Applications are now open for the 2020 Innovations in Reading Prize

Innovations in Reading logoApplications for the 2020 Innovations in Reading Prize are now open. Applications are due by 11:59 pm EST on February 13, 2020.

There are two steps and two distinct forms that must be completed as part of the application process; the links below lead to external sites.

STEP 1. APPLICATION REGISTRATION (administered via Google Forms)

This step allows the National Book Foundation staff to capture your contact information and other helpful information about the Applicant, and is not used in the review process.

STEP 2. APPLICATION NARRATIVE (administered via Submittable)

The information provided here is used by the panel of external reviewers to assess your application and make their selections.

* Please be sure you use the same Applicant Name in both forms.

Both forms must be submitted by the deadline of February 13 in order for your application to be complete.

If you have questions, please contact Jordan Smith at or call 212.685.0261.

It’s time for our annual Season’s Readings campaign!

As we head into the winter months, one of the best ways to stay warm is to curl up with a good book — and you can help make sure more people can share in that same simple joy by supporting the National Book Foundation!

But books do so much more than warm our hearts; they allow us to see the world through another person’s eyes, experiences, and imagination. They serve as a gateway to learning about the world around us and enriching the national discourse.

In addition to hosting the biggest night in books, this year’s 70th National Book Awards, the Foundation provides programming dedicated to reaching new readers, promoting the best literature in America, and increasing access to books throughout the year.

Remember the first book that captured your heart? How about the most recent book that did the same? Our mission is to spread that love of books far and wide, particularly to young people and those underserved by book culture.


Education & Access: A Commmittment to Making Access to Books a Priority

Book Rich Environments reached a major milestone—in just three years, we distributed over one million free books to children and families living in public housing nationwide, helping build first-time home libraries for tens of thousands; BookUp, an after-school and summer reading club for middle-schoolers, added new partners in the Bronx and Greensboro, NC; Raising Readers returned for a second year, and worked to empower adults who work with and raise children to expand their own love of books and reading, in order to better model the habit of reading for pleasure with the young people in their lives; and Teen Press Conference saw sold-out audiences in both NYC and Miami, distributing free books to young people and giving them the unique opportunity to connect and interact directly with National Book Awards authors.

Public Programs: A Robust Annual Calendar of Topically-Focused Author Events that Serve Readers Everywhere

Since its expansion in 2018, NBF Presents has reached over 10,000 audience members nationwide bringing National Book Award-honored authors to colleges, libraries, book festivals, and performance venues to more readers than ever before, visiting a total of 39 states across Foundation programs. These efforts include Literature for Justice, a nationwide, book-based campaign focused on the topic of mass incarceration with keystone events around the highlighted titles, and the historic Eat, Drink & Be Literary series, presented in partnership with Brooklyn Academy of Music, which celebrates the careers of luminary authors, such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Louise Erdrich, Min Jin Lee, and many more.

Looking Ahead

With your help in 2020, the National Book Foundation can reach more readers of all ages across the country and welcome everyone into a national conversation centered around great books.

There has never been a better time to protect, stimulate, and promote a public exchange of ideas than in our current day and age. Please help the National Book Foundation with a donation in any amount to keep up this year’s tremendous momentum and ensure that books have a prominent place at the center of American culture for decades to come.

Watch the 2019 National Book Awards Ceremony

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Watch the 70th National Book Awards, hosted by LeVar Burton were streamed live from New York City on November 20, 2019. It’s the biggest night in books, featuring the presentation of lifetime achievement awards to Edmund White and Oren Teicher, followed by the announcement of the Winners of National Book Awards in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature. You can watch the full ceremony below and on our Facebook page.

