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In Sophomore Year, Kirkus Prize Features An Eclectic Mix Of Finalists


Out of 1,032 books, only 18 remain.

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


Susan Barker, The Incarnations
Lucia Berlin, A Manual for Cleaning Women
Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies
Valeria Luiselli, The Story of My Teeth
Jim Shepard, The Book of Aron
Hanya Yanagihara,A Little Life


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

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Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.
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