Press Release

Brooklyn Public Library Announces 2020 Shortlist for Sixth Annual Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize

Brooklyn, NY
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Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) today announced its six-book shortlist for the 2020 Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize for fiction/poetry and nonfiction. The shortlist nominees are Saeed Jones, Ian Urbina, Ruha Benjamin, Rivers Solomon, Ocean Vuong, Amal El-Mohtar, and Max Gladstone.

A select group of nominees will read from their works on Tuesday, October 20, at 7 pm. The virtual program is open to the public. To register and for a link, click here.

This year’s finalists are a daring group of storytellers, poets and journalists who transport readers across the globe, from a small Texas town to the frigid waters of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean. Along the way, the writers both delight and challenge readers with provocative new perspectives on technology, race, and the immigrant experience. They offer poignant stories of love, loss and humanity, illuminating anew our relationship to ourselves and to each other across time.  

“From speculative fiction to reportage, each of the shortlist titles our librarians have chosen is unflinchingly brave,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “These books represent what readers are craving in 2020: to better understand how our world has come to be, so that we might imagine it differently.” 

Over 100 books were nominated this year by librarians from across Brooklyn. A smaller committee evaluated the nominees and selected the winners. Drawing both on their extensive knowledge of literature and the communities in which they work, librarians are uniquely equipped to select works that resonate with readers. Several previous Brooklyn Public Literary Prize winners have gone on to win additional prestigious honors. The 2019 winner in the nonfiction category, Tressie McMillan Cottom, was just awarded a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.” Carmen Maria Machado, the 2018 winner for fiction was honored with a Lambda Literary Award the following year. Tommy Pico, the 2017 winner in the fiction and poetry category, was honored with the American Book Award and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in 2018.

The 2020 Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize, presented by the Brooklyn Eagles, is generously supported by the Peck Stacpoole Foundation. The Brooklyn Eagles are a vibrant group of young and engaged Brooklynites who are passionate about Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) and their community. They host events to connect new patrons to the Library, celebrate books through our literary prize, volunteer at branches, and spread the word about BPL’s essential services for our borough.

The Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize is awarded annually to recognize an outstanding work of nonfiction as well as an outstanding work of poetry or fiction. The winners will be announced at the 2020 Classic, hosted virtually on Friday, November 20.


Alphabetical by author last name


How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir

By Saeed Jones

Simon & Schuster


The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier

By Ian Urbina

Knopf (Penguin Random House)


Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code

By Ruha Benjamin




Alphabetical by author last name


The Deep

By Rivers Solomon (with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)

Gallery/Saga Press (Simon & Schuster)


On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

By Ocean Vuong



This is How You Lose the Time War

By Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Gallery/Saga Press (Simon & Schuster)


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Central Library Facade. Photo by Gregg Richards. Image courtesy Brooklyn Public Library.

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