Introducing the 2018 Discover Award Judges

Reading is a deeply satisfying, solitary activity, but we all know books really are best when shared. The booksellers who sit on the selection committee for our Discover Great New Writers program are some of the smartest, most widely read, and certainly most opinionated readers I’ve had the fortune to work with—we’re always on the hunt for the new, the will-be-notable, and the not-to-be-missed, which means our selection committee meetings are never, ever boring.

Every year we look at roughly one thousand submissions for the program and make our choices from there; in 2018 we tapped 52 books from writers we’d like to see made into household names, put them at the front of all of our stores, and promoted them online (#BNDiscover). But that’s not all we do for the books and writers we include in the Discover Great New Writers program. Each year, we ask six notable, established writers to help us pick six writers from that year’s selections to share a cash prize pool of $105,000. That’s $30,000 for first place, $15,000 for second, and $7,500 for third, for both fiction and nonfiction—and then there’s all of the additional promotion we’ll do in stores, online, and on the B&N Podcast.

The judges for the 2018 Discover Awards have written some of our favorite books to date—many of which have been major bestsellers—and we’re thrilled they were able to join us to acknowledge some of the best new talent we saw last year. We announced our 2018 Discover Awards shortlist this morning, and the winners will be announced March 6, 2019.


Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women (a 2002 Discover Great New Writers selection), Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World.

Helen Simonson is the New York Times bestselling author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (a 2010 Discover Great New Writers selection) and The Summer Before the War. She was born in England and spent her teenage years in a small village near Rye, in East Sussex before moving to the United States.

Jess Walter is the author of eight books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Beautiful RuinsNational Book Award finalist The Zero, Citizen Vince, and The Financial Lives of the PoetsHis work has been published in thirty-twolanguages and his short fiction has won a Pushcart Prize and appeared three times in The Best American Short Stories yearly anthology.



Mira Jacob is the author of the graphic memoir Good Talk. Her critically acclaimed novel The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing (a 2014 Discover Great New Writers selection) was shortlisted for India’s Tata First Literature Award, honored by the Asian Pacific American Library Association, and named one of the best books of the year by The Boston Globe, Bustle, and more.

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc is an independent journalist who is best known for her award-winning, bestselling nonfiction book Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx.  She has received a MacArthur Fellowship, among other accolades and residencies, and she has written for many publications including the New York Times Magazine, and the New Yorker.

Beth Macy is the author of the widely acclaimed and bestselling books Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America, Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crown South and Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local, and Helped Save an American Town. Her reporting has won more than a dozen national awards, including a Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard. 

The archive of previous Discover Award winners and finalists is here, and you can check out our previous selections here. And while you’re looking at where we’ve been and what we’ve done…we’re looking forward. We’ve already picked twenty-three books for our Spring 2019 list, which covers books publishing from January through April, and as I type this, we’re working on Summer 2019, May-August.

There’s always something new and wonderful to read, and the Discover Award judges, the Discover Great New Writers selection committee readers, and I are delighted you’ve joined us on a most excellent adventure.

Miwa Messer is the Director of Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program.

Follow BNReads