The Friend author Sigrid Nunez triumphs at the 2018 National Book Awards

Sigrid Nunez published her first book in 1995, and had been steadily writing for more than two decades before receiving her first nomination for a National Book Award, the most prestigious American literary award, just last month. And Wednesday night, the author managed to go all the way, winning the coveted prize for Fiction, a triumphant moment of recognition for her acclaimed new novel The Friend.

For The Friend, a meditation on loss and writing which centers on an aging author’s bond with a great dane, Nunez defeated former National Book Awards finalist Lauren Groff (Florida), debut author Jamel Brinkley (A Lucky Man), Andrew Carnegie Medal finalist Rebecca Makkai (The Great Believers), and Brandon Hobson (Where the Dead Sit Talking). The finalists were announced last week. (Best-selling novels There There and An American Marriage were longlisted, but didn’t ultimately make the final cut.)

Other National Book Award winners for 2018 include Jeffrey C. Stewart, author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke (Nonfiction); Justin Phillip Reed, author of Indecency (Poetry); and Toko Tawada and her translator Margaret Mitsutani, inaugural Translated Literature winners for The Emissary. Finally, in a major moment for slam-poet-turned-YA-author Elizabeth Acevedo, her innovative debut The Poet X nabbed the trophy for Young People’s Literature (EW called it “a stunning amplification of the Latina experience).

See the full list of winners is below:


  • Jamel Brinkley, A Lucky Man
  • Lauren Groff, Florida
  • Brandon Hobson, Where the Dead Sit Talking
  • Rebecca Makkai, The Great Believers
  • ***Sigrid Nunez, The Friend


  • Colin G. Calloway, The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation
  • Victoria Johnson, American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic
  • Sarah Smarsh, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth
  • ***Jeffrey C. Stewart, The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke
  • Adam Winkler, We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights


  • Rae Armantrout, Wobble
  • Terrance Hayes, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin
  • Diana Khoi Nguyen, Ghost Of
  • ***Justin Phillip Reed, Indecency
  • Jenny Xie, Eye Level


  • Négar Djavadi, Disoriental
    Translated by Tina Kover
  • Hanne Ørstavik, Love
    Translated by Martin Aitken
  • Domenico Starnone, Trick
    Translated by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • ***Yoko Tawada, The Emissary
    Translated by Margaret Mitsutani
  • Olga Tokarczuk, Flights
    Translated by Jennifer Croft


  • ***Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X
  • M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge
  • Leslie Connor, The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle
  • Christopher Paul Curtis, The Journey of Little Charlie
  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Hey, Kiddo

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