2023 National Book Awards Finalists Announced

October 2023



Twenty-five Finalists to contend for National Book Awards in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature

The 25 Finalists for the 2023 National Book Awards for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature were announced with the New York Times. The five Finalists in each category were selected by a distinguished panel of judges, and were advanced from the Longlists announced in September with The New Yorker.

Between the five categories, there are four writers and one translator who have been previously honored by the National Book Foundation: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah was a 2018 5 Under 35 honoree; Pilar Quintana and Lisa Dillman were Finalists for Translated Literature in 2020; Justin Torres was a 2012 5 Under 35 honoree; and Monica Youn was a Finalist for Poetry in 2010 and a Longlister for Poetry in 2016. All of the Finalists in the categories of Nonfiction and Young People’s Literature are first-time National Book Award honorees. Three of the 25 Finalists are debuts, and 11 independent, nonprofit, and university publishers are represented.

The 2023 Finalists will read from their work at the annual National Book Awards Finalist Reading, hosted by writer and comedian Amber Ruffin, on the evening of Tuesday, November 14 at NYU Skirball. The Finalist Reading is presented in partnership with the National Book Foundation and the NYU Creative Writing Program, and tickets are available for purchase on NYU Skirball’s website. On the morning of November 14, the annual National Book Awards Teen Press Conference for middle and high school students, featuring the Finalists in the category of Young People’s Literature, will be hosted by author Dhonielle Clayton. Both events will be in-person and livestreamed, and more information on all upcoming National Book Foundation events is available at the Foundation’s website.

The Winners will be announced live on Wednesday, November 15 at the invitation-only 74th National Book Awards Ceremony & Benefit Dinner, featuring special guest Oprah Winfrey, at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. The National Book Foundation will broadcast the Ceremony for readers everywhere on YouTube, Facebook, and the Foundation’s website at nationalbook.org/awards. Winners of the National Book Awards receive $10,000, a bronze medal, and statue; Finalists receive $1,000 and a bronze medal; Winners and Finalists in the Translated Literature category will split the prize evenly between author and translator. Two lifetime achievement awards will also be presented as part of the evening’s ceremony: Rita Dove, National Book Award Finalist and Pulitzer Prize winning poet, will be recognized with the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by Jericho Brown, and Paul Yamazaki, principal buyer at City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, will receive the Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, presented by Mitchell Kaplan.

Publishers submitted a total of 1,931 books for this year’s National Book Awards: 496 in Fiction, 638 in Nonfiction, 295 in Poetry, 154 in Translated Literature, and 348 in Young People’s Literature. Judges’ decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors, and deliberations are strictly confidential.

Finalists for Fiction:

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Chain-Gang All-Stars
Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House

Aaliyah Bilal, Temple Folk
Simon & Schuster

Paul Harding, This Other Eden
W. W. Norton & Company

Hanna Pylväinen, The End of Drum-Time
Henry Holt and Company / Macmillan Publishers

Justin Torres, Blackouts
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s dystopian novel Chain-Gang All-Stars simulates a private for-profit prison system where prisoners compete for freedom in live-broadcast gladiator-inspired death matches. Aaliyah Bilal’s debut short story collection, Temple Folk, examines the diversity of the Black Muslim experience in America. Paul Harding’s novel This Other Eden traces the legacy of a mixed-race fishing community living on a secluded island off the coast of Maine from 1792 to the early 20th century. In Hanna Pylväinen’s The End of Drum-Time, a Lutheran minister’s daughter falls in love with a native Sámi reindeer herder and joins the herders on their annual migration to the sea in 1850s Scandinavia. Justin Torres’s Blackouts considers the multigenerational gaps in personal and collective queer histories through the real-life inspiration of Sex Variants: A Study of Homosexual Patterns.

Finalists for Nonfiction:

Ned Blackhawk, The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History
Yale University Press

Cristina Rivera Garza, Liliana’s Invincible Summer: A Sister’s Search for Justice
Hogarth / Penguin Random House

Christina Sharpe, Ordinary Notes
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers

Raja Shehadeh, We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I: A Palestinian Memoir
Other Press

John Vaillant, Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World
Knopf / Penguin Random House

Historian Ned Blackhawk’s The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History recontextualizes five centuries of US, Native, and non-native histories to argue that Indigenous peoples have played—and continue to play—an essential role in the development of American democracy. In Liliana’s Invincible Summer: A Sister’s Search for Justice, Cristina Rivera Garza travels to Mexico City to recover her sister’s unresolved case file nearly 30 years after her murder, simultaneously honoring her sister’s life and examining how violence against women affects everyone. Across 248 notes, Christina Sharpe’s Ordinary Notes investigates the legacy of white supremacy and slavery, and presents a kaleidoscopic narrative that celebrates the Black American experience. In We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I: A Palestinian Memoir, attorney and activist Raja Shehadeh explores his complicated relationship with his father—a lawyer and Palestinian human rights activist who was assassinated in 1985— alongside histories of oppression. In Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World, journalist John Vaillant studies the May 2016 wildfire that devastated a small city in central Canada to make the case that the catastrophic Fort McMurray fire was a foreboding window into what the future holds.

