Today the NBCC announced its 30 finalists in six categories––autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry–for the outstanding books of 2015. The winners of three additional prizes were announced as well. The National Book Critics Circle Awards, founded in 1974 at the Algonquin Hotel and considered among the most prestigious in American letters, are the sole prizes bestowed by a jury of working critics and book-review editors.
The recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award is Wendell Berry. Now 81 and still productive, Berry is the author of eight novels, two short story collections, 28 volumes of poetry, and 31 volumes of nonfiction. Set in the imaginary town of Port William, Kentucky, his fiction constitutes a cycle about themes of life in rural America. An outspoken environmentalist, organic farmer, and pacifist, Berry has written about and engaged in civil disobedience against industrial agribusiness, ecological destruction, and militarization. He was the recipient of the 2013 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award and a 2010 recipient of the National Humanities Medal. His most recent books are “Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder” and “Terrapin and Other Poems” (both from Counterpoint, 2014).
Kirstin Valdez Quade’s story collection “Night at the Fiestas” (W.W. Norton & Company) is the recipient of the third annual John Leonard Prize, established in 2013 to recognize outstanding first books in any genre. Named to honor the memory of founding NBCC member John Leonard, the prize is decided by a direct vote of the organization’s 700 members nationwide.
The recipient of the 2015 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing is Carlos Lozada. Lozada is associate editor and nonfiction book critic at The Washington Post. A native of Lima, Peru, he is a graduate of Notre Dame and Princeton. Before joining the Post in 2005, he was managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine. The Balakian Citation carries with it a $1,000 cash prize, generously endowed by NBCC board member Gregg Barrios.
Here is the complete list of NBCC Award finalists for the publishing year 2015:
Elizabeth Alexander, “The Light of the World” (Grand Central Publishing)
Vivian Gornick, “The Odd Woman and the City” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
George Hodgman, “Bettyville” (Viking)
Margo Jefferson, “Negroland” (Pantheon)
Helen Macdonald, “H Is for Hawk” (Grove Press)
Terry Alford, “Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth” (Oxford University Press)
Charlotte Gordon, “Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley” (Random House)
T.J. Stiles, “Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America” (Alfred A. Knopf)
Rosemary Sullivan, “Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva” (Harper)
Karin Wieland and Shelly Frisch, “Dietrich and Riefenstahl: Hollywood, Berlin, and a Century in Two Lives” (Liveright)
Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Between the World and Me” (Spiegel & Grau)
Leo Damrosch, “Eternity’s Sunrise: The Imaginative World of William Blake” (Yale University Press)
Maggie Nelson, “The Argonauts” (Graywolf)
Colm Tóibín, “On Elizabeth Bishop” (Princeton University Press)
James Wood, “The Nearest Thing to Life” (Brandeis University Press)
Paul Beatty, “The Sellout” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Lauren Groff, “Fates and Furies” (Riverhead)
Valeria Luiselli, “The Story of My Teeth” (Coffee House Press)
Anthony Marra, “The Tsar of Love and Techno” (Hogarth)
Ottessa Moshfegh, “Eileen” (Penguin Press)
Mary Beard, “SPQR: A History of Rome” (Liveright)
Ari Berman, “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Jill Leovy, “Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America” (Spiegel & Grau)
Sam Quinones, “Dreamland: The True Story of America’s Opiate Epidemic” (Bloomsbury)
Brian Seibert, “What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Ross Gay, “Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude” (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Terrance Hayes, “How to Be Drawn” (Penguin)
Ada Limón, “Bright Dead Things” (Milkweed Editions)
Sinéad Morrissey, “Parallax and Selected Poems” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Frank Stanford, “What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford” (Copper Canyon Press)
JOHN LEONARD PRIZE
Kirstin Valdez Quade, “Night at the Fiestas” (W.W. Norton & Company)
NONA BALAKIAN CITATION FOR EXCELLENCE IN REVIEWING
Finalists: Ruth Franklin, James Parker, Roxana Robinson, Leo Robson
IVAN SANDROF LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Winners of the National Book Critics Circle awards will be announced on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium. A finalists’ reading will be held on March 16, also at 6:00 p.m. at the same location. Both events are free and open to the public.
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, 40 years ago. 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 You can also follow the NBCC on Facebook and on Twitter (@bookcritics).
Comprising more than 700 working critics and book-review editors throughout the country, the NBCC 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 critics and editors from some of the country’s leading print and online publications, as well as critics whose works appear in these publications.