NEW YORK — The five finalists in each National Book Award category — fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature — were announced on NPR’s “Morning Edition” on Oct. 14.
The selection of finalists follows last month’s announcement of the National Book Award longlists of 10 books in each category. The longlists and finalists were each chosen by a panel of five writers and literary experts.
On the fiction finalist list are Karen E. Bender, Angela Flournoy, Lauren Groff, Adam Johnson, and Hanya Yanagihara.
Bender’s collection of short stories, “Refund,” focuses on money and family; Flournoy’s debut novel, “The Turner House,” is a family history set in Detroit as it deteriorates through the decades; Groff’s novel “Fates and Furies” follows the ups and downs of a married couple; Pulitzer Prize winner Adam Johnson’s short stories in “Fortune Smiles,” one of which won the Sunday Times short story prize, see the world through scrims of death and dying; Yanagihara’s novel “A Little Life” follows four men from college through middle age. “A Little Life” was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize.
Yanagihara’s previous novel, “The People in the Trees,” is based on the real-life story of Daniel Gajdusek, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She lives in New York City.
“One of the less-discussed perks (if one could call it that) of writing fiction is that affords you a perfectly good excuse to ask people all sorts of nosy questions about their jobs,” Yanagihara said in an interview with the foundation. “Work — how it gives us an identity, how it gives our lives shape, how it can offer us a different way of seeing ourselves, and others to see us — is an important part of ‘A Little Life,’ and interviewing people (friends and friends of friends) about their careers in architecture, film, and the law was one of the book’s great pleasures.
“I was surprised, again and again, by my interviewees’ passion and eloquence and generosity, and fascinated by their descriptions of the various micro-societies in which they spent their working lives.”
The other finalists are:
Nonfiction — Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Between the World and Me”; Sally Mann, “Hold Still”; Sy Montgomery, “The Soul of an Octopus”; Carla Power, “If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran”; Tracy K. Smith, “Ordinary Light.”
Poetry — Ross Gay, “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude”; Terrance Hayes, “How to Be Drawn”; Robin Coste Lewis, “Voyage of the Sable Venus”; Ada Limon, “Bright Dead Things”; Patrick Phillips, “Elegy for a Broken Machine.”
Young people’s literature — Ali Benjamin, “The Thing About Jellyfish”; Laura Ruby, “Bone Gap”; Steve Sheinkin, “Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War”; Neal Shusterman, “Challenger Deep”; Noelle Stevenson, “Nimona.”
The winners will be announced on Wednesday, Nov. 18, at the 66th National Book Awards Benefit Dinner and Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City, which will be streamed live on the foundation’s website, www.nationalbook.org.
Winners receive $10,000 and a bronze statue; finalists receive $1,000 and a bronze medal.
Jennifer Egan will present the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Don DeLillo. Carmen Fariña, New York City
school commissioner, will present the Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Contribution to the American Literary Community to James Patterson. Andy Borowitz will emcee the event.
Publishers submitted a total of 1,428 books for this year’s National Book Awards: 419 in fiction, 494 in nonfiction, 221 in poetry, and 294 in young people’s literature. Judges’ decisions are made independent of the National Book Foundation staff and board; deliberations are strictly confidential. To be eligible for a 2015 National Book Award, a book must have been published in the U.S. between Dec. 1, 2014 and Nov. 30, 2015, and must have been written by a U.S. citizen.
The invitation-only awards ceremony is the culminating event of National Book Awards Week. The celebration begins on Nov. 16 with 5 Under 35, the foundation’s invitation-only celebration of emerging fiction writers selected by National Book Award winners and finalists.