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2021 National Book Critics Circle Finalists

2021 National Book Critics Circle Finalists

Each year, the National Book Critics Circle presents awards for the finest books published in English in six categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, Autobiography, Poetry, and Criticism. Here are the finalists for the publishing year 2021!

Playlist Tags: awards: national book critics circle

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How the Word Is Passed

A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

By Clint Smith
Narrated by: Clint Smith
Length: 10 hours 6 minutes

How the Word Is Passed

“Smith has crafted a resource, narrative and detailed explanation into how we teach the legacy of slavery. He recounts visits from everywhere from NYC to the Whitney Plantation, integrating stories of people and visitors today. This book is lays a beautiful written foundation for interrogating the history we've been taught. Particularly phenomenal as an audiobook, Smith's skills as a poet and writer shine bright!”

Wellesley Books image Eliza, Wellesley Books
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The Family Roe

An American Story

By Joshua Prager
Narrated by: Elisabeth Rodgers
Length: 18 hours 40 minutes

A masterpiece of reporting on the Supreme Court's most divisive case, Roe v. Wade, and the unknown lives at its heart. Despite her famous pseudonym, “Jane Roe,” no one knows the truth about Norma McCorvey (1947–2017), whose unwanted pregnancy in 1969 opened a great fracture in American life. Journalist Joshua Prager spent hundreds of hours with... Read more »

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Empire of Pain

The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

By Patrick Radden Keefe
Narrated by: Patrick Radden Keefe
Length: 18 hours 6 minutes

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE NOMINEE A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR • NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A grand, devastating portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin. From the prize-winning and bestselling author of... Read more »

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A Little Devil in America

Notes in Praise of Black Performance

By Hanif Abdurraqib
Narrated by: JD Jackson
Length: 9 hours 38 minutes

A Little Devil in America

“Hanif Abdurraqib's exploration of Black performance in America is a cultural keystone that is chillingly relevant. Whether discussing the fact that a knowing look or advice on a route from a cashier is a form of a living Green Book that still exists because there are places Black people are not safe, to the origin of the card game spades or the difference between showing out or showing off, at the heart A Little Devil in America circles back to the fact that Black Americans have been forced to survive in places there were not welcome. The section on Black funerals pierced my heart. This book needs to be read, taught, underlined and discussed.”

Avid Bookshop image Rachel , Avid Bookshop
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Gay Bar

Why We Went Out

By Jeremy Atherton Lin
Narrated by: Jeremy Atherton Lin
Length: 7 hours 52 minutes

As gay bars continue to close at an alarming rate, a writer looks back to find out what’s being lost in this indispensable, intimate, and stylish celebration of history. In the era of Grindr and same-sex marriage, gay bars are closing down at an alarming rate. What, then, was the gay bar? Set between Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London, Gay... Read more »

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A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes

A Son’s Memoir of Gabriel García MArquez and Mercedes Barcha

By Rodrigo Garcia
Narrated by: Rodrigo Garcia
Length: 2 hours 16 minutes

A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes

“A beautiful, heartbreaking "son's memoir" from Rodrigo Garcia, son of "Gabo" Garcia Marquez. Despite its short, sparse chapters, this book is powerful and sad, powerfully sad. Of course, I wept (a lot), but in a good way. A poignant memoir about the terrible loss of memory, grief, and a son's abiding love for his father.”

Bookstore1Sarasota image Katia, Bookstore1Sarasota
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A Ghost in the Throat

By Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Narrated by: Siobhán McSweeney
Length: 7 hours 52 minutes

Winner of The James Tait Black Memorial Prize Winner of the Book of the Year, the Irish Book Awards Winner of the Foyles Non-Fiction Book of the Year Nominated for the Rathbones Folio Prize, Desmond Elliot Prize and Republic of Consciousness Prize A true original, this stunning prose debut by Doireann Ní Ghríofa weaves two stories together. In... Read more »

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Concepcion

An Immigrant Family's Fortunes

By Albert Samaha
Narrated by: Albert Samaha
Length: 11 hours 24 minutes

“Absolutely extraordinary...A landmark in the contemporary literature of the diaspora.” —Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror

“If Concepcion were only about Samaha’s mother, it would already be wholly worthwhile. But she was one of eight children in the Concepcion family, whose ancestry Samaha traces in this. . . powerful book.” –The New York...
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Fierce Poise

Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York

By Alexander Nemerov
Narrated by: Alison Fraser
Length: 8 hours 2 minutes

A National Book Critics Circle finalist • One of Vogue's Best Books of the Year

A dazzling biography of one of the twentieth century's most respected painters, Helen Frankenthaler, as she came of age as an artist in postwar New York

“The magic of Alexander Nemerov's portrait of Helen Frankenthaler in Fierce Poise is that it reads like one of...
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Mike Nichols