2019 Winners

Trust Exercise
by Susan Choi
Henry Holt and Company /
Macmillan Publishers

The Yellow House
by Sarah M. Broom
Grove Press / Grove Atlantic

Sight Lines
by Arthur Sze
Copper Canyon Press

Translated Literature
Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming
by László Krasznahorkai, translated by Ottilie Mulzet
New Directions

Young People’s Literature
1919 The Year That Changed America
by Martin W. Sandler
Bloomsbury Children’s Books / Bloomsbury Publishing

Watch the 2019 National Book Awards Finalists Reading

Every year on the night before the National Book Awards, all of the Finalists gather at the New School to read from their honored titles at an event that is open to the public. It’s a special opportunity to hear these celebrated authors together in one place, and you can join us via our livestream. The 2019 reading features the Finalists in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature and Young People’s Literature.

HOSTED BY: Josh Gondelman and Maris Kreizman


Photo credit: Mindy Tucker

Josh Gondelman is a comedian and a writer/producer for Desus & Mero on Showtime. Previously, he earned two Peabody Awards and three Emmy® awards for his work on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Gondelman’s writing has appeared in the New York TimesNew York Magazine, and the New Yorker, as well as some places without “New York” in the name. He has performed standup on CONAN, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and The Late Late Show with James Corden. Josh lives in New York City with his wife Maris and their pug. His debut essay collection Nice Try is available now from Harper Perennial.

Photo credit: Mindy Tucker

Maris Kreizman is the host of The Maris Review, a literary podcast from LitHub. She’s hosted readings and moderated literary panels at various bookstores, conferences, and festivals across the country. She’s an essayist and critic whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Times Review of Books, New York Magazine, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Vanity Fair, BuzzFeed, The Ringer, Esquire, GQ, and more. She was previously the editorial director of digital content at B&, and a publishing outreach lead at Kickstarter. As a former book editor (Free Press/Simon and Schuster) and former editorial director of Book of the Month, she enjoys critiquing her own writing.

Watch the 2019 National Book Awards Teen Press Conference

The National Book Awards Teen Press Conference brings the excitement of the most prestigious literary award in the country to New York City’s middle and high school students. Held during National Book Awards week, Teen Press Conference invites school groups to attend a free literary event that is curated just for them.

Angie Thomas. Photo credit: Imani Khayyam

HOSTED BY:  Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still lives in Jackson, Mississippi. A former teen rapper, she holds a BFA in creative writing from Belhaven University. Her award-winning, acclaimed debut novel, The Hate U Give, is a #1 New York Times bestseller and major motion picture from Fox 2000, starring Amandla Stenberg and directed by George Tillman, Jr. Her second novel, On the Come Up, is on sale now.



Jeremy O. Harris to Host 2019 5 Under 35 Celebration

The National Book Foundation announced Jeremy O. Harris, writer, and performer, and acclaimed playwright of Slave Play, now at Broadway’s Golden Theatre, will host the 5 Under 35 celebration on Monday, November 18 in New York City, at an invitation-only ceremony. The Foundation’s 5 Under 35 program recognizes young, debut fiction writers whose work promises to leave a lasting impression on the literary landscape. 5 Under 35 is sponsored by the Amazon Literary Partnership and more information about the program can be found here.


Jeremy O. Harris is a writer and performer living in New York City. His plays include Slave Play“Daddy,” Xander Xyst, Dragon: 1 and WATER SPORTS; or insignificant white boys. His work has been presented or developed by Pieterspace, JACK< Are Love, The New Group, NYTW, Performance Space New York, and Playwrights Horizons. In 2018, Jeremy co-wrote A24’s upcoming film Zola with director Janicza Bravo. In television, he is developing a pilot with HBO and consulted on their new series “Euphoria.” He is the 11th recipient of the Vineyard Theatre’s Paula Playwrighting Award, a 2016 MacDowell Colony Fellow, an Orchard Project Greenhouse artist, and under commission from Lincoln Center Theatre and Playwrights Horizons. Jeremy is a graduate of the Yale MFA Playwrighting Program. Upcoming: A Boy’s Company Presents: “Tell Me If I’m Hurting You,” and “Daddy.”

This year the ceremony will celebrate:

Anelise Chen, So Many Olympic Exertions
Kaya Press
Selected by Dana Spiotta, 2006 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction

Isabella Hammad, The Parisian
Grove Press / Grove Atlantic
Selected by Viet Thanh Nguyen, 2016 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction

Johannes Lichtman, Such Good Work
Simon & Schuster
Selected by Garth Greenwell, 2016 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction

Bryan Washington, Lot: Stories
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House
Selected by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, 2018 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction

Ashley Wurzbacher, Happy Like This
University of Iowa Press
Selected by Brandon Hobson, 2018 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction

National Book Foundation Announces Fall Season of NBF Presents

National Book Awards authors to appear at twelve events in nine states as NBF Presents enters second year

The National Book Foundation announced its fall NBF Presents lineup of events taking place between September and December of 2019, in the second year of expanded programming made possible by a three-year $900,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In its first year, NBF Presents produced 39 events in 36 cities around the country, donating nearly 2,000 free books and subsidizing over 500 ticketed seats to bring NBA-honored authors to thousands in-person and even more digitally through live streams. Between public and education programming, the Foundation has now reached audiences, youth and adult, in 36 states nationwide.

This season of NBF Presents continues to bring National Book Award-honored authors to libraries, colleges, book festivals, and performance venues across the county. As part of the programming around the nation, NBF Presents provides free books to select audiences, as well as subsidized tickets, and aspires to address issues that are most relevant to the communities in which our events take place. In addition to events funded by Mellon with support from the Foundation’s national partners, the 2019 fall season of NBF Presents will include an anchor event in Dallas, Texas tied to the Art for Justice-funded Literature for Justice program, which mobilizes readers around a list of five titles annually on mass incarceration.

In 2019-2020, NBF Presents will offer readings, panels, and conversations to a wide range of communities in regions across the country. NBF authors will explore timely subject matter as part of many of this year’s events: At the New Haven Free Public Library 2019 National Book Awards Longlister Greg Grandin (The End of the Myth, Nonfiction) and 2019 Finalist Carmen Giménez Smith (Be Recorder, Poetry) will have a conversation on borders, both physical and figurative, in shaping identity, history, and literature; at Clark College 2019 National Book Awards Finalist Kali Fajardo-Anstine (Sabrina & Corina, Fiction) and 2019 Longlister Kimberly King Parsons (Black Light, Fiction) will discuss their work and contemporary female identity in literature; and novelist Brandon Hobson (Where the Dead Sit Talking, 2018 Finalist) and poet Danez Smith (Don’t Call Us Dead, 2017 Finalist) will discuss literature that resists stereotypes and centers contemporary Americans struggling for more than survival both on and off the page at the Southern Festival of Books.

“NBF Presents is a core part of the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to building readers,” said Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “There is an appetite for literature in every nook and cranny of this country and the Foundation aims to support readers and communities with as much access to incredible literary work and authors as possible. Whether through an NBF-produced public event, the provision of free tickets to an existing local literary event, or providing free books—everything that NBF Presents does is with an eye towards the making literature accessible and present in all communities.”

Past and present National Book Award-honored authors, including current 2019 Longlisters and Finalists, confirmed to appear at NBF Presents events in the fall season include Hanif Abdurraqib, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah M. Broom, Jericho Brown, Susan Choi, Jennifer Croft, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Greg Grandin, Brandon Hobson, Victoria Johnson, Ilya Kaminsky, Sigrid Nunez, Kimberly King Parsons, Julia Phillips, Jason Reynolds, Randy Ribay, Raquel Salas Rivera, Carmen Giménez Smith, Danez Smith, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, and David Treuer, with more to come. Additionally, the events will feature renowned moderators and Literature for Justice-highlighted authors asha bandele, Susan Burton, Rachel Kushner, and Danielle Sered and committee members Michelle Alexander, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Zachary Lazar, and Kelly Lytle Hernandez.

While the season will see the return of programming with partners in New York, Miami, Portland, Texas, and more, the Foundation is also newly partnering with the New Haven Free Public Library, three colleges and universities, including Fisk University and Clark Community College, as well as two festivals, the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville and the Baltimore Book Festival.

