21 (potentially) award-winning books you’ll want to add to your To Be Read list

21 (potentially) award-winning books you’ll want to add to your To Be Read list

Readers, it’s only April, but the book nominations and awards are already rolling in. The next category for the 2018 Reading Challenge is “a book nominated for an award in 2018,” and it’s the category we’ve already gotten the most questions about. What are the awards? What do they mean? How will you know about the nominations?

We’re here to help.

There are dozens—perhaps hundreds—of book awards given each year, from January through December. Check out this great calendar of major book awards, and this quick overview of 11 important literary awards.) For this category, your assignment is to read a book nominated for an award in 2018. Your chosen title doesn’t have to be a winner.

Literary awards exist to honor outstanding books. This is your opportunity to discover a book you may not have heard of otherwise, or move a book you were considering reading a few slots up your TBR list, or explore the best contemporary works in a genre you want more of in your reading life.

Several significant awards—the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, Pulitzer—have already been bestowed. Nominations for many more are already out. If you wait till later in the year to choose your book for this category, you could have thousands of titles to choose from.

Today I’ve highlighted 21 books that have been nominated for a variety of honors, to give you an idea of how broad your options are for this category, and which books your fellow readers are enjoying right now.

I hope you find something you love on this list, and I can’t wait to hear what you choose for this category. I’d love to hear all about it in the comments section.

Books with Serious Literary Recognition
In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II

In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II

Author:
I've heard great things about this one—and I keep hearing the audio is especially fantastic. Louise Penny called this "brilliant" and Lee Child said it's "like binge-watching a great British drama on Masterpiece Theater" including World War II spy games, Bletchley Park code breakers, and an English aristocrat's daughter. Before she began writing novels, Rhys (a pen name for Janet Quin-Harkin) worked in the drama department for the BBC, and her previous novels have won Agatha Awards. This year she's up for an Edgar (Best Paperback Original). More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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The Power

The Power

Author:
This Bailey’s Prize Winner boasts a fascinating premise: what if we lived in a worldwhere women have electric power in their hands, and with it, the power to cause pain and death? If the premise sounds vaguely reminiscent of Margaret Atwood, it's for good reason: Atwood mentors author Alderman through the Rolex mentorship program. The reviews are decidedly mixed, which would make this an excellent book club pick. More info →
Buy from Audible.com
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The Boat People

The Boat People

Author:
In her powerful and timely debut, a cargo ship carrying more than 500 refugees fleeing war-torn Sri Lanka docks on Canada's coast near Vancouver, thinking their journey is over, and they have made it to safety. After all, in the words of one character, "Canada has a reputation for being a soft touch." But government officials wonder if the ship holds members of a terrorist cell, and so all the occupants remain in detention until the national security crisis—whether real or imagined—is resolved. Bala uses three perspectives to great effect: a refugee, his lawyer, and a new adjudicator who feels woefully unprepared to make these potential life-or-death decisions. A 2018 Canada Reads contender. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Author:
This hefty and deeply-researched biography portrays a harder and grittier life than that captured in Wilder's beloved Little House books, from her peripatetic childhood to her later collaboration with her daughter on the books that would bring her fame. Fraser, the editor of the Library of America edition of this series, carefully sets the stories we think we know about Wilder against their greater historical context. Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer for Biography and the 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Author:
This compelling and heartbreaking nonfiction read has racked up a slew of accolades, including National Book Award finalist and Edgar nominee (Best Fact Crime). This is Grann's all-too-real account of the Reign of Terror, the time between 1920 and 1924 when a shocking number of Osage Indians were murdered for their oil money. J. Edgar Hoover's relatively new FBI was brought in to solve the murders, and the investigation shaped the way that organization functions even today. Rumor has it that Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are developing the movie adaptation. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Author:
Honeyman's at times painful but ultimately feel-good debut has already been nominated for several notable awards: the 2018 Bailey’s Prize Longlist, 2018 Costa Debut Novel Award, 2018 RUSA Women’s Fiction Shortlist. I really enjoyed this story about an isolated young woman who is drawn into the world again, decidedly against her will, in the spirit of A Man Called Ove. Take note: the reviews are mixed, but it's got great book club potential. And Reese Witherspoon already owns the film rights. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

