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2021 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize Longlist

2021 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize Longlist

The Center for Fiction announced the longlist for the 2021 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize on July 13th, 2021. Congrats to the authors below! Get listening now to discover new favorites.

Playlist Tags: genre: Fiction fiction

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The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois

An Oprah’s Book Club Novel

By Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
Narrated by: Adenrele Ojo, Karen Chilton & Prentice Onayemi
Length: 29 hours 48 minutes

If you enjoyed Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist), then you’ll love The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois.

“This book really won me over with its brilliant writing and entrancing story. Honestly, I was intimidated by the length and title (especially as someone who doesn't love poetry) but the blurb was so good and it sounded right up my alley. The narrators, Adenrele Ojo, Karen Chilton & Prentice Onayemi, all have gorgeous voices and immediately draw you in. It took a bit for me to get fully invested in the story but holy cow, Jeffers weaves an IMPRESSIVE tale. It was both too long and too short; I savored every word and was sad it when it was over. There is true talent in being able to hold your attention for 816 pages, especially for a slow burn of a literary novel and this one is well worth it in the end. With rich language, multi-generational family history, borderline poetic (and yet not intimidating poetic), this book is for fans of Pachinko, Homegoing, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, or any work of Jesmyn Ward's.”

Buttonwood Books and Toys image Kimi, Buttonwood Books and Toys
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City of a Thousand Gates

A Novel

By Rebecca Sacks
Narrated by: Lameece Issaq
Length: 13 hours 49 minutes

“A stunning first novel…imbued with foreboding at every turn…Through her vibrant characters, Sacks paints a moving and powerful portrait of those who love the region passionately despite its many tensions and dangers.”                                                   --Booklist (Starred Review)

"A beautifully written, brave, and incredibly...

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Black Buck

By Mateo Askaripour
Narrated by: Zeno Robinson
Length: 11 hours 12 minutes

Black Buck

“Perhaps I have a different perspective on this book because I have a younger brother who is a Black, 20-something man in sales, but this book presents an evocative, honest, complex portrait of being a BIPOC person in a white-dominant workplace (albeit one that is high-powered, sales-driven, and New York City-based). This is a book that allows a reader to be seen if this is their experience, but also for a reader to learn about a different reality if this is not their own. Black Buck is a tightly woven, contemporary debut from an author to watch.”

River Dog Book Co. image BrocheAroe Fabian, River Dog Book Co.
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The Prophets

By Robert Jones, Jr.
Narrated by: Karen Chilton
Length: 14 hours 52 minutes

The Prophets

“I am at a loss for words. How can I even begin to describe the breathtaking language Robert Jones, Jr. has gifted us in his debut novel, The Prophets? How can I begin to explain how he achieves a feat so marvelous it almost seems impossible? Well, that’s the key word: almost. From his innovative restructuring of the Bible through the lens of America’s history with slavery to characters that leap off the page with colorful grace and dignity, Jones masterfully weaves a narrative that serves as a warning from the past, a prophecy for the future, and a testament to the present. His writing defies all great American novels that have come before, and in doing so becomes one of the greatest I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I can’t wait for everyone to be as spellbound by this book as I am; it will stay with me forever.”

Flyleaf Books image Gage Tarlton, Flyleaf Books
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Hades, Argentina

A Novel

By Daniel Loedel
Narrated by: Christian Barillas
Length: 10 hours 24 minutes

Hades, Argentina

“Tender and politically evocative, Hades, Argentina is a beautiful portrait of grief and reflection. Loedel has created a breathtaking debut that examines the complexities of love and the way our memories betray us. This book will stay with me for a long time.”

Deep Vellum Books image Cristina Rodriguez, Deep Vellum Books
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When I Ran Away

A Novel

By Ilona Bannister
Narrated by: Jesse Vilinsky
Length: 11 hours 20 minutes

Longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s 2021 First Novel Prize • A rich, bighearted debut that takes us from working-class Staten Island in the wake of the September 11th attacks to moneyed London a decade later, revealing a story of loss, motherhood, and love.

As the Twin Towers collapse, Gigi Stanislawski flees her office building and escapes... Read more »

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Brood

A Novel

By Jackie Polzin
Narrated by: Rebecca Lowman
Length: 4 hours 50 minutes

Brood

“Over the course of a year, told in a collection of snapshots, Brood shows the life of a woman grieving by doing anything but. She gives herself purpose by taking care of a small flock of chickens, as well as finding small but kind, funny, or wry ways of interacting with her neighbors, eccentric mother-in-law, and caring husband, Percy. There are plenty of clever and funny moments from scene to scene (not to mention the odd and interesting analyses of a chicken’s life and point of view), but the beauty in this book lies in the narrator’s acceptance of the everyday, and of all the things — bad, good, but mostly in-between — that come therein.”

Oxford Exchange image Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange
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Gold Diggers

A Novel

By Sanjena Sathian
Narrated by: Rama Vallury
Length: 10 hours 20 minutes

Gold Diggers

“Gold as a drug. Gold as a metaphor for the glittering hopes and burdens new immigrants put on their children’s shoulders. Gold as the thread weaving history, memory, and imagination, a meditation on how the past blends into the present. Gold as the object of an improbable heist. There is so much in this book, but it is first and foremost an extraordinarily good yarn, the story of two generations of American-Indian immigrants trying to become Americanized while clinging to a fetishized, culturally commodified India. There is love, drugs, alchemy, and stories about the gold rush, both the forty-niners and the new gold diggers of the tech bubble. It’s fun and fast-paced, except when you stop short for a sentence so evocative you want to dwell on it. A seriously good book by a seriously talented writer.”

