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National Book Critics Circle finalists

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Just two months after winning the National Book Award for Fiction, Phil Klay has been named this year’s recipient of the John Leonard First Book Prize from the National Book Critics Circle. Klay’s story collection, “Redeployment,” is informed by his service in the Marines during the Iraq War.

The NBCC also announced today that Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison has received the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her many decades as an editor, professor and author of such celebrated novels as “Song of Solomon” (1977), for which she won a NBCC Fiction Prize, and “Beloved” (1987), for which she won a Pulitzer Prize.

Klay and Morrison will receive their honors at a public ceremony in New York on March 12, when the NBCC will also announce the winners in six categories — autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, general nonfiction and poetry — for the best books of 2014.

The finalists for those awards were released tonight, and for the first time in the organization’s 40-year history, one book will be competing in two different categories: “Citizen: An American Lyric,” by Claudia Rankine, is a finalist for the poetry and the criticism prizes. It was also a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry, and has been a spectacular success for Graywolf Press, a non-profit publisher in Minneapolis, Minn. Monday night, a spokesperson for the publisher said the book is currently in its fourth printing, bringing the total number of copies to over 40,000.

And America’s love affair with French economist Thomas Piketty continues. His surprise bestseller, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” is a finalist for the General Nonfiction Prize. Matt O’Brien wrote recently in The Post that President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday would be “Piketty with an American accent.”

The full list of NBCC finalists follows. (To read The Post’s reviews, click on the titles):


An Unnecessary Woman,” by Rabih Alameddine (Grove).

A Brief History of Seven Killings,” by Marlon James (Riverhead).

Euphoria,” by Lily King (Grove).

On Such a Full Sea,” by Chang-rae Lee (Riverhead).

Lila,” by Marilynne Robinson (FSG).


The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation,” by David Brion Davis (Knopf).

The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, & the Battle Over a Forbidden Book,” by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée (Pantheon).

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History,” by Elizabeth Kolbert (Henry Holt).

Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” by Thomas Piketty (Belknap/Harvard).

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free,” by Héctor Tobar (FSG).


“The Splendid Things We Planned: A Family Portrait,” by Blake Bailey (Norton).

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?,” by Roz Chast (Bloomsbury).

“The Other Side,” by Lacy M. Johnson (Tin House).

Little Failure,” by Gary Shteyngart (Random House).

There Was and There Was Not: A Journey Through Hate and Possibility in Turkey, Armenia, and Beyond,” by Meline Toumani (Metropolitan/Holt)


William Wells Brown,” by Ezra Greenspan (Norton).

“Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson,” by S.C. Gwynne (Scribner).

Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh,” by John Lahr (Norton).

“‘Literchoor Is My Beat’: A Life of James Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions,” by Ian S. MacNiven (FSG).

“The Crusades of Cesar Chavez,” by Miriam Pawel (Bloomsbury).


“On Immunity,” by Eula Biss (Graywolf)

“Geek Sublime,” by Vikram Chandra (Graywolf).

Citizen: An American Lyric,” by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf).

“What Would Lynne Tillman Do?” by Lynne Tillman (Red Lemonade).

“The Essential Ellen Willis,” by Ellen Willis (Univ. of Minnesota Press).


“Prelude to Bruise,” by Saeed Jones (Coffee House).

“The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon,” by Willie Perdomo (Penguin).

Citizen: An American Lyric,” by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf).

“Once in the West,” by Christian Wiman (FSG).

“Abide,” by Jake Adam York (Southern Illinois/Crab Orchard).


Alexandra Schwartz, an assistant editor at the New Yorker, has won this year’s Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Unlike the NBCC’s other awards and honors, this award includes $1,000.

The NBCC is an organization of nearly 600 reviewers and book section editors.

Disclosure: Ron Charles is a board member of the NBCC.

Correction: A previous version of this story said that Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen” was in its fifth printing. It is in its fourth printing.