2021 National Book Awards

A little about the National Book Awards taken from their website: https://www.nationalbook.org/national-book-awards/how-works/

“The National Book Awards were established in 1950 to celebrate the best writing in America. Since 1989, they have been overseen by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture. Although other categories have been recognized in the past, the awards currently honors the best fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people’s literature published each year.

A panel of judges selects a longlist of ten titles per category, which is then narrowed to five Finalists, and a Winner is announced at the Awards Ceremony in the fall. Each Finalist receives a prize of $1,000, a medal, and a judge’s citation. Winners receive $10,000 and a bronze sculpture. The Awards Ceremony is one of the most anticipated events for writers, publishers, and readers eager to celebrate the best books of the year.”

Below you will find lists of the five finalists in each category. If we have the audio book in our catalog, the book numbers are listed. If we do not have it, you’ll find a note that the book is commercially available in either audio or print format. If you want to read any of these contact us and we will get you what we have, or you can find them on BARD.

WINNERS ANNOUNCED NOVEMBER 17TH, 2021

The 72nd National Book Awards Ceremony will be broadcast live on November 17, 2021, at 7:00pm ET/ 6:00pm CENTRAL

Link to sign up to watch the ceremony online: https://www.nationalbook.org/awards2021/


Fiction Finalists:

MATRIX by Lauren Groff (DB 104843)

Cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine and deemed too coarse for marriage or courtly life, seventeen-year-old Marie de France is sent to England in 1158 to an impoverished abbey. She grows to love her new life and, as abbess, transforms the community. Commercial audiobook. 2021.

ZORRIE by Laird Hunt (DB 102689)

As a girl, Zorrie Underwood’s hardscrabble home county was the only constant in her young life. After losing both her parents, Zorrie moved in with her aunt, whose own death orphaned Zorrie all over again, casting her off into the perilous realities of rural, Depression-era Indiana. Some strong language. 2021.

THE PROPHETS by Robert Jones, Jr. (DB 101843)

Isaiah and Samuel are two enslaved men on a plantation. They work in the barn, caring for the animals. They find comfort and more in each other’s arms. When another enslaved man begins preaching the master’s gospel, tensions build as they try to just love each other. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2021.

HELL OF A BOOK by Jason Mott (DB 104515)

A Black author sets out on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel. His story is intertwined with Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2021.

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND by Anthony Doerr (commercially available AUDIO through booksellers or local libraries)

Set in Constantinople in the fifteenth century, in a small town in present-day Idaho, and on an interstellar ship decades from now, Anthony Doerr’s gorgeous third novel is a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring story about children on the cusp of adulthood in worlds in peril, who find resilience, hope—and a book. In Cloud Cuckoo Land, Doerr has created a magnificent tapestry of times and places that reflects our vast interconnectedness—with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us, and with those who will be here after we’re gone.

Non-Fiction Finalists:

A LITTLE DEVIL IN AMERICA: NOTES IN PRAISE OF BLACK PERFORMANCE by Hanif Abdurraqib (DB 103276)

The author of Go Ahead in the Rain (DB98408) presents a collection of essays connected by the topic of black performance in America. Combining personal stories with history, he explores how African Americans have

contributed to American culture while facing racism and stereotyping. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2021.

RUNNING OUT: IN SEARCH OF WATER IN THE HIGH PLAINS by Lucas Bessire (commercially available AUDIO through booksellers or local libraries)

The Ogallala aquifer has nourished life on the American Great Plains for millennia. But less than a century of unsustainable irrigation farming has taxed much of the aquifer beyond repair. The imminent depletion of the Ogallala and other aquifers around the world is a defining planetary crisis of our times. Running Out offers a uniquely personal account of aquifer depletion and the deeper layers through which it gains meaning and force.

TASTES LIKE WAR: A MEMOIR by Grace M. Cho (commercially available AUDIO through booksellers or local libraries)

Grace M. Cho grew up as the daughter of a white American merchant marine and the Korean bar hostess he met abroad. They were one of few immigrants in a xenophobic small town during the Cold War, where identity was politicized by everyday details—language, cultural references, memories, and food. When Grace was fifteen, her dynamic mother experienced the onset of schizophrenia, a condition that would continue and evolve for the rest of her life. Part food memoir, part sociological investigation, Tastes Like War is a hybrid text about a daughter’s search through intimate and global history for the roots of her mother’s schizophrenia.

COVERED WITH NIGHT: A STORY OF MURDER AND INDIGENOUS JUSTICE IN EARLY AMERICA by Nicole Eustace (commercially available AUDIO through booksellers or local libraries)

On the eve of a major treaty conference between Iroquois leaders and European colonists in the distant summer of 1722, two White fur traders attacked an Indigenous hunter and left him for dead near Conestoga, Pennsylvania. Though virtually forgotten today, this act of brutality set into motion a remarkable series of criminal investigations and cross-cultural negotiations that challenged the definition of justice in early America

ALL THAT SHE CARRIED: THE JOURNEY OF ASHLEY’S SACK, A BLACK FAMILY KEEPSAKE by Tiya Miles (commercially available AUDIO through booksellers or local libraries)

A renowned historian traces the life of a single object handed down through three generations of Black women to craft an extraordinary testament to people who are left out of the archives.

Translated Literature Finalists:

THE TWILIGHT ZONE by Nona Fernández and Natasha Wimmer (DB 103591)

A preoccupied man arrives at an opposition magazine office, introducing himself as a member of the dictator’s secret police force who is ready to talk. A journalist grabs a tape recorder and must confront her own past as she listens to his disturbing revelations. Translated from the 2016 Spanish edition. Violence and strong language. 2021.

