Novels of war, apocalypse vie in Critics Circle

Novels set in Africa and India, modern-day New Jersey and the stark landscape of a post-apocalyptic world will vie for the best work of fiction published in 2006, in nominations announced last week for the National Book Critics Circle awards.

The winner will be named in March; awards will also be given in nonfiction, biography, poetry, memoir and criticism. The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974, is a nonprofit made up of nearly 700 book reviewers across the nation.


The fiction nominees were Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Half of a Yellow Sun (Alfred Knopf), based on the Nigerian-Biafran civil war of the late 1960s; Kiran Desai for The Inheritance of Loss (Grove/Atlantic), a novel set against the Nepalese drive for independence, which won Britain's 2006 Man Booker Prize; Dave Eggers for What Is the What (McSweeney's), the story of a refugee from the Sudanese civil war; Richard Ford for Lay of the Land (Alfred Knopf), the continuing modern-day story of New Jerseyan Frank Bascombe; and Cormac McCarthy for The Road (Alfred Knopf), a tale that envisions the world after an apocalyptic event.

The nonfiction nominations went to Patrick Cockburn for The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq (Verso); Ann Fessler for The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade (Penguin Press); Michael Pollan for The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Penguin Press); Simon Schama for Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution (Ecco); and Sandy Tolan for The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East (Bloomsbury).


Biography nominees were Debby Applegate for The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher (Doubleday); Taylor Branch for At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68 (Simon & Schuster); Julie Phillips for James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon (St. Martin's Press); Frederick Brown for Flaubert: A Biography (Little, Brown and Company); and Jason Roberts for A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler (HarperCollins).

The poetry nominees were Daisy Fried for My Brother Is Getting Arrested Again (University of Pittsburgh Press); Frederick Seidel for Ooga Booga Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Miltos Sachtouris for Poems: 1945-1971 (Archipelago Books); W.D. Snodgrass for Not for Specialists: New and Selected Poems (BOA Editions); and Troy Jollimore for Tom Thomson in Purgatory (Intuit House).

Nominees for memoir were Alison Bechdel for Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, a graphic book published by Houghton Mifflin; Alexander Masters for Stuart: A Life Backwards (Delacorte Press); Daniel Mendelsohn for The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million (HarperCollins); Terri Jentz for Strange Piece of Paradise: A Return to the American West to Investigate My Attempted Murder - and Solve the Riddle of Myself (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); and Donald Antrim for The Afterlife: A Memoir (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

Josh Getlin writes for the Los Angeles Times.