National Book Critics Circle Announces Finalists January 23, 2010

by Barbara Hoffert | Jan-23-2010

On Saturday, January 23, 2010, the National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for its book awards for the publishing year 2009 at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York. The fiction finalists, announced by 2008 finalist Elizabeth Strout, included this year’s Man Booker Award winner, Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (Holt), as well as Bonnie Jo Campbell’s 2009 National Book Award finalist, American Salvage (Wayne State University Press), and Jayne Anne Phillips NBA finalist Lark and Termite (Knopf). The autobiography finalists, announced by 2008 autobiography winner Ariel Sabar, included Lit (Harper) by Mary Karr, author of The Liar’s Club, a formative book in the memoir genre, and Kati Marton’s Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America (Simon & Schuster), in which the author used her reporter’s skills to uncover the story of her parents in Budapest during the Nazi and Communist eras. Biography, announced by 1999 finalist Jean Strouse, included works about writers John Cheever, Clarice Lispector, Flannery O'Connor, Ignazio Silone.
This year’s finalists in criticism, announced by 2008 finalist Vivian Gornick, included cultural criticism from Eula Biss (Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays, Graywolf Press) and Morris Dickstein, Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression (Norton). Poetry finalists, announced by 2008 finalist Brenda Shaughnessy, ranged from 93-year-old Eleanor Ross Taylor’s Captive Voices: New and Selected Poems, 1960–2008 (Louisiana State University Press) to former poet laureate Louise Glück’s A Village Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The 2000 nonfiction winner Ted Conover announced the nonfiction finalists, which included hefty tomes like Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History (Penguin Press) and William T. Vollmann’s 1300-plus page, Imperial (Viking, over a decade in the making.
In addition, this year’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award is Joyce Carol Oates, announced by Kwame Anthony Appiah, president of PEN American Center, the 2008 Sandrof award winner. Winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, announced by former Balakian winner Albert Mobilio, is Joan Acocela. For details on all the finalists, please see below.
Diana Athill, Somewhere Towards the End (Norton)
Debra Gwartney, Live Through This: A Mother's Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Mary Karr, Lit (Harper)
Kati Marton, Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America (Simon & Schuster)
Edmund White, City Boy, Bloomsbury
Blake Bailey, Cheever: A Life (Knopf)
Brad Gooch, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor (Little, Brown)
Benjamin Moser, Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector (Oxford University Press)
Stanislao G. Pugliese, Bitter Spring: A Life of Ignazio Silone (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Martha A. Sandweiss, Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line (Penguin Press)
Eula Biss, Notes From No Man's Land: American Essays (Graywolf Press)
Stephen Burt, Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry (Graywolf Press)
Morris Dickstein, Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression (Norton)
David Hajdu, Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture (Da Capo Press)
Greg Milner, Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music (Faber)
Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage (Wayne State University Press)
Marlon James, The Book of Night Women (Riverhead)
Michelle Huneven, Blame (Sarah Crichton Books/FSG)
Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (Holt)
Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite (Knopf)
Wendy Doniger, The Hindus: An Alternative History (Penguin Press)
Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City (Metropolitan Books)
Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Pantheon)
Tracy Kidder, Strength in What Remain (Random House)
William T. Vollmann, Imperial (Viking)
Rae Armantrout, Versed (Wesleyan)
Louise Glück, A Village Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
D.A. Powell, Chronic (Graywolf Press)
Eleanor Ross Taylor, Captive Voices: New and Selected Poems, 1960–2008 (Louisiana State University Press)
Rachel Zucker, Museum of Accidents (Wave Books)
Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing
Joan Acocella
Michael Antman
William Deresiewicz
Donna Seaman
Wendy Smith
Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award
Joyce Carol Oates
The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974 at the Algonquin, is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization consisting of some 600 active book reviewers who are interested in honoring quality writing and communicating with one another about common concerns. It is managed by a 24-member all-volunteer board of directors. For more information, please contact National Book Critics Circle president Jane Ciabattari at or go to

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