The books critics liked best in 2008

Last night in a ceremony in New York, the National Book Critics Circle announced the winners of their 2008 book awards. These were:

Best fiction: Roberto Bolano for "2666" (no surprise here – this posthumously published mystery by Chilean novelist Bolano topped many "best of 2008" lists)

Best fiction winner: New York Times correspondent Dexter Filkins for "The Forever War," based on his reporting from Iraq (reviewed in the Monitor on 10/28/08)

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 memoir: Ariel Sabar for "My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq" (reviewed in the Monitor on 9/15/08)

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.

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