2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals Shortlist Announced

The shortlist for the tenth annual Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction has been announced. To see which three fiction and three nonfiction titles are still under consideration for the American Library Association’s first single-title medal given to books for adults, check out the links below! And be sure to join us for the Reference and User Services Association’s Book and Media Awards (BMAs) ceremony, where 2021 selection committee chair Bill Kelly will announce the two medal winners. This event will take place online on Thursday, February 4, 2021, from 3 to 4 p.m. CT.


A Burningby Megha Majumdar (Knopf)

After witnessing a gruesome train-station attack during her walk home to the slums, Jivan responds to a Facebook post. Days later, she has been beaten, jailed, and accused of terrorism, and the two people who could possibly save her have other priorities. Majumdar’s electrifying debut serves as a barometer measuring the seeming triviality of human life and the fragility of human connections.

Deacon King Kong, by James McBride (Riverhead)

Portraying a 1969 Brooklyn neighborhood through its outsiders, McBride creates tragedies, funny moments, major plot twists, and cultural and generational clashes. When the titular deacon, Sportcoat, the least likely of heroes, shoots a 19-year-old drug-dealer, everyone assumes the deacon’s days of freedom are numbered. But all is not as it seems.

Homeland Elegiesby Ayad Akhtar (Little, Brown)

Akhtar confronts issues of race, money, family, politics, and sexuality in this bold, memoiristic novel about a young Pakistani American before and after 9/11. Money, and the debasement of other values, is a defining element of narrator Ayad’s relationship with his writing and his father, while the country’s crude racism prods both men to question whether America can ever truly be their home.


Fathoms: The World in the Whale, by Rebecca Giggs (Simon & Schuster)

Focusing on the history and current plight of whales, Giggs considers our ancient and persistent whale wonderment, high-tech whale hunting, the 1970s Save the Whales movement, global warming, mass extinction, and pollution, including the oceanic plastic plague. Deeply researched and deeply felt, Giggs’ revelatory and haunting investigation urges us to save the whales once again, and the oceans, and ourselves.

Just Us: An American Conversation, by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf)

With an arresting blend of essays and images that’s perfectly attuned to this long-overdue moment of racial reckoning, Rankine analyzes the overwhelming power of whiteness in everyday interactions. Touching on Beyoncé, blondness, skin lightening, and the inherent tensions in her own interracial marriage, Rankine once again opens a literary window into the Black experience.

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoirby Natasha Trethewey (Ecco)

In her memoir, a work of exquisitely distilled anguish and elegiac drama, Trethewey confronts the horror of her mother’s murder through finely honed, evermore harrowing memories, dreams, visions, and musings. She writes, “To survive trauma, one must be able to tell a story about it.” And tell her tragic story she does in this lyrical, courageous, and resounding remembrance.


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