Kirkus Prize Short List Announced – Bookseller Picks!

After more than one thousand nominations, judges for the Kirkus Prize, now in its second year, have narrowed it down to six finalists for three different categories: fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature. Here they are:

Young Readers Literature:

The New Small Person by Lauren Child
Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter (writer), Shane W. Evans (illustrator)
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh
The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older


The Incarnations by Susan Barker
A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli
The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War that Won It by John Ferling
H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 by Adam Tooze
Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers by Simon Winchester
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf

For more information about the Kirkus Prize, visit the Kirkus site.

For fun, we went through the lists and made our bookseller picks:


Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Meghan G: “In fairy tales, innocents must often venture into the shadows of the forest armed (if they’re lucky) with some breadcrumbs, a magical talisman, or a hopeful omen. And as Pam Muñoz Ryan opens her ambitious novel with a prophecy and a tale of three princesses caught in a witch’s trap, echoes of those familiar tales set the scene. But this time it’s three children of the twentieth century who must take up the quest and walk perilous paths through a world darkened by suspicion, fear, and war. Their tasks are both simple and bold: to make music, to seek truth, to find family. And of course, they have not been sent forth empty-handed …”


The fiction list is impossible to choose! We’ve read and loved so many on this list, including:

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Consuelo: “Hanya Yanagihara’s second novel, A Little Life, starts where many books would leave off – an orphan (Jude),rescued from unbearably severe trauma, is finally free to pursue a normal life. With the help of his friends, mentors and colleagues, Jude gradually gains a semblance of normalcy and healing, but Yanagihara gives us no easy resolution. A Little Life is a story of the lingering, long-time effects of trauma, and while much of the novel’s hope comes from watching the delicate ways that Jude’s friends try to help him, Jude defies their attempts to heal him completely; an impossible task, given his experience. Beautiful writing, major tearjerker.”

The Incarnations by Susan Barker

Jade:The Incarnations is about two soulmates in modern-day China. One of them, a taxi driver, is unaware of his incarnations or the existence of his soulmate until his starts to receive letters in his cab. The letters detail past lives that span over a thousand years; they have different origins and are different people each time, yet each incarnation, they find each other. Barker writes poetic prose and crafts beautiful imagery, which, along with the subject matter of incarnations, drew me in right away.”

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin 

Jenn: “Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women is the book for the person on your list who’s read everything. Her collection of stories doubles as a wild memoir–what super-fan Lydia Davis calls “auto-fiction”–of a woman who seems to have lived at least ten lives. They roam from Chile, West Texas, Mexico City, to Oakland. In the space of a single sentence, Berlin slides from the sights and sounds of glittering realism to the haze of daydream and back again. It’s a perfect book to dip into before bed, but be prepared to stay up late with these stories, just to find out what happens next.”

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Julie: “I was completely absorbed by this novel. Groff’s linguistic rhythm is entrancing. Her sentences beat like waves, pulling the reader deep into Mathilde and Lotto’s complicated, passionate relationship. Sweeping across decades of their marriage, told first from the husband’s perspective, then the wife’s, this story sinks the reader into the shifting romance, nuanced loyalty, bold secrets, private masks, and willful misconceptions that make up a long time union. The lives of her characters are rich mysteries uncovered in surprising turns. How well can you ever know your beloved? In Fates and Furies, we are lucky to be voyeurs to both versions of Mathilde and Lotto’s life together. Fans of Claire Messud and Ann Beattie will enjoy the dark, literary arches of this engrossing tale.”


H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Meghan: “H is for Hawk is a superb weaving of seemingly disparate genres. At once a literary reflection of the natural world, a searing memoir of loss and grief, a well-researched and experienced portrayal of the lost art of falconry, and a heartbreaking biography of T. H. White, H is for Hawk truly has it all. And wow, does it pack a punch. MacDonald, obsessed with birds and falconry from a young age, has historically held a preference to raising falcons over hawks, particularly the goshawk. She found them to be “things of death and difficulty: spooky, pale eyed psychopaths,” that is, until the sudden death of her beloved father. Reeling from the unexpected trauma, she soon felt her anguish and pain deeply reflected in the hawk. A redemptive tale of the relationship between humankind and nature, H is for Hawk is the story of one woman who found solace through her uniquely connected relationship with her goshawk, Mabel.”

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Bethany: “In Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man, a nameless African-American protagonist tells us that “there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers.” These words were called to mind as I devoured Ta-Nehisi Coates’ mesmerizing blend of memoir, history, and cultural criticism, Between the World and Me. Coates’ study of institutionalized racism and its impact on the psyches of black Americans riffs on Ellison’s sleep metaphor, extending it to locate the danger of the sleepers in the fact that they are dreaming the American Dream.”

Which book would you like to see win the prize?

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