National Book Critics Circle Awards Shortlist 2012: Zadie Smith, Andrew Solomon, Katherine Boo, Robert Caro Feature In List With Few Surprises

01/14/2013 10:36 am ET | Updated Jan 15, 2013

The National Book Critics Circle awards shortlist for 2012 has been announced, and there are few surprises in the names featured.

The awards are nominated by its members, who are book critics from around the country. 30 books are finalists, in six categories. Also, two citations are named by the NBCC board, for excellence in book revieweing and a lifetime achievement award. This year, the former was awarded to William Deresiewicz, contributing writer for The Nation, The New Republic and The American Scholar, and the latter to Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar "for their pioneering work in feminist thought, which revolutionized criticism."

The Autobiography nominees include the late Anthony Shadid and Leanne Shapton's remarkable, unusual book Swimming Studies. The Biography list includes Robert Caro's latest volume on Johnson, plus books on Henry James, the real Count of Monte Christo, and the lives of three upper-class lesbians, while the fiction list features titles many felt were unjustly overlooked at the National Book Awards, including The Orphan Master's Son, NW and HHhH, plus the universally acclaimed debut Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. In the nonfiction category, Katherine Boo, Andrew Solomon and Jim Holt face off against each other in a very strong list.

Here's the full shortlist. The winners will be announced on February 28th.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Reyna Grande. The Distance Between Us. Atria Books
Maureen N. McLane. My Poets. Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Anthony Shadid. House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Leanne Shapton. Swimming Studies. Blue Rider Press
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. In the House of the Interpreter. Pantheon

BIOGRAPHY
Robert A. Caro. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Alfred A. Knopf
Lisa Cohen. All We Know: Three Lives. Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Michael Gorra. Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece. A Liveright Book: W. W. Norton
Lisa Jarnot. Robert Duncan, The Ambassador from Venus: A Biography. University of California Press
Tom Reiss. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo. Crown Publishers

CRITICISM
Paul Elie. Reinventing Bach. Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Daniel Mendelsohn. Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture. New York Review Books
Mary Ruefle. Madness, Rack, and Honey. Wave Books
Marina Warner. Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights. Belknap Press: Harvard University Press
Kevin Young. The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness. Graywolf Press

FICTION
Laurent Binet. HHhH. tr. by Sam Taylor. Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Ben Fountain. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Ecco
Adam Johnson. The Orphan Master’s Son. Random House
Lydia Millet, Magnificence. W. W. Norton
Zadie Smith. NW. The Penguin Press

NONFICTION
Katherine Boo. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. Random House
Steve Coll. Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power. The Penguin Press
Jim Holt. Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story. A Liveright Book: W. W. Norton
David Quammen. Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. W.W. Norton
Andrew Solomon. Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity. Scribner

POETRY
David Ferry. Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations. University of Chicago Press
Lucia Perillo. On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths. Copper Canyon Press
Allan Peterson. Fragile Acts. McSweeney’s Books
D. A. Powell. Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys. Graywolf Press
A. E. Stallings. Olives. Triquarterly: Northwestern University Press


Correction: the piece originally contained an incorrect book title. That has now been corrected.

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