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:

FICTION:

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)

 

NONFICTION:

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)

 

BIOGRAPHY:

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)

 

AUTOBIOGRAPHY:

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)

 

POETRY:

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)

 

CRITICISM:

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)

 

NONA BALAKIAN CITATION FOR EXCELLENCE IN REVIEWING

Charles Finch

Balakian Finalists

David Biespiel

Maureen Corrigan

Ruth Franklin

James Marcus

 

JOHN LEONARD PRIZE

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

 

IVAN SANDROF LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

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.

 

ABOUT THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE

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 http://www.bookcritics.org Follo.w the NBCC on Facebook and on Twitter (@bookcritics).


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STATION ELEVEN wins 2015 Tournament of Books; ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE is runner-up

StationElevenNorthAmericaHiRes  All the Light We Cannot See

Every March, The Morning News sponsors the Tournament of Books, a bracketed competition among 16 standout novels of the previous year, to coincide with the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament. http://www.themorningnews.org/tob/ This is my kind of March Madness (although I love the NCAA tournament and filled out brackets for both the men’s and women’s tournaments).

In the 11th annual competition, Emily St. John Mandel’s critically acclaimed, bestselling Station Eleven defeated Anthony Doerr’s hugely popular All the Light We Cannot See.

What is perhaps most noteworthy about the championship matchup is that both books were what are known as “zombie books” in the Tournament of Books (ToB). Each was eliminated in previous head-t0-head matchups, but had so many popular votes among those following the ToB that they were able to return from the dead, as it were, to compete against the top two finishers in the Zombie Round (between the semifinals and championship. This year, Station Eleven came back to knock off Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings, while All the Light We Cannot See eliminated Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State.

Other titles in this year competition included Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, Phil Klay’s Redeployment (which won the National Book Award), Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You (chosen by Amazon as the best novel of 2014), David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests, Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, and Elena Ferrante’s Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay.

Writers volunteered to judge each matchup and were randomly assigned to the various pairings. Elliot Holt (You Are One of Them) and Laura van den Berg (Find Me and Isle of Youth) joined regular commentators Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner, responding to each judge’s review and analysis. The judges’ reviews and the various commentaries make for very stimulating and enlightening reading.

Kirkus Reviews publishes its list of the 100 Best Fiction Books of 2014

An Untamed State   The Blazing World   Euphoria   the paying guests - sarah waters

Kirkus Reviews has published its “100 Best Fiction Books of 2014.” Kirkus’s editors have created both a list of the top 100 books and several categories of “10 Best” books. Some titles fall into more than one category. Here are the 36 books by women writers that fall, however loosely, into my concept of the Literary Fiction category. (I did not include genre fiction like Mystery/Thrillers and Romance.)

You can see the complete Top 100 list and category lists here.

 

Megan Abbott – The Fever

Lauren Beukes — Broken Monsters

Jessie Burton – The Miniaturist

Elizabeth Crook – Monday Monday

Elena Ferrante – Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

Judith Frank – All I Love and Know

Rivka Galchen – American Innovations: Stories

Jane Gardam — Stories

Roxane Gay — An Untamed State

Alena Graedon – The Word Exchange

Siri Hustvedt – The Blazing World (Kirkus Fiction Prize finalist)

Mira Jacob – The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing

Tove Jansson – The Woman Who Borrowed Memories: Selected Stories

Porochista Khakpour – The Last Illusion

Lily King – Euphoria (Kirkus Fiction Prize winner)

Laila Lalami – The Moor’s Account

Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven

Vanessa Manko – The Invention of Exile

Hilary Mantel – The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher

Francesca Marciano – The Other Language

Eimar McBride – A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

Elizabeth McCracken – Thunderstruck & Other Stories

Randy Susan Meyers – Accidents of Marriage

Lydia Millet – Mermaids in Paradise

Liane Moriarty – Big Little Lies

Alice Munro – Family Furnishings: Stories 1995-2014

Christina Nichol – Waiting for the Electricity

Helen Oyeyemi – Boy Snow Bird

Kathy Page – Alphabet

Francine Prose – Lovers at the Chameleon Club

Marilynne Robinson — Lila

Ali Smith – How to be Both

Miriam Toews – All My Puny Sorrows

Linn Ullmann – The Cold Song

Lee Upton – The Tao of Humiliation

Sarah Waters – The Paying Guests (Kirkus Fiction Prize finalist)

