NEW YORK — Novelist Marilynne Robinson, economist Thomas Piketty and cartoonist Roz Chast are among the finalists for National Book Critics Circle prizes.
Nobel laureate Toni Morrison will receive a lifetime achievement award, while National Book Award winner Phil Klay has won the John Leonard Prize for the best debut release of 2014, the short story collection “Redeployment.”
Leonard, who died in 2008, was a reviewer for The New York Times and other publications and a founder of the book critics circle known for championing new writers. Morrison, a rising star in the 1970s, was among his discoveries.
The 30 nominees for six competitive categories were announced Monday.
For the first time in the critics circle’s 40-year history, one book was a nominee in two categories. Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen,” a hybrid of verse, history and commentary, was cited in criticism and poetry.
Robinson, whose “Lila” completed an award-winning trilogy set in rural Iowa that includes “Gilead” and “Home,” was one of two National Book Award fiction finalists to be selected for fiction by the book critics. Also cited for both awards was Rabih Alameddine for the Beirut-based novel “An Unnecessary Woman.”
The other fiction nominees were Jamaican novelist Marlon James’ 700-page “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” Lily King’s “Euphoria” and Chang-rae Lee’s “On Such a Full Sea.”
The critics bypassed last year’s top-selling literary novel and a National Book Award runner-up, Anthony Doerr’s World War II drama, “All the Light We Cannot See.”
Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” a surprise best-seller translated from French to English by Arthur Goldhammer,” is a nonfiction finalist.
One of the world’s foremost historians of slavery, David Brion Davis, also is a finalist in nonfiction for “The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation.” Other nominees in the category were Peter Finn’s and Petra Couvee’s “The Zhivago Affair,” Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction” and Hector Tobar’s “Deep Down Dark.”
Chast’s illustrated memoir about her parents, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant,” was a nominee for autobiography. Others chosen included Lacy M. Johnson’s “The Other Side” and Meline Toumani’s “There Was and There Was Not.”
Blake Bailey, a National Book Critics Circle winner in 2009 for his biography of John Cheever, is a nominee for autobiography for “The Splendid Things We Planned.”
In biography, the finalists were Ezra Greenspan’s “William Wells Brown”; S.C. Gwynne’s book on Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, “Rebel Yell”; John Lahr’s “Tennessee Williams”; Ian S. MacNiven’s work on publisher James Laughlin, “Literchoor Is My Beat”; and Miriam Pawd’s “The Crusades of Cesar Chavez.”
Besides Rankine, the poetry nominees were Saced Jones’ “Prelude to Bruise,” Willie Perdomo’s “The Essential Hits of Shortly Bon Bon,” Christian Wiman’s “Once in the West” and Jake Adam York’s “Abide.”
Criticism finalists included Rankine; the late Ellen Willis’ anthology, “The Essential Ellen Willis”; Eula Biss’ “On Immunity”; Vikram Chandra’s “Geek Sublime”; and Lynne Tillman’s “What Would Lynne Tillman Do?” published by the very independent Red Lemonade, which advocates “risky, socially charged, misbehaving stuff.”
The winners will be announced March 12. The only cash prize handed out will be to New Yorker staffer Alexandra Schwartz, who receives $1,000 as winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.
The critics circle has about 700 members, based throughout the country.