A Surprise Among the NBCC Winners

The one surprise from the National Book Critics Circle Awards announced last night was the winner for autiobiography, My Father’s Paradise, by Ariel Sabar. While it garnered some stellar reviews and was on the Christian Science Monitor’s list of best books, it’s not as well known as some of the other finalists, several of which have appeared on bestseller lists and dozens of best books lists.

In addition to being a strong readers advisory title, it is a candidate for book clubs (the author’s web site offers useful background, including book club resources). The book is also the current selection of  “One Book, One Jewish Community” in Philadelphia as well as “On the Same Page, Baltimore.”

Since this award comes from book critics and since the critics lined up to praise Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (according to Neil Hollands’s analysis of over 80 best books of ’08 lists, it appeared on the most; 23 in total), it’s no surprise that it was the winner in fiction.

Below is a full list of winners and finalists. The links are to NBCC Board members’ descriptions from their admirable Thirty Books in Thirty Days.




Roberto Bolaño, 2666, Farrar, Straus


Marilynne Robinson, Home, Farrar, Straus
(National Book Award finalist last year)

Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project, Riverhead
(National Book Award finalist last year)

M. Glenn Taylor, The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart, West Virginia University Press

Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kittredge, Random


Winners (2):


August Kleinzahler, Sleeping It Off in Rapid City, Farrar, Strauss


Juan Felipe Herrera, Half the World in Light, University of Arizona Press


Devin Johnston, Sources, Turtle Point Press

Pierre Martory (trans. John Ashbery), The Landscapist, Sheep Meadow Press

Brenda Shaughnessy, Human Dark with Sugar, Copper Canyon Press




Seth Lerer, Children’s Literature: Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter, University of Chicago Press


Richard Brody, Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life Of Jean-Luc Godard, Metropolitan Books

Vivian Gornick, The Men in My Life, Boston Review/MIT

Joel L. Kraemer, Maimonides: The Life and World of One of Civilization’s Greatest Minds, Doubleday

Reginald Shepherd, Orpheus in the Bronx: Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry, University of Michigan Press




Patrick French, The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul, Knopf


Paula J. Giddings, Ida, A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching, Amistad

Steve Coll, The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family In An American Century, Penguin Press

Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, W.W. Norton (This was the winner of the National Book Award in Nonfiction last year)

Brenda Wineapple, White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson & Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Knopf




Ariel Sabar, My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq, Algonquin


Rick Bass, Why I Came West, Houghton Mifflin

Helene Cooper, The House On Sugar Beach, Simon and Schuster

Honor Moore, The Bishop’s Daughter, WW Norton

Andrew X. Pham, The Eaves Of Heaven, Harmony Books




Dexter Filkins, The Forever War, Knopf


Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the Civil War, Knopf
(National Book Award finalist last year)

Jane Mayer, The Dark Side, Doubleday
(National Book Award finalist last year)

Allan Lichtman, White Protestant Nation, Atlantic

George C. Herring, From Colony to Superpower: US Foreign Relations Since 1776, Oxford University Press

Comments are closed.