The major literary awards are coming up, and we decided to put together a guide to who’s likely to be nominated, where things stand and what’s ahead. Such lists also provide a decent reading guide for anyone trying to figure out what to read next.
First of all, the National Book Awards have already been announced, and they’re a fairly good indicator of what lies ahead.
For fiction, Adam Johnson was named the winner for “Fortune Smiles.” Ta-Nahisi Coates won the nonfiction award for “Between the World and Me,” while Robin Coste Lewis won the poetry prize for “Voyage of the Sable Venus.” In young people’s literature, the winner was Neal Shusterman for “Challenger Deep.”
The finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award, which is determined by book review editors and critics, were announced Jan. 18. These categories are slightly different from the National Book Awards, but here are the finalists, with winners to be announced March 17.
Nonfiction: Mary Beard, “SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome”; Ari Berman, “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America”; Jill Leovy, “Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America”; Sam Quinones, “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic”; and Brian Seibert, “What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing.”
Autobiography: Elizabeth Alexander, “The Light of the World”; Vivian Gornick, “The Odd Woman and the City”; George Hodgman, “Bettyville”; Margo Jefferson, “Negroland”; Helen Macdonald, “H Is for Hawk.”
Biography: Terry Alford, “Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth”; Charlotte Gordon, “Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecarft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley”; T.J. Stiles, “Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America”; Rosemary Sullivan, “Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva”; Karin Wieland and Shelly Frisch, “Dietrich and Riefenstahl: Hollywood, Berlin, and a Century in Two Lives.”
Criticism: Ta-Nahisi Coates, “Between the World and Me”; Leo Damrosch, “Eternity’s Sunrise: The Imaginative World of William Blake”; Maggie Nelson, “The Argonauts”; Colm Toibin, “On Elizabeth Bishop”; James Wood, “The Nearest Thing to Life.”
Poetry: Ross Gay, “Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude”; Terrance Hayes, “How to Be Drawn”; Ada Limon, “Bright Dead Things”; Sinead Morrissey, “Parallax: And Selectged Poems”; Frank Stanford, “What About This” Collected Poems of Frank Stanford.”
The shortlist for the PEN Literary Awards was announced in early February, and winners will be named March 1 for biography, literary sports writing, poetry in translation and PEN translation prize. On April 11, winners will be announced for debut fiction, essay, Open Book and literary science writing.
Here are the finalists:
Fiction: “In the Country: Stories,” Mia Alvar; “The Turner House,” Angela Flournoy; “Mr. And Mrs. Doctor,” Julie Iromuanya; “The Sympathizer,” Viet Thanh Nguyen; “Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness,” by Jennifer Tseng.
Essay: “After the Tall Timber: Collected Nonfiction,” Renata Adler; “Between the World and Me,” Ta-Nehisi Coates; “The Quarry,” Susan Howe; “The Givenness of Things: Essays,” Marilynne Robinson; “Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles,” David L. Ulin.
Literary science writing: “Rain: A Natural and Cultural History,” Cynthia Barnett; “The End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World,” Joel K. Bourne Jr.; “The Boy Who Played With Fusion: Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting, and How to Make a Star,” Tom Clynes; “Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future,” Lauren Redniss; “Island on Fire: The Extraordinary Story of a Forgotten Volcano That Changed the World,” Alexandra Witze and Jeff Kanipe.
Literary sports writing: “Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson,” Kent Babb; “The Domino Diaries: My Decade Boxing with Olympic Champions and Chasing Hemingway’s Ghost in the Last Days of Castro’s Cuba,” Brin-Jonathan Butler; “The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball’s Lost Triumph,” Scott Ellsworth; “Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty,” Bengie Molina with Joan Ryan; “The Grind: Inside Baseball’s Endless Season,” Barry Svrulga.
Open Book Award: “Chord,” Rick Barot; “Bastards of the Reagan Era,” Reginald Dwayne Betts; “Forest Primeval: Poems,” Vievee Francis; “Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey,” Marie Mutsuki Mockett; “Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape,” Lauret Savoy.
Biography: “The Bronte Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects,” Deborah Lutz; “Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art,” Nancy Princenthal; “John le Carre: The Biography,” Adam Sisman; “Michelle Obama: A Life,” Peter Slevin; “Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva,” Rosemary Sullivan.
Poetry in translation: “The School of Solitude: Collected Poems,” Luise Hernandez, translated by Anthony Geist; The Late Poems of Wang An-shih,” translated by David Hinton; “Rilke Shake,” by Angelica Freitas, translated by Hilary Kaplan; “I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkosky,” translated by Philip Metres and Dimitri Psurtsev; “The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa,” translated by Sawako Nakayasu.
PEN Translation Prize: “The Complete Stories,” Clarice Lispector, translated by Katrina Dodson; “The Blizzard,” Vladmir Sorokin, translated by Jamey Gambrell; “Crime and Punishment,” Fyodor Dostoyesky, translated by Oliver Ready; “The Physics of Sorrow,” Georgi Gospodinov, translated by Angela Rodel; “Hollow Heart,” Viola Di Grado, translated by Antony Shugaar.
The Pulitzer Prizes will be announced in April. And various websites and critics expect the following to be in contention for the fiction award: “Fortune Smiles,” by Adam Johnson; “Fates and Furies,” by Lauren Groff; “A Little Life,” by Hanya Yanagihara, who won the Kirkus Prize in October; “The Sympathizer,” by Viet Thanh Nguyen; and “A Manual for Cleaning Women,” by Lucia Berlin.
The Texas Institute of Letters is expected to announce its finalists in March, with awards being presented in April. The big prize, of course, is the Lon Tinkle Award, which honors a career in letters. Last year, the award went to Lawrence Wright.
In late January, Valentin Sandoval’s “South Sun Rises” received the Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association. His novel, which deals with ethnic identity, is set in the Chihuahua desert along the El Paso Juarez border.