2016 National Book Awards Judges Announced


James EnglishJames English is John Welsh Centennial Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directs the Penn Humanities Forum and the Price Lab for Digital Humanities.  His books include The Global Future of English Studies and The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value, selected as the best academic book of 2005 by New York magazine.


Karen Joy FowlerKaren Joy Fowler is the author of six novels and three short story collections. She’s written literary, contemporary, historical, and science fiction.  Her most recent novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, won the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award, the California Book Award for Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2014.  She lives in Santa Cruz, California. karenjoyfowler.com


T. Geronimo JohnsonBorn in New Orleans, T. Geronimo Johnson received his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and his M.A. in Language, Literacy, and Culture from UC Berkeley. His first novel, Hold It Till It Hurts, was published in 2012 and was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. His second, Welcome to Braggsville, was Longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award. geronimo1.com


Julie OtsukaJulie Otsuka is the author of When the Emperor Was Divine and The Buddha in the Attic, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award and was a Finalist for the National Book Award. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her work has appeared in Granta, Harper’s, and 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories. She lives in New York City. julieotsuka.com


Jesmyn WardJesmyn Ward is the author of the novels Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones. Salvage the Bones won the 2011 National Book Award. Her memoir, Men We Reaped, won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction. Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi, where she lives now. 



Cynthia BarnettCynthia Barnett is an environmental journalist and the author of three books, including Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award and finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Award for Literary Science Writing. She has reported on water and climate worldwide, and has written for the New York TimesLos Angeles TimesWall Street JournalThe Atlantic, Salon, Politico, DiscoverOrion and many other publications. She teaches environmental journalism and nature and adventure writing at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. cynthiabarnett.net


Masha GessenMasha Gessen is a Russian-American journalist and the author, most recently, of The Brothers: The Road to American Tragedy, the national bestseller The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, and Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot. Her award-winning work has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, Vanity Fair, and elsewhere. A longtime resident of Moscow, she now lives in New York.


Greg GrandinGreg Grandin is the author of Kissinger's Shadow and The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World, which won the Bancroft Prize in American History and the Albert Beveridge Award in American History, and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize in the UK. He is also the author of Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History, as well as for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, Fordlandia was picked by the New York TimesNew YorkerBoston GlobeChicago Tribune and NPR for their "best of" lists, and Amazon.com named it the best history book of 2009. greggrandin.com


Ronald RosbottomRonald Rosbottom holds the Winifred Arms Professorship in the Arts and Humanities at Amherst College. In 2014, he published When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation 1940-1944, which was Longlisted for the National Book Award. He is working on a new book on how adolescents confronted the German Occupation of Paris, to be published by William Morrow.



Mark BibbinsMark Bibbins is the author of three poetry collections, most recently, They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full (Copper Canyon Press), named one of Publishers Weekly’s best books of 2014. He has received a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship and a Lambda Literary Award. Bibbins teaches in the graduate writing programs of The New School and Columbia University, and edits the poetry section of The Awl.


Jericho BrownJericho Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts. His poems have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Best American Poetry.  His first book, Please, won the American Book Award, and his second book, The New Testament, won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Thom Gunn Award, and it was named one of the best books of the year by Library Journal, Coldfront, and the Academy of American Poets.  He is an associate professor in English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta.


Katie FordKatie Ford is the author of DepositionColosseum, and Blood Lyrics, which was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and the Rilke Prize. Colosseum was named among the “Best Books of 2008” by Publishers Weekly and the Virginia Quarterly Review and led to a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Larry Levis Prize. The New Yorker, Poetry MagazineThe Paris Review, and The American Poetry Review have published her poems, and her work is forthcoming in The Norton Introduction to Literature. Her fourth book is forthcoming from Graywolf Press is 2017. Ford teaches at the University of California, Riverside, where she directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts. 


Joy HarjoJoy Harjo is an acclaimed poet, musician, writer and performer. Her books of award-winning poetry include her newest Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. Her memoir Crazy Brave won the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Nonfiction. She is the recipient of the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is at work on a musical, an album of music, and a second memoir. She holds a Chair of Excellence in Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Tree SwensonTree Swenson has been the executive director of Hugo House since early 2012. She previously spent ten years as executive director of the Academy of American Poets in New York, where she launched the Poem-a-Day program and started the annual Poetry & the Creative Mind event at Lincoln Center. Swenson was the executive director and publisher at Copper Canyon Press, which she co-founded, for twenty years. The Press produced books from poets including Nobel Laureates and Pulitzer Prize–winners, and garnered numerous national awards. She also served as director of programs at the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is a former board president of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP). She holds an MPA degree from the Kennedy School at Harvard.


William AlexanderWilliam Alexander won the National Book Award in 2012 for his first novel, Goblin Secrets. His second novel, Ghoulish Song, was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award. His third, Ambassador, was a finalist for the International Latino Book Award and won the Eleanor Cameron Award. Will studied theater and folklore at Oberlin College, English at the University of Vermont, and creative writing at Clarion. He teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. willalex.net


Valerie LewisValerie Lewis has been a consultant, writer, reviewer and promoter of young people’s books for over 30 years. She appeared regularly on CBS TV’s The Early Show (17 years), talked books on PBS and NPR  and has written reviews for magazines, books and periodicals. She is co-author of Valerie & Walter’s Best Books for Children: A Lively and Opinionated Guide.  As founder and co-owner of Hicklebee's Bookstore (1979-present), she works daily as an advocate for young people’s literacy.  


Ellen OhEllen Oh is co-founder, President, and CEO of We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing diversity in children's literature. She is also a former adjunct college instructor and corporate/entertainment attorney. She is the author of the YA fantasy trilogy, The Prophecy Series, published by HarperTeen. ellenoh.com



Katherine PatersonKatherine Paterson is the author of more than 30 books, including 16 novels for children and young people. She has twice won the Newbery Medal, for Bridge to Terabithia in 1978 and Jacob Have I Loved in 1981. The Master Puppeteer won the National Book Award in 1977 and The Great Gilly Hopkins won the National Book Award in 1979 and was a Newbery Honor Book. For her body of work she received the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1998, had Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2006, and in 2000 was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress.


Laura RubyLaura Ruby is the author of seven books for children and teens including Bone Gap, a National Book Award Finalist, winner of the Michael L. Printz Award, and a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of 2015. She also writes short fiction for adults. She is on the faculty of Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.