The National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for its 2011 award.  The winners of each category will be announced on March 10.


  • Jennifer Egan: A Visit from the Goon Squad
  • Jonathan Franzen: Freedom
  • David Grossman: To the End of the Land
  • Hans Keilson: Comedy in a Minor Key
  • Paul Murray: Skippy Dies


  • Anne Carson: Nox
  • Kathleen Graber: The Eternal City
  • Terrance Hayes: Lighthead
  • Kay Ryan: The Best of It
  • C.D. Wright: One with Others: [a little book of her days]


  • S.C. Gwynne: Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches
  • Jennifer Homans: Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet
  • Barbara Demick: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
  • Siddhartha Mukherjee: The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
  • Isabel Wilkerson: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration


  • Sarah Bakewell: How to Live, Or a Life of Montaigne
  • Selina Hastings: The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham: A Biography
  • Yunte Huang: Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History
  • Thomas Powers: The Killing of Crazy Horse
  • Tom Segev: Simon Wiesenthal: The Lives and Legends


  • Kai Bird: Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956 – 1978
  • David Dow: The Autobiography of an Execution
  • Christopher Hitchens: Hitch-22: A Memoir
  • Rahna Reiko Rizzuto: Hiroshima in the Morning
  • Patti Smith: Just Kids
  • Darin Strauss: Half a Life


  • Elif Batuman: The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
  • Terry Castle: The Professor and Other Writings
  • Clare Cavanagh: Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West
  • Susan Linfield: The Cruel Radiance
  • Ander Monson: Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir

All of the fiction books have been well covered. I’ve had all of them except for Skippy Dies for months, though I’ve read only A Visit from the Goon Squad. I’ve also read Anne Carson’s Nox, that brilliantly produced accordian poem. I haven’t written about it here because, well, I’m not that good at talking about poetry. I wanted to read it again, which hasn’t happened yet — but now it will. As for the other categories, Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy and Patti Smith’s Just Kids have been tempting me.

It is certainly worth noting that the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing went to Parul Sehgal and, more closely related to my interests on this site, the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award went to Dalkey Archive Press — congrats!

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