National Book Critics Circle Finalists Include Hilton Als, Donna Tartt, and Sheri Fink

by Katie Sharrow-Reabe

This past Monday, the National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for the 2013 Awards season. The NBCC awards are celebrated every March and are the only national literary awards chosen by critics themselves.

The NBCC awards ceremony will be held on March 13 at the New School in New York City and will be free and open to the public. Tickets to the after-party can be acquired for $75.

In 1975, NBCC then-President Ivan Sandrof described the group’s objective as “to improve and maintain the standards of literary criticism in an era of diminishing and deteriorating values.” The program’s mission has since been revised to be much less critical but no less ambitious: To honor outstanding writing and foster a national conversation about reading, criticism and literature.

This year, the NBCC has awarded literary critic Katherine A. Powers the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Powers penned “A Reading Life,” a column in The Boston Globe and the recently published Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of Family Life: The Letters of J.F. Powers, 1942–1963.

Writer and professor Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, known for his 15-volume Klail City Death Trip Series, will receive the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

Fiction writer Anthony Marra will receive the inaugural John Leonard Award for his debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.

And the finalists for the 2013 NBCC awards are…


  • Hilton Als, White Girls (McSweeney’s)
  • Mary Beard, Confronting The Classics: Traditions, Adventures and Innovations (Liveright)
  • Jonathan Franzen, The Kraus Project: Essays by Karl Kraus, translated and annotated by Jonathan Franzen with Paul Reiter and Daniel Kehlmann (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Janet Malcolm, Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Franco Moretti, Distant Reading (Verso)


  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (Knopf)
  • Alice McDermott, Someone (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Javier Marias, The Infatuations (Knopf)
  • Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being (Viking)
  • Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch (Little, Brown)


  • Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy, Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and The Manhunt That Brought Him To Justice (Norton)
  • Sheri Fink, Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in A Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Crown)
  • David Finkel, Thank You For Your Service (Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of The New America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Lawrence Wright, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and The Prison of Belief (Knopf)


  • Frank Bidart, Metaphysical Dog (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Lucie Brock-Broido, Stay, Illusion (Knopf)
  • Denise Duhamel, Blowout (University of Pittsburgh Press)
  • Bob Hicok, Elegy Owed (Copper Canyon)
  • Carmen Gimenez Smith, Milk and Filth (University of Arizona Press)


  • Sonali Deraniyagala, Wave (Knopf)
  • Aleksandar Hemon, The Book of My Lives (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby (Viking)
  • Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped (Bloomsbury)
  • Amy Wilentz, Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti (Simon & Schuster)


  • Scott Anderson, Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and The Making of The Modern Middle East (Doubleday)
  • Leo Damrosch, Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World (Yale University Press)
  • John Eliot Gardiner, Bach: Music in The Castle of Heaven (Knopf)
  • Linda Leavell, Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Mark Thompson, Birth Certificate: The Story of Danilo Kis (Cornell University Press)

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