The books critics liked best in 2008
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Best fiction: Roberto Bolano for "2666" (no surprise here – this posthumously published mystery by Chilean novelist Bolano topped many "best of 2008" lists)
Best criticism: Seth Lerer for "Children's Literature: A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter" (in accepting his award Lerer said his speech gave a new meaning to the need to "thank the little people")
Best biography: Patrick French for "The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul"
Best poetry: August Kleinzahler for "Sleeping It Off in Rapid City" and Juan Felipe Herrera for "Half the World" (this was the first time in NBCC's 35-year history that a deadlocked committee split the award between two finalists)
The highlight of the evening, however, was Washington Post book critic Ron Charles's speech as he accepted the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. His dry humor kept the entire auditorium laughing, even as he discussed the future of book reviewing in urgent and sometimes grim terms.
You can see Charles's own Washington Post blog on the event here.