National Book Critics Circle announces finalists for 2017 awards

Today the National Book Critics Circle announced its 30 finalists in six categories––autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry––for the outstanding books of 2017. The winners of three additional prizes (The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, The John Leonard Prize, and the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing) were also announced. The National Book Critics Circle Awards, begun in 1975 and considered among the most prestigious in American letters, are the only prizes bestowed by a jury of working critics and book-review editors.

The awards will be presented on March 15 at the New School in New York City. The ceremony is free and open to the public. A reading by the finalists will take place the evening before the awards, also at the New School.

Carmen Maria Machado’s debut story collection, Her Body and Other Parties (Graywolf), is the recipient of the fourth annual John Leonard Prize, established to recognize outstanding first books in any genre and named in honor of founding NBCC member John Leonard. Finalists for the prize are nominated by more than 700 voting NBCC members nationwide, and the recipient is decided by a volunteer committee of NBCC members.

The recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award is John McPhee. Born in 1931 in Princeton, New Jersey, John McPhee is a journalist, essayist, author, and longtime journalism professor at Princeton University. He is the author of more than 30 books, beginning with “A Sense of Where You Are,” published in 1965; his most recent book is “Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process.” His lifetime contribution to letters and book culture include his pioneering work in the fields of new journalism and creative nonfiction; his explorations of widely varying topics, including science, sports, and the environment; and his mentorship of countless young writers and journalists. He has previously been honored with the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Wallace Stegner Award, and the Pulitzer Prize.

The recipient of the 2017 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing is Charles Finch. Charles Finch is the author of the Charles Lenox mysteries, including The Inheritance and A Beautiful Blue Death, which was nominated for an Agatha Award and was named one of Library Journal’s Best Books of 2007. He is a graduate of Yale and Oxford, and lives in Chicago. His first contemporary novel, The Last Enchantments, is also available from St. Martin’s Press. His reviews and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere.

The Balakian Citation is open to all NBCC members, who submit recent reviews to the 24-person board, which votes on the recipient. The Balakian Citation carries with it a $1,000 cash prize, endowed by NBCC board member Gregg Barrios.

This year, for only the third time in the history of the awards, one of the finalists was selected by the NBCC Members’ Choice: Roxane Gay’s Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (Harper). The two previous Members’ Choice books were Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” and Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”


Here is the complete list of NBCC Award finalists for the publishing year 2017:


Mohsin Hamid, Exit West (Riverhead)

Alice McDermott, The Ninth Hour (FSG)

Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Knopf)

Joan Silber, Improvement (Counterpoint)

Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing (Scribner)



Jack Davis, Gulf: The Making of An American Sea (Liveright/Norton)

Frances FitzGerald, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America (Simon & Schuster)

Masha Gessen, The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia (Riverhead)

Kapka Kassabova, Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe (Graywolf)

Adam Rutherford, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes (The Experiment)



Caroline Fraser, Prairie Fires: The Life and Times of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Henry Holt)

Edmund Gordon, The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography (Oxford)

Howard Markel, The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek (Pantheon)

William Taubman, Gorbachev: His Life and Times (Norton)

Kenneth Whyte, Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times (Knopf)



Thi Bui, The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir (Abrams)

Roxane Gay, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (Harper)

Henry Marsh, Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery (St. Martins)

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, The Girl From the Metropol Hotel: Growing Up in Communist Russia (Penguin)

Xiaolu Guo, Nine Continents: A Memoir In and Out of China (Grove)



Nuar Alsadir, Fourth Person Singular (Oxford University Press)

James Longenbach, Earthling (Norton)

Layli Long Soldier, Whereas (Graywolf)

Frank Ormsby, The Darkness of Snow (Wake Forest University Press)

Ana Ristović, Directions for Use (Zephyr Press)



Carina Chocano, You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages (Mariner)

Edwidge Danticat, The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story (Graywolf)

Camille Dungy, Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood and History  (W.W. Norton)

Valeria Luiselli, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions (Coffee House)

Kevin Young, Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts and Fake News (Graywolf)



Charles Finch

Balakian Finalists

David Biespiel

Maureen Corrigan

Ruth Franklin

James Marcus



Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties (Graywolf)



John McPhee


Winners of the National Book Critics Circle awards will be announced on Thursday, March 15, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium, 66 W. 12th St, New York, NY. A finalists’ reading will be held on March 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the same location. Both events are free and open to the public.



The National Book Critics Circle was founded in 1974 at New York’s legendary Algonquin Hotel by a group of the most influential critics of the day, and awarded its first set of honors in 1975. Comprising 1000 working critics and book-review editors throughout the country, including student members and supporting Friends of the NBCC, the organization annually bestows its awards in six categories, honoring the best books published in the past year in the United States. It is considered one of the most prestigious awards in the publishing industry. The finalists for the NBCC awards are nominated, evaluated, and selected by the 24-member board of directors, which consists of editors and critics from the country’s leading print and online publications. For more information about the history and activities of the National Book Critics Circle and to learn how to become a member or supporter, visit Follo.w the NBCC on Facebook and on Twitter (@bookcritics).


National Book Awards finalists announced; 15 of 20 are women

The National Book Foundation has announced the finalists for the 2017 National Book Awards in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature. Notably, of the 20 finalists, 15 are women. The winners will be announced at a ceremony on November 15.

Here are the finalists:



Elliot Ackerman — Dark at the Crossing

Lisa Ko — The Leavers

Min Jin Lee — Pachinko

Carmen Maria Machado — Her Body and Other Parties: Stories 

Jesmyn Ward — Sing, Unburied, Sing


Erica Armstrong Dunbar — Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

Frances FitzGerald — The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

Masha Gessen — The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia

David Grann — Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Nancy MacLean — Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America


Frank Bidart — Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016

Leslie Harrison — The Book of Endings

Layli Long Soldier —WHEREAS [all caps sic]

Shane McCrae —In the Language of My Captor

Danez Smith — Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems

Young People’s Literature:

Elana K. Arnold — What Girls Are Made Of

Robin Benway — Far from the Tree

Erika L. Sánchez — I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Rita Williams-Garcia — Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

Ibi Zoboi — American Street