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Claudia Rankine and Marlon James - Finalists for National Book Critics Circle Awards

Marlon James and Claudia Rankine

Jamaican writers, poet Claudia Rankine (Citizen: An American Lyric) and novelist Marlon James (A Brief History of Seven Killings) are among the list of 30 finalists for the National Book Critics Circle awards for the best books of 2014, in the United States. The prize is one of the most prestigious in the United States and is awarded in six (6) categories: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

Rankine’s book of poetry was nominated in the poetry in criticism categories, making it the first time that a single title has been nominated in two categories, in the history of the awards. In a release posted on The Book Critics website, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Chair of the Poetry Committee remarked on Rankine’s singular achievement.

“Claudia Rankine’s Citizen is a book of prose poetry whose inventive composition and topical content invite readers to consider different avenues toward the urgent conversation about race and politics in America. Rankine’s appearance on two separate categories is a testament to her book’s complexity, narrative reach and artistry,” Gonzalez said.

The other poetry finalists are: Prelude to Bruise, Saeed Jones (Coffee House Press); The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon, Willie Perdomo (Penguin Books); Once in the West, Christian Wiman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux); and Abide, Jake Adam York (Southern Illinois University Press).

James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings (Riverhead Books) is among the five finalists in the fiction category. It is accompanied by An Unnecessary Woman, Rabih Alameddine (Grove Press); Euphoria, Lily King (Atlantic Monthly Press); On Such a Full Sea, Chang-rae Lee (Riverhead Books) and Lila, Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). 

Additionally, novelist Toni Morrison will receive the Ivan Dandrof Life Time Achievement Award while Phil Klay will receive the John Leonard Prize for best debut book for his short story collection Redeployment.

The awards will be presented on Thursday, March 12, 2015 at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium. 

Full list of finalists:


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 Innoculation (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)



Alexandra Schwartz



Charles Finch

B. K. Fischer

Benjamin Moser

Lisa Russ Spaar