30 Books

The 2019 NBCC finalists up close

By Carolyn Kellogg

To count down to our awards ceremony in March, members of the NBCC board of directors write tributes to our 30 finalists — 5 books each in 6 categories. Check back here daily for links the latest addition.

The latest: The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday) and Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century by Charles King (Doubleday)

Autobiography finalists:

Five Days Gone: The Mystery of My Mother’s Disappearance as a Child by Laura Cumming (Scribner)

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow (Little, Brown)

Sounds Like Titanic: A Memoir by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman (W.W. Norton)

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob (One World/Random House)

Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller (Viking)

Biography finalists:

Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century by Charles King (Doubleday)

The Queen: The Forgotten Life behind an American Myth by Josh Levin (Little, Brown)

L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated ‘Female Byron’  by Lucasta Miller (Knopf) 

Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century by George Packer (Knopf)

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell (Viking)

Criticism finalists:

Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib. (University of Texas Press)

Essays One by Lydia Davis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval by Saidiya Hartman (W.W. Norton)

Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light, 100 Art Writings 1988-2018 by Peter Schjeldahl (Abrams)

Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin (Transit Books)

Fiction finalists:

Everything Inside: Stories by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf)

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg (Scribner)

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (Knopf)

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

Nonfiction finalists:

Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future by Kate Brown (Norton)

The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution by Peter Hessler (Penguin Press)

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday)

Out of the Shadows: Reimagining Gay Men’s Lives by Walt Odets (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder (Bloomsbury)

Poetry finalists:

The Tradition by Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press) 

Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky (Graywolf)

Magical Negro by Morgan Parker (Tin House Books)

Dunce by Mary Ruefle (Wave Books)

Doomstead Days by Brian Teare (Nighboat Books)

To protect the health and safety of our literary community, the National Book Critics Circle Awards will be awarded on March 12, 2020 without any public events. The winners will be announced online Thurs. March 12 at 7pm Eastern. The NBCC fundraiser has been postponed until September.