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.”

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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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LA Times Book Awards nominees include Enright, Luiselli, Novic, Phillips and Coste Lewis

The Green Road  Story Of My Teeth  Girl at War

Women writers made a strong showing in the nominees for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes announced today.

Nominated in the Fiction category were Anne Enright for The Green Road (W.W. Norton & Co.), Valeria Luiselli for The Story of My Teeth (Coffee House Press) and Helen Phillips for The Beautiful Bureaucrat (Henry Holt and Co.). The other two nominees are Adam Johnson, whose story collection Fortune Smiles (Random House) recently won the National Book Award, and James Hannaham for Delicious Foods (Little, Brown & Co.).

Sara Novic’s debut novel, Girl at War (Random House) [see my review here] was nominated for the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, along with Sarah Gerard’s Binary Star (Two Dollar Radio). The other nominees are Ben Metcalf, Chigozie Obioma and Andrew Roe.

Other women authors nominated include Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs for Jonas Salk: A Life (Oxford University Press) in the Biography category; Sarah Chayes for Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security (W.W. Norton & Co.) and Sandy Tolan for Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land (Bloomsbury USA) in the Current Interest category; Maggie Thrash’s Honor Girl (Candlewick) and Carol Tyler’s Soldier’s Heart: The Campaign to Understand My WWII Veteran Father: A Daughter’s Memoir (Fantagraphics) in the Graphic Novels/Comics category; Mary Beard for SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (Liveright / W.W. Norton & Co.) in the History category; Beth Shapiro’s How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction (Princeton University Press) and Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World (Alfred A. Knopf) in the Science & Technology category; and Marilyn Nelson’s My Seneca Village (namelos) and Laura Amy Schlitz’s The Hired Girl (Candlewick) in Young Adult Literature.

The Poetry category was dominated by women, who took four of the five spots: Jorie Graham for From the World: Poems 1976-2014 (Ecco/HarperCollins), Robin Coste Lewis for Voyage of the Sable Venus (Alfred A. Knopf), Fiona Sze-Lorrain for The Ruined Elegance (Princeton University Press), and Jean Valentine for Shirt in Heaven (Copper Canyon Press).

The L.A. Times Book Prizes will be awarded on April 9, during the Times’ Festival of Books, held on the campus of the University of Southern California.