Since its launch last year, NBF Presents has put an emphasis on working with partners at a variety of presenting venues, including public libraries able to program around their communities’ audiences and interests. For the last event of the 2018-2019 season, National Book Award Winners Ibram X. Kendi (Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America) and Justin Phillip Reed (Indecency) visited the Roanoke Public Libraries newest branch and spoke to an audience of over 300 community members.

“Our turnout showed that area residents are craving book-based discussions on important issues,” said Marissa Blankinship, community services assistant for the Roanoke Public Libraries. “We were thrilled to see how the event brought people of all walks of life and all parts of town—and even as far away as Richmond, a three-hour drive—to the brand-new Melrose Library. This event has given our community new momentum.”

Partners, audience members, and participating authors alike find NBF Presents programming offers a unique opportunity in creating community dialogue through literature. At the 2019 Brooklyn Book Festival, the Foundation kicked off their fall programming with a panel discussion moderated by Executive Director Lisa Lucas and featuring 2018 Longlisters and Finalists on the importance of award recognition bringing to light stories across genre, topic, and perspective.

“The best part about being honored by the National Book Awards is becoming a part of the ‘after’—the work of the [Foundation’s] public programming to get into classrooms and communities around the country,” said 2018 National Book Award Longlister and NBF Presents program participant Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Heads of the Colored People).

The full list of confirmed fall NBF Presents events can be found below, with additional details forthcoming. An updated NBF Presents calendar is available at the Foundation’s website. 

NBF Presents Fall 2019

September 22, 2:00pm EST
Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn Book Festival
NBF Presents: An Afternoon with the National Book Awards

Join four acclaimed authors honored by the 2018 National Book Awards for an engaging discussion on craft, recognition, and the vital importance of literature. Featuring writers working widely across subject and genre, the panel includes translator Jennifer Croft (Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, Finalist, Translated Literature), Victoria Johnson (American Eden, Finalist, Nonfiction), Raquel Salas Rivera (lo terciario / the tertiary, Longlist, Poetry), and Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Heads of the Colored People, Longlist, Fiction). Moderated by Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation.


October 3, 7:30pm CST
Moorhead, MN
Concordia College
NBF Presents: The National Book Awards at Concordia College

Celebrating 14 years of programming at Concordia College, the Foundation returns to Minnesota to present a reading and conversation with 2018 Fiction Winner Sigrid Nunez (The Friend) and 2018 Nonfiction Finalist Victoria Johnson (American Eden). Moderated by Stephanie Curtis, senior producer at MPR News and founder of The Thread, MPR News’ multiform books initiative. This event is made possible by Concordia College in honor of Dr. Earl Lewis.


October 13, 3:30pm CST
Nashville, TN
Southern Festival of Books
NBF Presents: Changing the Narrative

At the Southern Festival of Books, join two National Book Award Finalists, novelist Brandon Hobson (Where the Dead Sit Talking, 2018) and poet Danez Smith (Don’t Call Us Dead, 2017), for a conversation on writing that will explore what it means to fight for more than just survival in contemporary America and the realities of queer and Native bodies living in rural Oklahoma to Minnesota. Moderated by Ciona Rouse, poet and co-host of the literary podcast, Re/VERB.


October 14, 3:00pm CST
Nashville, TN
Fisk University
NBF Presents: Writing Survival

Novelist Brandon Hobson (Where the Dead Sit Talking, 2018 National Book Award Finalist) and poet Danez Smith (Don’t Call Us Dead, 2017 National Book Award Finalist) follow their appearance at the Southern Festival of Books to discuss literature that resists stereotypes and centers contemporary Americans struggling for more than survival both on and off the page. This event is open to students, faculty, and community members at Fisk University and to the public. Moderated by Ciona Rouse, poet and co-host of the literary podcast, Re/VERB.


