National Book Critics’ Circle Awards

The National Book Critics Circle Award Winners

Jennifer Egan won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction at the Tishman Auditorium of the New School on Thursday night for “A Visit From the Goon Squad” (Knopf), a wildly inventive novel of interlocking stories.
The board of the National Book Critics Circle, a group of more than 600 professional book reviewers, called the book “a novel at once experimental in form and crystal clear in the overlapping stories it delivers, offering us a sense of youth and what gets lost along the way.” Ms. Egan beat out Jonathan Franzen for his best seller “Freedom”; David Grossman; Paul Murray; and Hans Keilson for the prize. [Not that we’re thinking of the competition as though it were a boxing match – jj]

In nonfiction, Isabel Wilkerson, a former reporter for The New York Times, won for “The Warmth of Other Suns” (Random House), her deeply researched history of black migration from the American South that the panel called “a magisterial work.”

Darin Strauss was awarded the prize for autobiography for “Half a Life” (McSweeney’s), which centers on a car accident the author was in that killed a classmate; Sarah Bakewell won the biography award for “How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer” (Other Press); C.D. Wright was the poetry winner for “One With Others” (Copper Canyon); and Clare Cavanagh won the criticism award for “Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West” (Yale University Press).

We know the process to national achievement is complicated and, contrary to the trope of the forgotten genius suddenly discovered, it involves the community in complex ways, including mentoring and relatively unbiased judging.  So let us celebrate the fact that women recently have more access to such resources.