 

Literary Fiction

Roxane Gay — An Untamed State

Siri Hustvedt – The Blazing World (Kirkus Fiction Prize finalist)

Lily King – Euphoria (Kirkus Fiction Prize winner)

Eimar McBride – A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

Sarah Waters – The Paying Guests (Kirkus Fiction Prize finalist)

Historical Fiction

Jessie Burton – The Miniaturist

Lily King – Euphoria (Kirkus Fiction Prize winner)

Laila Lalami – The Moor’s Account

Francine Prose – Lovers at the Chameleon Club

Sarah Waters – The Paying Guests (Kirkus Fiction Prize finalist)

Debut Fiction

Elizabeth Crook – Monday Monday

Roxane Gay — An Untamed State

Alena Graedon – The Word Exchange

Mira Jacob – The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing

Vanessa Manko – The Invention of Exile

Eimar McBride – A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

Christina Nichol – Waiting for the Electricity

Short Stories

Rivka Galchen – American Innovations: Stories

Jane Gardam — Stories

Tove Jansson – The Woman Who Borrowed Memories: Selected Stories

Hilary Mantel – The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories

Alice Munro – Family Furnishings: Selected Stories, 1995-2014

Francesca Marciano – The Other Language: Stories

Lee Upton – The Tao of Humiliation

Popular Fiction

Megan Abbott – The Fever

Lauren Beukes — Broken Monsters

Judith Frank — All I Love and Know

Randy Susan Meyers – Accidents of Marriage

Gender Bender

Judith Frank — All I Love and Know

Porochista Khakpour – The Last Illusion

Lily King – Euphoria (Kirkus Fiction Prize winner)

Laila Lalami – The Moor’s Account

Kathy Page – Alphabet

Fiction with a Touch of Magic

Lauren Beukes — Broken Monsters

Rivka Galchen – American Innovations: Stories

Lydia Millet – Mermaids in Paradise

Ali Smith – How to be Both

Get Your Book Club Talking

Megan Abbott – The Fever

Judith Frank – All I Love and Know

Elizabeth Crook – Monday Monday

Siri Hustvedt – The Blazing World (Kirkus Fiction Prize finalist)

Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven

Liane Moriarty – Big Little Lies

Helen Oyeyemi – Boy Snow Bird

Marilynne Robinson — Lila

Miriam Toews – All My Puny Sorrows

Amazon releases most-highlighted excerpts from 2013-14 novels by women

The Interestings   Americanah

Amazon’s Kindle division recently issued a list of the 17 most-highlighted excerpts from books written by women in the past two years. For Amazon, publishers, and authors, the Kindle provides a ton of data about readers’ preferences. For readers, this may seem like an invasion of privacy; certainly, Amazon doesn’t know what you’ve highlighted or flagged on the actual books you’ve purchased from them.

Still, it can make for some interesting reading, like this list, which was covered by Bustle.com earlier this week. Not surprisingly, the most-highlighted authors included bestsellers and award-winners by the likes of Meg Wolitzer, Jhumpa Lahiri, Eleanor Catton, Chimamanda Ngochi Adichie, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Donna Tartt. But you might be surprised by some of the other oft-noted quotes.

http://www.bustle.com/articles/48583-17-of-the-most-highlighted-quotes-from-the-best-fiction-by-women-of-the-past-two-years

 

What Are Some of Our Favorite Women Authors Reading This Summer? Part 2

Summer is the season when readers have more time to read than usual. Accordingly, there seems to be more talk than usual these days about what people are reading or planning to read. So I thought I would ask several writers about their summer reading. 

I posed three questions to them: 

  1. What have you read recently that impressed you (and that readers should know about)?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What is in your To Be Read stack?

I received the responses that follow, each of which includes books you will almost certainly want to read. There are more good books being published than ever, and there are still all those earlier books, from classics to last year’s overlooked books, so the options for readers are truly unlimited. 