October 26, 11:00am CST
Austin, TX
Texas Book Festival
NBF Presents: A Morning with the National Book Awards

One month before the 70th Annual National Book Awards, join the National Book Foundation at the Texas Book Festival for the fall season’s first preview featuring 2019 Awards Finalists and Longlisters—and potential Winners—Sarah M. Broom (The Yellow House, Nonfiction), Jericho Brown (The Tradition, Poetry), Julia Phillips (Disappearing Earth, Fiction), and Randy Ribay (Patron Saints of Nothing, Young People’s Literature). Across subject and genre, the conversation will highlight some of the best contemporary literature in America.


November 3, 5:00pm EST
Baltimore, MD
Baltimore Book Festival
NBF Presents: Captive No More

Join National Book Awards Finalist Shane McCrae (In the Language of My Captor, Poetry) and former 5 Under 35 honoree Danielle Evans (Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self) at the Baltimore Book Festival for a conversation on the stories of mixed-race Americans struggling to break free of black and white stereotypes.


November 6, 6:00pm EST
New Haven, CT
New Haven Free Public Library
NBF Presents: Border Stories

Join current 2019 National Book Awards Longlister Greg Grandin (The End of the Myth, Nonfiction) and Finalist Carmen Giménez Smith (Be Recorder, Poetry) for a conversation on borders, both physical and figurative, in shaping identity, history, and literature. This event is presented in partnership with the New Haven Free Public Library and will be followed by a reception and celebration of NHFPL’s National Medal for Museum and Library Service.


November 7, 12:00pm PST
Vancouver, WA
Clark College
NBF Presents: The Female Gaze

Current 2019 National Book Awards Fiction Finalist Kali Fajardo-Anstine (Sabrina & Corina) and Longlister Kimberly King Parsons (Black Light) visit Clark College’s Columbia Writers Series for a reading and discussion on building buzz around debut short story collections and highlighting the many faces of contemporary female identity in literature. The conversation will be followed by a book signing and is open to students, faculty, and community members.


November 9, 10:00am PST
Portland, OR
Portland Book Festival
NBF Presents: A Morning with the National Book Awards

Two weeks before the 70th Annual National Book Awards, join the National Book Foundation at the Portland Book Festival for a showcase event featuring 2019 Awards Finalists and Longlisters Laurie Halse Anderson (SHOUT, Young People’s Literature), Kali Fajardo-Anstine (Sabrina & Corina, Fiction), Kimberly King Parsons (Black Light, Fiction), and David Treuer (The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, Nonfiction) before the reveal of this year’s Winners. The panel will feature readings and conversation.


November 19, 7:00pm EST
New York City, NY
The New School
2019 National Book Awards Finalists Reading

Each fall, on the night before the National Book Awards, all of the Finalists gather at the New School to read from their honored titles at a signature Awards event that is open to the public. The 2019 reading will feature the Finalists in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Young People’s Literature, and Translated Literature. Tickets are $10 to attend. This event is made possible by the New School.


November 22, 6:00pm EST
Miami, FL
Miami Book Fair
An Evening with the National Book Awards Winners, Finalists, and Longlisters

Fresh from the 2019 National Book Awards, join the National Book Foundation at the Miami Book Fair for a special evening that highlights the best of contemporary literature in America. Every 2019 National Book Award Longlister, Finalist, and Winner is invited to Miami for a super-sized Awards reading—the first chance to hear from these honored authors following the whirlwind of the National Book Awards. The reading will feature recognized works from all Awards categories, including Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Young People’s Literature, and Translated Literature. Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, will moderate the evening. This event is made possible by the generosity of the James L. Knight Foundation.


