The Finalists for the 66th National Book Awards have been determined, with the Longlist of 10 titles being winnowed down to a Shortlist of 5 in each of the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature respectively. It seems every year there is a category wherein any number of the Finalists could possibly get the prize, whereas perhaps in another there is often a book that seems foreordained to get the top honor – due to aspects ranging from a Finalist nominee being a notable author with prior nominations yet no Grand Prizes; a groundswell of popular or critical acclaim distinguishing one of the titles from the rest; or circumstances in the political or social sphere in America that serve to make a certain book timely or “important” in terms of the national dialogue.

This latter distinction marked the arrival of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ meditation on race Between The World And Me, following as it did the number of recent incidents where African Americans have died due to encounters with law enforcement officers. While that reason alone might make the book an odds-on favorite to win the Award for Nonfiction at the gala ceremony on November 18th, the inherently political nature of any prizes, awards or citations as determined by selection committees – these are comprised of people after all, who are undoubtedly influenced by any number of things in the public realm– suggests another factor that may well play a part in the outcome. Observers will recall Daniel Handler’s unfortunate “watermelon” anecdote while hosting the National Book Awards last year, and though Handler’s politically incorrect (and insensitive) attempt at humor in no way reflected or represents the National Book Association, it’s not beyond the imagination that the panelists determining the Longlist, Finalists and ultimate Awardee for Nonfiction (or other Awards) might have the memory of that in the back of their minds.

Those wishing to hear the words of the authors nominated for the 2015 Awards can attend a public reading by the Finalists on November 17th at The New School; tickets are available to the general public, and can be secured through the New School box office, either by calling 212-229-5488 or online via On the next day the four winners in each category will be chosen by the respective panels over lunch, prior to the announcement of their selections at the evening gala on November 18th.

The Finalists:


Refund: Stories, Karen E. Bender (Counterpoint Press)

The Turner House, Angela Flournoy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Fates And Furies, Lauren Groff (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House)

Fortune Smiles: Stories, Adam Johnson (Random House)

A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday/Penguin Random House)


Between The World And Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau/Penguin Random House)

Hold Still, Sally Mann (Little, Brown/Hachette Book Group)

The Soul Of An Octopus, Sy Montgomery (Atria/Simon & Schuster)

If The Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Firendship And A Journey To The Heart Of The Quran, Carla Power (Henry Holt and Company)

Ordinary Light, Tracy K. Smith (Alfred A. Knopf)


Catalog Of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay (University of Pittsburgh Press)

How To Be Drawn, Terrance Hayes (Penguin/Penguin Random House)

Voyage Of The Sable Venus, Robin Coste Lewis (Alfred A. Knopf)

Bright Dead Things, Ada Limón (Milkweed Editions)

Elegy For A Broken Machine, Patrick Phillips (Alfred A. Knopf)


The Thing About Jellyfish, Ali Benjamin (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Bone Gap, Laura Ruby (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg And The Secret History Of The Vietnam War, Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

Challenger Deep, Neal Shusterman (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Nimone, Noelle Stevenson (HarperTeen/HarperCollins Children’s Books)

The Longlist for each category included:


A Cure For Suicide, Jesse Ball (Pantheon Books)

Did You Ever Have A Family, Bill Clegg (Scout Press/Simon & Schuster)

Welcome To Braggsville, T. Geronimo Johnson (William Morrow/HarperCollins)

Honeydew, Edith Pearlman (Little, Brown/Hachette Book Group)

Mislaid, Nell Zink (Ecco/HarperCollins)


Rain, Cynthia Barnett (Crown Publishing Group/Penguin Random House)

Mourning Lincoln, Martha Hodes (Yale University Press)

Paradise Of The Pacific, Susanna Moore (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Love And Other Ways Of Dying: Essays, Michael Paterniti (The Dial Press/Penguin Random House)

Travels In Vermeer: A Memoir, Michael White (Persea Books)

Scattered At Sea, Amy Gerstler (Penguin/Penguin Random House)

A Stranger’s Mirror, Marilyn Hacker (W.W. Norton & Company)

The Beauty, Jane Hirshfield (Alfred A. Knopf)

Heaven, Rowan Ricardo Phillips (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Mistaking Each Other For Ghosts, Lawrence Raab (Tupelo Press)


Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Symphony For The City Of The Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich And The Siege Of Leningrad, M.T. Anderson (Candlewick Press)

Walk On Earth A Stranger, Rae Carson (Greenwillow/HarperCollins Children’s Books)

This Side Of Wild: Mutts, Mares, And Laughing Dinosaurs, Gary Paulsen (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing)

X: A Novel, Ilyasah Shabazz, with Kekla Magoon (Candlewick Press)

Fiction Judges: Daniel Alarcón, Jeffery Renard Allen, Sarah Bagby, Laura Lippman, David. L. Ulin

Nonfiction Judges: Diane Ackerman, Patricia Hill Collins, John D’Agata, Paul Holdengräber, Adrienne Mayor

Poetry Judges: Sherman Alexie, Willie Perdomo, Katha Pollitt, Tim Seibles, Jan Weissmiller

Young People’s Literature Judges: John Joseph Adams, Teri Lesesne, Laura McNeal, G. Neri, Eliot Schrefer

For more information about the Finalists for the 2014 National Book Awards, the Lifetime Achievement Award Winners, and details about the Awards ceremony, visit the National Book Foundation (