Shakespeare & Co image Françoise Brodsky, Shakespeare & Co
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No One Is Talking About This

A Novel

By Patricia Lockwood
Narrated by: Kristen Sieh
Length: 4 hours 43 minutes

No One Is Talking About This

“This compact novel captures the life of a social media influencer in such a stunning way—I listened to this book with my jaw on the floor. Incredible (though if you've never opened Instagram or Twitter, this might not be for you).”

Oblong Books image Suzanna, Oblong Books
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Olympus, Texas

A Novel

By Stacey Swann
Narrated by: Karissa Vacker
Length: 10 hours 16 minutes

Olympus, Texas

“A gripping debut that takes all of the skeletons out of the Briscoe family closet and throws them on the front lawn. The depth of character development speaks to my own east Texan family, which feels disconcerting and scandalous. A page-turning read that you won’t want to end.”

BookPeople image Charley Rejsek, BookPeople
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Build Your House Around My Body

A Novel

By Violet Kupersmith
Narrated by: Quyen Ngo
Length: 15 hours 23 minutes

Part puzzle, part revenge tale, part ghost story, this ingenious novel spins half a century of Vietnamese history and folklore into “a thrilling read, acrobatic and filled with verve” (The New York Times Editors’ Choice).
 
FINALIST FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION’S FIRST NOVEL PRIZE • LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION • ONE OF THE BEST... Read more »

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The Sweetness of Water (Oprah’s Book Club)

A Novel

By Nathan Harris
Narrated by: William DeMeritt
Length: 12 hours 7 minutes

An Instant New York Times bestseller / An Oprah’s Book Club Pick

In the spirit of The Known World and The Underground Railroad, an award-winning “miraculous debut” (Washington Post) about the unlikely bond between two freedmen who are brothers and the Georgia farmer whose alliance will alter their lives, and his, forever

In the waning days of the...

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Dava Shastri's Last Day

By Kirthana Ramisetti
Narrated by: Soneela Nankani
Length: 12 hours 59 minutes

In this novel "full of music, magnetism, and familial obligation" (Emma Straub, author of All Adults Here) a dying billionaire matriarch leaks news of her death early so she can examine her legacy—a decision that horrifies her children and inadvertently exposes secrets she has spent a lifetime keeping.

Dava Shastri, one of the world's wealthiest...

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The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven

By Nathaniel Ian Miller
Narrated by: Olafur Darri Olafsson
Length: 10 hours 52 minutes

The “captivating’’ and “powerful’’ story (Publishers Weekly, starred review) of one man who banishes himself to a solitary life in the Arctic Circle, and is saved by good friends, a loyal dog, and a surprise visit that changes everything, in a novel that is both “ceaselessly brilliant’’ (Adam Johnson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Orphan... Read more »

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We Are Watching Eliza Bright

By A.E. Osworth
Narrated by: Nicholas Tecosky & Claire Christie
Length: 11 hours 23 minutes

Named a Best Book of 2021 by NPR  Harper’s Bazaar • CrimeReads • Electric Literature • Autostraddle • The Globe and Mail

In this thrilling story of survival and anger, a woman has her whole life turned upside down after speaking out against workplace hostility–and inadvertently becomes the leader of a cultural movement.

Eliza Bright is living the... Read more »

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The City of Good Death

By Priyanka Champaneri
Narrated by: Manish Dongardive
Length: 14 hours 56 minutes

Winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, Priyanka Champaneri’s transcendent debut novel brings us inside India’s holy city of Banaras, where the manager of a death hostel shepherds the dying who seek the release of a good death, while his own past refuses to let him go.

Banaras, Varanasi, Kashi: India’s holy city on the banks...

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The Archer

By Shruti Swamy
Narrated by: Sneha Mathan
Length: 8 hours 24 minutes

The Archer

The Archer is the story of a young Indian woman who longs to be a classical dancer — to feel that rhythm, to have that as her life focus — yet is continually buffeted by her choices and those made for her.”

Vintage Books image Becky Milner, Vintage Books
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The Baddest Girl on the Planet

By Heather Frese
Narrated by: Courtney Patterson
Length: 7 hours 10 minutes

Evie Austin, native of Hatteras Island, North Carolina, and baddest girl on the planet, has not lived her life in a straight line.

There have been several detours—career snafus, bad romantic choices, a loved but unplanned child—not to mention her ill-advised lifelong obsession with boxer Mike Tyson. Evie is not plucky, but when life's changes... Read more »

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The Five Wounds

A Novel

By Kirstin Valdez Quade
Narrated by: Gary Tiedemann
Length: 15 hours 43 minutes

It's Holy Week in the small town of Las Penas, New Mexico, and thirty-three-year-old unemployed Amadeo Padilla has been given the part of Jesus in the Good Friday procession. He is preparing feverishly for this role when his fifteen-year-old daughter Angel shows up pregnant on his doorstep and disrupts his plans for personal redemption. With... Read more »

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Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer

By Jamie Figueroa
Narrated by: Joana Garcia
Length: 6 hours 7 minutes

Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer

“One of a number of excellent debut novels already out in the still-new year, this is a singular work. Taking on the coming-of-age from young adulthood into something deeper and more mature, the story follows a sister and brother as they reckon with their mother’s passing and begin to understand what life should and should not be as it gets lived. Their tourist town of Ciudad de Tres Hermanas gives us not only a vivid picture of the present but casts a knowing eye on the layers of the past. Beautifully done.”

The Elliott Bay Book Company image Rick Simonson, The Elliott Bay Book Company
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