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2020 PEN America Literary Awards Finalists

This year’s PEN America Literary Awards will recognize writers and translators whose exceptional literary works were published in 2019. The winners will be announced live at the 2020 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on March 2.

Playlist Tags: awards: pen america best of 2019

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The Undying

Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care

By Anne Boyer
Narrated by: Amy Finegan
Length: 5 hours 4 minutes

Award-winning poet and essayist Anne Boyer delivers a one-of-a-kind meditation on illness in the age of data?sharing her true story of coping with cancer, both the illness and the industry, in The Undying. A week after her forty-first birthday, the acclaimed poet Anne Boyer was diagnosed with highly aggressive triple-negative breast cancer. For... Read more »

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Deaf Republic

By Ilya Kaminsky
Narrated by: Ilya Kaminsky
Length: 1 hours 6 minutes


Deaf Republic
opens in a time of political unrest in an occupied territory. It is uncertain where we are or when, in what country or during what conflict, but we come to recognise that these events are also happening here, right now. This astonishing parable in poems unfolds episodically like a play, its powerful... Read more »

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Where Reasons End

A Novel

By Yiyun Li
Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
Length: 4 hours 4 minutes

A fearless writer confronts grief and transforms it into art, in a book of surprising beauty and love, "a masterpiece by a master” (Elizabeth McCracken, Vanity Fair).

"Li has converted the messy and devastating stuff of life into a remarkable work of art.”—The Wall Street Journal


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The World Doesn't Require You


By Rion Amilcar Scott
Narrated by: JD Jackson
Length: 11 hours 59 minutes

The World Doesn't Require You announces the arrival of a generational talent, as Rion Amilcar Scott shatters rigid genre lines to explore larger themes of religion, violence, and love—all told with sly humor and a dash of magical realism. Established by the leaders of the country's only successful slave revolt in the mid-nineteenth century,... Read more »

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The Trojan War Museum

and Other Stories

By Ayse Papatya Bucak
Narrated by: Emily Sutton-Smith
Length: 6 hours 12 minutes

A debut story collection of spectacular imaginative range and lyricism from a Pushcart Prize–winning author. In Ayse Papatya Bucak's dreamlike narratives, dead girls recount the effects of an earthquake and a chess-playing automaton falls in love. A student stops eating and no one knows whether her act is personal or political. A Turkish... Read more »

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Home Remedies


By Xuan Juliana Wang
Narrated by: Catherine Ho, Tim Chiou, Feodor Chin, James Chen, Lawrence Kao, Nancy Wu, David Shih, Cory Censoprano, Joel de la Fuente, Annie Q, Jennifer Lim & Elaine Kao
Length: 6 hours 34 minutes


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By Bryan Washington
Narrated by: Bryan Washington, Dion Graham, JD Jackson & Bahni Turpin
Length: 5 hours 41 minutes


“This is such a phenomenal book by a writer who should be on everyone’s radar for 2019. Washington has a detailed and poignant style that reveals the tender soul within all of his characters. None of the characters that we meet in Lot are strangers — they are our mothers, brothers, lovers, and friends. Washington pulls them all together through interlocking stories, taking us in between the cracks and revealing how these characters feel and what drives them (and what doesn’t). This series of stories, told with no agenda, explores sexual awakening and identification, gentrification and its victims, and the power of family to both save us and fail us.”

hello hello books image Allie Bangerter, hello hello books
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Stay and Fight

A Novel

By Madeline ffitch
Narrated by: Bailey Carr & Sophie Amoss
Length: 12 hours 44 minutes

Stay and Fight

“From the first page of this debut novel set deep in Appalachia, we know that Stay and Fight is aptly named, for the way it explores the constant struggle of its characters to stay where they are while fighting for a better existence. ffitch expertly shows us the romantic, albeit brutally raw, reality of living off the grid (on one’s own terms, most importantly), a feat she somehow accomplishes in the most modestly ambitious way. Stay and Fight is fantastic.”

Community Bookstore image Caridad Cole, Community Bookstore
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99 Nights in Logar

By Jamil Jan Kochai
Narrated by: Ali Nasser
Length: 6 hours 45 minutes

“Funny, razor-sharp, and full of juicy tales that feel urgent and illicit . . . the author has created a singular, resonant voice, an American teenager raised by Old World Afghan storytellers.” —New York Times Book Review

“More than well crafted; it’s phenomenal. . . . Kochai’s book has a big heart.” The Guardian

A dog on the loose. A boy...
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The Travelers

A Novel

By Regina Porter
Narrated by: Bahni Turpin & Dominic Hoffman
Length: 11 hours 17 minutes

The Travelers

“Spanning over 50 years and the intersection of two centuries, The Travelers weaves together the stories of two families and in the process gives an incisive portrait of a country and society in the midst of massive social change. The author artfully moves back and forth in time as the stories emerge and converge, probing the dynamics of love and family and the bounds and conflicts inherent in both. This novel is the story of two families but universal in the America it portrays.”

