By Members Of The National Book Critics Circle Board

Judy Blume, American Library Association to receive lifetime achievement awards

New York, NY (January 25, 2024)—Today the National Book Critics Circle announced 30 finalists in six categories—autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, general nonfiction, and poetry—for the best books of publishing year 2023. Other announcements included two lifetime achievement awards, the NBCC Service Award, the winner and finalists for the Nona Balakian Citation, finalists for the John Leonard Prize for Best First Book, and the shortlist for the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize.

“It’s a thrilling privilege for the NBCC to continue the work envisioned by John Leonard, Nona Balakian, and Ivan Sandrof in 1974: to honor outstanding writing and foster a national conversation about literature,” says NBCC President Heather Scott Partington. 

“This year’s remarkable and uncompromising finalists delve into subjects as diverse as adoption, authorial identity, cultural disruption, mythmaking, and the banal,” Partington states. “Many tell stories that have previously been silenced or ignored. Our Sandrof Life Achievement Award and Morrison Achievement Award winners Judy Blume and the ALA exemplify how literacy and literary access lead to liberation. What a beautiful year for books.”

The finalists in the NBCC’s six categories represent a wide-ranging array of writers, translators, and presses. As autobiography award chair May-lee Chai notes, “It was a particularly rich year for autobiography. Each book on the shortlist changed the way we viewed the world in some fundamental way.” Fiction award chair David Varno adds, “It was a staggering year of worthy novels and collections. Each of the finalists pushes the limits of what we think fiction can do.”

In addition to the six award categories, the NBCC announced the finalists for the John Leonard Prize and the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize. Mandana Chaffa, Vice President of the Barrios Book in Translation Prize notes, “We’re immensely proud of our rich multi-genre shortlist which celebrates the work of both translators and authors from diverse cultures and languages, and also underscores the importance of independent and small press publishers in our literary conversation.”

The recipient of the 2023 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing is Becca Rothfeld, the nonfiction book critic for The Washington Post, whose reviews have also appeared in a variety of publications. “The two reviews that Rothfeld submitted, of Benjamin Labatut’s historical novel ‘The MANIAC’ and Sen. Josh Hawley’s self-help book ‘Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs,’ brilliantly embody her insight, range and depth of knowledge in lively and persuasive prose,” states Balakian committee chair Colette Bancroft.

The recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award is Judy Blume. Named after the first president of the NBCC, the award has gone to past winners such as Percival Everett and Joy Harjo. As award chair Jacob M. Appel states, “Blume, whose widely acclaimed works include such modern classics as ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,’ has inspired generations of young readers by tackling the emotional turbulence of girlhood and adolescence with authenticity, candor and courage. As her works generated controversy, she earned a national reputation as a relentless opponent of censorship and an iconic champion of literary freedom. At eighty-five, this grand doyenne of American letters now owns and operates a non-profit bookstore, