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National Book Critics Circle
2016 (Fiction)
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Louise Erdrich
2016 (General NonFiction)
2016 (Biography)
 
2016 (Poetry)
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Ishion Hutchinson
2016 (Criticism)
2015 (Fiction)
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Paul Beatty
 
2015 (General NonFiction)
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Sam Quinones

Book list *Starred Review* Heroin addiction has evolved from back-alley ghettos to suburban shopping malls, changing hearts and minds about how it is perceived and how it should be treated. That evolution pivots on a decision by Purdue Pharma to aggressively market OxyContin and efforts by Mexican drug traffickers to push black-tar heroin. In the 1990s, both highly addictive drugs flooded the markets in middle-class neighborhoods. OxyContin benefited from changes in philosophy on pain treatment and from worry about addiction that prevented even cancer patients from getting pain relief to the more freewheeling idea that pain relief is a human right. Unscrupulous doctors operated pill mills, prescribing OxyContin for dubious reasons and huge fees. Middle-class professionals, workers, and students found themselves easy targets for sellers of black tar, semi-processed opium produced in Mexico and sold by eager bands of drug crews. Like pizza deliverymen, the crews offered speedy delivery and good customer service. The distribution, centered in a small Mexican village and spread throughout the U.S. in midsize towns and cities, defied the typical profile of a drug cartel. Journalist Quinones weaves an extraordinary story, including the personal journeys of the addicted, the drug traffickers, law enforcement, and scores of families affected by the scourge, as he details the social, economic, and political forces that eventually destroyed communities in the American heartland and continues to have a resounding impact.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2015 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly In this fascinating, often horrifying investigation, journalist Quinones (True Tales from Another Mexico) delves into the heart of America's obsession with opiates like heroin, morphine, and OxyContin. He looks at how aggressive marketing and irresponsible business tactics led to the widespread use of addictive prescription painkillers (especially OxyContin) and how Mexican drug cartels introduced black tar heroin into small towns and vulnerable areas around the U.S. The story of the so-called Xalisco Boys, the source of so much misery and exploitation, unfolds with grim efficiency under Quinone's scrutiny. He doesn't hold back as he describes how widespread addiction and pill mills devastated entire communities, such as the blue-collar city of Portsmouth, Ohio. Through extensive interviews and research, Quinone gives a very human perspective to this topic, telling the tales of addicts and pushers, researchers and cops alike. While some of the threads become repetitive, this remains a harrowing, eye-opening look at two sides of the same coin, the legal and illegal faces of addictive painkillers and their insidious power. Agent: Stephany Evans, FinePrint Literary Management. (Apr.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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2015 (Autobiography)
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Margo Jefferson
 
2015 (Poetry)
2015 (Criticism)
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Maggie Nelson
2014 (Fiction)
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Marilynne Robinson

Publishers Weekly This third of three novels set in the fictional plains town of Gilead, Iowa, is a masterpiece of prose in the service of the moral seriousness that distinguishes Robinson's work. This time the narrative focuses on Lila, the young bride of elderly Reverend Ames, first met in Gilead. Rescued as a toddler from abusive caretakers by a rough but kind drifter named Doll, raised with love but enduring the hard existence of a field worker, and later, in a St. Louis whorehouse, Lila is a superb creation. Largely uneducated, almost feral, Lila has a thirst for stability and knowledge. As she yearns to forget the terrible memories and shame of her past, Lila is hesitant to reveal them to her loving new husband. The courtship of the couple-John Ames: tentative, tender, shy, and awkward; Lila: naive, suspicious, wary, full of dread-will endure as a classic set piece of character revelation, during which two achingly lonely people discover the comfort of marital love. Threaded through the narrative are John Ames's troubled reflections that the doctrines of his Calvinist theology, including the belief that those who are not saved are destined for hell, are too harsh. Though she reads the Bible to gain knowledge, Lila resists its message, because it teaches that her beloved Doll will never gain the peace of heaven. Her questions stir up doubt in Ames's already conflicted mind, and Robinson carefully crafts this provocative and deeply meaningful spiritual search for the meaning of existence. What brings the couple together is a joyous appreciation of the beauty of the natural world and the possibility of grace. The novel ends with the birth of their son, to whom Ames will leave his diary in Gilead. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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2014 (General NonFiction)
2014 (Biography)
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John Lahr

Publishers Weekly Writing with sympathy and insight, former New Yorker drama critic Lahr (Prick Up Your Ears) invests the Tennessee Williams of this brilliant new biography with the same vitality and honesty that the playwright used to bring his characters to life. Williams wrote that he "saw every play and every film I ever worked on as a confession," and Lahr looks to his scripts as the chief means of understanding his turbulent life, beginning with the delicate poetry of The Glass Menagerie, which is encoded with sentiments from his fraught childhood relationships with his mother and sister. Quoting extensively from diaries, notebooks, and journals, Lahr depicts Williams as an artist who "made a spectacle of his haunted interior." His detailed account of Williams's work with Elia Kazan on the stage productions of A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and other projects reveals the complex dynamics of one of the greatest partnerships in modern theater, just as his exploration of Williams's troubled romantic relationships highlights the self-destructive proclivities that fueled and threatened his creativity. Lahr's feel for Williams's literary creations-he describes The Glass Menagerie's Amanda Wingfield as an "embattled bundle of Southern decorum and Puritan denial"-and for Williams himself show a perspicacity wanting in previous biographies. Though Lahr acknowledges the successes of previous Williams scholars, his achievement is not likely to be surpassed. 80 photos. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Inc. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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2014 (Autobiography)
 
2014 (Poetry)
2014 (Criticism)
2013 (Fiction)
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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie