PEN America Literary Awards PEN/Jean Stein Book Award

Founded in 2016, the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award is an annual award which recognizes a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact, which has broken new ground by reshaping the boundaries of its form and signaling strong potential for lasting influence. A distinguished panel of judges will nominate candidates internally. The author of the winning book receives a prize of $75,000 and is honored at the annual PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony in New York City.

All winners and finalists for this award are eligible to receive PEN America’s official winner or finalist seal. If you are a publisher of a shortlisted or winning book for this award and are interested in obtaining PEN’s award seal, please write to [email protected].


2020 Finalists

JUDGES: Marilyn Chin, Garth Greenwell, Rebecca Makkai, Michael Schaub, William T. Vollmann

The Undying, Anne Boyer (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Hudson | IndieBound

Deaf Republic, Ilya Kaminsky (Graywolf Press)
Hudson | IndieBound

The World Doesn’t Require You, Rion Amilcar Scott (Liveright)
Hudson | IndieBound

Rusty Brown, Chris Ware (Pantheon Graphic Library)
Hudson | IndieBound


2020 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Finalists

Featured Winner: Yiyun Li

Where Reasons End, Yiyun Li (Random House)
Hudson | IndieBound

From the judges’ citation: “In this spare, haunting, deeply humane novel, Yiyun Li bends the conventions of narrative to accommodate an extremity of experience that’s often beyond representation. In these posthumous conversations between a mother and the young son she recently lost to suicide, what might have been an unremittingly desolate book instead bristles with humor and playfulness, and achieves finally a profound reconciliation. Li has written a novel unlike anything we have read before, a book that is beautiful and wise, and almost unbearably moving in its portrait of a woman turning to literature as to a last resort, and finding that it might—barely, savingly—suffice.”

Yiyun Li, Where Reasons End

Eligibility and Submission Guidelines

Please note that candidates for this award will be nominated internally by a panel of judges. Nominations will not be accepted. Please visit our FAQ page.

Who is Eligible
  • Must be published in the United States.
  • May be of any genre (fiction, memoir, essay, general nonfiction, poetry)
  • Must possess significant literary merit, illustrate great originality, and possess strong potential for lasting influence.