2021 National Book Awards


The 2021 Winners of the National Book Award

By Emma Cubellis•November 19, 2021•5 min read

The National Book Awards are one of the United States’s most prestigious literary awards, first established in 1950. There are five categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature. Here are the 2021 winners for all categories and finalists for fiction, nonfiction, and young people’s literature — we can’t wait to add all of these to our wishlists! If you are interested in seeing the rest of the finalists and longlists, check out the National Book Awards website

Book cover for Hell of a Book by Jason Mott

Hell of a BookJason Mott

Fiction Winner

Written in dual narration, Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book is the story of a Black author on a cross-country publicity tour, a young Black boy named Soot, and a child known only as The Kid who appears to the author along his tour. As the novel progresses, the story lines converge to bring about a message on family, art, and loss, as well as a reckoning with police brutality in …Show More ›Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for Matrix by Lauren Groff

MatrixLauren Groff

Fiction Finalist

A dazzling display of the raw power of the female spirit, Lauren Groff’s Matrix is a portrait of Marie de France, who, after being deemed too uncouth for marriage, is assigned to be the prioress of a convent on the brink of starvation. Marie gives herself wholly to her new sisters, charting a course of bold determination and defiance in a world that will never accept her. Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for Zorrie by Laird Hunt

ZorrieLaird Hunt

Fiction Finalist

Laird Hunt’s sprawling story is set against the harsh backdrop of the Depression-era American Midwest. Told in deeply poetic prose, Zorrie follows the life of Zorrie Underwood. Orphaned as a child and forced to make a life for herself getting odd jobs, Zorrie finally finds a community… only to discover that as a young woman, her life’s trials have just begun. Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.

The ProphetsRobert Jones Jr.

Fiction Finalist

Isaiah and Samuel are in love. In each other, the two seek refuge from the vicious landscape of 19th-century Mississippi. But after a fellow enslaved man becomes suspicious of their relationship, their love morphs from being seen as a source of hope to a danger. With lyrical writing in the tradition of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones Jr. builds a story rife with longing, pain, …Show More ›Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Cloud Cuckoo LandAnthony Doerr

Fiction Finalist 

Pulitzer Prize–winning author Anthony Doerr’s third novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land, is a triumphant, imaginative telling. Doerr intertwines the stories of five young people whose lives are set 500 years apart. Combing history, surrealism, and a touch of science fiction, Doerr shows the ways in which hope and resilience can appear in even the darkest of times. Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for All That She Carried by Tiya Miles

All That She CarriedTiya Miles

Nonfiction Winner

Tiya Mile’s All That She Carried is a deeply moving narrative on the power of maternal love. Using archival research, Miles uncovers the stories of countless enslaved women who were forced to part with their children. Miles examines both objects — tattered clothing, locks of hair, handfuls of pecans — and lost letters to show the heartbreaking resourcefulness these mothers …Show More ›Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for Running Out by Lucas Bessire

Running OutLucas Bessire

Nonfiction Finalist

To write Running Out, anthropologist Lucas Bessire returned to the High Plains, where five generations of his family had worked the land nourished by the Ogallala aquifer. However, years of unsustainable farming practices have taxed the aquifer beyond repair and put the land on the brink of collapse. Both a story of family and an urgent call for environmental activism, Show More ›Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for Tastes Like War: A Memoir by Grace M. Cho

Tastes Like War: A MemoirGrace M. Cho

Nonfiction Finalist

Grace M. Cho’s mother was a Korean bar hostess who married a white American marine, and while the two loved one another deeply, that love could do nothing to change the cold xenophobia that greeted Cho’s mother throughout her life. When Grace was 15, her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Tastes Like War is a memoir of Cho’s examination of her mother’s historical …Show More ›Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for Covered with Night by Nicole Eustace

Covered with NightNicole Eustace

Nonfiction Finalist

Historian Nicole Eustace brings to light a little-known event between the American colonists and the Indigenous Iroquois that would go on to have lasting ramifications on how Native Americans were granted justice in America. Built around a group of characters, Eustace’s chronicle leaves no fact untold and combines astute historicism with engaging prose, creating an …Show More ›Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib

A Little Devil in AmericaHanif Abdurraqib

Nonfiction Finalist

Hanif Abdurraqib’s A Little Devil in America is a stunning display that proves nonfiction is anything but dry; written in lyrical prose and rife with emotion, Abdurraqib’s story is a reflection on how Black performance is inextricably woven into every fiber of American culture. Using a range of examples, Abdurraqib picks apart every moment, examining the nuances, …Show More ›Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Last Night at the Telegraph ClubMalinda Lo

Young People’s Literature Winner

Last Night at the Telegraph Club is a moving queer romance set in 1954, a time when it was not safe for two young girls to fall in love, a time when the Red Scare was seeping into every nook and cranny of society, and a time where Chinese American women were fighting to keep their sense of self. Malinda Lo’s writing teems with emotion as she writes the love …Show More ›Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin Khor

The Legend of Auntie PoShing Yin Khor

Young People’s Literature Finalist

In the racial tumult following the Chinese Exclusion Act, Mei is coming of age; she uses the story of Auntie Po, an elderly Chinese matriarch, to connect with her friend Bee and to hold onto her heritage. A thoughtful piece on who gets to own myth, The Legend of Auntie Po shines a light on how immigrant families maintain their sense of self in a world …Show More ›Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff

Too Bright to SeeKyle Lukoff

Young People’s Literature Finalist

It’s the summer before middle school and Moira is worried about her hair, her clothing, and her make-up. Bug couldn’t care less about spending time on being a girl; she’s more interested in the fact that her house is haunted. But as she tries to deal with some very real ghosts, Bug realizes that something else is haunting her… She’s not comfortable with her …Show More ›Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon

Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the PeopleKekla Magoon

Young People’s Literature Finalist

Kekla Magoon’s Revolution in Our Time is an important history of the Black Panther Party. Told in an accessible way for young audiences, her writing combines important historical context with engaging prose to create a book that puts the Panthers in the proper context of Black history and invites young minds to become active participants in change. Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for Me (Moth) by Amber McBride

Me (Moth)Amber McBride

Young People’s Literature Finalist

An exquisite novel about identity and first love, Me (Moth) is a coming-of-age novel that anyone can relate to. After losing her family, Moth feels unmoored, but then she meets Sani, a boy who can relate to those feelings of loss. Together the two embark on a road trip to unearth the legacy of their pasts. Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for Floaters by Martín Espada

FloatersMartín Espada

Poetry Winner

This impactful collection of poetry takes its name from the term used by Border Patrol agents to describe those migrants who drown trying to cross the Rio Grande. Espada’s poetry is rife with emotion and lyricism as he shares stories of grief and love as well as personal journeys and historical epics. Each poem is an eloquent fight against xenophobia and a testament to the …Show More ›Save to WishlistBuy From…

Book cover for Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin

Winter in SokchoElisa Shua Dusapin

Translated Literature Winner

French Korean author Elisa Shua Dusapin’s debut novel is a stunning tour-de-force on identity and intimacy. In Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between North and South Korea, the winter brings about a lull in the season; in an empty guesthouse, a young Korean receptionist is met with by a guest, a French cartoonist who is set on finding beauty within the …Show More ›Save to WishlistBuy From…

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