National Book Critics Circle announces 2014 awards finalists

Claudia Rankine's book "Citizen" is a finalist in two awards categories, a first for the National Book Critics Circle.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Marilynne Robinson, Roz Chast, Chang-rae Lee and Hector Tobar are among the finalists for the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Awards, it was announced Monday. The winners of the awards in six categories (autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction and poetry) will be announced at a New York ceremony on March 12.

For the first time in the 39-year history of the awards, one book is a finalist in two different categories. Claudia Rankine’s volume of prose poetry “Citizen: An American Lyric,” published by Minnesota indie Graywolf Press, received nominations in both the poetry and criticism categories. The chair of the awards’ poetry committee, Rigoberto Gonzalez, said: “Rankine’s appearance on two separate categories is a testament to her book’s complexity, narrative reach and artistry.”

The National Book Critics Circle also announced winners of three special prizes. The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Toni Morrison, the Nobel laureate and Pulitzer-winning novelist. The 2014 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, which comes with a $1,000 cash prize, was awarded to New Yorker Assistant Editor Alexandra Schwartz. And for the second year, the National Book Critics Circle awarded its John Leonard Prize, which is given to the best first book in any category. This year’s winner is Phil Klay’s short story collection “Redeployment,” which also won the 2014 National Book Award for fiction. The Leonard Prize is the only one selected by the entire membership of the National Book Critics Circle.

The National Book Critics Circle has almost 600 members, and the award finalists and winners are selected by the group’s 24-member board of directors (which includes Los Angeles Times staff writer Carolyn Kellogg). The complete list of nominated books is below.

Blake Bailey, “The Splendid Things We Planned: A Family Portrait” (W.W. Norton & Co.)
Roz Chast, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” (Bloomsbury)
Lacy M. Johnson, “The Other Side” (Tin House)
Gary Shteyngart, “Little Failure” (Random House)
Meline Toumani, “There Was and There Was Not” (Metropolitan Books)


Ezra Greenspan, “William Wells Brown: An African American Life” (W.W. Norton & Co.)
S.C. Gwynne, “Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson” (Scribner)
John Lahr, “Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh” (W.W. Norton & Co.)
Ian S. MacNiven, “‘Literchoor Is My Beat’: A Life of James Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Miriam Pawel, “The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography” (Bloomsbury)

Eula Biss, “On Immunity: An Inoculation” (Graywolf Press)
Vikram Chandra, “Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty” (Graywolf Press)
Claudia Rankine, “Citizen: An American Lyric” (Graywolf Press)
Lynne Tillman, “What Would Lynne Tillman Do?” (Red Lemonade)
Ellen Willis, “The Essential Ellen Willis,” edited by Nona Willis Aronowitz (University of Minnesota Press)

Rabih Alameddine, “An Unnecessary Woman” (Grove Press)
Marlon James, “A Brief History of Seven Killings” (Riverhead Books)
Lily King, “Euphoria” (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Chang-rae Lee, “On Such a Full Sea” (Riverhead Books)
Marilynne Robinson, “Lila” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

David Brion Davis, “The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation” (Alfred A. Knopf)
Peter Finn and Petra Couvee, “The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle over a Forbidden Book” (Pantheon)
Elizabeth Kolbert, “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” (Henry Holt & Co.)
Thomas Piketty, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” translated from the French by Arthur Goldhammer (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press)
Hector Tobar, “Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle that Set Them Free” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Saeed Jones, “Prelude to Bruise” (Coffee House Press)
Willie Perdomo, “The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon” (Penguin Books)
Claudia Rankine, “Citizen: An American Lyric” (Graywolf Press)
Christian Wiman, “Once in the West” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Jake Adam York, “Abide” (Southern Illinois University Press)