Square Books image Bill Cusumano , Square Books
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A Prayer for Travelers

A Novel

By Ruchika Tomar
Narrated by: Sophie Amoss
Length: 10 hours 50 minutes

"Sometimes characters come along that demand a new kind of novel. The young women at the center of Ruchika Tomar's A Prayer for Travelers - elusive Penny and wounded Cale - are two spirits hitchhiking through geographies of dislocation and desire. The human collisions in Tomar's novel are emotionally seismic, and they leave us haunted and... Read more »

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We Cast a Shadow

A Novel

By Maurice Carlos Ruffin
Narrated by: Dion Graham
Length: 9 hours 41 minutes

“An incisive and necessary” (Roxane Gay) debut for fans of Get Out and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, about a father’s obsessive quest to protect his son—even if it means turning him white

“Stunning and audacious . . . at once a pitch-black comedy, a chilling horror story and an endlessly perceptive novel about the possible future of race in... Read more »

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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

A Novel

By Olga Tokarczuk & Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Narrated by: Beata Pozniak
Length: 11 hours 39 minutes

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

“Janina is an eccentric middle-aged woman who translates William Blake, studies astrology, and is acutely attuned to the wilderness around her in rural Poland. When hunters and poachers begin to be gruesomely murdered, Janina informs the police that the animals are responsible. As the bodies mount, so does her involvement with the mystery, although her status as a crank and possible madwoman ensures that she’s ignored. This is an extraordinary and disturbing tale — a mystery that becomes more complex as the story continues, accompanied by Janina’s often witty observations on man, nature, justice, and identity. The ending of this hard-to-categorize novel, a finalist for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize, will knock the breath out of you. Don’t miss this excellent translated work from an award-winning writer!”

The River's End Bookstore image Cindy Pauldine, The River's End Bookstore
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Make It Scream, Make It Burn


By Leslie Jamison
Narrated by: Leslie Jamison
Length: 9 hours 3 minutes

Make It Scream, Make It Burn

“Jamison's skills as a journalist and essayist, very much in the tradition of Didion and New Journalism, have earned her much praise, and I can only heap onto the pile. The essay, "Maximum Exposure," about the outsider photographer Annie Appel, is a masterpiece in particular. Layered like an onion, it explores the relationship between photographer and subject, and then between journalist and subject, and becomes a larger exploration of the whether impartiality is ever truly achievable, or even desirable. Jamison writes with the wisdom of someone twice her age and the wonder of someone half her age. She is a truly remarkable talent.”

The Book Table image Rachel, The Book Table
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I Like to Watch

Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution

By Emily Nussbaum
Narrated by: Emily Nussbaum
Length: 13 hours 42 minutes

From The New Yorker’s fiercely original, Pulitzer Prize-winning culture critic, a provocative collection of new and previously published essays arguing that we are what we watch.

“Emily Nussbaum is the perfect critic—smart, engaging, funny, generous, and insightful.”—David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon


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Trick Mirror

Reflections on Self-Delusion

By Jia Tolentino
Narrated by: Jia Tolentino
Length: 9 hours 45 minutes

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “From The New Yorker’s beloved cultural critic comes a bold, unflinching collection of essays about self-deception, examining everything from scammer culture to reality television.”—Esquire
Book Club Pick for Now Read This, from PBS NewsHour and The New York Times • “A whip-smart, challenging book.”—Zadie Smith • “Jia...
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Oliver Wendell Holmes

A Life in War, Law, and Ideas

By Stephen Budiansky
Narrated by: Robertson Dean
Length: 16 hours 38 minutes

Oliver Wendell Holmes twice escaped death as a young Union officer in the Civil War when musket balls missed his heart and spinal cord by a fraction of an inch. He lived ever after with unwavering moral courage, unremitting scorn for dogma, and an insatiable intellectual curiosity. Named to the Supreme Court by Theodore Roosevelt at age... Read more »

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Sisters and Rebels

A Struggle for the Soul of America

By Jacquelyn Dowd Hall
Narrated by: Karen White
Length: 25 hours 41 minutes

Descendants of a prominent slaveholding family, Elizabeth, Grace, and Katharine Lumpkin grew up in a culture of white supremacy. But while Elizabeth remained a lifelong believer, her younger sisters chose vastly different lives. Seeking their fortunes in the North, Grace and Katharine reinvented themselves as radical thinkers whose literary... Read more »

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Ben Hecht

Fighting Words, Moving Pictures

By Adina Hoffman
Narrated by: Adina Hoffman
Length: 6 hours 16 minutes

A vibrant portrait of one of the most accomplished and prolific American screenwriters, by an award-winning biographer and essayist. He was, according to Pauline Kael, "the greatest American screenwriter." Jean-Luc Godard called him "a genius" who "invented eighty percent of what is used in Hollywood movies today." Besides tossing off dozens of... Read more »

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Her Life and Work

By Benjamin Moser
Narrated by: Tavia Gilbert
Length: 22 hours 4 minutes

The definitive portrait of one of the American Century’s most towering intellectuals: her writing and her radical thought, her public activism and her hidden private face.

No writer is as emblematic of the American twentieth century as Susan Sontag. Mythologized and misunderstood, lauded and loathed, a girl from the suburbs who became a proud... Read more »

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