National Book Award nominations are out: ‘The Vanishing Half’ is on longlist

Brit Bennett, whose novel "The Vanishing Half" is on the longlist of the 2020 National Book Awards for fiction.
Brit Bennett’s bestselling novel “The Vanishing Half” is on the National Book Awards’ longlist for fiction.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Two of the summer’s most talked-about novels, Brit Bennett’s “The Vanishing Half” and Megha Majumdar’s “A Burning,” are on the National Book Awards fiction longlist. Judges also nominated the story collection “If I Had Two Wings” by Randall Kenan, who died in August.

‘Vanishing Half’ author Brit Bennett talks about the inspiration behind her bestselling novel.

Friday’s list concludes a week during which the National Book Foundation, which presents the awards, announced nominees for translation, poetry, young people’s literature and nonfiction. On Oct. 6, the lists will be narrowed from 10 to five books in each category. Winners will be announced Nov. 18, with honorary medals being awarded to novelist Walter Mosley and to the late Simon & Schuster Chief Executive Carolyn Reidy, whose husband will accept on her behalf.


Reidy died Tuesday of a heart attack at age 71. She joined Simon & Schuster in 1992 as president of the trade division.

Many of the fiction nominees are younger authors, under age 50, with a handful or less of published works. Two books are debut novels: “The Burning,” the story of a woman in India who is accused of terrorism, and Douglas Stuart’s “Shuggie Bain,” a family saga set in Glasgow.

The author has been everywhere, in life and fiction. “A Children’s Bible” passionately fuses the two: “You’ve gotta be Chicken Little sooner or later.”

Others on the fiction list include Rumaan Alam’s “Leave the World Behind,” Christopher Beha’s “The Index of Self-Destructive Acts,” Lydia Millet’s “A Children’s Bible” and Deesha Philyaw’s “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.” Also nominated were Vanessa Veselka’s “The Great Offshore Grounds” and Charles Yu‘s “Interior Chinatown.”

Steph Cha shares a meal and some notes on performing identity with the “Interior Chinatown” author.

Some off the year’s most anticipated works did not make the list, including Marilynne Robinson’s “Jack,” Ayad Akhtar’s “Homeland Elegies” and Sigrid Nunez‘s “What Are You Going Through,” her first novel since winning the National Book Award two years ago for “The Friend.”

“What Are You Going Through” feels like a spiritual and in some ways literal sequel to Nunez’s National Book Award-winning novel, “The Friend”