National Book Critics Circle Announces Awards Finalists


In keeping with its goal to represent book culture throughout the nation, the National Book Critics Circle met in San Francisco today to choose the finalists for its annual awards. One author received nominations in two categories. Joyce Carol Oates got the nod in fiction for The Gravedigger’s Daughter and in autobiography for The Journals. Other fiction finalists reflected the theme of national inclusiveness, with Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead), and Marianne Wiggins’s The Shadow Catcher (S., & S.), a meditation on the life of photographer Edward Curtis, famed for his images of Native Americans, that encompasses the final settling of the American West.

Poetry nods to the international scene include books by poet Tadeusz Rozewicz (New Poems, Archipelago), with other finalists including Mary Jo Bang (Elegy, Graywolf) and Michael O’Brien (Sleeping and Waking, Flood). In autobiography, a relatively new category for the NBCC, both Joshua Clark’s Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in Its Disaster Zone (Free Press) and Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying (Knopf) remind us of trouble close to home.

Biography focuses especially on authors (Hermione Lee’s Edith Wharton, Knopf; Arnold Rampersad’s Ralph Ellison, Knopf; and Claire Tomalin’s Thomas Hardy, Penguin Press) Criticism ranged widely from Susan Faludi’s The Terror Dream, Metropolitan/Holt) to Ben Ratliff (Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, Farrar, Straus) to Julia Alvarez (Once Upon a Quinceañera, Viking).

The finalists were announced at a Saturday night event by a host of former NBCC winners and finalists, including Frederick Crews, Dave Eggers, Troy Jollimore, Jason Roberts, and Maxine Hong Kingston, at San Francisco’s famed City Lights Books (261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway). In addition, winners were announced for the NBCC’s Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, which went to Sam Anderson, and this year’s Ivan Sandrof Life Achievement Award, who is Emilie Buchwald. Book award winners will be announced in New York City on Thursday, March 6, 2008, at the New School University’s Tishman Auditorium.

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

Philip Gura, American Transcendentalism, Hill & Wang
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 BKs/St. Martin’s

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 Gravediggers Daughter. Ecco
Marianne Wiggins, The Shadow Catcher, S. & S.

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

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

Acocella, Joan. Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints, Pantheon
Alvarez, Julia. Once Upon a Quniceanera, Viking
Faludi, Susan. The Terror Dream, Metropolitan/Holt
Ratliff, Ben. Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, Farrar, Straus
Ross, Alex. The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, Farrar, Straus

Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

Sam Anderson—winner

Brooke Allen
Ron Charles
Walter Kirn
Adam Kirsch

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award
Emilie Buchwald, writer, editor, and founding publisher of Milkweed Editions in Minneapolis

[Read the NBCC liveblogging this event here.]