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Eighteen finalists in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, and

Young Readers’ Literature $150,000 Bestowed Annually


New York (September 17, 2019) – Kirkus Reviews, the nation’s leading prepublication journal of book reviews, today announced the eighteen finalists for the sixth annual Kirkus Prize in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, and Young Readers’ Literature.

Winners in the three categories will receive $50,000 each, making the Kirkus Prize one of the richest annual literary awards in the world. Writers become eligible by receiving a rare starred review from Kirkus Reviews. An esteemed panel of judges, composed of writers, booksellers, librarians, and Kirkus critics, selects the Kirkus Prize finalists and winners.

“We have another stellar lineup of finalists for the Kirkus Prize this year,” says Kirkus Reviews editor-in-chief Tom Beer. “Our fiction finalists tackle history and current events with timeless style and insight. The nonfiction finalists represent a broad cross-section of the work being done today, from criticism and current-events reportage to history and memoir. Finally, the books for young readers showcase the extraordinary picture books, middle-grade books, and YA books that introduce young people to the issues of our time.”

This year’s eligible finalists were chosen from 602 young readers’ literature titles, 356 fiction titles, and 306 nonfiction titles. The three winners will be announced at a special ceremony emceed by editor-in-chief Tom Beer at the Austin Public Library in Austin, TX on Thursday, October 24.

The finalists for the 2019 Kirkus Prize are:


  • Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis (Knopf)
  • The Other Americans by Laila Lalami (Pantheon)
  • Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (Knopf)
  • Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, translated by Geraldine Harcourt (FSG)
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press)
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

The judges for the 2019 Kirkus Prize in Fiction are: bestselling author Min Jin Lee; editor, writer, and critic David L. Ulin; and Michelle Malonzo, buyer and bookseller at Changing Hands Bookstore in Arizona.


  • Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib (Univ. of Texas)
  • When Death Takes Something from You Give It Back: Carl’s Book by Naja Marie Aidt, translated by Denise Newman (Coffee House)
  • How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir by Saeed Jones (Simon & Schuster)
  • Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Irelandby Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday)
  • The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell YoubyDina Nayeri (Catapult)
  • No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Usby Rachel Louise Snyder (Bloomsbury)

The judges for the 2019 Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction are: Kirkus Prize–winning and Pulitzer Prize–winning Jack E. Davis; critic Richard Z. Santos; and bookseller at Miami’s Books & Books, Aaron John Curtis.


Picture Books:

  • The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander & illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Versify/HMH)
  • Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera & illustrated by Lauren Castillo (Candlewick)

Middle Grade:

  • New Kid written & illustrated by Jerry Craft (HarperCollins)
  • Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams (Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum)

Young Adult:

  • On The Come Up by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)
  • The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos, translated by Rosalind Harvey (FSG)

The judges for the 2019 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature are: award-winning author Mitali Perkins; Kirkus critic Hanna Lee; and Professor of Library Science at North Carolina Central University, Pauletta Brown Bracy.

The previous Kirkus Prize winners are:

  • 2018: Severance by Ling Ma; Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays) by Rebecca Solnit, and Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James
  • 2017:What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky: Stories by Lesley Nneka Arimah, The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis, and The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
  • 2016: The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan, In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi, and As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds
  • 2015: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  • 2014: Euphoria by Lily King, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast, and Aviary Wonders Inc. by Kate Samworth.

2019 marks the sixth year of the Kirkus Prize. It was created in 2014 to celebrate the discerning, thoughtful criticism that Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large since it was founded in 1933.

Winners of the 2019 Kirkus Prize will be announced at a special ceremony at the Austin Public Library in Austin, Texas on Thursday, October 24 at 5:00pm (Central Time) / 6:00pm (Eastern).The finalists’ books will be sold by BookPeople and there will be a signing following the ceremony. All finalists are also invited to participate at a Kirkus Prize panel at the Texas Book Festival on the morning of Saturday, October 26.

For more information about the 2019 Kirkus Prize, including dates of eligibility, more about rules and selection process, and bios of the finalists and judges, please visit Kirkus Reviews/prize.


About Kirkus Reviews

Founded in 1933, Kirkus Reviews has been one of the most trusted and authoritative voices in book discovery. When Kirkus Reviews was established by Virginia Kirkus, it was an innovation in the publishing field. Virginia arranged to receive advance galley proofs of books from publishers — only 20 or so at first, but eventually from nearly every firm of any size in the industry. She read the galleys and wrote brief, critical evaluations of their literary merit and probable popular appeal. Today, Kirkus Reviews covers more than 7,000 books published by traditional houses and more than 3,000 self-published books every year. The magazine is published on the 1st and 15th of every month, and because of the scope of its coverage, its authoritative voice and the timeliness of its reviews, Kirkus Reviews is revered by many as the first indicator of a book’s potential.


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