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Colson Whitehead, John Lewis, and Rita Dove lead the National Book Awards finalists.


The National Book Award for Fiction hasn’t had a frontrunner as frontrunner-y as Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad in a long time, which is not only a consensus critics’ choice, but a rare Oprah’s Book Club pick as well. So it’s no surprise that Whitehead leads the fiction shortlist—it would be shocking if he hadn’t made the cut. But there are potential spoilers among the other fiction contenders, particularly Jaqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn, which is the only other nominated book I could see winning, though we’ll call Chris Bachelder’s The Throwback Special the dark horse.

The National Book Award for Nonfiction’s shortlist is more interesting and includes five books that could very easily win the award. But in the year of Trump, Arlie Lee Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right has to be considered the leading candidate. The poetry and young people’s literature categories are led, respectively, by Rita Dove’s Collected Poems and Congressman John Lewis’s graphic novel March: Book Three. The finalists are below.


  • Chris Bachelder, The Throwback Special, W. W. Norton & Company
  • Paulette Jiles, News of the World, William Morrow
  • Karan Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs, Viking Books
  • Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad, Doubleday
  • Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn, Amistad


  • Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, The New Press
  • Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Nation Books
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, Harvard University Press
  • Andrés Reséndez, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Heather Ann Thompson, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, Pantheon


  • Daniel Borzutzky, The Performance of Becoming Human, Brooklyn Arts Press
  • Rita Dove, Collected Poems 1974–2004, W. W. Norton & Company
  • Peter Gizzi, Archeophonics, Wesleyan University Press
  • Jay Hopler, The Abridged History of Rainfall, McSweeney’s
  • Solmaz Sharif, Look, Graywolf Press

Young People’s Literature:

  • Kate DiCamillo, Raymie Nightingale, Candlewick Press
  • John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, March: Book Three, Top Shelf Productions
  • Grace Lin, When the Sea Turned to Silver, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Jason Reynolds, Ghost, Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Nicola Yoon, The Sun Is Also a Star, Delacorte Press