The last twelve months have not been the most encouraging of times for the 900 or so members of the National Book Critics Circle. As newspapers across the country have been reducing in size and laying off personnel in response to the internet and the faltering economy, book sections have often been among the first casualties, the latest major blow being the disappearance last month of the Washington Post Book World. Of course there are still many outlets for book criticism, in magazines as well as the aforementioned internet. However, there is a sense that the disappearance of book review sections from major newspapers reflects a change to our nation's literary culture which might not be positive.
Despite the gloom, there was still a sense of celebration when the Book Critics Circle presented its annual awards last week. While these honors might not garner quite the publicity of the Pulitzer Prizes or the National Book Awards, they still carry significant prestige and can often help little known books and authors find wider audiences. This year, for the first -- and, according to the organization, the last -- time there were two winners in the poetry category.
This year's winners:
Fiction: 2666, by Roberto Bolano
General Nonfiction: The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins
Biography: The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul, by Patrick French
Autobiography: My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq, by Ariel Sabar
Poetry: Half the World in Light, by Juan Felipe Herrera, and Sleeping It Off in Rapid City, by August Kleinzahler
Criticism: Children's Literature: A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter, by Seth Lerer
More about the NBCC and the winning books can be found at the organization's website.