• Translated literature is a new category this year.
• Isabelle Allende will receive a lifetime achievement award
• Get ready for speeches about the transcendent power of art during tumultuous political times.
The National Book Awards Are Tonight
The National Book Awards are probably the closest thing the literary world has to the Oscars.
There’s a glitzy gala, complete with a red carpet, for 700-plus guests at Cipriani Wall Street; a celebrity M.C. (this year, the actor Nick Offerman is hosting the awards; in past years, Cynthia Nixon, Larry Wilmore and Andy Borowitz have presided); lifetime achievement awards (this year it’s going to Isabel Allende), and a live broadcast (of a sort — it’s livestreamed on Facebook). You can also expect plenty of earnest acceptance speeches and grandstanding about the transcendent power of art during tumultuous political times — (like Hollywood, the publishing world leans left).
The awards, which date to 1950, have been given to some of America’s most influential writers, including W.H. Auden, Saul Bellow, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, Vladimir Nabokov, Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, Adrienne Rich, J.D. Salinger, Eudora Welty, and William Carlos Williams.
This year’s nominees include rising stars like the poet Terrance Hayes, previous nominees and perennial favorites like Lauren Groff, and a handful of debut authors, among them Jamel Brinkley, the poet Diana Khoi Nguyen and the novelist Négar Djavadi, who is nominated for translated literature, a new category this year.
Tonight’s awards could help inject some excitement and energy into what has generally been a lackluster literary awards season. The Nobel Prize for Literature was canceled this year, because of a sexual misconduct scandal that engulfed a prominent man with close ties to the Swedish Academy. The Man Booker Prize, which went to the Northern Irish author Anna Burns, didn’t generate the kind of buzz and controversy it has in previous years. And there have been few breakout debut novels or runaway best-sellers this year that the literary world has rallied around. Fiction sales overall have slipped, while readers have been glued to the nonstop news cycle.
But for one night — in one room, at least — some of the biggest names in publishing will gather to celebrate what the judges have deemed the year’s best books.
Below, a full list of the nominees. We’ll be covering the awards live tonight, starting at 8:30 p.m.
Nominees for Fiction
Jamel Brinkley, “A Lucky Man” Graywolf Press
Lauren Groff, “Florida” Riverhead Books
Brandon Hobson, “Where the Dead Sit Talking” Soho Press
Rebecca Makkai, “The Great Believers” Viking Books
Sigrid Nunez, “The Friend” Riverhead Books
Nominees for Nonfiction
Colin C. Calloway, “The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation” Oxford University Press
Jeffrey C. Stewart, “The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke” Oxford University Press
Adam Winkler, “We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights” Liveright/ W.W. Norton
Nominees for Poetry
Rae Armantrout, “Wobble” Wesleyan University Press
Diana Khoi Nguyen, “Ghost Of” Omnidawn Publishing
Justin Phillip Reed, “Indecency” Coffee House Press
Jenny Xie, “Eye Level” Graywolf Press
Nominees for Translated Literature
Négar Djavadi, “Disoriental” Translated by Tina Kover. Europa Editions
Hanne Ørstavik, “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 Books
Nominees for Young People’s Literature
Elizabeth Acevedo, “The Poet X” HarperTeen / HarperCollins
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 / HarperCollins
Christopher Paul Curtis, “The Journey of Little Charlie” Scholastic Press / Scholastic, Inc.
Jarrett J. Krosoczka, “Hey, Kiddo” Graphix / Scholastic, Inc.