The finalists for the annual National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Award are now out. The fiction list includes four books by women, three of which have already gotten some award love from the National Book Award and the Booker Prize. The other two books have received strong notices from reviewers and buzz from bloggers. Here are the finalists for fiction and non-fiction with excerpts and other links where available. As a side note, the NBCC award is particularly interesting in that it is one of the few major awards that pits American books against overseas (usually British) books.
Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage (excerpt, NBA shortlisted)
Marlon James, The Book of Night Women (excerpt)
Michelle Huneven, Blame (excerpt, Huneven’s writing at The Millions)
Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (excerpt, Booker winner)
Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite (excerpt, NBA shortlisted)
Wendy Doniger, The Hindus: An Alternative History
Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City (excerpt, NBA shortlisted)
Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (excerpt)
Tracy Kidder, Strength in What Remains (excerpt)
William T. Vollmann, Imperial (excerpt, a Millions Most Anticipated book)
For more on the NBCC Awards and the finalists in the other categories, check out the NBCC’s blog.
Here’s a list of my favorite covers of 2009. The best way for me to pick some favorites was to break them up into categories. I feel that when a designer has the task of designing, say, a nonfiction book, the parameters are very different than when designing a book for one of the most popular fiction authors in the world, and so it felt most natural to split things up this way.
Best Nonfiction Cover
Fordlandia by Greg Grandin, Cover design: Rodrigo Corral Design: Rodrigo Corral is my favorite designer, period. I love everything he does. Fordlandia is a great example of a cover that really feels like what’s inside. The painting is perfect, and the type is beautifully rendered. I love the palm frond hanging over the F. It draws your eye to the title instantly.
Best Big Book Cover
Under the Dome by Stephen King, Cover design: Rex Bonomelli, illustration by Ray Brown: This cover is amazing for so many reasons. First of all, even though it’s a no-brainer in terms of concept, they really did a brilliant job illustrating the town. Secondly, the jacket has no flap copy. Nothing! Just barcode and title. This is something only Stephen King can pull off, but it really adds to the clarity of the cover to not have anything else on it. Thirdly, Amazon wrote a piece about the cover, describing its origins on the product page. This is something you never see. It shows that this is truly a unique jacket.
Best Fiction Cover
The Way Through Doors by Jesse Ball, Cover design: Helen Yentus: It’s hard to pull off (or get approved) a cover where the title is obscured. In this case, however, Yemtus has done such clear work that the title reads right away, despite the fact that it never actually fully appears.
Best UK Cover
Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem, Cover design: Miriam Rosenbloom: My wife and I recently designed and screenprinted a poster for Jonathan and his marathon New York readings around the city last month. When we were brainstorming for the poster, I saw this cover and thought, “Damn! I wish I had thought of that.” This is a cover that would never fly with an author as popular as Lethem in an American market because the type is small and the image is big. The result is powerful, toothy, and original.
Award season is hitting its stride, and this year’s National Book Award finalists have been announced. The big name among the fiction finalists is Column McCann. He is joined by an intriguing mix of newcomers and lesser known writers. Overall, it looks like the National Book Award is trying to push the envelope a bit this year, unsurprising with the likes of Junot Díaz and Lydia Millet on the judging panel. Not making the fiction cut are notable writers like Thomas Pynchon, Richard Russo, and Lorrie Moore. Here’s a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available:
American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (excerpt, review, Most Anticipated)
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin (excerpt)
Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips (excerpt)
Far North by Marcel Theroux (excerpt)
Following the Water: A Hydromancer’s Notebook by David M. Carroll (excerpt)
Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species by Sean B. Carroll (excerpt)
Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin (excerpt)
The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy by Adrienne Mayor (excerpt [pdf])
The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles (excerpt)
Versed by Rae Armantrout (excerpt)
Or to Begin Again by Ann Lauterbach (poem)
Speak Low by Carl Phillips (poem)
Open Interval by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon (poem [pdf])
Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy by Keith Waldrop (excerpt [pdf])
Young People’s Literature:
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose
Stitches by David Small
Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor
Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia