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National Book Critics Circle Announces Finalists for Awards

The late journalist Anthony Shadid, Los Angeles writer Reyna Grande and the novelist Zadie Smith were among the finalists announced Monday for the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Awards.

Honors will be awarded in six categories: fiction, nonfiction, biography, autobiography, poetry and criticism.

Shadid, who died last year while on assignment in Syria for the New York Times, was nominated in the autobiography category for his book House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. Grande was nominated in the same category for The Distance Between Us, the story of her childhood in Mexico and arrival as a girl in Los Angeles.

Joining Shadid and Grande in the same category is UC Irvine professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o for In the House of the Interpreter, the second volume in the Kenyan-born writer’s memoirs. The other autobiography finalists are Maureen N. McLane for My Poets and Leanne Shapton for Swimming Studies.

NW, Smith’s fourth novel, is joined in the fiction category by two first-time novelists: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain, the surreal adventures of a group returning Iraq War veterans; and Laurent Binet’s HHhH, a fictionalized account of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, and of Binet’s own obsession with the Nazi killer.

The other fiction finalists are Adam Johnson for The Orphan Master’s Son, and Lydia Millet for Magnificence.

In the nonfiction category, Katherine Boo was nominated for Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, along with Steve Coll’s Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, Jim Holt’s Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story, David Quammen’s Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic and Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity.

L.A. Times book critic David L. Ulin and staff writer Carolyn Kellogg sit on the 24-member board of the National Book Critics Circle.

The winners will be announced Feb. 28 in New York City.