Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
David Grossman, To the End of the Land
Hans Keilson, Comedy in a Minor Key
Paul Murray, Skippy Dies
Our pick: Jennifer Egan. Though Freedom was undeniably great, and Skippy Dies was incredibly charming, and it’s really amazing that Hans Keilson is 101 years old, A Visit From the Goon Squad was still hands down the best book we read all year.
S.C. Gwynne, Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History
Jennifer Homans, Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet
Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
Our pick: Siddhartha Mukherjee. The very idea of writing a biography for a disease gets our vote, but Mukherjee’s captivating writing, incessant intelligence and deep compassion for his subjects clinch it. The book is also timely and basically necessary — this disease is one of the most pressing facing our culture, so we’d all do well to know our enemy.
Elif Batuman, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
Terry Castle, The Professor and Other Writings
Clare Cavanagh, Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West
Susie Linfield, The Cruel Radiance
Ander Monson, Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir
Our pick: Elif Batuman. You could tell just from the titles we were going to pick this one, couldn’t you? Though we admit to not having read all the works on this list, we think Batuman’s clever writing is a shining example of the direction literary criticism is headed. Plus, we really dig Tolstoy.
Check out Critical Mass, the NBCC blog, for more information and the complete list of finalists in poetry, biography and autobiography.