The longlists for the 2018 National Book Awards have officially been revealed.
The National Book Awards are one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the United States. The organization boasts a first-rate record of recognizing quality writing: In 1950, William Carlos Williams became the first winner in Poetry, and the following year William Faulkner was honored in Fiction. Many previous winners of the National Book Award are now established in the canon of American literature, including Ralph Ellison, Louise Erdrich, Jonathan Franzen, Denis Johnson, Flannery O’Connor, Adrienne Rich and Jesmyn Ward.
Check out which books have made this year’s list in the Award’s two biggest categories—fiction and nonfiction—below.
This year’s Longlist includes multiple New York Times bestselling authors, three story collections and four debuts. The selections are made up of narratives addressing issues of addiction, grief, class division, racism, gender roles, cultural identity, American politics and more.
Jamel Brinkley, A Lucky Man
In A Lucky Man, Jamel Brinkley tells nine stories, all set in New York City in predominantly Black communities. These brothers, friends and peers grapple with questions of masculinity, trauma and deep-rooted racism.
Jennifer Clement, Gun Love
Set near a Floridian trailer park, Jennifer Clement’s novel Gun Love centers on the relationship between a teenage girl and her mother, who find themselves wrapped up in a violent community obsessed with guns.
Lauren Groff, Florida
In Florida, 2015 National Book Award Finalist Lauren Groff tells eleven stories, connected by a shared backdrop: the Sunshine State. In her latest work, the Fates and Furies author seems concerned with love, loneliness and the complicated nature of familial bonds.
Daniel Gumbiner, The Boatbuilder
In Daniel Gumbiner’s The Boatbuilder, a 28-year-old man has had it relatively easy, until he sustains a concussion that prompts an opioid addiction and a life of crime. In need of something that will rebuild his life, the man comes across a craftsman and his community in Northern California. Ultimately, The Boatbuilder tells an inspiring story of recovery and self-reliance.
Brandon Hobson, Where the Dead Sit Talking
Brandon Hobson’s Where the Dead Sit Talking follows a 15-year-old Cherokee boy who finds himself in a new foster home. Although he is still deeply affected by his mother’s substance abuse, the boy seeks intimacy with others in his new environment.
Tayari Jones, An American Marriage
In Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage, the lives of a newlywed couple in pursuit of the American Dream are put on hold when the husband is incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. The novel delves deep into their strained relationship, concerned with problems of class, gender and a flawed criminal justice system.
Rebecca Makkai, The Great Believers
To chronicle the American AIDS epidemic from its outbreak to the present day, Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers alternates between two central stories: a group of queer friends in 1980s Chicago and a woman searching for her daughter in 2015 Paris. The novel addresses loss, grief, memory and issues of systemic neglect.
Sigrid Nunez, The Friend
Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend centers around a steadfast writer mourning the loss of her closest friend after she is left with his aging Great Dane. Part first-person narrative, part quotes and anecdotes from classic literature, the novel provides a realistic portrayal of loss and legacy.
Tommy Orange, There There
Tommy Orange’s debut novel There There centers around Oakland’s Native Americans as they prepare for an upcoming powwow, addressing themes of identity, betrayal and intergenerational trauma along the way.
Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Heads of the Colored People
With an approach to current events and politics that could best be described as dark humor, Nafissa Thompson-Spires’s Heads of the Colored People comments on race relationships and inequality. The novel includes numerous distinct perspectives to offer a nuanced look at the Black middle class.
This year’s Nonfiction Longlist includes a wide range of subjects and genres, including meditations on American history and politics, biographies, memoirs, scientific explication and an essay collection.
Carol Anderson, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy
In One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy, Carol Anderson discusses recent developments in our electoral system. Anderson is particularly concerned with the ways these changes impact who has the ability to vote, highlighting how gerrymandering, poll closures and other practices have made it harder for African American voters to cast their ballots in the last five years.
Colin G. Calloway, The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation
Colin G. Calloway’s The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation details the relationship between Native leaders and the United States’ first president, illustrating our government’s destruction of Native lands and rights.
Steve Coll, Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Steve Coll’s Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan tells the history of the United States’ involvement in the ongoing conflict in South Asia, from before 9/11 to the present day. Coll seeks to highlight the complicated and often secretive political policies that have persisted throughout numerous administrations.
Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple, Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War
In Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War, Marwan Hisham comes of age during the Syrian War, living through events from the Arab Spring to the present. The book includes illustrations by co-author Molly Crabapple that capture turmoil and repression, resistance and hope.
Victoria Johnson, American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic
In American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic, Victoria Johnson explores the life and work of renowned 19th-century surgeon David Hosack, whose passion for botany would lead him towards groundbreaking pharmaceutical research, changing both fields forever.
David Quammen, The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life
In The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life, David Quammen chronicles the discovery of a gene’s ability to move across species lines, and the ways in which these findings altered our understanding of evolution, genetics and the history of life itself.
Sarah Smarsh, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth
In her memoir Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, Sarah Smarsh details her childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and ‘90s, addressing issues of generational poverty, class divides and identity.
Rebecca Solnit, Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays)
A selection of essays on the major current issues of our time, Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays) sets forth Rebecca Solnit’s sociopolitical critiques of issues such as environmental threats, police brutality and gentrification.
Jeffrey C. Stewart, The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke
In The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, Jeffrey C. Stewart chronicles the life of the often-overlooked Alain Locke, a Harvard-educated philosopher and significant figure in the Harlem Renaissance. The biography explores his education, personal life, work and accomplishments—including his becoming the first African-American Rhodes Scholar, his role in African-American arts of the Jazz Age, and the ways in which he helped lay the groundwork for contemporary African-American studies.
Adam Winkler, We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights
In We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights, Adam Winkler looks at the history of corporations in the United States, making the argument that these companies have shaped the nation and its politics to create a system in which their rights resemble those of individuals.
The other three categories recognized by the National Book Foundation include Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature. Find those longlists here.
Finalists in all five categories will be announced on Oct. 10. Stay tuned!