Submissions Open for the 2021 National Book Awards

Twenty-five judges in five categories will review submitted titles and select the five Winners of the 72nd National Book Awards

Today, the National Book Foundation opens submissions for the 72nd National Book Awards. The Foundation also announces its 25 judges for this year’s Awards, in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature.

“The judging process for the National Book Awards is a significant commitment, and we have full confidence that this year’s expert panelists will make their decisions with vigorous discernment,” said Jordan Smith, Interim Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “Their participation will have a long-lasting impact on writers, the literary community, and readers everywhere.”

This year’s judges include writers, booksellers, academics, critics, directors of literary organizations, librarians and translators from across the country. Panelists include a National Book Award Winner, National Book Award Finalists and Longlisted authors; a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 author; a Pulitzer Prize finalist; a National Book Critics Circle Award winner and finalists; a Michael L. Printz Award honor; multiple Whiting Award winners and Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners; recipients of MacArthur Fellowships, Guggenheim Fellowships, and United States Artists Fellowships.

The judges for the 2021 National Book Awards will select 50 Longlist titles, 10 per category, which will be announced mid-September. There will be 25 Finalists, to be announced on October 5. Winners in all five categories will be announced at the 72nd National Book Awards on November 17.

You can find the judges’ full bios here.

Fiction panel: Alan Michael Parker, Emily Pullen, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, Luis Alberto Urrea (Chair), Charles Yu

Nonfiction panel: Eula Biss, Aaron John Curtis, Nell Painter (Chair), Kate Tuttle, Jerald Walker

Poetry panel: Don Mee Choi, Natalie Diaz, Matthea Harvey, A. Van Jordan (Chair), Ilya Kaminsky

Translated Literature panel: Jessie Chaffee, Sergio de la Pava, Madhu H. Kaza, Achy Obejas, Stephen Snyder (Chair)

Young People’s Literature panel: Pablo Cartaya, Traci Chee, Leslie Connor, Cathryn Mercier (Chair), Ibi Zoboi


Watch Literature for Justice: Art in and of the Carceral State

In its third and final year, the National Book Foundation’s Literature for Justice program continues to offer literature as a vehicle for conversations on the topic of mass incarceration, partnering with the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands to present a two-part virtual series to dig deeper into titles selected for this year’s reading list.

Join writer and curator Nicole R. Fleetwood (Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration) and scholar Sarah Haley (No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity) for a discussion on the convergences and divergences of academia, archives, and art in the carceral system. Moderated by Literature for Justice committee member, National Book Award Finalist, and Center Director Natalie Diaz.

Presented in partnership with the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands at Arizona State University.

Books are available for purchase at with thanks to Loyalty Bookstores in Washington, D.C.

To join the live chat, please tune in to the conversation directly on the Foundation’s YouTube Live.

Literature for Justice is made possible by the Art for Justice Fund, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, in partnership with the Ford Foundation.

Watch NBF Presents: Borders of Belonging


To question the “other” in American identity, join National Book Award–honored authors Laila Lalami (The Other Americans, 2019 Fiction Finalist) and Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (The Undocumented Americans, 2020 Nonfiction Finalist) for a conversation on borders, immigration, and outsiders, and what it means to write one’s self into existence.

Moderated by Concepción de León, a New York Times reporter.

Books are available for purchase at with thanks to this season’s bookseller, Loyalty Bookstores.

To join the live chat, please tune in to the conversation directly on the Foundation’s YouTube Live.