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2020 First Novel Prize: The Longlist

Check out these books, whose merits have gotten them longlisted for the Center For Fiction's prestigious First Novel Prize for 2020.

Playlist Tags: awards: first novel prize

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My Dark Vanessa

A Novel
By Kate Elizabeth Russell
Narrated by Grace Gummer /  15 hours 36 minutes

My Dark Vanessa

“In this gripping debut novel, a teenage girl falls into an affair with her English teacher, who is 30 years her senior. The voice of Vanessa, the narrator, is unparalleled in its honesty, and her emotions are fiercely conveyed with unrelenting realness. This novel is a timely and important read, sometimes difficult, but ultimately an unforgettable experience. You will be left astonished and transformed. Vanessa is formidable and so is her story; you won’t be able to put down this powerhouse of a novel.”

Luisa Barbano image Luisa Barbano, Oblong Books & Music
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$34.49 USD

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Valentine

A Novel
By Elizabeth Wetmore
Narrated by Cassandra Campbell & Jenna Lamia /  10 hours 20 minutes

Valentine

“This story has just... I'm gobsmacked. It was a love letter to west Texas and the women who live there. It was a pointed finger to the way sexism and racism beat people down until they, as Mary Rose says as she aimed her Winchester, "need to kill someone." The language could be as dry as a tapped oil field at times while rising at others to become as lush and colorful as a sunrise in a place where the horizon stretches forever.”

Page 158 Books image Jenny, Page 158 Books
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$31.04 USD

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Antkind

A Novel
By Charlie Kaufman
Narrated by Fred Berman /  25 hours 41 minutes

The bold and boundlessly original debut novel from the Oscar®-winning screenwriter of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Synecdoche, New York.

LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE • “A dyspeptic satire that owes much to Kurt Vonnegut and Thomas Pynchon . . . propelled by Kaufman’s deep... Read more »

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$42.00 USD

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Conjure Women

A Novel
By Afia Atakora
Narrated by Adenrele Ojo /  13 hours 58 minutes

A mother and daughter with a shared talent for healing—and for the conjuring of curses—are at the heart of this dazzling first novel
 
LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE • “Lush, irresistible . . . It took me into the hearts of women I could otherwise never know. I was transported.”—Amy Bloom, New York Times bestselling... Read more »

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$31.50 USD

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August

A Novel
By Callan Wink
Narrated by Kirby Heyborne /  11 hours 31 minutes

A boy coming of age in a part of the country that’s being left behind is at the heart of this dazzling novel—the first by an award-winning author of short stories that evoke the American West.

LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE • “August reads like early Hemingway, retooled for the present.”—William Finnegan, Pulitzer... Read more »

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$31.50 USD

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Real Life

A Novel
By Brandon Taylor
Narrated by Kevin R. Free /  9 hours 25 minutes

A FINALIST FOR THE 2020 BOOKER PRIZE

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS' CHOICE


“A blistering coming of age story” —O: The Oprah Magazine

 
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, Elle, The GuardianThe Financial Times, Vulture, and Thrillist

A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and mercy among...
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$28.00 USD

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Under the Rainbow

A Novel
By Celia Laskey
Narrated by Phoebe Strole, Abigail Revasch, Will Damon, Lisa Flanagan, Michael Crouch, Kaleo Griffith, Kristen Sieh, Jonathan Todd Ross, Dani Martineck, Brittany Pressley & Lorna Raver /  7 hours 40 minutes

Longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize

“Delivered with such conviction and grace … fresh … essential.” —The New York Times Book Review

When outsiders on a mission arrive to change a small town’s attitudes, residents and newcomers alike end up transformed.

Big Burr, Kansas is the kind of place where everyone seems to know... Read more »

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$24.50 USD

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How Much of These Hills Is Gold

A Novel
By C Pam Zhang
Narrated by Joel de la Fuente & Catherine Ho /  9 hours 8 minutes

How Much of These Hills Is Gold

“In post-Gold Rush California, a Chinese-American family struggles to make money to improve their lives. When bad things get even worse, 10 and 11-year old Lucy and Sam take off on a stolen horse and head east, living off the land. Sam takes off on her own, and Lucy ends up in a town but never feels really at home. The two sisters meet up again several years later and decide to try to fulfill their mother's dream—traveling to China where they might finally find Home. With lyrical style that cloaks the narrative of a chain of miserable events in a dream-like quality, Zhang's writing evokes the real sense of alienation that many immigrants and displaced people feel as they search for a place to belong. The writing is beautiful. Recommended.”

Blue Willow Bookshop image Alice, Blue Willow Bookshop
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$28.00 USD

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The Illness Lesson

A Novel
By Clare Beams
Narrated by Ann Marie Lee /  10 hours 14 minutes

"Astoundingly original, this impressive debut belongs on the shelf with your Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler collections."--New York Times Book Review

Named a most anticipated book of 2020 by Time, Vanity Fair, Esquire, O Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, BookRiot, Domino, and LitHub

"Brilliant, suspenseful...A masterpiece."--Elizabeth...
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$28.00 USD

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Bestiary

A Novel
By K-Ming Chang
Narrated by Catherine Ho, Nancy Wu & Ren Hanami /  8 hours 59 minutes

NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS’ CHOICE • Three generations of Taiwanese American women are haunted by the myths of their homeland in this spellbinding, visceral debut about one family’s queer desires, violent impulses, and buried secrets.

LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY O:... Read more »

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$28.00 USD

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The All-Night Sun

A Novel
By Diane Zinna
Narrated by Brittany Pressley /  10 hours 38 minutes

A lonely young woman gets too close to her charismatic female student in this propulsive debut, culminating in a dangerously debauched Midsommar’s Eve. 

LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE • “Memorable and meaningful.”—Claire Messud, New York Times bestselling author of The Burning Girl

Lauren Cress teaches writing at a small... Read more »

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$28.00 USD

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True Story

A Novel
By Kate Reed Petty
Narrated by Kristen Sieh, Alexander Cendese & Cassandra Campbell /  8 hours 34 minutes

True Story

“A brilliant mind-bender of a novel that uses different methods of storytelling to illustrate how storytelling creates different versions of truth (if truth even exists) and reality. Are we the stories we tell ourselves? Or do we become the stories that are told about us? This is the question True Story asks as it peels away layer after layer of the narrative. Part fever dream, part timely comment on sexual assault, and part psychological thriller, True Story will keep you turning pages and guessing until the genius, puzzle-completing ending. I LOVED this book!”

DIESEL, A Bookstore image Debra Ginsberg, DIESEL, A Bookstore
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$24.50 USD

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Memorial

A Novel
By Bryan Washington
Narrated by Bryan Washington & Akie Kotabe /  8 hours 19 minutes

Memorial

“Reading Memorial is like sitting down with a dear friend, asking ‘What’s going on with you?’ and settling in for much-needed catch-up on life, love, heartache, and family. Washington’s writing is so intimate and direct that you feel the exhilaration, frustration, and uncertainty that Benson and Mike feel about their relationships, both with one another and with their families, which inspires a heart-felt connection to these characters that is hard to find in the world during socially distant times.”

Colleen Ellis image Colleen Ellis, Lark & Owl
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$24.50 USD

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Luster

A Novel
By Raven Leilani
Narrated by Ariel Blake /  6 hours 39 minutes

Luster

“Luster is a hand grenade disguised as a coming of age novel. It's everything you want in a bildungsroman -- it's intimate, funny, and daring -- but in Raven Leilani's skilled hands it is also volatile and complex, a profound meditation on the intersection of race and loneliness, a thorny examination of sexuality and trauma, of power and privilege, and the subtle interplay between all of the above. It's also so absorbing and compelling that it's hard not to read it in one sitting. With 4 months to go, this is my favorite book published in 2020 so far.”

The Book Table image Rachel, The Book Table
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$22.99 USD

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The Henna Artist

A Novel
By Alka Joshi
Narrated by Sneha Mathan /  10 hours 55 minutes

A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB PICK

“Eloquent and moving…Joshi masterfully balances a yearning for self-discovery with the need for familial love.”—Publishers Weekly

Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern,... Read more »

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$31.04 USD

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This holiday season is crucial for bookstores weathering the financial challenges of 2020—it could determine whether they remain open or are forced to close their doors.

Join the movement and #ShopLocalBookstores.

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Indelicacy

A Novel
By Amina Cain
Narrated by Lauren Ezzo /  3 hours

Amina Cain's extraordinary fiction has been said to take place in "a strangely ageless world somewhere between Emily Dickinson and David Lynch" (Blake Butler), and this, her debut novel, is no exception. Indelicacy introduces us to a cleaning woman at an art museum who nurtures aspirations to do more than simply dust the paintings around her.... Read more »

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$22.99 USD

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Shuggie Bain

By Douglas Stuart
Narrated by Angus King /  17 hours 30 minutes

Shuggie Bain

“Shuggie Bain is sad, but there’s so much more to it than that. Hugh “Shuggie” Bain is different—he’s gentle and polite and lonely, a poor boy growing up in 1980’s Glasgow. His glamorous mother, Agnes, is an alcoholic, but she embodies her dignity when she needs it most. In one notably humorous scene, she drunkenly collects her son from his good-for-nothing father, upon checking herself out of the psych ward, and breaks the windows of his house while neighborhood boys whoop and holler at her boldness. Shuggie runs to his savior and clings to her with unconditional love. Eventually, he and his mother pledge to be “brand new” upon moving back into the city—she’ll stop drinking and Shuggie will be “normal.” But no matter how many football statistics he memorizes, Shuggie will never be like other boys, and his mother will never stop drinking. Their relationship is beautiful and overflowing with love, deeply humanizing those who struggle with substance abuse. I’ll never forget Shuggie Bain.”

Raven Book Store image Mary, Raven Book Store
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$24.99 USD

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Kept Animals

A Novel
By Kate Milliken
Narrated by Rebecca Lowman /  10 hours 41 minutes

Longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize

Kept Animals is a darkly beautiful book, tender yet powerful, an exquisite exploration of hurt and desire, the why of wanting, taking, and giving. And Kate Milliken knows her stuff when it comes to horses.” —Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses

“In this... Read more »

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$27.59 USD

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Sharks in the Time of Saviors

By Kawai Strong Washburn
Narrated by Jolene Kim, Tui Asau, Kaleo Griffith & G.K. Bowes /  10 hours 37 minutes

Sharks in the Time of Saviors

“Night Marchers, gods, goddesses, and the dead all walk Hawaii with the Flores family, if only they can stop struggling to survive long enough to see them. At seven years old, Nainoa falls into the Pacific only to be brought back to his mother in the mouth of a shark, unharmed and now burdened with the rumor of legend. Noa struggles to understand his gift and what he is supposed to do with it, and each of his family members grapples with their role as well. Every character is imbued with the truths of family and the magic of legend and you will not close this book unchanged. Beautiful and a must read! The readers on Libro.fm grant entrance in to this world with an authenticity difficult to obtain otherwise.”

Cellar Door Books image Linda, Cellar Door Books
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$28.74 USD

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