The National Book Critics Circle’s finalists for its 2012 book awards includes some titles on everyone’s lists (Zadie Smith’s NW, Robert Caro’s The Passage of Power) and some unusual choices (Lydia Millet, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o). The winners will be announced in New York City on Feb. 28. Finalists were announced this morning.
Here are the finalists in the six categories:
- Reyna Grande. The Distance Between Us. Atria Books
- Maureen N. McLane. My Poets. Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Anthony Shadid. House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- Leanne Shapton. Swimming Studies. Blue Rider Press
- Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. In the House of the Interpreter. Pantheon
- Robert A. Caro. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Alfred A. Knopf
- Lisa Cohen. All We Know: Three Lives. Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Michael Gorra. Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece. A Liveright Book: W. W. Norton
- Lisa Jarnot. Robert Duncan, The Ambassador from Venus: A Biography. University of California Press
- Tom Reiss. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo. Crown Publishers
- Paul Elie. Reinventing Bach. Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Daniel Mendelsohn. Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture. New York Review Books
- Mary Ruefle. Madness, Rack, and Honey. Wave Books
- Marina Warner. Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights. Belknap Press: Harvard University Press
- Kevin Young. The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness. Graywolf Press
- Laurent Binet. HHhH. tr. by Sam Taylor. Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Ben Fountain. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Ecco
- Adam Johnson. The Orphan Master’s Son. Random House
- Lydia Millet, Magnificence. W. W. Norton
- Zadie Smith. NW. The Penguin Press
- Katherine Boo. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. Random House
- Steve Coll. Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power. The Penguin Press
- Jim Holt. Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story. A Liveright Book: W. W. Norton
- David Quammen. Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. W.W. Norton
- Andrew Solomon. Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity. Scribner
- David Ferry. Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations. University of Chicago Press
- Lucia Perillo. On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths. Copper Canyon Press
- Allan Peterson. Fragile Acts. McSweeney’s Books
- D. A. Powell. Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys. Graywolf Press
- A. E. Stallings. Olives. Triquarterly: Northwestern University Press
The list does not include either the latest Booker Prize winner, Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, who won the NBCC award in 2009 for Wolf Hall. It does not include the National Book Award fiction winner, Louise Erdrich’s The Round House. But it does include two NBA 2012 winners, Katherine Boo (nonfiction) and David Ferry (poetry).
For those keeping score, only one of the fiction finalists lives in New York City. That’s Zadie Smith, who was born in London and now teaches at New York University. Smith reviewed Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son in the Los Angeles Times, calling it “thrilling.” It’s setting: the North Korea of Kim Jong Il. Johnson lives in San Francisco and teaches at Stanford. As for the other fiction nominees, Millet lives in Tucson, Fountain in Dallas, and Binet in Paris.
Among the other finalists, Mendelssohn won the NBCC’s Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing in 2002 as well as the autobiography/memoir award in 2006 for The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million. Caro’s many honors have included two Pulitzer Prizes, two previous National Book Critics Circle Awards, the Francis Parkman Prize, and the National Book Award.
All books published in the United States in 2012 are eligible for the NBCC awards, including translations. The 24 members of the NBCC, which is comprised of some 500 working critics, select, evaluate and nominate the finalists for the six prizes.