December 12, 6:00pm CST
Dallas, TX
African American Museum of Dallas
Literature for Justice: Women Writing Beyond Bars

The National Book Foundation’s Literature for Justice program seeks to contextualize mass incarceration through an annual reading list of five books. In 2019, our highlighted titles, all authored by women, were selected by committee members Michelle Alexander, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Zachary Lazar, Kelly Lytle Hernandez, and Shaka Senghor. Join the National Book Foundation and the African American Museum of Dallas for the second-year launch to honor and delve into these works. The event will feature brief readings from four of the recognized authors—asha bandele (The Prisoner’s Wife), Susan Burton (Becoming Ms. Burton), Rachel Kushner (The Mars Room), and Danielle Sered (Until We Reckon); a conversation with the authors alongside committee members Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow), Reginald Dwayne Betts (Shahid Reads His Own Palm), Zachary Lazar (Vengeance), and Kelly Lytle Hernandez (City of Inmates); and a question-and-answer session with the audience. A book signing will follow. This event is made possible by the Art for Justice Fund.

Unless otherwise noted, all programs made possible by our partners and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  

For times and locations for events, please visit the Foundation’s events calendar at or the websites of any of our partners.


The 2019 National Book Awards Finalists Announced

The twenty-five Finalists for the 2018 National Book Awards for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature (YPL) were announced with Buzzfeed News’s AM To DM.

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

The twenty-five Finalists for the 2019 National Book Awards for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature (YPL) were announced today with The five Finalists in each category were selected by a distinguished panel of literary experts, and were advanced from the Longlists announced in September. Between the five categories, there are four writers who have been previously honored by the National Book Awards: Akwaeke Emezi, a 5 Under 35 Honoree in 2018, Toi Derricotte, a Literarian Award recipient in 2016 for her work with Cave Canem, Jason Reynolds, a 2016 YPL Finalist and 2017 YPL Longlister, and Laura Ruby, a 2015 YPL Finalist. Four of the twenty-five Finalists are debuts.

Publishers submitted a total of 1,712 books for this year’s National Book Awards: 397 in Fiction, 600 in Nonfiction, 245 in Poetry, 145 in Translated Literature, and 325 in Young People’s Literature. Judges’ decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors; deliberations are strictly confidential.

The Winners will be announced on Wednesday, November 20 at the 70th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner, hosted by LeVar Burton, at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. Two lifetime achievement awards will also be presented at the Awards dinner: Edmund White will be recognized with the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by John Waters, and Oren J. Teicher will receive the Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, presented by Ann Patchett.


The Other Americans by Laila Lalami is set into motion when a Moroccan immigrant is killed under suspicious circumstances, with witnesses and survivors desperate for answers. In Julia Phillips’s Disappearing Earth, the search for two sisters who have disappeared from a remote Russian city ignites powerful questions about class, gender, and ethnicity. A debut short story collection set in Denver, Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine focuses on Latinas of indigenous descent and explores themes of ancestry, incarceration, illness, gentrification, and domestic violence with compassion and precision. The first installment of a trilogy from Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James, Black Leopard, Red Wolf incorporates African mythology in an epic story about a lost boy and a cast of fantastical characters searching for the truth. Susan Choi’s novel Trust Exercise is about two students at a performing arts high school who fall in love, but leaves the reader questioning what happened to their relationship as well as the relationship between fact and fiction.


Focused on her family’s property in New Orleans, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House tells the story of how a family, a home, and a city has weathered tragedy, catastrophe, and inequality. In her collection Thick: And Other Essays, Tressie McMillan Cottom offers genre-bending analyses across many topics but remains united in her focus on the experience of black womanhood in America. In What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance, an unexpected encounter with a stranger brings poet Carolyn Forché to El Salvador where she is exposed to a country on the precipice of war. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present, the seventh book by Ojibwe author David Treuer, counters familiar narratives about America’s indigenous peoples, documenting survival and modern life, thereby connecting the past with those who are living out its legacy. Written with Leslie George, Solitary revisits the four decades Albert Woodfox spent in solitary confinement for a crime he didn’t commit, and how he—and the others in the Angola 3—turned injustice into a story of resistance and survival.


Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky imagines a protest where a gunshot literally deafens the populace. In her sixth collection Be Recorder, Carmen Giménez Smith sounds a call for rebellion against American complacency and compromise. Jericho Brown’s The Tradition examines the growing presence of terror and trauma in our lives—and introduces a new poetic form called “the duplex.” With an eye towards the impending climate crisis, Sight Lines, Arthur Sze’s tenth collection, uses a broad spectrum of voices and forms to reflect on the imperiled natural world. “I”: New and Selected Poems includes more than 30 new poems by Toi Derricotte and uses an autobiographical perspective to respond to issues of race, gender, class, and other themes.


  • 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

Translated from the French by Jordan Stump, The Barefoot Woman is Scholastique Mukasonga’s second memoir about the Rwandan genocide and focuses on the loss of her mother. A family is forced to reunite to bury their father amid the wreckage of Syria’s civil war in Khaled Khalifa’s Odyssean black comedy Death Is Hard Work, which was translated from the Arabic by Leri Price. The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder, is set on a mysterious island where everyday objects suddenly go missing and the memories of them are suppressed by the new eponymous police force. In Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming, Ottilie Mulzet translates László Krasznahorkai’s ambitious sentences from the Hungarian that describe a disgraced baron’s return from exile and a professor’s retreat into the woods to regain control of his thoughts, all set against mounting nationalism and a looming apocalypse. And in Pajtim Statovci’s Crossing, which was translated from the Finnish by David Hackston, two friends flee from Albania to Italy hoping to find acceptance and a place that makes them feel whole.


Look Both Ways, a novel told in stories by Jason Reynolds, conjures entire worlds out of ten city blocks by sharing the adventures and mishaps that befall children on their ways home from school and is punctuated by illustrations from Alex Nabaum. In Randy Ribay’s novel Patron Saints of Nothing, a Filipino-American student’s life is upended when his cousin is murdered in connection with President Duterte’s war on drugs—and no one will talk about it. Justice and denial also factor into Akwaeke Emezi’s genre-bending first novel for young readers, Pet, in which a transgender teenager lives in a world where adults refuse to admit that the monsters surrounding them actually exist. Set during World War II, Laura Ruby’s Thirteen Doors, Wolves Behind Them All is a novel that chronicles the struggles of siblings abandoned at an orphanage. Martin W. Sandler looks back in history with 1919 The Year that Changed America, which uses archival images to explore a year that brought about Prohibition, suffrage, and a flood of molasses.

The 70th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner will be streamed via Facebook Live and also available at the Foundation’s website, Winners of the National Book Awards receive $10,000 and a bronze medal and statue; Winners and Finalists in the Translated Literature category will split the prize evenly between author and translator; Finalists receive $1,000 and a bronze medal. The Benefit is hosted by a dinner committee including Lea Carpenter, Caitlin Hoyt, Deborah Needleman, Nicolas Niarchos, Tracy Sherrod, and Shelley Wanger.

The Awards Ceremony is the culminating event of National Book Awards Week. The celebration begins on November 18 with 5 Under 35, the Foundation’s celebration of emerging fiction writers selected by National Book Award Winners, Finalists, Longlisted authors, and former 5 Under 35 honorees. On the morning of November 19, the National Book Awards Teen Press Conference will take place at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. On the evening of November 19, all Finalists will read from their books at the National Book Awards Finalists Reading at The New School. The Finalists Reading is open to the public; tickets are $10 and are available at The New School website.

The NBF Announces the 2019-2020 Literature for Justice Program Titles

In the second year of the Art For Justice–funded program, five new titles—all authored by women—are selected to continue the Foundation’s work contextualizing mass incarceration through literature, chosen by a five-member committee

The National Book Foundation announced selections in the second year of the Literature for Justice program (LFJ), comprised of five contemporary titles that shed light on mass incarceration in the United States. Also announced today are the five committee members tasked with selecting the titles and elevating their visibility. This committee worked alongside the Foundation as part of Literature for Justice, a three-year campaign that seeks to contextualize and humanize the experiences of incarcerated people through literature of different genres, creating an accessible and thought-provoking collection of books crafted for broad public consumption.

