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Book critics to announce annual award winners

March 23, 1998
Web posted at: 12:26 p.m. EDT (1226 GMT)

(CNN) -- It carries no cash prize, offers no black-tie dinner to laud the winners. But in years past, American publishers have worked hard to position their writers to be winners of the National Book Critics Circle Award.

This year, with eligibility rules changes, writers from around the world are eligible.

The awards, given annually in five categories, honor the "most distinguished" books of the prior year. Books must be nominated by the membership of the organization, and final winners are chosen by the 24-member board of directors. The awards will be announced Tuesday in New York.

The categories are General Nonfiction, Fiction, Biography & Autobiography, Poetry, and Criticism.

Critics Circle president Art Winslow, executive editor of "The Nation," said writers often see the award as confirmation of their work. For writer Gina Berriault, winning left her in tears during her acceptance last year. "After toiling for years without much recognition, it was acknowledgement that she was an author to be reckoned with," Winslow said.

And he said the organization strives to reward good works, whether or not they are on top of the best-seller lists.

"What we're trying to do as an organization is try to keep our eyes on the non-commercial focus," Winslow said. "The idea is to say, "these are the best books, no matter what is on the best-seller list."

That attitude led to changes in the rules this year to include writers from around the world. Previously only writers from the United States were considered.

Nominees for the 1997 award are:
(click header to see synopsis)

General Nonfiction

  • "Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster" (Villard), by Jon Krakauer
  • "The Bible As It Was" (Harvard), by James L. Kugel
  • "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), by Anne Fadiman
  • "How the Mind Works"(Norton), by Steven Pinker
  • "American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence" (Knopf), by Pauline Maier


  • "Cold Mountain" (Atlantic Monthly), by Charles Frazier
  • "Underworld" (Scribner), by Don DeLillo
  • "American Pastoral" (Houghton Mifflin), by Philip Roth
  • "Dreams of My Russian Summers" (Arcade), by Andrei Makine
  • "The Blue Flower"(Mariner/Houghton), by Penelope Fitzgerald

    Biography and Autobiography

  • "Walking in the Shade: Volume Two of My Autobiography, 1949-1962" (HarperCollins), by Doris Lessing
  • "Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life" (Viking), by J.M. Coetzee
  • "Virginia Woolf" (Knopf), by Hermione Lee
  • "Ernie Pyle's War: America's Eyewitness to World War II" (Free Press), by James Tobin
  • "American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson" (Knopf), by Joseph Ellis


  • "Loose Sugar" (Wesleyan), by Brenda Hillman
  • "Questions for Ecclesiastes" (Story Line), by Mark Jarman
  • "Does Your House Have Lions" (Beacon), by Sonia Sanchez
  • "Black Zodiac" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), by Charles Wright
  • "Desire" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), by Frank Bidart


  • "Making Waves" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), by Mario Vargas Llosa
  • "The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets" (Harvard), by Helen Vendler
  • "God and the American Writer" (Knopf), by Alfred Kazin
  • "The End of the Novel of Love" (Beacon), by Vivian Gornick
  • "The Pleasures of the Imagination" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), by John Brewer


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