For more than 25 years, the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program has worked to identify and amplify the voices of those new authors writing books with the potential to change readers’ lives. Each year, our selection committee, made up of smart, engaged, and incredibly well-read booksellers, pores over piles of new releases to find the books coming to us from writers we believe deserve to become household name.
In 2018, we championed 52 of them. Now, we have winnowed down that pile to the shortlist of titles that stand head and shoulders above even their vaunted peers. Here are the finalists, in fiction and non-fiction, for the 2018 Discover Awards. The nominees will share among them a cash prize pool of $105,000 ($30,000 for first place, $15,000 for second, and $7,500 for third) and receive special promotion in our stores. The winners will be announced on March 6, 2019.
Here is the shortlist for the 2018 Discover Awards:
Only Killers and Thieves, by Paul Howarth
In 1885, Colonial Australia (where the indigenous people were targeted by the Native Police Force) is as wild and untamed as it will ever be—and this debut novel fully immerses readers in that world. In an outback suffering from devastating drought, two young brothers become caught up in a manhunt for an aboriginal stockman whom they believe has murdered their parents and little sister. But the truth is elusive, and the killing spree against native tribesman that results from their misguided “vengeance” has far-reaching consequences, and may haunt Billy and Tommy the rest of their lives.
A Place for Us, by Fatima Farheen Mirza
An Indian American Muslim family of five living in California come together for the eldest daughter’s wedding, an event that forces them to reevaluate their lives together and apart over the past few decades. In particular, youngest son Amar, who has become estranged from his parents and siblings, is reluctant to make peace with his past. Tension between the traditional Muslim culture practiced by parents Rafiq and Layla and the contemporary attitudes of their adult children infuses this highly anticipated debut with plenty of emotion and heart.
There There, by Tommy Orange
A powerhouse debut that deservedly earned a spot on countless best of the year lists even before its selection as a B&N Discover New Writers finalist, There There chronicles the coming together of twelve modern-day, urban Native American people at the inaugural Oakland, California, Powwow. Disparate in their ages, goals, hopes, and dreams, some of the twelve hope to connect with their history and/or long-lost family members; some desire to perform traditional dance; and others plan to take advantage of the event for their own purposes. It is a transcendent work, rich in specific cultural detail but with a compelling, human message that is also universal.
American Prison, by Shane Bauer
A groundbreaking inside investigation into the private prison industry and the forces that drive it, told by a journalist who was legitimately hired under his own name with no background check to be a guard for $9 an hour. From the history of the industry to the treatment of prisoners to the ugly changes he saw in himself during his employment, this is a gripping story that cannot be ignored.
Educated, by Tara Westover
Raised in the rural Idaho mountains by a family of fundamentalist Mormon survivalists, Tara Westover didn’t attend school until she turned 17, and lived out her days preparing for the worst, helping her father salvage scrap to sell and canning food with her mother to get them through the looming apocalypse. She never saw a doctor, despite suffering serious injuries, including violence inflicted upon her by a sibling. Yet one of her brothers did make it out, however, and came back to the mountain one day with tales of college, and opportunities for a better life. Determined to follow in his footsteps, Westover taught herself enough math and science to gain admittance to Brigham University. This is the fascinating story of the strange ties that bind a family together, and the strength it takes to sever them and strike out on your own.
Heavy, by Kiese Laymon
We can’t stop thinking about this deeply personal book from a fearless writer. This revelatory memoir not only exposes what a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a man, it also delivers a powerful story of truth, love, and freedom. Kiese’s fans include Discover alums Lacy Johnson (The Other Side, The Reckonings) and Mychal Denzel Smith (Invisible Man Got the Whole World Watching).