Winners will be announced in New York City on November 18.
September 17, 2015 8:16 AM   Subscribe

2015 National Book Award Longlists Released [The Millions]

Here’s a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available:

• A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball
• Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (excerpt)
• Refund by Karen E. Bender (“For What Purpose”)
• The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
• Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (the book’s opening passage)
• Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson (excerpt)
• Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson (excerpt (pdf))
• Honeydew by Edith Pearlman
• A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
• Mislaid by Nell Zink
• Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett (interview and excerpt)
• Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (“We Know Less Than We Think We Do”)
• Mourning Lincoln by Martha Hodes (excerpt)
• Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann (excerpt)
• The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery (excerpt)
• Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawaii by Susanna Moore (essay)
• Love and Other Ways of Dying by Michael Paterniti (excerpt)
• If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran by Carla Power (excerpt)
• Ordinary Light: A Memoir by Tracy K. Smith
• Travels in Vermeer: A Memoir by Michael White (excerpt)
• Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay (the title poem)
• Scattered at Sea by Amy Gerstler (excerpt)
• A Stranger’s Mirror: New and Selected Poems, 1994-2014 by Marilyn Hacker (the title poem)
• How to Be Drawn by Terrance Hayes (poem)
• The Beauty by Jane Hirshfield (poem)
• Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis (poem)
• Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón (Charring the Page: On Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things)
• Elegy for a Broken Machine by Patrick Phillips (the title poem)
• Heaven by Rowan Ricardo Phillips (poem)
• Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts by Lawrence Raab (poem)
Young People’s Literature:
• Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (excerpt)
• Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson
• The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (excerpt)
• Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (excerpt)
• This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs by Gary Paulsen
• Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (excerpt)
• X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon (excerpt)
• Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (excerpt)
• Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (excerpt)
• Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (interview)
posted by Fizz (16 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson

For the kid who has everything except existential dread.
posted by Etrigan at 8:26 AM on September 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

Once again, too many books and me with only one pair of eyeballs. Still, some of these are definitely going on my public library reservation list.
posted by Kitteh at 8:40 AM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've been doing this thing lately where I only read books that I find on stoops when I'm walking the dog.

I recognize exactly two of the contenders.
posted by postcommunism at 8:51 AM on September 17, 2015

This is a good year to be Noelle Stevenson.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:07 AM on September 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've read exactly none of these and have heard of very few. Which is a good thing. Impressed with NBA for going beyond the high-profile choices.
posted by escabeche at 9:20 AM on September 17, 2015

I do have to admit I find it super hard to believe a book called "Love and Other Ways of Dying" could be any good, but heck, I'll give the excerpt a try.
posted by escabeche at 9:21 AM on September 17, 2015

And I just got through half of the books from the Man Booker Prize Longlist from a couple months back.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:29 AM on September 17, 2015

November seems a little early to judge an entire year. Curious, I looked at the rules:

"Publishers must mail one copy of each submitted book to each of the five Judges in the appropriate category, as well as one copy to the Foundation’s office, to be received by July 1, 2015...Judges are not obligated to consider books that arrive after July 1."

Tough break for fall releases. (They do consider December books for the following year, FWIW.)
posted by BWA at 9:45 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm so startled to find that I haven't heard of so many of the fiction contenders. That's really unusual for me. The Turner House sounds fantastic.

I thought A Little Life was an amazing, astounding book. I thought that the way that the abuse was approached was perfect -- you knew about it and knew about it and knew about it so that by the time it was actually described, you had already experienced so much dread that the telling provoked less shock and more just horror, in other words it was not exploitative. On the other hand, I've seen a few remarks here and there along the lines of "is this the great gay novel" and I can't say yes to that. Every single gay sexual relationship portrayed in the book is destructive or somehow broken. Not that I'm gay and not that I'm a literary critic, but I feel like this is a great novel about many broken people and a number of them happen to be gay, which is different from being the Great Gay American Novel. if you know what I mean.
posted by janey47 at 11:05 AM on September 17, 2015

Publishers will send advance reader copies for fall release books, so even books that aren't out yet are still being considered.

I thought A Little Life was an amazing, astounding book.

Yanagihara is apparently the odds-on favorite to win the Booker Prize too. I read The People in the Trees and liked it, but I didn't even know she had a new novel out until the Booker shortlist results came out. A Little Life is definitely going on my to-read list, near the top, assuming I'm not already too far down on the library reserve list.
posted by gladly at 11:33 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is a good year to be Noelle Stevenson.
It's a good year to be a Noelle Stevenson fan who can say "I knew her when..."

This had better be a good year to be Ta-Nehisi Coates, because (based mostly on titles and brief descriptions), I don't see a more IMPORTANT book on the Non-Fiction list than his.

And the timing for these awards remind me of my 1970s Radio Days when we'd get the list of Billboard Magazine's Top Records of the Year (not strictly 'Best Selling') around December 15th, from an accounting that went from Last Thanksgiving to This Thanksgiving. So it sucks to have the #1 record the week before and the week after Turkey Day, because there's no way you'll make the year-end top 40 either way. Compared to this, that quirk seems so minor... yet, the book publishing business does seem to work at a glacial pace.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:52 PM on September 17, 2015

I read The People in the Trees and liked it

Currently reading The People in the Trees right now and its blowing my mind. It reminds me quite a bit of Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible.
posted by Fizz at 1:33 PM on September 17, 2015

So I think Yanigihara writes very wonderful books that I never want to pick up again. Hers is the only thing I have read. A number of these are on my list, which looks like it is about to expand again.
posted by jeather at 2:49 PM on September 17, 2015

Publishers will send advance reader copies for fall release books, so even books that aren't out yet are still being considered.

Assuming advance copies for the fall lists are ready by July 1. Which, I can assure you, is not always the case.

Takeaway for authors - try to schedule books for the spring lists.

Assuming, of course, you have an eye on the prize.
posted by BWA at 4:17 PM on September 17, 2015

I love The Millions but can't peruse there too much because I start to feel despair about all these books I'll never have time to read. I mean, I've got about 50 books on my Kindle alone that need reading.
posted by zardoz at 6:30 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am generally not a reader of literary fiction, but I have read Welcome to Braggsville, and I generally thought it was quite good, though it maybe kept going past its natural ending. It definitely made me want to read more by T. Geronimo Johnson. I was interested to read a book by a black author written from the perspective of a white young man, given that the book dealt in part with a protest against racism gone wrong and that there was a black young man character equally involved in the action. It had me questioning my expectations of storytelling and why I wanted the author to tell the story from the perspective of the character most demographically similar to himself--what part of that was my own racism (I am white from the USA), what part of that was my expectation that stories about racism should be told from minority perspectives, and whether any of it indicated something actually lacking in the story. An extremely thought-provoking read.
posted by epj at 1:41 PM on September 18, 2015

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