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National Book Critics Circle Nominees Announced

The National Book Critics Circle announced the nominees for their six annual awards this weekend, and perhaps because these awards reflect a critics' consensus more than other prizes with smaller juries (NBCC president Jane Ciabattari explains their process on the Daily Beast), you'll see many familiar names from the year-end best lists (11 of the 31 nominees were in our own editors' Top 100). Only four, though (Nothing to Envy, Just Kids, The Eternal City, and Lighthead), are holdovers from the National Book Award nominees. The NBCC, unlike the other major US awards, is open to books written by non-Americans, which, as usual, doesn't actually mean there are that many non-US nominees, although it did open the door this year to three non-Americans in the fiction category, two in translation. I was very happy to see my favorite novel of the year, To the End of the Land, among them, and also happy to see favorites like The Possessed, The Professor, How to Live, and Just Kids (not to mention Freedom) there too. The most surprising omissions? Henrietta Lacks, certainly, and Matterhorn, and with an entire category devoted to autobiography (and with an "unprecedented" six nominees because the judges were deadlocked), I'm surprised that the late Tony Judt's wonderful Memory Chalet didn't make it (although his widow, Jennifer Homans, is among the nonfiction contenders).

Fiction:

General Nonfiction:

Biography:

Memoir/Autobiography:

Poetry:

Criticism:

Also, winners were announced for their two special awards, the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, which went to the Dalkey Archive Press, and the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, given to Parul Sehgal (the other nominees were Sarah L. Courteau, William Deresiewicz, Ruth Franklin, and Kathryn Harrison). I have to confess that while I know the bylines of all the other nominees, I wasn't familiar with Sehgal, but according to her site, she's the Nonfiction and Audio reviews editor at PW (which no doubt means I've read plenty of her unsigned reviews without knowing it), and she's reviewed for Bookforum, Time Out NY, and other places, and you can see her reviews of three of the nominees above: The Cruel Radiance, The Warmth of Other Suns, and The Emperor of All Maladies.

The winners of the other prizes will be announced March 10, and the NBCC will be writing about all the nominees on their blog, Critical Mass, in the meantime. --Tom

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