Book Critics award finalists include Ta-Nehisi Coates, Paul Beatty, Mary Beard, more

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ acclaimed book, “Between the World and Me,” is a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.

(The Washington Post / The Washington Post/Getty Images)

The board of the National Book Critics Circle -- on which I sit -- met Saturday in New York to select the finalists for our 2015 awards. Monday we announced that five finalists have been chosen in six categories: Autobiography, Biography, Criticism, Fiction, Nonficton and Poetry.

Among the finalists are Ta-Nehisi Coates, winner of a MacArthur “genius” fellowship and National Book Award winner, for “Between the World and Me” (Criticism); Booker Prize winner Helen Macdonald for “H is for Hawk” (Autobiography); Paul Beatty for “The Sellout,” a satire of race set in Los Angeles (Fiction); historian Mary Beard’s “SPQR: A History of Rome” (Nonfiction); Frank Stanford’s “What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford” (Poetry); and Karin Wieland for “Dietrich and Riefenstahl: Hollywood, Berlin, and a Century in Two Lives” (Biography).

Additionally, the recipients of three awards are being announced. Poet and activist Wendell Berry will receive the Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement; Kirstin Valdez Quade will be awarded the John Leonard First Book Prize for “Night at the Fiestas”; and the Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada will receive the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.


All the awards will be presented at a ceremony at the New School in New York on March 17 at 6 p.m. The event and a reception that follows are open to the public; tickets are $75.

The complete list of NBCC finalists is below.


Elizabeth Alexander, “The Light of the World” (Grand Central Publishing)

Vivian Gornick, “The Odd Woman and the City” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

George Hodgman, “Bettyville” (Viking)

Margo Jefferson, “Negroland” (Pantheon)

Helen Macdonald, “H Is for Hawk” (Grove Press)


Terry Alford, “Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth” (Oxford University Press)

Charlotte Gordon, “Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley” (Random House)

T.J. Stiles, “Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America” (Alfred A. Knopf)

Rosemary Sullivan, “Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva” (Harper)

Karin Wieland and Shelly Frisch, “Dietrich and Riefenstahl: Hollywood, Berlin, and a Century in Two Lives” (Liveright)


Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Between the World and Me” (Spiegel & Grau)

Leo Damrosch, “Eternity’s Sunrise: The Imaginative World of William Blake” (Yale University Press)

Maggie Nelson, “The Argonauts” (Graywolf)

Colm Tóibín, “On Elizabeth Bishop” (Princeton University Press)

James Wood, “The Nearest Thing to Life” (Brandeis University Press)


Paul Beatty, “The Sellout” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Lauren Groff, “Fates and Furies” (Riverhead)

Valeria Luiselli, “The Story of My Teeth” (Coffee House Press)

Anthony Marra, “The Tsar of Love and Techno” (Hogarth)

Ottessa Moshfegh, “Eileen” (Penguin Press)


Mary Beard, “SPQR: A History of Rome” (Liveright)

Ari Berman, “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)


Jill Leovy, “Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America” (Spiegel & Grau)

Sam Quinones, “Dreamland: The True Story of America’s Opiate Epidemic” (Bloomsbury)

Brian Seibert, “What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)


Ross Gay, “Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude” (University of Pittsburgh Press)

Terrance Hayes, “How to Be Drawn” (Penguin)

Ada Limón, “Bright Dead Things” (Milkweed Editions)

Sinéad Morrissey, “Parallax and Selected Poems” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Frank Stanford, “What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford” (Copper Canyon Press)


Kirstin Valdez Quade, “Night at the Fiestas” (W.W. Norton & Company)


Wendell Berry


Carlos Lozada

Finalists for the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing:

Ruth Franklin

James Parker

Leo Robson

Roxana Robinson

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