While I slept the National Book Critics Circle announced its finalists for 2017.  The NBCC hands out awards in 7 categories, but I’ll only be focusing on the best novel. 

This year’s nominees are…. 

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead) 

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) 

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (Knopf) 

Improvement by Joan Silber(Counterpoint) 

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Scribner) 

I couldn’t be any less surprised seeing Sing, Unburied, Sing on the shortlist.  That’s not to diss the novel because it deserves all the plaudits but I’d be stunned if it doesn’t win this year’s award.  It’s certainly my favourite book on the short list, noting I haven’t read either The Ninth Hour or Improvement.  Exit West, though, is not far behind Sing, Unburied, Sing and so while I would be shocked if Ward’s National Book Award-winning novel doesn’t take home the biscuits, I would be very happy to see Mohsin Hamid win.  I am a little taken aback seeing The Ministry of Utmost Happiness featuring on the shortlist, not because I didn’t like it but because it wasn’t that well received by US critics.  Clearly, they weren’t the ones on the judging panel.  Personally, I’d have replaced The Ministry of Utmost Happiness with Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. 

I was tossing up whether I would read the McDermott and the Silber.  I do have them on my To Be Read pile, but then I have novels on that pile which date back to the 90s so that means nothing.   That they’re both short, though, has convinced me to read them.  Expect to see reviews in the coming weeks. 

Congratulations to the nominees and while I’m here a massive Mazel Tov and shout out to Carmen Maria Machado for winning the John Leonard Prize for best debut in any genre.  Her Body and Other Parties has taken the world by storm. 


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