olga Tokarczuk is nominated in the translated literature category for Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones from Polish. The book follows a young woman from a remote Polish village who becomes obsessed with the murder of her neighbour. Tokarczuk was shortlisted for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize for this novel.

Khaled Khalifa is longlisted for Death is Hard Work, translated by Leri Price from Arabic. The book follows three siblings as they embark on a dangerous journey through Syria to fulfill their late father's final wish.

Here are the 10 books longlisted for the National Book Award for translated literature:

Young people's literature

Jason Reynolds is on the young people's literature longlist for Look Both Ways, 10 stories — one per block — about what happens on the walk home from school. Reynolds was previously a finalist in 2016 for Ghost and longlisted in 2017 for Long Way Down.

Laurie Halse Anderson is longlisted for SHOUT, a poetry memoir about surviving assault and harassment and striving to end sexual violence against women. Halse Anderson has twice been a National Book Award finalist — for Speak in 1999 and Chains in 2008 — and been longlisted previously for The Impossible Knife of Memory in 2014.

Akwaeke Emezi is nominated for their first YA novel, Pet. The book follows a young girl named Jam, who believes that monsters have gone extinct until a creature named Pet emerges from her mother's painting and a drop of blood.

Here are the 10 titles longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for young people's literature:

  • The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson
  • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
  • A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata
  • Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
  • Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
  • Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby
  • 1919: The Year that Changed America by Martin W. Sandler
  • Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve
  • Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw


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