Just five books remain in the running for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, an award with one major goal in mind: to reward and recognize writers who have brought the powers of fiction to bear on the major social issues of our time — such as economic inequality, ecological crisis, immigration and other subjects thick with thorns.
Here are the books that have made this year's shortlist:
- Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn
- Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli
- Lot, by Bryan Washington
- Opioid, Indiana, by Brian Allen Carr
- The Beekeeper of Aleppo, by Christy Lefteri
A five-person jury narrowed the finalists from a longlist of 16 nominees, released last November. Now they have the unenviable task of whittling until they arrive at just one work of fiction that most effectively illuminates the uncomfortable realities of its subjects — and finds the moments of hope and grace that may redeem them.
The winner of the $35,000 annual prize, doled out in partnership with NPR, is expected to be announced April 16 at a ceremony in New York City. And when the winner's name is read, they'll join past Aspen Words honorees Mohsin Hamid and Tayari Jones as the illustrious few to have taken home the 3-year-old award.
All of which means you've got about two months to sneak in a read and get to know some of the finalists. And here's a good place to start: