At one of the biggest nights in literature, the National Book Foundation honored five titles. 

By Elizabeth Sile
November 21, 2019
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Getty Images

On Wednesday evening in New York City, the National Book Foundation held its 70th annual National Book Awards, among the most prestigious literary honors in the country.

RELATED: The Best Books of 2019 (So Far)

From 1,712 submissions, judges selected five finalists in each of five categories—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people’s literature. Winners were awarded a $10,000 prize, trophy, and, of course, bragging rights.

Read all about the winning books below.

Macmillan Publishers

Fiction: Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi

In Pulitzer finalist Choi’s experimental coming of age novel, set in the 1980s at a high-pressure performing arts school, two theater kids, Sarah and David, fall in love and explore their relationship for their craft under the tutelage of their enigmatic drama teacher.

To buy: $15;

Finalists: Sabrina & Corina: Stories, by Kali Fajardo-Anstine; Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James; The Other Americans, by Laila Lalami; Disappearing Earth, by Julia Phillips.

Courtesy of Grove Atlantic

Nonfiction: The Yellow House, by Sarah M. Broom

In her gorgeous memoir, Broom tells her family history—and, in doing so, a history of New Orleans—from 1961 through Hurricane Katrina, writing movingly about the pull of home and weaving in stories and quotes from her family members.

To buy: $19;

Finalists: Thick, by Tressie McMillan Cottom; What You Have Heard Is True, by Carolyn Forché; The Heartbeat of a Wounded Knee, by David Treuer; Solitary, by Albert Woodfox with Leslie George.


Young People’s Literature: 1919 The Year That Changed America, by Martin W. Sandler

In this riveting work of nonfiction for grades 6 to 9, Sandler recounts how 1919 was a pivotal year in American history, touching on everything from the Red Summer to the fight for women’s right to vote.

To buy: $16;

Finalists: Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi; Look Both Ways, by Jason Reynolds; Patron Saints of Nothing, by Randy Ribay; Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All, Laura Ruby.

Copper Canyon Press

Poetry: Sight Lines, by Arthur Sze

Sze’s lauded 10th collection explore connectivity, the natural world, and change across poems in several different forms.

To buy: $13;

Finalists: The Tradition, by Jericho Brown; I, by Toi Derricotte; Deaf Republic, by Ilya Kaminsky; Be Recorder, Carmen Giménez Smith.

New Directions Publishing

Translated Literature: Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming, by László Krasznahorkai (translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet)

A prince returns to Hungary after years of exile in Argentina, hoping to reunite with his high school sweetheart in this novel from the Man Booker International Prize lifetime achievement winner.

To buy: $25;

Finalists: Death Is Hard Work, by Khaled Khalifa (Leri Price); The Barefoot Woman, by Scholastique Mukasonga (Jordan Stump); The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa (Stephen Snyder); Crossing, by Pajtim Statovci (David Hackston).