Part 1 of this feature was posted on July 20, 2014 and can be found here

 

Katie Crouch   Abroad

Katie Crouch, author of Abroad

Recently Read: The Blindfold  by Siri Hustvedt. This legendary writer’s first book. In this novel-in-stories, Iris Vegan is an impoverished graduate student in New York. I love how having no money is met with fear and utter despair here, which is such a very real phenomenon. So many times in novels characters say they’re broke, but being a woman alone with no money in New York invokes a special sort of peril. The book has some wonderful twists, during one of which Iris cross dresses, and another when she has a brush with madness. She also falls completely for the wrong man. It’s a truly wonderful psychological thriller.

Reading now: The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma. It’s about a young adopted Chinese woman in the U.S. who returns to her homeland to research her family, and how that choice reverberates throughout her life and her current fractured clan. The writing is out of this world.

Going to read: The Hundred Year House by Rebecca Makkai. I’ve heard great things about this one. Plus it’s spooky, and I love spook. Great writing? An English manor house? Twisted characters? I’m sold.

[My review of Abroad is coming soon.]

Kimberly Elkins   What is Visible

Kimberly Elkins, author of What is Visible

What I read recently that impressed me: David Samuel Levinson recently published a stunning novel, Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence, that really knocked my socks off.  The book manages the nearly impossible feat of being a page-turner while still embracing literary writing of the highest order.  The novel is populated by unforgettable characters, and the secrets abound and rebound.  Trust me, you want to read this one!

What I’m currently reading: I am, in general, often afraid of poetry–modern poetry, anyway–afraid that it will make me feel stupid for not understanding its obscure tropes and labyrinthine metaphorical conceits, and so when I find a poet whose work stirs me in ways that I both can and cannot understand, and yet is still accessible, then I am smitten.  Rita Mae Reese’s The Alphabet Conspiracy is such a book. Reese uses dictionary entries as the jumping-off point to uncover, and to rediscover, messages of the soul encoded in language, and the results are gorgeously engrossing.

What’s up next on my reading list: I’m eager to read Valerie Martin’s The Ghost of the Marie Celeste, another historical novel based on real people and events:  the Marie Celeste, a ship which vanished in 1872, and the storm stirred up by young Arthur Conan Doyle’s story about it.  Martin’s Property is one of the finest, most stirring novels I’ve ever read, and was key to showing me what historical fiction could be at its best.  There’s nothing like learning from a master, page by page, line by line.

Siobhan Fallon   You-Know-When-the-Men-Are-Gone

Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone

Was recently impressed by: Anything and everything by Valerie Trueblood. She is a master. We ought to all know her name; she belongs on that lofty shelf with Annie Proulx and Grace Paley. Her stories are wide sweeping worlds, everything captured in a handful of pages, and they astound. They also inspire; I always want to write, and write something completely different and new, as soon as I finish one of her stories. My favorite collection is Marry or Burn, but her latest, Search Party: Stories of Rescue, is also great.

Reading now: Right now I am reading Lily King’s Euphoria for the second time, and I very rarely reread a book when there are so many out there on my ‘list’ to get to. But Euphoria is everything I wish I could put in the novel I am currently working on— a tortured love affair combined with the examination of human behavior and how cultures clash. Euphoria is also filled with beautiful, insightful writing and electric tension. King is terrific.

Up next: Rebecca Rasmussen’s Evergreen, just released. Rebecca’s debut novel, The Bird Sisters, came out around the same time as my collection of stories, and we became fast friends thanks to social media and a panel (and shared hotel room!) at the 2011 AWP in Washington, DC. She’s an all-round lovely and magnificently talented woman. If you’ll excuse me, I am going to open up her new book right now…

[My review of You Know When the Men Are Gone is here.]

Patry Francis

Patry Francis, author of The Orphans of Race Point

I was afraid I might not have time to do much reading while I was promoting my novel [The Orphans of Race Point], but the opposite has proven true. Every time I do an author talk or a reading at a bookstore, I discover another book or two or three that I simply must have.

Recently, I’ve been telling everyone I know about The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh, Long Man by Amy Greene, and The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez. Though they are very different, they all have strong protagonists — and a lot of heart.

My current read is The Blessings by Elisa Juska. It was recommended to me by two friends who recently heard her speak here on the Cape and did not disappoint.

Booksellers have convinced me I must not miss: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra or Daphne Kolotay’s Russian Winter. Those are up next for me.

[My review of The Orphans of Race Point is coming soon.]

 mira-jacob   Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing

Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing

I just finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I’m reading The Heaven of Animals by David James Poissant, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum, and The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes.

Next up are Ted Thompson’s The Land of Steady Habits and Marie Helene Bertino’s 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas!

 Dylan-Landis   Rainey-Royal

Dylan Landis, author of Rainey Royal

Recent: Robin Black’s Life Drawing. Suspenseful, gorgeously lyrical portrait of a couple whose marriage, shadowed by an old affair, is painfully tested again. I love it especially for lines like this: “There are often two conversations going on in a marriage. The one that you’re having and the one you’re not. Sometimes you don’t even know when that second, silent one has begun.”

Current: An advance copy of Marilynne Robinson’s Lila. I haven’t read Gilead, which this follows, but I’m an ardent lover of Housekeeping, and this seems nearly as beautiful and intimate. She has a lovely fluid way of looping back and forth through time, creating layer upon narrative layer.

Next: Maybe Lynne Tillman’s Someday This Will Be Funny. Or Ivy Pochoda’s Visitation Street. Or the new Edward St. Aubyn, Lost for Words.

[My review of Rainey Royal is coming soon.]

rebecca-makkai-

Rebecca Makkai, author of The Hundred-Year House

I just read Cristina Henriquez’s The Book of Unknown Americans, which is not just beautiful but important, the kind of book that teaches us empathy.

I’m reading Kate Racculia’s Bellweather Rhapsody, which is a bit like The Westing Game for adults. (That’s a high compliment. It’s so fun that I’m shirking all nonessential duty to read.)

I was blown away in the bookstore by the first page of Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State. I’d heard it was amazing, but I wasn’t prepared to be knocked clear across the bookstore.

[My review of The Hundred-Year House is coming soon.]

 Virginia Pye   River of Dust

Virginia Pye, author of River of Dust

I just finished Smith Henderson’s Fourth of July Creek.

Right now I’m reading Jonathan Spence’s The Search for Modern China (all 900 pages) in an ongoing way as research for my next novel. I’m also reading The Art of Floating by Kristin Bair O’Keeffe and Out of Peel Tree by Laura Long. I tend to read more than one novel at once.

I’m looking forward to reading Bret Anthony Johnson’s Remember Me Like This and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.

The research book by Spence — a history of modern China — is like ballast. The rest is for pleasure and to see what’s being written well right now. There are so many more books I’m not mentioning! These are just the ones of the moment.

I also always have an Audible book on my iPod for when I’m out walking the dog or on long car rides. Right now, I’m entering the magical, fully-fleshed out world of Bleak House, where I expect I’ll be for months. Kind of a treat to hear those wonderful British accents and to enjoy Dickens’ humor and impeccable language. The man could write.

[My review of River of Dust is here.]

Brittani Sonnenberg with Home Leave cover

Brittani Sonnenberg, author of Home Leave

I just finished Celeste Ng’s book, Everything I Never Told You, which I found intricately plotted and deftly written. I recently read Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote and really loved it, especially the way he paints setting. And I recently came across a poem (“Found to Be Borrowed from Some Material Appearance (5)”) by Donna Stonecipher, a Berlin-based American poet, which I think is pretty brilliant.

I think Jane Gardam, a British writer, now 86, deserves more attention. She wrote a fantastic trilogy mostly set in Hong Kong, the first book of which is Old Filth. I also admire Amy Bloom’s short story collection, A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You.

I’m currently reading The Singapore Grip by J.G. Farrell and The Art Spirit by Robert Henri, and I plan on reading California by Edan Lepucki and Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.

[My review of Home Leave is here.]

Tomi L. Wiley

Tomi L. Wiley

I just finished Bloodroot by Amy Greene, and before that Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer (in between some John Greene, but he’s not a woman). I just bought Rebecca Makkai’s The Hundred-Year House two days ago – excited to read it. Up next is either Elizabeth Gilbert [The Signature of All Things] or Abroad by Katie Crouch. Reeeeeeally looking forward to the new Tana French.