WINTER IN SOKCHO by Elisa Shua Dusapin and Aneesa Abbas Higgins (commercially available PRINT through booksellers or local libraries)

It’s winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. The cold slows everything down. Bodies are red and raw, the fish turn venomous, beyond the beach guns point out from the North’s watchtowers. A young French Korean woman works as a receptionist in a tired guesthouse. One evening, an unexpected guest arrives: a French cartoonist determined to find inspiration in this desolate landscape.

PEACH BLOSSOM PARADISE by Ge Fei and Canaan Morse (commercially available PRINT through booksellers or local libraries)

In 1898 reformist intellectuals in China persuaded the young emperor that it was time to transform his sclerotic empire into a prosperous modern state. The Hundred Days’ Reform that followed was a moment of unprecedented change and extraordinary hope—brought to an abrupt end by a bloody military coup. Dashed expectations would contribute to the revolutionary turn that Chinese history would soon take, leading in time to the deaths of millions.

WHEN WE CEASE TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD by Benjamín Labatut and Adrian Nathan West (commercially available AUDIO through booksellers or local libraries)

When We Cease to Understand the World is a book about the complicated links between scientific and mathematical discovery, madness, and destruction. Fritz Haber, Alexander Grothendieck, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger – these are some of the luminaries into whose troubled lives Benjamín Labatut thrusts the listener, showing us how they grappled with

the most profound questions of existence. They have strokes of unparalleled genius, alienate friends and lovers, descend into isolation and insanity. Some of their discoveries reshape human life for the better; others pave the way to chaos and unimaginable suffering. The lines are never clear. At a breakneck pace and with a wealth of disturbing detail, Labatut uses the imaginative resources of fiction to tell the stories of the scientists and mathematicians who expanded our notions of the possible

PLANET OF CLAY by Samar Yazbek and Leri Price (commercially available PRINT through booksellers or local libraries)

Rima, a young girl from Damascus, longs to walk, to be free to follow the will of her feet, but instead is perpetually constrained. Rima finds refuge in a fantasy world full of colored crayons, secret planets, and The Little Prince, reciting passages of the Qur’an like a mantra as everything and everyone around her is blown to bits. Since Rima hardly ever speaks, people think she’s crazy, but she is no fool―the madness is in the battered city around her. One day while taking a bus through Damascus, a soldier opens fire, and her mother is killed. Rima, wounded, is taken to a military hospital before her brother leads her to the besieged area of Ghouta―where, between bombings, she writes her story.

Young People’s Literature Finalists:

LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB by Malinda Lo (DB 104015)

1954. McCarthyism and the Red Scare are genuine threats to Lily’s family; her father is already at risk of deportation despite his valid citizenship. Lily, who is Chinese American, could lose everything just for dating anyone white–let alone another girl–but she could lose herself if she isn’t true to her feelings. Includes supplemental material. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. For senior high and older readers. 2021.

THE LEGEND OF AUNTIE PO by Shing Yin Khor (commercially available PRINT through booksellers or local libraries)

Aware of the racial tumult in the years after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Mei tries to remain blissfully focused on her job, her close friendship with the camp foreman’s daughter, and telling stories about Paul Bunyan–reinvented as Po Pan Yin (Auntie Po), an elderly Chinese matriarch.

TOO BRIGHT TO SEE by Kyle Lukoff (commercially available AUDIO through booksellers or local libraries)

It’s the summer before middle school and eleven-year-old Bug’s best friend Moira has decided the two of them need to use the next few months to prepare. For Moira, this means figuring out the right clothes to wear, learning how to put on makeup, and deciding which boys are cuter in their yearbook photos than in real life. But none of this is all that appealing to Bug, who doesn’t particularly want to spend more time trying to understand how to be a girl. Besides, there’s something more important to worry about: A ghost is haunting Bug’s eerie old house in rural Vermont…and maybe haunting Bug in particular. As Bug begins to untangle the mystery of who this ghost is and what they’re trying to say, an altogether different truth comes to light–Bug is transgender.

REVOLUTION IN OUR TIME: THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY’S PROMISE TO THE PEOPLE by Kekla Magoon (commercially available AUDIO through booksellers or local libraries)

In this comprehensive, inspiring, and all-too-relevant history of the Black Panther Party, Kekla Magoon introduces readers to the Panthers’ community activism, grounded in the concept of self-defense, which taught Black Americans how to protect and support themselves in a country that treated them like second-class citizens. For too long the Panthers’ story has been a footnote to the civil rights movement rather than what it was: a revolutionary socialist movement that drew thousands of members—mostly women—and became the target of one of the most sustained repression efforts ever made by the U.S. government against its own citizens.

ME (MOTH) by Amber McBride (commercially available AUDIO through booksellers or local libraries)

Moth has lost her family in an accident. Though she lives with her aunt, she feels alone and uprooted. Until she meets Sani, a boy who is also searching for his roots. If he knows more about where he comes from, maybe he’ll be able to understand his ongoing depression. And if Moth can help him feel grounded, then perhaps she, too, will discover the history she carries in her bones.


Poetry is also a category for the awards, but unfortunately do not have any of the titles in our collection. You can explore that, and the full long lists here: https://www.nationalbook.org/awards-prizes/national-book-awards-2021/?cat=fiction


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