The American Library Association this week announced the six finalists for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction.

When the Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were first awarded in 2012, ALA leaders hoped to establish an award for adult books that would one day assume the prestige of the association’s historic Newbery and Caldecott awards, the gold standards for kids’ books. Now in its ninth year, the Carnegie Medals have become a coveted literary honor, and the award ceremonies at the ALA annual conference have created some memorable moments, including powerful speeches by winners.

The two medal winners will be announced by selection committee chair Bill Kelly at the Reference and User Services Association’s Book and Media Awards (BMAs) event, which will take place online on February 4, 2021, 3-4pm CST.

Fiction finalists:

A Burning by Megha Majumdar (Alfred A. Knopf)

PW's review calls Majumdar's audacious debut about an English tutor wrongfully accused of terrorism a "memorable, impactful work."

Deacon King Kong by James McBride ((Riverhead Books)

McBride earned a starred review for what PW called a "sharply compassionate shaggy dog tale of a heavy drinking Baptist deacon who shoots a drug dealer and becomes a walking dead man.”

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar (Little, Brown and Company)

Akhtar graced the cover of PW's 2020 Best Books for this revelatory, sublime work of autofiction that "reckons with the promises and deceptions of the American dream."

Nonfiction finalists:

Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs (Simon & Schuster)

Booklist's Donna Seaman calls this a "deeply researched and deeply felt" book that urges us "to save the whales once again, and the oceans, and ourselves."

Just Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press)

MacArthur Fellowship recipient Rankine combines poetry, prose, and imagery in what PW calls a "unique and powerful meditation on the challenges of communicating across the racial divide in America."

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey (Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins)

PW called this a "beautifully composed, achingly sad memoir" from the U.S. poet laureate Trethewey, which addresses the 1985 murder of her mother, Gwendolyn, at age 40, at the hands of her ex-husband, the author’s former stepfather.