The 72nd National Book Awards will be an Exclusively Digital Ceremony

September 2021



All 2021 National Book Awards events, including the 72nd National Book Awards Ceremony on November 17, will be held online.

The National Book Foundation announced that the 72nd National Book Awards Ceremony on November 17 will be held virtually in light of public health concerns and ongoing uncertainty related to the coronavirus.

“Although we were cautiously optimistic about the opportunity to gather, the National Book Foundation Board and staff have carefully considered the options for this year’s National Book Awards and closely monitored best health and safety practices associated with COVID-19,” said David Steinberger, Chair of the Board of Directors. “The National Book Awards have always been a unique—and sizeable—event, with authors, publishers, and guests traveling from all over the country to attend. Given the current reality of the ongoing global pandemic, this year’s National Book Awards Ceremony will be a fully virtual event to best protect the health and safety of the book community. Regardless of this shift in event plans, there is so much to celebrate. The 2021 National Book Awards Longlists have recently been announced, and we’re thrilled to celebrate those titles and authors this fall, and their incredible contributions to the field.”

The National Book Foundation will continue to work 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. The National Book Foundation will once again broadcast the National Book Awards Ceremony on the Foundation’s website at, YouTube, and Facebook.

“With thanks to our judges’ efforts during yet another difficult year, we have a new list of 50 books to uplift, inspire, and challenge us,” said Ruth Dickey, the Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “The National Book Awards are a chance to honor books, reading, and the broad community of book lovers. We have all had to adapt and change over the past eighteen months, and books continue to provide a sense of comfort and connection, opening the world to us all even during these uncertain times. We look forward to championing the work of writers and translators at this year’s virtual National Book Awards Ceremony.”

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. The NBF’s 5 Under 35 Ceremony has moved 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 education and public 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, working with program partners to find the best and safest ways to reach readers. 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.

The National Book Foundation looks forward to recognizing the power and importance of this year’s honored books, and celebrating with as many readers as possible around the world.