Author:
This 2018 Edgar Award Best Novel Nominee is part coming-of-age tale, part love story, part literary thriller—and it's grounded in the ancient myth of Hercules and his twelve labors. The story takes place in Olympus (Massachusetts), and is about a father and daughter who love each other very much. But Tinti proves love often takes imperfect form: the father of her title is a criminal, and the twelve lives refer to his twelve scars from bullet wounds. His daughter is about to discover how he got them. (For a fascinating chart showing how Hawley's bullets and Hercules's labors match up, check out Tinti's chart in this interview.) More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Author:
Previous National Book Award winner Ward has already received a slew of nominations and awards for her latest novel, among them the Bailey’s Prize longlist, PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction finalist, LA Times Award for Fiction honoree, and Aspen Words longlist. This is the moving story of three generations of a struggling Mississippi family, set in the present day. Ward's evocative prose imbues even the family's most painful moments with tenderness and beauty. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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Piecing Me Together

Piecing Me Together

Author:
I'm happy to see this book getting some awards love: it's a Newbery Honor Book and winner of the Coretta Scott King Author Award. This is the story of Jade, a 16-year-old African American girl struggling to navigate two worlds—that of her wealthy mostly-white high school, and the poorer neighborhood where she lives with her family. This is a nuanced but easy read about feeling out of place, coming into your own, and the perils of good intentions. (Psst—my tween girls LOVED this one.) More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

Author:
This has been called "the Black Lives Matter novel," for good reason, and it's been showered with awards and nominations, including the Edgar (YA) and Odyssey Award (Audiobook). At age 16, Starr Carter has lost two close friends to gun violence: one in a drive-by; one shot by a cop. The latter is the focus of this novel: Starr is in the passenger seat when her friend Khalil is fatally shot by a police officer. She is the sole witness. Thomas seamlessly blends current events with lower-stakes themes common to teens everywhere, with great success. More info →
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Goodbye, Vitamin

Goodbye, Vitamin

Author:
This debut got all kinds of buzz last summer, and is a 2018 LA Times Award for First Fiction honoree. Through a series of diary entries, we enter the story of 30-year-old Ruth: her father has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and his condition is rapidly worsening. Ruth decides to help her struggling family by moving back in with her parents for a year, where Ruth is forced to closely confront both her father's illness (which rapidly moves "from manageable to scary") and the troubled history of their relationship. This is just over 200 pages; you could also read it as your "book you can read in a day." More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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Less

Less

Emma Straub was just raving about this 2018 Pulitzer for Fiction winner in her Books Are Magic newsletter. This is the story of Arthur Less, who is facing his 50th birthday, his ex-boyfriend of nine year's wedding to another, and his publisher's rejection of his latest manuscript, all at the same time. He decides to hit the road—and on this trip, everything that can go wrong, does. Nonstop puns on the author's name, an arch sense of humor, and an interesting narrative structure keep this book filled with sad things from feeling downcast. More info →
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The Almost Sisters

The Almost Sisters

Joshilyn Jackson has written eight novels, which she describes as "Weirdo Fiction with a Shot of Southern Gothic Influence for Smart People Who Can Catch the Nuances but Who Like Narrative Drive, and Who Have a Sense of Humor but Who Are Willing to Go Down to Dark Places." Her most recent is the 2018 RUSA Reading List Women’s Fiction winner. I loved this story about a complicated Alabama family and the "two Souths" it inhabits: it's a fast-reading, big-hearted novel that tackles Serious Issues really, really well—while spinning a terrific story. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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Pachinko

