Among the novelists, scholars, poets and illustrators listed below, some — such as Jacqueline Woodson, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Rita Dove — are no strangers to literary laurels. Dove, a former U.S. poet laureate, brings the heft of three decades of poems — while Nguyen has racked up a raft of honors over a career much more brief (so far). Meanwhile, Woodson is now one step from returning to the stage she took in 2014, when she won the National Book Award for young people's literature, for Brown Girl Dreaming.
Still, the lists feature more than just past awards-season favorites. Solmaz Sharif, a lecturer at Stanford, has earned the nod for her first poetry collection, while it's Nicola Yoon's second novel, The Sun Is Also a Star, that made this year's shortlist for young people's literature.
Beyond a medal, a statue and adoring gazes, the winning author in each category also receives $10,000. Winners for all four categories will be announced on Nov. 16 in New York City.
In the meantime, one winner has been decided already: Robert A. Caro, who has earned the medal for distinguished contribution to American letters — the National Book Awards' version of a lifetime achievement honor. The Pulitzer- (and National Book Award- and National Book Critics Circle Award-) winning biographer will receive his award on the same night.