Keeping that award string alive

Ever since I’ve been a member of the National Book Critics Circle, I’ve observed that few of the books I nominate make the finalist round (two last year and one the year before). I kept up that trend with this year’s finalists.

I only submitted nominations in three categories because, as usual, I didn’t read any poetry and either wasn’t overwhelmed by any of the biographies or autobiographies I read of they weren’t published in 2008. None of my five criticism nominees made the cut. In fiction, Marilynne Robinson’s Home is the only finalist I voted for. While I read another finalist, Roberto BolaƱo’s 2666, it didn’t make my short list.

In nonfiction, the only finalist I voted for is The Forever War by Dexter Filkins. By chance, I last week finished Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, another of the five finalists. I’ll be posting a review of it later this week.

Of course, I flatter myself thinking I actually am nominating or voting for any book, as is evidenced by the actual selection process: a work not on a long list established by committee makes the short list only if 20% of the voting membership names it on their ballots.

A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition.

Henry Miller, The Books in My Life

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