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The National Book Critics Circle has announced  30 finalists for prizes in six catagories, awarded to outstanding books published in 2016.  They include Helen Macdonald’s memoir of grief and falconry, “H is for Hawk,” “Dietrich and Riefenstahl,” a dual biography of film star Marlene Dietrich and Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, and “Dreamland,” Sam Quinones’ nonfiction chronicle of America’s opiate nightmare.

The finalists, in the areas of autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, general nonfiction, and poetry, are listed below. Winners will be announced in March.


“The Light of the World” by Elizabeth Alexander (Grand Central Publishing)

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“The Odd Woman and the City” by Vivian Gornick (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

“Bettyville” by George Hodgman (Viking)

“Negroland”  by Margo Jefferson (Pantheon)

“H Is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald (Grove Press)


 “Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth” by Terry Alford (Oxford University Press)

 “Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley” by Charlotte Gordon (Random House)

“Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America” by T.J. Stiles (Alfred A. Knopf)

“Stalin’s Daughter:  The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva” by Rosemary Sullivan (Harper)

“Dietrich and Riefenstahl: Hollywood, Berlin, and a Century in Two Lives” by Karin Wieland and Shelly Frisch (Liveright)


“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau)

“Eternity’s Sunrise: The Imaginative World of William Blake” by Leo Damrosch (Yale University Press)

“The Argonauts” by Maggie Nelson (Graywolf)

“On Elizabeth Bishop” by Colm Tóibín(Princeton University Press)

“The Nearest Thing to Life” by James Wood (Brandeis University Press)


“The Sellout” by Paul Beatty (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

“Fates and Furies” by  Lauren Groff (Riverhead)

“The Story of My Teeth” by Valeria Luisella (Coffee House Press)

“The Tsar of Love and Techno” by Anthony Marra (Hogarth)

“Eileen” by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press)


“SPQR: A History of Rome” by Mary Beard (Liveright)

“Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America” by Ari Berman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

“Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America” by Jill Leovy (Spiegel & Grau)

 “Dreamland: The True Story of America’s Opiate Epidemic” by Sam Quinones (Bloomsbury)

“What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing” by Brian Seibert (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)


“Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude” by Ross Gay (University of Pittsburgh Press)

“How to Be Drawn” by Terrance Hayes (Penguin)

“Bright Dead Things” by Ada Limón (Milkweed Editions)

“Parallax and Selected Poems” by Sinéad Morrissey (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

“What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford by Frank Stanford (Copper Canyon Press). Copper Canyon is located in Port Townsend.

Kirstin Valdez Quade won the John Leonard Prize for best  first book in any genre for “Night at the Fiestas” (W.W. Norton & Company). Washington Post nonfiction book critic Carlos Lozada won the Nona Balakian prize for excellence in book reviewing, and author and environmental activist Wendell Berry won the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award .