Cover Find out which books made the National Book Awards 2021 shortlist (Art: Chesca Gamboa/Tatler Hong Kong)

There are 25 finalists for the National Book Awards 2021 across five categories: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, translated literature and young adult literature

One of the most prestigious awards in literature, the National Book Awards has announced its shortlist finalists in five categories: non-fiction, fiction, translated literature, poetry and young adult literature. This year, 25 of them made the cut and consists of a range of new voices, debuting authors, prior nominees and renowned authors.

Several Asian and Asian American authors made it to the list including Grace M. Cho in the non-fiction list, Hoa Nguyen and Jackie Wang in the poetry section, Ge Fei and Samar Yazbek from the translated literature category and Shing Yin Khor and Malinda Lo in the young adult literature section.

Each year, 25 judges (five per category)—nominated by former winners and finalists—will be reading through the submissions in search of the notable standouts. The winners for each category will be announced on November 17 and received US$10,000 while finalists will receive US$1,000. Due to the pandemic, the award ceremony will be held as a virtual event according to the National Book Foundation.

Below is the shortlist for each category:

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  • Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
  • Matrix by Lauren Groff
  • Zorrie by Laird Hunt
  • The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.
  • Hell of a Book by Jason Mott


  • A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib
  • Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains by Lucas Bessire
  • Tastes Like War: A Memoir by Grace M. Cho
  • Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America by Nicole Eustace
  • All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles

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  • What Nose Against the Cane by Desiree C. Bailey
  • Floaters by Martín Espada
  • Sho by Douglas Kearney
  • A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure by Hoa Nguyen
  • The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us From the Void by Jackie Wang

Translated Literature

  • Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin, translated from French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins
  • Peach Blossom Paradise by Ge Fei, translated from Chinese by Canaan Morse
  • The Twilight Zone by Nona Fernández, translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer
  • When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut, translated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West
  • Planet of Clay by Samar Yazbek, translated from Arabic by Leri Price

Young Adult Literature

  • The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin Khor
  • Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
  • Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff
  • Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party's Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon
  • Me (Moth) by Amber McBride

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This article was originally published on September 27 and was updated on October 6, 2021.



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