Pachinko

Author:
In this sweeping domestic drama, shortlisted for the 2018 RUSA Historical Fiction Award, Lee tracks four generations of a 20th-century Korean family back to the time when Japan annexed the country in 1910, affecting the fates of all. Lee portrays the struggles of one struggling Korean family against the backdrop of cultural and political unrest, as they endure fierce discrimination at the ends of the Japanese. A compelling portrait of a little-explored period of history. More info →
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The Dry

The Dry

Author:
This 2018 RUSA Mystery Reading List shortlist title begins with a punch: "You lied. Luke lied. Be at the funeral." Federal Agent Aaron Falk is summoned home with these words after his best friend Luke dies in a heartbreaking murder-suicide, turning the gun on himself after killing his wife and 6-year-old son. Falk obeys—but he can't believe his best friend could have done such a thing, and so he starts digging, dragging long-buried secrets back to the surface. The setting is the drought-ravaged Australian Outback, and the brittleness and heat are almost palpable. More info →
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We Are Okay

We Are Okay

Author:
This bittersweet novel unfolds over the course of three days in a deserted New York City dorm, as a young woman slowly comes to terms with the uneasy truth of her past with the help of a good friend. (Heads up: the nerdy adults in my life have loved this book; the younger teens don't feel they're ready for it.) Winner of the ALA's 2018 Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. More info →
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The Radium Girls

The Radium Girls

Author:
This RUSA Notable Book (Nonfiction) tells the story of more than two dozen women who made their living painting luminous watch faces in the early twentieth century. Many were charmed by the "shining substance"—radium—that gave the watch its glow, but as we now know, radium is deadly. Moore uncovers what happened next. This is a story with heroes and villains, and can be hard to read (because the truth of history is sometimes painful), but it's a good story, well told. More info →
Buy from Audible.com
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American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land

Author:
This 2018 Edgar Award Best Fact Crime nominee centers on a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde, torching houses in rural Accomack County, Virginia instead of shooting up banks. Hesse chronicles the hows and whys of the couple's unprecedented 5-month crime spree, in which they set fire to 67 houses. In the process, she examines their odd-couple relationship, local economics, volunteer fire departments, stakeout mechanics, and impotence. More info →
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The Last Ballad

The Last Ballad

Author:
Cash's most recent novel has been named a RUSA Notable Book (Fiction). This is a fictionalized account of the 1929 Loray Mill strike in Gastonia, especially folk hero and ballad singer Ella Mae Wiggins, and was partly inspired by Appalachian mining town backgrounds of Cash's own grandparents. Though set nearly a hundred years ago, Cash's story sizzles with life. More info →
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Hello, Universe

Hello, Universe

Kelly is no stranger to the awards scene; her latest novel won the 2018 Newbery Medal. The selection committee called it "masterfully told." In this middle grade novel, the lives of four middle school children come together in surprising ways over the course of one summer day, highlighting themes of self-acceptance, resilience, and hope. More info →
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Before She was Harriet

Before She was Harriet

This 2018 Coretta Scott King Honor Book (Illustrator) unfolds with a reverse chronology: we begin with an elderly Harriet Tubman, then move back in time through her life. This biography is written in verse and is lavishly illustrated. The target audience is ages 4-7 but grown-ups will enjoy a look at this as well. More info →
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What catches your eye on this list? Have you read any of these titles already, and if so, what did you think? What are YOU planning on reading for this category?

P.S. It’s not too late to sign up for the 2018 Reading Challenge and get your goodies (phone wallpaper, bookmarks, reading tracker). Sign up here.
P.P.S. 20 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners to read to complete your Reading Challenge, and what I’m (probably) reading for the 2018 Reading Challenge.

31 comments | Comment

31 comments

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  1. Kelsey says:

    I actually found three books that I am definitely adding to my TBR list: Killer of the Flower Moon, Sing, Unburied, Sing, and Almost Sisters. I am super excited for these! Thank you for the list 🙂 Which one has been your favorite thus far?