These five titles will serve as the foundation for LFJ’s second year of programming that includes national public events featuring authors and experts on mass incarceration. The selected books are part of a larger, overarching campaign that will include 15 titles over three years, with five new committee members and titles each year. Literature for Justice is made possible by a three-year grant from the Art for Justice Fund, a sponsored project of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.


“These boldly written works—in several cases very intimate accounts—illustrate the many ways that women and families’ lives are impacted by incarceration, from lived experience to fictional narratives,” said Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “The authors of this year’s selections grant us as readers privileged access and accessible scholarship to the past, present, and future of mass incarceration, fearlessly paving the road to where we collectively can go from here.”

The LFJ committee comprises five esteemed authors who are also experts and leaders within the space of mass incarceration: Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights attorney, advocate, legal scholar, and author of the landmark work, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet, memoirist, and lawyer. His writing grapples with the central role of incarceration to the American experience. He is a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow and a 2018 Emerson Fellow at New America. Zachary Lazar is the author of five books, including the novels Vengeance, Sway, and I Pity the Poor Immigrant, a New York Times Notable Book. Lazar’s honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, and he also serves on the advisory board of the PEN America Writing’s for Justice Fellowship. Kelly Lytle Hernandez is a professor of History, African American Studies, and Urban Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles where she holds The Thomas E. Lifka Endowed Chair in History. She is also a recent recipient of the 2019 prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. Shaka Senghor is a leading voice in criminal justice reform and proud native of Detroit. His memoir, Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison, was released in March 2016 and debuted on the New York Times andThe Washington Post bestseller lists. Shaka is a former MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, and a former Fellow in the inaugural class of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Community Leadership Network.

“The fundamental objective of the National Book Foundation is to ensure that books and literature remain at the center of our vibrant national conversation,” said David Steinberger, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation. “We believe in the power of storytelling, and we are grateful to work with a distinguished selection of leaders, authors, and advocates to cultivate a list to provide readers with a range of perspectives and insights on the complex issue of mass incarceration.”

As respected voices in this national conversation, the LFJ committee members will lend their expertise and their voices to elevate the selected titles and, in turn, help humanize and contextualize the voices and experiences of incarcerated individuals, using storytelling to reach a wide audience of readers with narratives that reveal the real implications of America’s outsized prison populations.

This year’s LFJ book selections are all written by women, span genres, and focus on those who have experienced incarceration as well as centering a call for systemic change. The five-title list includes two nonfiction works focused on substantial reform to our nation’s carceral system, a memoir by an activist whose own journey through the criminal justice system fueled her life’s work, a deeply personal story of a partnership where one person is incarcerated, and a darkly humorous novel set in a women’s correctional facility.

Both calls to action, in Are Prisons Obsolete?, Angela Y. Davis seeks to illustrate that the time for the prison system is approaching an end; she argues forthrightly for decarceration and for the transformation of the society as a whole. And in Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair, Danielle Sered asks readers to reconsider the purposes of incarceration and argues persuasively that the needs of survivors of violent crime are better met by asking people who commit violence to make amends in ways meaningful to those they have hurt.

Two titles delve into the personal experiences of women inside or with a loved one inside the carceral system. In The Prisoner’s Wife, asha bandele shares her journey meeting and marrying Rashid, while he is in an upstate New York prison serving a sentence of twenty years to life. In Susan Burton’s memoir Becoming Ms. Burton, co-authored with Cari Lynn, Burton chronicles her experiences with incarceration, addiction, and loss and how she founded her award-winning organization, A New Way of Life, which is focused on rehabilitation and reentry for formerly incarcerated women.

Set in the Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley, Rachel Kushner’s novel The Mars Room centers the absurdities of institutionalization as experienced by both the guards and the thousands of women housed in its walls. Romy Hall, a 29-year-old serving two life sentences, plus six years, is the novel’s protagonist who captures the slowness and sameness that is the reality of prison.

Learn more about this year’s Literature for Justice launch event in Dallas on December 12 here.