Nominees announced Tuesday also include Albert Woodfox, the former prison inmate who spent more than 40 years in solitary confinement in the Louisiana State Penitentiary before his murder conviction was overturned and he was released, in 2016. His memoir "Solitary," written with Leslie George, is a finalist for nonfiction.
Five nominees were announced in each of five categories, ranging from fiction to translation to young people's literature. None of the finalists has ever won a competitive National Book Award and only four have received any kind of recognition, including poetry nominee Toi Derricotte, a recipient of an honorary National Book Award in 2016 for co-founding the poetry center Cave Canem.
This year's winners will be announced Nov. 20 at a benefit dinner in New York City, with LeVar Burton serving as host and honorary prizes going to author Edmund White and to Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association. The awards are presented by the National Book Foundation. Winners in the competitive categories each receive $10,000.
James and Lalami were chosen for fiction, along with Susan Choi's "Trust Exercise," Kali Fajardo-Anstine's "Sabrina & Corina" and Julia Phillips' "Disappearing Earth." In nonfiction, nominees besides Woodfox were Sarah M. Broom's "The Yellow House," Tressie McMillan Cottom's "Thick: And Other Essays," Carolyn Forché's "What You Have Heard is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance" and David Treuer's "The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present."
The translation nominees were Khaled Khalifa's "Death Is Hard Work" (translated from the Arabic by Leri Price), László Krasznahorkai's "Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming" (translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet), Scholastique Mukasonga's "The Barefoot Woman" (translated from the French by Jordan Stump), Yoko Ogawa's "The Memory Police" (translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder) and Pajtim Statovci's "Crossing" (translated from the Finnish by David Hackston).
In poetry, finalists besides Derricotte's "I: New and Selected Poems" were Jericho Brown's "The Tradition," Ilya Kaminsky's "Deaf Republic," Carmen Giménez Smith's "Be Recorder" and Arthur Sze's "Sight Lines." Nominees besides Reynolds in young people's literature were Akwaeke Emezi's "Pet," Randy Ribay's "Patron Saints of Nothing," Laura Ruby's "Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All" and Martin W. Sandler's "1919 The Year That Changed America."
Ten of the 25 nominated books, including four out of five in fiction, were released by Penguin Random House, the country's largest publisher. Another 10 came from university and independent presses. The finalists were voted on by judging panels of authors, critics and others in the literary community. Publishers submitted more than 1,700 books for consideration.