Nothing makes authors more anxious than critics.
Their reviews can make or break a new publication. While some works get panned, others get critical acclaim. Critics not only find the best books they give out prizes too.
The National Book Critics Circle was formed in 1974 at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City (Yes, the same one that was host to Dorothy Parker’s own Vicious Circle). The group has moved out beyond the borders of New York City. Its members include not only “staff critics” - who are attached to a particular publication (like Barbara Hoffert, who is the National Book Critics Circle VP of Awards and Media Contact and also works for Library Journal) but also those who work as “freelance” reviewers and submit content to a variety of publications.
Unlike other book awards where specially nominated committees make all the decisions, the National Book Critics Circle sends out polls to all members asking for a listing of potential award candidates. Publishers and authors can submit their works for consideration.
To be considered the books must have been published in the United States between January 1 and December 31 of the year in question. Translated works are eligible as long they have been published in the United States.
The award is given out every March at the annual meeting. While the award is given in the current year it is for works published in 2011. The categories are:
- Non-fiction (Usually does not include cookbooks or self help books)
No children’s books are included in any categories.
The nominees and the winners are not necessarily best sellers or popular books. This award is focused on literary quality, not popularity. The winners in each of the six categories for 2011 are as follows:
The Memory Palace
Gaddis, John Lewis
George F. Kennan: An American Life
- CriticismDyer, Geoff
Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews
- FictionPearlman, Edith
Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary War
Space in Chains