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National Book Critics Circle announces finalists for awards

"House of Stone" and "NW" are among the finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards.
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade, The Penguin Press)

The late journalist Anthony Shadid, Los Angeles writer Reyna Grande and the novelist Zadie Smith were among the finalists announced Monday for the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Awards.

Honors will be awarded in six categories: fiction, nonfiction, biography, autobiography, poetry and criticism.

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Shadid, who died last year while on assignment in Syria for the New York Times, was nominated in the autobiography category for his book “House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East.” Grande was nominated in the same category for “The Distance Between Us,” the story of her childhood in Mexico and arrival as a girl in Los Angeles.

Joining Shadid and Grande in the same category is UC Irvine professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o for “In the House of the Interpreter,” the second volume in the Kenyan-born writer’s memoirs. The other autobiography finalists are Maureen N. McLane for “My Poets” and Leanne Shapton for “Swimming Studies.”

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“NW,” Smith’s fourth novel, is joined in the fiction category by two first-time novelists: “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” by Ben Fountain, the surreal adventures of a group returning Iraq War veterans; and Laurent Binet’s “HHhH,” a fictionalized account of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, and of Binet’s own obsession with the Nazi killer.

The other fiction finalists are Adam Johnson for “The Orphan Master’s Son,” and Lydia Millet for “Magnificence.”

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In the nonfiction category, Katherine Boo was nominated for “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity,” along with Steve Coll’s “Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power,” Jim Holt’s “Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story,” David Quammen’s “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic” and Andrew Solomon’s “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity.”

L.A. Times book critic David L. Ulin and staff writer Carolyn Kellogg sit on the 24-member board of the National Book Critics Circle.

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The winners will be announced Feb. 28 in New York City.

Here is the complete list of nominations:

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Reyna Grande, “The Distance Between Us”

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Maureen N. McLane, “My Poets”

Anthony Shadid, “House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East”

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Leanne Shapton, “Swimming Studies”

Ngugi wa Thiong’o, “In the House of the Interpreter”

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BIOGRAPHY

Robert A. Caro, “The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson”

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Lisa Cohen, “All We Know: Three Lives”

Michael Gorra, “Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece”

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Lisa Jarnot, “Robert Duncan, The Ambassador from Venus: A Biography”

Tom Reiss, “The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo”

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CRITICISM

Paul Elie, “Reinventing Bach”

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Daniel Mendelsohn, “Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture”

Mary Ruefle, “Madness, Rack, and Honey”

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Marina Warner, “Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights”

Kevin Young, “The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness”

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FICTION

Laurent Binet, “HHhH”

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Ben Fountain, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”

Adam Johnson, “The Orphan Master’s Son”

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Lydia Millet, “Magnificence”

Zadie Smith, “NW”

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NONFICTION

Katherine Boo, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity”

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Steve Coll, “Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power”

Jim Holt, “Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story”

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David Quammen, “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic”

Andrew Solomon, “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity”

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POETRY

David Ferry, “Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations”

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Lucia Perillo, “On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths”

Allan Peterson, “Fragile Acts”

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D. A. Powell, “Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys”

A. E. Stallings, “Olives”

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Nona A. Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing: William Deresiewicz

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award: Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar

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hector.tobar@latimes.com

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