A panel of literary experts chose the five finalists in each of five categories — Fiction, Nonfiction, Translated Literature, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature. Decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation, which presents the awards. Longlists were announced in September, and the winners will be announced at the 69th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner in New York City on Wednesday, November 14.
This year, five of the 25 finalists are debuts. There are also five writers on the list who have been previously honored by the National Book Awards: M. T. Anderson, Rae Armantrout, Lauren Groff, Terrance Hayes, and Jhumpa Lahiri.
A number of titles on the shortlist have appeared on recent Indie Next Lists, as chosen by independent booksellers nationwide: Jamel Brinkley’s A Lucky Man was ABA booksellers’ number-one pick on IndieBound’s May 2018 Indie Next List; Lauren Groff’s Florida was a June 2018 Indie Next List pick; Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X was a Spring 2018 Kids' Indie Next List pick; The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai was a July 2018 Indie Next List pick; Sarah Smarsh’s Heartland was an October 2018 Indie Next List pick; Leslie Connor’s The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle appeared on the Winter 2017-2018 Kids’ Indie Next List; and Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo was a Fall 2018 Kids' Indie Next List pick.
Publishers submitted 1,637 books for this year’s awards: 368 in Fiction, 546 in Nonfiction, 142 in Translated Literature, 256 in Poetry, and 325 in Young People’s Literature. To be eligible, books must be published in the United States between December 1, 2017, and November 30, 2018, and be written by a U.S. citizen.
The 2018 National Book Award finalists are:
- Jamel Brinkley, A Lucky Man (Graywolf Press)
- Lauren Groff, Florida (Riverhead)
- Brandon Hobson, Where the Dead Sit Talking (Soho Press)
- Rebecca Makkai, The Great Believers (Viking)
- Sigrid Nunez, The Friend (Riverhead)
- Colin G. Calloway, The Indian World of George Washington (Oxford University Press)
- Victoria Johnson, American Eden (Liveright)
- Sarah Smarsh, Heartland (Scribner)
- Jeffrey C. Stewart, The New Negro (Oxford University Press)
- Adam Winkler, We the Corporations (Liveright)
Translated Literature Nominees
- Negar Djavadi, Disoriental, translated by Tina Kover (Europa Editions)
- Hanne Orstavik, Love, translated by Martin Aitken (Archipelago Books)
- Domenico Starnone, Trick, translated by Jhumpa Lahiri (Europa Editions)
- Yoko Tawada, The Emissary, translated by Margaret Mitsutani (New Directions Publishing)
- Olga Tokarczuk, Flights, translated by Jennifer Croft (Riverhead)
Young People’s Literature Nominees
- Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X (Harper Teen)
- M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge (Candlewick Press)
- Leslie Connor, The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle (Katherine Tegen Books)
- Christopher Paul Curtis, The Journey of Little Charlie (Scholastic Press)
- Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Hey, Kiddo (Graphix)
- Rae Armantrout, Wobble (Wesleyan University Press)
- Terrance Hayes, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (Penguin Books)
- Diana Khoi Nguyen, Ghost Of (Omnidawn Publishing)
- Justin Phillip Reed, Indecency (Coffee House Press)
- Jenny Xie, Eye Level (Graywolf Press)