Kirkus Prize: The nominees for the first-ever awards have been announced

The book review journal Kirkus Reviews is awarding prizes for the best fiction, nonfiction, and young readers' books for the first time this year. Here's the full list of nominees.

'Florence Gordon' and 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century' are two of the books nominated for Kirkus Prizes.

The prestigious book review journal Kirkus Reviews announced the 18 finalists for its first-ever Kirkus Prizes, to be awarded to best books in fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature.

The three prizes each come with a $50,000 award, making this one of the most financially lucrative literary prizes to date. By comparison, the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize each come with a $10,000 award. Winners in each category will be announced before the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 23. 

Among the finalists are Thomas Piketty for “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” Roz Chast for “Can’t we Talk About Something More Pleasant,” Sarah Waters for “The Paying Guests,” Dinaw Mengestu for “All Our Names,” and Siri Hustvedt for “The Blazing World.” 

Books must receive a starred review – a rare honor in itself – to be eligible for the Kirkus Prize. Eligible books are then brought before a panel of judges, such as author Sloane Crosley, who told NPR that in the award’s inaugural year, it was the judges’ responsibility to “set the tenor” of the annual prize.

"We looked for topical variety and stellar writing, books that were wall-to-wall with research, often groundbreaking research, that told their stories in a fascinating way," she told NPR. "Or books that were heartfelt and human but also filled with all the information needed to make us feel like we got the fullest story and the best possible delivery of that story." 

But amidst so many awards – from the better known Pulitzer, Man Booker, Newbury, PEN, and National Book Awards to the lesser known Quill, Spur, Hugo, Bancroft, and Pushcart Prizes – does the publishing world really need another literary prize?

The Washington Post’s Ron Charles doesn’t seem to think so. 

“Who won this year’s Chautauqua Prize? How about the George Washington Prize or the Bellwether Prize? Can you name a single Spur, Lammy or RITA winner?” he asked in a recent piece. “I didn’t think so.”

“At a time when even the National Book Awards struggle for attention, is there room for yet another literary prize on an already crowded shelf of honors?” 

He pointed out that few finalists, and in some cases, winners, of prestigious awards receive a sales boost from their recognition. 

No matter. Despite the more than 100 literary prizes awarded in the US each year, Kirkus Reviews is betting its prestigious name – and a hefty cash prize – will help its award rise to the top.

Finalists for the Kirkus Prize are as follows:


Siri Hustvedt, "The Blazing World" (Simon & Schuster)
Lily King, "Euphoria" (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Dinaw Mengestu, "All Our Names" (Knopf)
Brian Morton, "Florence Gordon" (Houghton Mifflin)
Bill Roorbach, "The Remedy for Love" (Algonquin Books)
Sarah Waters, "The Paying Guests" (Riverhead)


Roz Chast, "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" (Bloomsbury)
Leo Damrosch, "Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World" (Yale University Press)
Elizabeth Kolbert, "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History" (Holt)
Armand Marie Leroi, "The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science" (Viking)
Thomas Piketty, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" (Harvard University Press)
Bryan Stevenson, "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption" (Spiegel & Grau)

Young readers’ literature: 

Picture books:
Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet, "The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus" (Eerdmans)
Kate Samworth, "Aviary Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual" (Clarion)
Middle grade:
Cece Bell, "El Deafo" (Amulet/Abrams)
Jack Gantos, "The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Young adult:
E. K. Johnston, "The Story of Owen, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim" (Carolrhoda Lab)
Don Mitchell, "The Freedom Summer Murders" (Scholastic)

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Kirkus Prize: The nominees for the first-ever awards have been announced
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today