  2. Lori A. Samilson says:

    What a great selection! I already read Eleanor Oliphant for another category. I think I will go for Killers of the Flower Moon or The Hate U Give for this category, but will end up reading both. So many books, so little time.

  3. I’ve read both The Power and Less: A Novel, and recommend them both but for very different reasons. The Power is amazing; it kind of starts as one thing and ends as another. It’s very well written, exciting, thought-provoking, and timely, without feeling like homework.

    Less made me happy to be alive and filled me with love for my fellow humans. It was fantastic and fun and funny and moving. I can’t wait to read it again. Plus, the author Andrew Sean Greer is super nice, which never hurts.

  4. In Farleigh Field is $4.99 on Amazon today with Audible narration for $3.49! Easy buy for me!

    I’m reading Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World for this one- Pulitzer finalist. I also put the nonfiction Pulitzer winner, Locking Up Our Own, on my library gold list that I’ll fit in somewhere.

  5. Daphne Kula says:

    My bookclub just finished Eleanor Oliphant book and it was amazing.
    A mixture of ‘Language of Flowers’ from the point that you are constantly wondering what happened to her and ‘The Rosie Project’ because she is so fixed on having her own routine and self revelations.
    Our next book is Pochinko which I am halfway done and it is beautiful.

    I saved a few more from this list. Some to my audio list and some to propose to my bookclub.
    I have been following your blog for over 2 years and have used your reviews/suggestions for picking books for bookclub, audio books and books for my children.
    My daughter and I are just finishing ‘Listen Slowly’ by Thanhha Lai and I would highly recommend it.

  6. Darla says:

    SO excited to see I’ve already read some of these – LOVED Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I thought of The Rosie Project as I was reading it also. Wish I had buddy read Sing Unburied Sing, would have loved to talk this one out. ANYTHING by Joshilyn Jackson is fantastic and Almost Sisters was no exception. And I have quite a few more of these titles waiting for me on my Kindle. BUT, I think I need to add Less: The Novel – very intrigued!

    • Audrey Fowler says:

      I have either read or listened to all of Joshilyn Jackson’s books and have listened to her speak twice and met her as well. She reads all of her own books and has a very lyrical voice. I highly recommend it! The back story to Almost Sisters is fascinating as well. She is working on her next book – I cannot wait as I love all of them.
      Audrey

  7. Esther says:

    I read Radium Girls and loved it! It was fascinating and informative while still being a page turner. I enjoyed The Dry, but found Jane Harper’s second book even better. Thanks to your round up, my TBR list has just exploded! 😁

  8. Liza says:

    On this list, I’ve read Sing, Unburied, Sing, Hello Universe, and half of The Hate U Give.

    I enjoyed but didn’t love Sing, Unburied, Sing. I can definitely see why it’s won the acclaim it has.

    I couldn’t get through The Hate U Give. I tried; I really did. I’m not sure what about it was so hard for me but I just couldn’t do it.

    I loved Hello, Universe. It’s such a sweet story. I was so happy when I heard it won the Newbery.

    I’d love to read Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine and We are Okay.

      • Eva says:

        Oh dear! Haha! My great grandmother died in the 1930’s at age 37, after working in a local factory that made lamps. I’m a little suspicious about it because the company’s sister factory produced some of the most potent nuclear materials in the country. I’m wondering if the book has other info about NJ nuclear waste!

  9. Adrienne Hudson says:

    Thanks for this list Anne!
    I loved Almost Sisters, The Dry, and in Farleigh Field. Just added Sing Unburied, Sing, Killers of the Flower Moon, and Last Ballad to my TBR, and I’m already on the library wait list for Prairie Fires. So many good books!

    I’m reading the new Jane Harper now, Force of Nature, and I think it is every bit as good as The Dry.

  10. Laura says:

    Anne, I would love to hear recommendations for other books that your tween girls have enjoyed. Maybe I’ve missed such a post. I am constantly looking for books for my teen girls. I know that each family has their own standards of what is appropriate and not appropriate, but I would love suggestions! Thanks!

