President’s Message to Membership: Choosing the #NBCCLeonard Awards

By Tom Beer

Dear NBCC members:

With summer well under way, we're once again launching discussions for the John Leonard Prize.
The prize, named for the longtime critic and NBCC co-founder, is awarded every year for the best first book in any genre. Unlike the NBCC's other awards, it is not chosen by the board but by the membership at large. Previous winners – Anthony Marra's “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” (2013), Phil Klay's “Redeployment” (2014), and Kristin Valdez Quade's “Night at the Fiestas” (2015) – have all been fiction. But works of nonfiction and poetry are also eligible. All nominated titles must be an author's first-ever book in any genre, published in the United States in calendar year 2016.
To generate more discussion this year, members can write a short blog post about a favorite 2016 debut for the NBCC blog, Critical Mass. If you're interested in contributing, please contact Online VP Jane Ciabattari ( We hope this will be a lively forum for getting the word out about John Leonard Prize contenders. And, as always, please share your suggestions on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #NBCCLeonard.
In November, you'll receive an email via SurveyMonkey asking you to nominate your top 5 books for the prize. We'll compile those nominations to come up with a slate of the most nominated books.
This year, for the first time, we're inviting members to join an all-volunteer committee of Leonard readers who commit to read the entire slate of Leonard finalists (probably 5-7 books) and vote for the winner, to be announced in January. The Leonard committee is open to any NBCC member, and there is no cap on the number of members who may join it – all are welcome. We encourage you to participate actively in this important prize, which in a few short years has achieved serious recognition in the literary world.
If you're interested in joining the Leonard committee, please email board member Dan Akst (, who is chairing the committee. And as always, you're welcome to email me with questions and comments (
Happy reading, and we hope you'll be actively involved in the John Leonard Prize this year.
Tom Beer
NBCC Board President

National Book Critics Circle's Brooklyn Bookend Event
September 15, 2016, 7 pm at the Center for Fiction, 17 E. 47th St. New York City
The Ever Expanding World of Literary Criticism 
Writing about books– starting conversations about a novel, a poem, a literary career– combines passion with dedication. Five active literary and cultural critics, all members of the National Book Critics Circle board, discuss the art of writing about books. These panelists differ in background and experience; some write for legacy newspapers, others for online venues. All represent criticism as an engaging activity that challenges each to be perpetually in search of the new. 
Moderator: NBCC president Tom Beer, books editor, Newsday
Jane Ciabattari (columnist, BBC Culture, The Literary Hub; contributor, NPR)
Michele Filgate (contributor to the Los Angeles Times;  B&N Review; the  Literary Hub; and O, the Oprah magazine)
Michael Miller, editor at Bookforum
Walton Muyumba (contributor to The Atlantic, Dallas Morning News)
Kate Tuttle (contributor to The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, Salon)