National Book Awards Will Once Again Be Live and In-person This November

July 2021



The 72nd National Book Awards will return to a primarily in-person celebration, with additional virtual elements to reach a broader audience


The National Book Foundation (NBF) announced that the 72nd National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner will be held in-person at Cipriani Wall Street on November 17, 2021. In order to reach as many readers as possible around the globe, the program will also include virtual elements, including being broadcast in full.

“The National Book Awards are a celebration of books and the community that has a hand in creating them,” said David Steinberger, Chair of the Board of Directors. “Last year, for the first time in National Book Awards history, we hosted a completely virtual event. When gathering in-person was not possible, we were heartened and inspired by the support of the literary world. After carefully considering the options for this year’s National Book Awards and closely monitoring best health and safety practices associated with COVID-19, the Board and staff of the National Book Foundation plans to host an in-person Ceremony and Benefit Dinner, while taking steps intended to protect the health and safety of every attendee.”

Invited guests who choose to attend the National Book Awards will need to be fully vaccinated, and the National Book Foundation will be working closely with the venue, Cipriani Wall Street in New York City, and their vendor CrowdPass to ensure a safe evening. Guests may confirm their vaccination status in advance via the CrowdPass app, or show their paper vaccination certificate at guest check-in. Further health measures will be communicated to guests closer to the event date.

The Foundation is committed to hosting a safe event and continues to monitor closely the risks posed by the COVID-19 virus and the advice of health authorities. Should New York State protocol and health measures change, the Foundation is prepared to make whatever adjustments are necessary, including potentially shifting back to a virtual event.

The National Book Foundation looks forward to working with Really Useful Media, the production team of the virtual 2020 National Book Awards Ceremony and National Book Awards Finalist Reading, for all virtual elements of the 2021 National Book Awards Ceremony. Digital elements of the Ceremony will allow those who cannot or elect not to attend in-person to seamlessly participate. The National Book Foundation will once again broadcast the National Book Awards Ceremony on YouTube and Facebook for readers everywhere.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to gather as a book community, while still ensuring safety for in-person attendees and accessibility for at-home viewers. Communication with sponsors, publishers, writers, judges, and all attendees will be a priority,” said Ruth Dickey, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “Through the tremendous efforts of this year’s judging panels, we look forward to championing extraordinary writers and their work this fall. Books have always been a source of solace and joy, education and inspiration, and we cannot wait to celebrate with the book community and readers everywhere.”

Additionally, the traditional National Book Awards week events will shift. The National Book Awards Finalist Reading, in partnership with The New School, will take place virtually on Tuesday, November 9 and feature readings from all 25 Finalists’ books. The Teen Press Conference will be held virtually on Wednesday, November 10. For 2021 only, the National Book Foundation will not hold the National Book Awards After Party. The NBF’s 5 Under 35 Ceremony will move permanently to the Spring, and will honor two years of emerging fiction writers at a combined in-person ceremony in Spring 2022.

At the center of the National Book Foundation is its mission to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture. Since the first National Book Awards in 1950, the literary community has gathered to celebrate literary excellence, commemorating new talent alongside established writers and artists. The proceeds from the National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner power the National Book Foundation’s year-round programs.

Over the course of the global pandemic, the National Book Foundation has continued its commitment to champion literature and to protect, stimulate, and promote discourse in American culture. The fifth year of Book Rich Environments’ book distribution to children and families in public housing communities continued with over 215,000 books from Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Hachette, Candlewick, HarperCollins, Sourcebooks, and Simon & Schuster delivered to 43 communities in 25 states. BookUp, an after-school program for middle and high school students expanded virtually, as did Raising Readers, which empowers adults who work with and raise children to expand their own love of books and reading.

The National Book Foundation also presented its national public programming—which brings NBA-honored authors to colleges, libraries, book festivals, and performance venues for topical conversations—on-screen. In 2020-2021, NBF Presents presented 26 virtual events—including themed series Literature for Justice and Eat, Drink & Be Literary—that featured over 50 honored authors and reached over 15,000 audience members. NBF distributed thousands of associated books to readers and students at partner colleges, prisons, and detention centers nationwide.

As the world returns to gathering, the National Book Foundation looks forward to celebrating the power and importance of this year’s honored books, and to leveraging both in-person and virtual components to celebrate with as many readers as possible.