The National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for their annual literary awards, with Colson Whitehead, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Clint Smith, and Patrick Radden Keefe among the authors making the shortlists.
The organization, made up of more than 600 critics and book review editors, revealed the shortlists for the prizes in a virtual ceremony Thursday evening.
Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle and Jeffers’ The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, both Kirkus Prize finalists, were named finalists in the fiction category, along with Joshua Cohen’s The Netanyahus, Rachel Cusk’s Second Place, and Sarah Hall’s Burntcoat.
Smith’s How the Word Is Passed and Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain made the nonfiction shortlist alongside Joshua Prager’s The Family Roe, Sam Quinones’ The Least of Us, and Rebecca Solnit’s Orwell’s Roses.
In autobiography, the finalists were Hanif Abdurraqib’s A Little Devil in America, Jeremy Atherton Lin’s Gay Bar, Rodrigo Garcia’s A Farewell to Gabo And Mercedes, Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s A Ghost In the Throat, and Albert Samaha’s Concepcion.
Making the biography shortlist were Susan Bernofsky for Clairvoyant of the Small, Keisha N. Blain for Until I Am Free, Rebecca Donner for All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, Mark Harris for Mike Nichols, and Alexander Nemerov for Fierce Poise.
In criticism, the finalists were Melissa Febos’ Girlhood, Jenny Diski’s Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told?, Jesse McCarthy’s Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul?, Mark McGurl’s Everything and Less, and Amia Srinivasan’s The Right to Sex.
Finalists in the poetry category were B.K. Fischer’s Ceive, Donika Kelly’s The Renunciations, Rajiv Mohabir’s Cutlish, Cheswayo Mphanza’s The Rhinehart Frames, and Diane Seuss’ frank: sonnets.
The shortlist for the John Leonard Prize, given to the best first book in any genre, included Ashley C. Ford’s memoir, Somebody’s Daughter; Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s fiction collection, My Monticello; Torrey Peters’ novel, Detransition, Baby; Larissa Pham’s memoir, Pop Song; Anthony Veasna So’s story collection, Afterparties; and Devon Walker-Figueroa’s poetry collection, Philomath.
The organization also announced the winners of three special awards. Critic Merve Emre was named the winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.
The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award went to novelist Percival Everett, and the inaugural Toni Morrison Achievement Award, given to an institution that has made significant contributions to literary culture, went to the poetry nonprofit Cave Canem Foundation.
The winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards will be announced at a virtual ceremony on March 17.
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.