2019 Finalists

CANTORAS by Carolina De Robertis
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 3, 2019

"A stunning novel about queer love, womanhood, and personal and political revolution."
In the shadow of a violent dictatorship, five queer women find the courage and strength to live their truth. Read full book review >
THE OTHER AMERICANS by Laila Lalami
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 26, 2019

"A crime slowly unmasks a small town's worth of resentment and yearning."
A hit-and-run in the Mojave Desert dismantles a family and puts a structurally elegant mystery in motion. Read full book review >
LOST CHILDREN ARCHIVE by Valeria Luiselli
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 12, 2019

"A powerful border story, at once intellectual and heartfelt."
A family treks south to the U.S.-Mexico border, bearing tales of broken migrant families all the way down. Read full book review >
TERRITORY OF LIGHT by Yuko Tsushima
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 12, 2019

"Each chapter is as elegant and self-contained as a pearl or a perfectly articulated drop of water."
This lovely, melancholy novel painstakingly documents a year in one young woman's life. Read full book review >
ON EARTH WE'RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS by Ocean Vuong
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 4, 2019

"A raw and incandescently written foray into fiction by one of our most gifted poets."
A young man writes a letter to his illiterate mother in an attempt to make sense of his traumatic beginnings. Read full book review >
THE NICKEL BOYS by Colson Whitehead
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: July 16, 2019

"There's something a tad more melodramatic in this book's conception (and resolution) than one expects from Whitehead, giving it a drugstore-paperback glossiness that enhances its blunt-edged impact."
The acclaimed author of The Underground Railroad (2016) follows up with a leaner, meaner saga of Deep South captivity set in the mid-20th century and fraught with horrors more chilling for being based on true-life atrocities. Read full book review >
GO AHEAD IN THE RAIN by Hanif  Abdurraqib
ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES
Released: Feb. 1, 2019

"Even those who know little about the music will learn much of significance here, perhaps learning how to love it in the process."
Memoir meets cultural criticism in this bittersweet appreciation of hip-hop visionaries A Tribe Called Quest. Read full book review >
WHEN DEATH TAKES SOMETHING FROM YOU GIVE IT BACK by Naja Marie Aidt
Released: Sept. 3, 2019

"A stirring, inventive masterpiece of heartbreak."
A memoir of the author's struggle to find the words to mourn her son's death. Read full book review >
HOW WE FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES by Saeed Jones
NONFICTION
Released: Oct. 8, 2019

"A memoir of coming to terms that's written with masterful control of both style and material."
A coming-of-age memoir marks the emergence of a major literary voice. Read full book review >
SAY NOTHING by Patrick Radden Keefe
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 26, 2019

"A harrowing story of politically motivated crime that could not have been better told."
Half a century after the fact, a cold case in Northern Ireland provides a frame for a deeply observed history of the Troubles. Read full book review >
THE UNGRATEFUL REFUGEE by Dina Nayeri
NONFICTION
Released: Sept. 3, 2019

"A unique, deeply thought-out refugee saga perfect for our moment."
A novelist turns to nonfiction to illuminate the refugee experience, focusing mostly on her Iranian family but also reporting the sagas of many others fleeing poverty and violence. Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: May 7, 2019

"Bracing and gut-wrenching, with slivers of hope throughout, this is exemplary, moving reportage on an important subject that often remains in the dark due to shame and/or fear."
A powerful exploration of the sinister, insidious nature of domestic violence in America. Read full book review >
IMAGINE by Juan Felipe Herrera
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 2, 2018

"A lyrical coming-of-age story in picture-book form that begs to be shared. (Picture book/memoir. 4-8)"
Former Poet Laureate Herrera encourages his young readers to imagine all they might be in his new picture book. Read full book review >
NEW KID by Jerry Craft
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 5, 2019

"An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America. (Graphic fiction. 10-14)"
Jordan Banks takes readers down the rabbit hole and into his mostly white prep school in this heartbreakingly accurate middle-grade tale of race, class, microaggressions, and the quest for self-identity. Read full book review >
GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN by Alicia D. Williams
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 15, 2019

"It's a story that may be all too familiar for too many and one that needed telling. (Fiction. 10-14)"
Thirteen-year-old Genesis Anderson is a black girl who has been dealt a heavy hand in life. Read full book review >
THE UNDEFEATED by Kwame Alexander
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 2, 2019

"An incredible connector text for young readers eager to graduate to weighty conversations about our yesterday, our now, and our tomorrow. (Picture book/poetry. 6-12)"
Past and present are quilted together in this innovative overview of black Americans' triumphs and challenges in the United States. Read full book review >
ON THE COME UP by Angie Thomas
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 5, 2019

"A joyous experience awaits. Read it. Learn it. Love it. (Fiction. 13-adult)"
This honest and unflinching story of toil, tears, and triumph is a musical love letter that proves literary lightning does indeed strike twice. Read full book review >
YOUNG ADULT
Released: Sept. 10, 2019

"At the center of every story lies credible fear; this essential volume is deserving of more than one read. (author's note, about the refugees, glossary, further reading) (Nonfiction. 12-18)"
A critical compilation of stories from unaccompanied Central American teen refugees who make tremendous sacrifices to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Read full book review >

ABOUT THE KIRKUS PRIZE

The Kirkus Prize is one of the richest literary awards in the world, with a prize of $50,000 bestowed annually to authors of fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature. It was created to celebrate the 86 years of discerning, thoughtful criticism Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large. Books that earn the Kirkus Star with publication dates between Nov. 1, 2018 to Oct. 31, 2019 (see FAQ for exceptions), are automatically nominated for the 2019 Kirkus Prize. The Kirkus Prize judges will select three winners on Thursday, October 24, 2019.