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)

About the Author

More Like This

Grieving for Fascists

Peter Handke and Richard Wagner helped me mourn my father's death. Now I have to figure out how to mourn their lives.

Oct 22 - Olivia Giovetti

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature Proves the Academy Hasn’t Changed

The committee had a chance to show a new attitude towards diversity and inclusivity in literature, but it squandered that chance

Oct 10 - Carrie V. Mullins

We Are Writing Against Our Own Erasure

Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson's address to the recipients of this year's Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Awards

Sep 17 - Jacqueline Woodson