  11. Anne Jenner says:

    Am waiting with bated breath to get “Less” – can’t wait to read it. Have also just got “In Farleigh Field” on Kindle as it will be a great read on a week’s vacation coming up. Lots of other TBR books on this list also.

  12. Diana says:

    I recently read Piecing Me Together (one of my favorites of the year so far), and I just finished The Almost Sisters. I guess I get to check this category off the list! I’m actually in the middle of Killers of the Flower Moon, but nonfiction (even great nonfiction!) is a struggle for me.

  13. Lynnette Richards says:

    I was fascinated by “American Fire”. I don’t understand how people can equate destruction with devotion. I was also fascinated by the methods used to track the arsonist(s), because I loved the tv show “Numb3rs”, which illustrates that field of science.

  14. Zauni says:

    We Are Okay needs to be mine. I’ve always had a weird affinity for books that unfold over the course of only a few days. Not sure why. Maybe it’s a soft reminder that a person can go through so much in such little time? Maybe I’m reaching. Either way, adding it to my list …

    Zauni

  15. JC says:

    I think I may be in the minority; I thought “Sing, Unburied, Sing” was just alright. While I thought the prose was lovely, the story didn’t just grab me. I guess I’m not a fan of magical realism. However, I did enjoy “Eleanor Oliphant”, “Killers of Flower Moon”, “Pachinko” and “The Hate U Give”.

    I look forward to reading some of the above-mentioned titles on my TBR. So little time, so many books!!!

  16. Laura says:

    I read American Fire last fall and stayed up way too late at night to keep reading it. I thought it was a great portrait of a town and a fascinating read. I highly recommend it.

    On the other hand, I also read Almost Sisters and was not impressed. Maybe that’s because I thought it would be something different; it was too “cute” for me.

  17. Tina says:

    I have read “In Farleigh Field” and LOVED it. So, so interesting. Right now “The Dry”, “Prairie Fires” and “Panchinko” (I REALLY want to read more about this era in history after hearing someone at our church speak a bit about it a few weeks ago) are going on my list to read after school is done. 😀

  18. Sheree says:

    I’m so eager to read many of these – The Hate U Give, The Power, and The Dry especially – but I’ve recently crammed my TBR with *so* many classics and older books that I never got around to reading, I’m stretched to capacity! All the more reason to power through them, I suppose, so I can get to these beauties asap 😉 From everything I’ve read about them, all awards and nominations are very well deserved!

  19. Kelly says:

    In Farleigh Field was a great historical fiction read (if you are an Amazon Prime member this was actually a free one a few months back, so download those books!). If you like historical fiction, you will probably like this one. I am really excited to read Radium Girls next and I am waiting for Sing, Unburied, Sing to become available for download for my library! I can’t wait!

  20. Jocelyn says:

    The fact that In Farleigh Field is listed as ‘serious literary recognition’ makes me almost want to disregard the rest of the list.

    • I’m with you, Jocelyn. I really did NOT enjoy In Farleigh Field to the point that I feel really weird that it’s a contender. I kept waiting to be swept up in the story, and it didn’t happen. There were tone issues for me; it felt unsure of what kind of story it was trying to be. And some of the dialogue… sigh. BUT, having said that, I’m always happy when other people find books they love, even if they don’t work for me.

  21. Audrey Fowler says:

    I love audiobooks! I have been listening for years as I drove to and from school each day ( I am a retired teacher.) My husband and I listen to them on long road trips. I also listen on my phone when I walk my dogs – 3 long walks a day. Check with your public library – many are connected to a service and it’s free to cardholders. Mine offers RB Digital and it offers 1,000s of titles, including new releases. I also read “real” books, thus have 3 going at a time.

    Thanks for all your suggestions and great tips!!

    Audrey

  22. Eileen says:

    I read The Radium Girls for this category. I had never heard of their story – so interesting and sad! I did get bogged down a little in some of the details and skimmed here and there. I thought it was a little too long. But I really enjoyed the book.

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