The National Book Critics Circle, an organization made up of about 700 active book critics, announced on Saturday the finalist pool for their end-of-year awards, which will be held in March.
The NBCC honors books in six categories: Fiction, General Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Biography, Criticism, and Poetry.
In industry terms, Knopf leads the pack with four nominations (including three in the biography category), followed by FSG at three. The Poetry category did not include a single book published by one of the major houses.
The full list of finalists follows below—you’ll notice that Joyce Carol Oates rather distinguished herself, getting nods in both the autobiography category and the fiction category.
Note: the finalists are chosen by members of the NBCC board, who break up into committees based on category and after months of listserving come up with a short list of nominees which they then bring to the entire board. The entire board votes on a winner in each category. Find comprehensive notes on the process here.
In addition to the prizes in the six categories, the board gives out an award for book critic of the year (technically the Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing); this year the winner was Sam Anderson of New York Magazine, who beat out Brooke Allen (who publishes all over the place, including The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New Criterion), Walter Kirn (Times Book Review, New York), Ron Charles (The Washington Post), and Adam Kirsch (The New York Sun).
Autobiography: Joshua Clark, Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in Its Disaster Zone, Free Press; Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I’m Dying, Knopf; Joyce Carol Oates, The Journals of Joyce Carol Oates, 1973–1982, Ecco; Sara Paretsky, Writing in an Age of Silence, Verso; Anna Politkovskaya: Russian Diary: A Journalist’s Final Account of Life, Corruption and Death in Putin’s Russia, Random House.
Nonfiction: Philip Gura, American Transcendentalism, Farrar, Straus; Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, Oxford University Press; Harriet Washington, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, Doubleday; Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA, Doubleday; Alan Weisman, The World Without Us, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s.
Fiction: Vikram Chandra, Sacred Games, HarperCollins; Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao, Riverhead; Hisham Matar, In The Country of Men, Dial Press; Joyce Carol Oates, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, HarperCollins; Marianne Wiggins, The Shadow Catcher, Simon & Schuster.
Biography: Tim Jeal, Stanley: The Impossible Life Of Africa’s Greatest Explorer, Yale University Press; Hermione Lee, Edith Wharton, Knopf; Arnold Rampersad, Ralph Ellison, Knopf; John Richardson, The Life Of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932, Knopf; Claire Tomalin, Thomas Hardy, Penguin Press.
Poetry:Mary Jo Bang, Elegy, Graywolf; Matthea Harvey, Modern Life, Graywolf; Michael O’Brien, Sleeping and Waking, Flood; Tom Pickard, The Ballad of Jamie Allan, Flood; Tadeusz Rozewicz, New Poems, Archipelago.
Criticism: Joan Acocella, Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints, Pantheon; Julia Alvarez. Once Upon a Quinceanera, Viking; Susan Faludi, The Terror Dream, Metropolitan/Holt; Ben Ratliff, Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, Farrar, Straus; Alex Ross, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century,Farrar, Straus.