On Saturday, January 24, at a packed event at the Housing Works Bookstore Café in Manhattan, the National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for its forthcoming book awards, covering books published in 2008. Books competed in the areas of fiction, general nonfiction, biography, autobiography, poetry, and criticism, and the competition was hot. Fiction winners include Roberto Bolaño’s monumental 2666 (Farrar, Straus), widely regarded as the late author’s masterpiece, and first-time author M. Glenn Taylor’s The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart, published by West Virginia University Press. With Dexter Filkins’s The Forever War (Knopf) and Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, nonfiction grappled with the current crisis in the Middle East and its consequences. Biography celebrated U.S. history, with titles that included Paula J. Giddings’s Ida, A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching (Amistad), Annette Gordon-Reed’s The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton), and Brenda Wineapple, White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson & Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Knopf).
Autobiography, meanwhile, looked outside the United States with Helene Cooper’s investigation The House on Sugar Beach (Simon & Schuster), an investigation of her Liberian roots, and Vietnam-born Andrew X. Pham’s The Eaves of Heaven (Harmony Books). Criticism ranged from Richard Brody’s Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard (Metropolitan Books) and Seth Lerer’s Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History: Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter (University of Chicago Press). Poetry included small-press titles like Devin Johnston’s Sources (Turtle Point Press) and Pierre Martory’s The Landscapist (Sheep Meadow Press), translated by John Ashbery. Winners of all the awards will be announced on Thursday, March 12, 2009, at a ceremony held at the New School in New York. See below for a complete list of finalists.
The National Book Critics Circle also announced that the winner of this year of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award is the Pen American Center. Winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing went to Ron Charles.
Roberto Bolaño, 2666. Farrar, Straus
Marilynne Robinson, Home, Farrar, Straus
Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project, Riverhead
M. Glenn Taylor, The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart, West Virginia University Press
Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kittredge, Random
August Kleinzahler, Sleeping It Off in Rapid City, Farrar, Strauss
Juan Felipe Herrera, Half the World in Light (University of Arizona Press)
Devin Johnston, Sources (Turtle Point Press)
Pierre Martory (trans. John Ashbery), The Landscapist (Sheep Meadow Press)
Brenda Shaughnessy, Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press)
Richard Brody, Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life Of Jean-Luc Godard. Metropolitan Books
Vivian Gornick, The Men in My Life. Boston Review/MIT
Joel L. Kraemer, Maimonides: The Life and World of One of Civilization’s Greatest Minds. Doubleday
Reginald Shepherd, Orpheus in the Bronx: Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry, University of Michigan Press
Seth Lerer, Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History: Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter, University of Chicago Press
Paula J. Giddings, Ida, A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching. Amistad.
Steve Coll, The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family In An American Century. Penguin Press.
Patrick. French, The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul. Knopf.
Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. Norton
Brenda Wineapple, White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson & Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Knopf
Rick Bass, Why I Came West. Houghton Mifflin.
Helene Cooper, The House On Sugar Beach, Simon and Schuster
Honor Moore, The Bishop’s Daughter. WW Norton
Andrew X. Pham, The Eaves Of Heaven. Harmony Books.
Ariel Sabar, My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq. Algonquin
Dexter Filkins, The Forever War, Knopf
Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the Civil War, Knopf
Jane Mayer, The Dark Side, Doubleday
Allan Lichtman, White Protestant Nation, Atlantic
George C. Herring, From Colony to Superpower: US Foreign Relations Since 1776. Oxford University Press
The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974 at the Algonquin, is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization consisting of some 700 active book reviewers who are interested in honoring quality writing and communicating with one another about common concerns. It is managed by a 24-member all-volunteer board of directors. For more information, please contact National Book Critics Circle president Jane Ciabattari or go to http://www.bookcritics.org.