Two Baltimoreans -- the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a poet/essayist -- are among the 30 finalists for this year's National Book Critics Circle Awards.
Taylor Branch was nominated in the biography category for At Canaan's Edge, the final volume in his epic trilogy about the slain civil rights leader. The author worked on that project for more than two decades.
Edge is the sequel to Pillar of Fire. The first volume, Parting the Waters, was published in 1988 and won a Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction, along with the 1989 Pulitzer Prize.
Lia Purpura, a writer in residence at Loyola College, was nominated in the criticism category for On Looking: Essays.
Winners in each of the six categories will be announced in March. The finalists are:
Biography: Debby Applegate: The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher; Taylor Branch, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968; Frederick Brown, Flaubert: A Biography; Julie Phillips, James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon; Jason Roberts, A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler.
Criticism: Bruce Bawer: While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West From Within; Frederick Crews, Follies of the Wise: Dissenting Essays; Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon; Lia Purpura, On Looking: Essays; Lawrence Weschler, Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences.
Fiction: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun; Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss; Dave Eggers, What Is the What; Richard Ford, The Lay of the Land; and Cormac McCarthy, The Road.
Memoir/Autobiography: Donald Antrim, The Afterlife; Alison Bechdel, Fun Home; Alexander Masters, Stuart: A Life Backwards; Daniel Mendelsohn, The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million; and Terri Jentz, Strange Piece of Paradise.
Nonfiction: Patrick Cockburn, The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq; Ann Fessler, The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade; Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals; Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution; and Sandy Tolan, The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East.
Poetry: Daisy Fried, My Brother Is Getting Arrested Again; Troy Jollimore, Tom Thomson in Purgatory; Miltos Sachtouris, Poems (1945-1971); Frederick Seidel, Ooga-Booga; and W.D. Snodrass, Not for Specialists: New and Selected Poems.