A Life

By Mark Harris
Narrated by: George Newbern
Length: 20 hours 34 minutes

A National Book Critics Circle finalist One of People's top 10 books of 2021 An instant New York Times bestseller • Named a best book of the year by NPR and Time

A magnificent biography of one of the most protean creative forces in American entertainment history, a life of dazzling highs and vertiginous plungessome of the worst largely...
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All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days

The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler

By Rebecca Donner
Narrated by: Rebecca Donner
Length: 13 hours 48 minutes

The INSTANT New York Times Bestseller

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography
Winner of the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award 
Winner of the Chautauqua Prize
Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award
Finalist for the Plutarch Award


A New York Times Notable Book of 2021
New York Times BookReview Editors’ Choice
New York...

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Until I Am Free

Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America

By Keisha N. Blain
Narrated by: Tyra Kennedy
Length: 7 hours 1 minutes

Explores the Black activist’s ideas and political strategies, highlighting their relevance for tackling modern social issues including voter suppression, police violence, and economic inequality.

“We have a long fight and this fight is not mine alone, but you are not free whether you are white or black, until I am free.”—Fannie Lou Hamer

A... Read more »

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Clairvoyant of the Small

The Life of Robert Walser

By Susan Bernofsky
Narrated by: Natasha Soudek
Length: 15 hours 41 minutes

The first English-language biography of one of the great literary talents of the twentieth century, written by his award-winning translator

The great Swiss-German modernist author Robert Walser lived eccentrically on the fringes of society, shocking his Berlin friends by enrolling in butler school and later developing an urban-nomad lifestyle... Read more »

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The Right to Sex

Feminism in the Twenty-First Century

By Amia Srinivasan
Narrated by: Andia Winslow
Length: 6 hours 42 minutes

“Laser-cut writing and a stunning intellect. If only every writer made this much beautiful sense.”
—Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women

“Amia Srinivasan is an unparalleled and extraordinary writer—no one X-rays an argument, a desire, a contradiction, a defense mechanism quite like her. In stripping the new politics of sex and power down to its...

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Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul?

By Jesse McCarthy
Narrated by: Terrence Kidd
Length: 12 hours 6 minutes

Even as our world has suffered through successive upheavals, Jesse McCarthy contends, "something was happening in the world of culture: a surging and unprecedented visibility at every level of black art making." Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul? reckons with this resurgence, arguing for the central role of art and intellectual culture in an... Read more »

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Harlem Shuffle

A Novel

By Colson Whitehead
Narrated by: Dion Graham
Length: 10 hours 35 minutes

Harlem Shuffle

“A wonderful evocation of a time and place, which is not to say it doesn't have the tension of a crime thriller. It's fun to ride along with Ray, who may be more than a little bent, but will likely become your favorite furniture salesman, nevertheless.”

Books & Books @ The Studios of Key West image Robin, Books & Books @ The Studios of Key West
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The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois

An Oprah’s Book Club Novel

By Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
Narrated by: Adenrele Ojo, Karen Chilton & Prentice Onayemi
Length: 29 hours 48 minutes

If you enjoyed Homegoing, then you’ll love The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois.

“Jeffers is an award-winning poet and Du Bois scholar from her days at Bard College, and she harnesses the power of poetry, deeply researched history, and compelling narrative to craft a multi-generational saga of a Southern Black family. POWERFUL!”

A Great Good Place for Books image Samantha, A Great Good Place for Books
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Burntcoat

A Novel

By Sarah Hall
Narrated by: Louise Brealey
Length: 6 hours 7 minutes

A NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE NOMINEE

"An extraordinary work that will stand as blazing witness to the age that bore it.” -- Sarah Perry

A "masterpiece" (Daisy Johnson) of mortality, passion, and human connection, set against the backdrop of a deadly global virus—from the Booker–nominated writer

You were the last one here, before I closed the door...

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Second Place

A Novel

By Rachel Cusk
Narrated by: Kate Fleetwood
Length: 6 hours 18 minutes

Second Place

“A great book from one of the most perceptive authors working. The book mostly focuses on what happens when a celebrated artist comes to stay at the narrator's home. There are plenty of striking ruminations on the nature of love and relationships, but what stuck with me was when the novel commented on art and the relationships artists have with those around them. Also, the book is full of great lines to savor. It seems Rachel Cusk has carved a lane for herself in the current literary landscape and I'm excited to see what she does next.”

Malaprop's Bookstore image James, Malaprop's Bookstore
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Afterparties

Stories

By Anthony Veasna So
Narrated by: Jason Sean
Length: 6 hours 56 minutes

Afterparties

“These stories of the members of a compact Cambodian-American community, from the refugees to the business owners to the gay teenagers, seamlessly balance humor with hardships.”

Sofia Silva Wright image Sofia Silva Wright, Phoenix Books Burlington
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