Judges for the Kirkus Prize have whittled a vast list of eligible entrants down to just six finalists each in three categories: fiction, nonfiction and young readers' literature. The shortlists for the literary award, now in its second year, boast a healthy mix — between Americans and writers in translation, second-timers and old hands, headline-grabbers and small presses.
And that's not to mention the picture books.
Newly named MacArthur fellow Ta-Nehisi Coates — who is having himself quite a year — is on the nonfiction list for Between the World and Me, along with Helen Macdonald's H Is for Hawk, which last year won the U.K.'s top nonfiction prize. They are joined by nonfiction finalists Whirlwind, by John Ferling, The Deluge, by Adam Tooze, The Invention of Nature, by Andrea Wulf, and Simon Winchester's Pacific, which boasts a subtitle so long, it deserves a paragraph of its own:
Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers.
In fiction, a pair of nominees for the National Book Award — Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life and Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies — have made the Kirkus shortlist, along with Susan Barker's The Incarnations and Mexican author Valeria Luisielli's The Story of My Teeth, translated by Christina MacSweeney. Also on the list is Jim Shepard's The Book of Aron, a Holocaust novel that NPR's reviewer Michael Schaub calls "horrifying, brutal and angry" — yet still imbued with pitch-black humor.
Rounding out the fiction finalists is Lucia Berlin's A Manual for Cleaning Women, which Fresh Air's Maureen Corrigan called a showcase for a "hard-earned, one-of-a-kind voice and vision."
The finalists for young readers' literature — split evenly between picture books, and books aimed at middle grades and teens — can be found in full below.
To be considered, books first had to receive a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, then underwent consideration by panels of three judges each. The winners of the $50,000 prize will be announced Oct. 15.
Kirkus Prize Finalists
Young Readers' Literature
Lauren Child, The New Small Person Jonah Winter (writer), Shane W. Evans (illustrator), Lillian's Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 Pam Muñoz Ryan, Echo Duncan Tonatiuh, Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras Martha Brockenbrough, The Game of Love and Death Daniel José Older, Shadowshaper
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me John Ferling, Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War that Won It Helen Macdonald, H Is for Hawk Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 Simon Winchester, Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World