Skip navigation
Have a gift or promo code? Get started
Skip content

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

View all playlists

My Dark Vanessa

A Novel

By Kate Elizabeth Russell
Narrated by: Grace Gummer
Length: 16 hours 2 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
Audiobook details

Valentine

A Novel

By Elizabeth Wetmore
Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell & Jenna Lamia
Length: 10 hours 20 minutes

Valentine

“Before starting this book, you should block out the next 24 hours on your calendar because you will not be able to do anything else. Valentine is reminiscent of Disappearing Earth in its multi-voice portrayal of the vulnerability, resilience, solidarity, fury, and tenacity of girls and women in the man’s world of oil-booming West Texas in the 1970s. These unforgettable characters are the spiritual sisters of Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights. I was haunted by them, I rooted for them, I’ve been them, and I won’t forget them.”

Boogie Down Books image Rebekah Shoaf, Boogie Down Books
Audiobook details

Antkind

A Novel

By Charlie Kaufman
Narrated by: Fred Berman
Length: 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 »

Audiobook details

Conjure Women

A Novel

By Afia Atakora
Narrated by: Adenrele Ojo
Length: 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 • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times • NPR • ParadeBook Riot PopMatters

“Lush, irresistible . . . It took me into the hearts...
Read more »

Audiobook details

August

A Novel

By Callan Wink
Narrated by: Kirby Heyborne
Length: 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 »

Audiobook details

Real Life

A Novel

By Brandon Taylor
Narrated by: Kevin R. Free
Length: 9 hours 25 minutes

A FINALIST FOR THE 2020 BOOKER PRIZE

AND THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE JOHN LEONARD PRIZE

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS' CHOICE


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


Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York TimesThe Washington Post, New York Public Library, Vanity Fair, Elle, NPR, The Guardian, The Paris Review, Harper's... Read more »

Audiobook details

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
Length: 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 »

Audiobook details

How Much of These Hills Is Gold

A Novel

By C Pam Zhang
Narrated by: Joel de la Fuente & Catherine Ho
Length: 9 hours 8 minutes

How Much of These Hills Is Gold

“In the most inventive and fresh language I’ve seen in a long time, C Pam Zhang’s How Much of These Hills Is Gold, set during the American gold rush, tells the story of siblings Lucy and Sam as they wander the western expanse to give their father a proper burial. Zhang transforms the mythology of the American West and reclaims it through the eyes of first-generation Asian-Americans, tackling themes of race, immigration, and gender and creating a new narrative of a voice and people often left out of this pivotal historical period. Strange and surreal, this is a novel to read with care and gratitude.”

Books & Books image Chris Alonso, Books & Books
Audiobook details

The Illness Lesson

A Novel

By Clare Beams
Narrated by: Ann Marie Lee
Length: 10 hours 14 minutes

A NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE
LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE

“Astoundingly original.” —The New York Times Book Review

From the author of the award-winning debut story collection We Show What We Have Learned, a vivid work of historical fiction with shocking and eerie connections to our own time.


At their newly founded... Read more »

Audiobook details

Bestiary

A Novel

By K-Ming Chang
Narrated by: Catherine Ho, Nancy Wu & Ren Hanami
Length: 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.

“Gorgeous and gorgeously grotesque . . . Every line of this sensuous, magical-realist marvel is utterly...
Read more »

Audiobook details

The All-Night Sun

A Novel

By Diane Zinna
Narrated by: Brittany Pressley
Length: 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 AND THE VCU CABELL FIRST NOVELIST AWARD • “Memorable and meaningful.”—Claire Messud, New York Times bestselling author of The Burning Girl

... Read more »

Audiobook details

True Story

A Novel

By Kate Reed Petty
Narrated by: Kristen Sieh, Alexander Cendese & Cassandra Campbell
Length: 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
Audiobook details

Memorial

A Novel

By Bryan Washington
Narrated by: Bryan Washington & Akie Kotabe
Length: 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
Audiobook details

Luster

A Novel

By Raven Leilani
Narrated by: Ariel Blake
Length: 6 hours 39 minutes

If you enjoyed Queenie, then you’ll love Luster.

“Although Edie makes questionable choices and seems to have difficulty understanding her sexuality, she unapologetically takes ownership of her body (to the extent she can) and attempts to find pleasure in using her body to make others uncomfortable. Edie is messy, intelligent, complicated, beautiful, disruptive, emotional, and real. Leilani does not put Edie into any of the stereotypical neatly packaged boxes that perpetuate racism and bore readers. At moments that could arguably be stereotypical, Leilani’s choice to utilize a stream-of-consciousness narration style allows for a deeper exploration of these ideas through Edie’s perspective. Leilani portrays each grotesque and beautiful moment that makes up this phase of Edie’s life with authenticity and without judgment. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the focus not only on the relationship between Edie and Eric, but also between Edie and Rebecca, and between Edie and Akila. However, at its heart, this book is about Edie’s relationship with herself.”

Beausoleil Books image Endya, Beausoleil Books
Audiobook details

The Henna Artist

A Novel

By Alka Joshi
Narrated by: Sneha Mathan
Length: 10 hours 55 minutes

A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB PICK

"Captivated me from the first chapter to the final page."—Reese Witherspoon

Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at... Read more »

Audiobook details

Indelicacy

A Novel

By Amina Cain
Narrated by: Lauren Ezzo
Length: 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 »

Audiobook details

Shuggie Bain

By Douglas Stuart
Narrated by: Angus King
Length: 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
Audiobook details

Kept Animals

A Novel

By Kate Milliken
Narrated by: Rebecca Lowman
Length: 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 »

Audiobook details

Sharks in the Time of Saviors

By Kawai Strong Washburn
Narrated by: Jolene Kim, Tui Asau, Kaleo Griffith & G.K. Bowes
Length: 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
Audiobook details