Finalists for Poetry:

John Lee Clark, How to Communicate
W. W. Norton & Company

Craig Santos Perez, from unincorporated territory [åmot]
Omnidawn Publishing

Evie Shockley, suddenly we
Wesleyan University Press

Brandon Som, Tripas
Georgia Review Books / University of Georgia Press

Monica Youn, From From
Graywolf Press

John Lee Clark’s How to Communicate considers the small joys and pains of life, and the endless possibilities of language through poems influenced by the Braille slate and translated from American Sign Language and Protactile, a language used by DeafBlind people that’s rooted in touch. Craig Santos Perez observes and asserts storytelling as an act of resistance—a written form of “åmot,” the Chamoru word for “medicine”—in from unincorporated territory [åmot], the fifth installment in his series dedicated to his homeland of Guåhan (Guam). Evie Shockley plays with visuals, sounds, and poetic form to pay homage to Black feminist visionaries, both living and departed, of a collective “we” in suddenly we. Tripas celebrates Brandon Som’s upbringing in a multicultural, multigenerational home, traversing languages, cultures, and borders to connect his family’s histories. Through poetry and personal essays, Monica Youn’s From From confronts American racism and anti-Asian violence, and reflects back the question of “where are you from from” onto its readers.

Finalists for Translated Literature:

Bora Chung, Cursed Bunny
Translated from the Korean by Anton Hur
Algonquin Books / Hachette Book Group

David Diop, Beyond the Door of No Return
Translated from the French by Sam Taylor
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers

Stênio Gardel, The Words That Remain
Translated from the Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato
New Vessel Press

Pilar Quintana, Abyss
Translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman
World Editions

Astrid Roemer, On a Woman’s Madness
Translated from the Dutch by Lucy Scott
Two Lines Press

Translated from the Korean by Anton Hur, the ten stories in Bora Chung’s Cursed Bunny dive headfirst into the surreal to tackle the very real horrors of big tech, capitalism, and the patriarchy. Beyond the Door of No Return by David Diop and translated from the French by Sam Taylor, contemplates the brutality of French colonial occupation and the consequences of obsession, love, and betrayal in 18th-century West Africa. In his seventies, a man is finally able to read a letter from his childhood lover in The Words That Remain by Stênio Gardel, a debut novel translated from the Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato that explores queerness, violence, and the transformative power of the written word. Abyss by Pilar Quintana and translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman, follows an 8-year-old narrator as she makes sense of the world by observing the adults around her, perceiving the complexities of family life at once as real and fantastical. In Astrid Roemer’s On A Woman’s Madness, translated from the Dutch by Lucy Scott, a queer Black woman escapes her abusive husband in search of a new, freer life beyond society’s expectations.

Finalists for Young People’s Literature:

Kenneth M. Cadow, Gather
Candlewick Press

Huda Fahmy, Huda F Cares?
Dial Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House

Vashti Harrison, Big
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / Hachette Book Group

Katherine Marsh, The Lost Year: A Survival Story of the Ukrainian Famine
Roaring Brook Press / Macmillan Publishers

Dan Santat, A First Time for Everything
First Second / Macmillan Publishers

In Gather, Kenneth M. Cadow’s debut novel, a teenager fights to maintain his family’s home, find a job, and care for his mother as she recovers from her opioid addiction—all the while adopting Gather, a stray dog. Huda F Cares?, a graphic novel written and illustrated by Huda Fahmy, follows a visibly Muslim family on their road trip to Disney World, and tells a story of self-acceptance, faith, and the joys and embarrassments of sisterhood. Big, a picture book written and illustrated by Vashti Harrison, is the story of a little girl with a big heart and big dreams who learns that “big” doesn’t always have a positive connotation and offers readers of all ages an important reminder that words matter. The Lost Year by Katherine Marsh follows a 13 year-old who uncovers a family secret tracing back to Holodomor, a government-imposed famine that led to the death of millions of Ukrainians. Dan Santat captures the awkward middle school experience in A First Time for Everything, a graphic memoir inspired by the author’s class trip, and a series of life-changing firsts, in Europe.