Presidential favourite Marilynne Robinson, the late Roberto Bolano of Chile and a memoir about Africa featured last year at Starbucks were among the finalists announced Saturday for the National Book Critics Circle prizes.
Others nominated in six competitive categories included Annette Gordon-Reed's "The Hemingses of Monticello," winner of the National Book Award last fall; Patrick French's "The World is What It Is," an explicit and authorized biography of Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul; and Steve Coll's biography "The Bin Ladens."
Winners will be announced March 12. There are no cash awards.
Robinson is a finalist for "Home," a companion to her previous novel, "Gilead." President Barack Obama has praised that Pulitzer Prize-winning book. Bolano, who died in 2003 but has become increasingly popular as his work is translated into English, was nominated for "2666."
Aleksandar Hemon's "The Lazarus Project," M. Glenn Taylor's "The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart" and Elizabeth Strout's "Olive Kittredge" were the other fiction finalists.
Critics bypassed three of last year's most well reviewed fiction books: Toni Morrison's "A Mercy," Joseph O'Neill's "Netherland" and Jhumpa Lahiri's "Unaccustomed Earth."
Helene Cooper's "The House On Sugar Beach," a memoir chosen by Starbucks to be sold at its stores nationwide, was a finalist for autobiography. The others were Rick Bass, "Why I Came West"; Honor Moore, "The Bishop's Daughter"; Andrew X. Pham, "The Eaves Of Heaven"; and Ariel Sabar, "My Father's Paradise."
Coll, Gordon-Reed and French all were nominees for biography, where other finalists were Paula J. Giddings's "Ida, A Sword Among Lions" and Brenda Wineapple's "White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson & Thomas Wentworth Higginson."
Jane Mayer's "The Dark Side," a best-selling investigative work on the war on terror, was a finalist for general non-fiction. Also nominated were Dexter Filkins's "The Forever War," Drew Gilpin Faust's "This Republic of Suffering," Allan Lichtman's "White Protestant Nation" and George C. Herring's "From Colony to Superpower."
Poetry nominees were August Kleinzahler's "Sleeping It Off in Rapid City," Juan Felipe Herrera's "Half the World in Light," Devin Johnston's "Sources," Pierre Martory's "The Landscapist" and Brenda Shaughnessy's "Human Dark with Sugar."
For criticism, finalists included Richard Brody's "Everything Is Cinema," Vivian Gornick's "The Men in My Life," Joel L. Kraemer's "Maimonides," Reginald Shepherd's "Orpheus in the Bronx" and Seth Lerer's "Children's Literature."
Two honorary awards were announced. A lifetime achievement prize was given to the American centre of PEN, the international writers and human rights organization. A special award for criticism was given to Ron Charles of The Washington Post, at a time when the paper is strongly rumoured to be reducing or eliminating its Sunday book review section.
The book critics circle, founded in 1974, is a non-profit organization with more than 900 members.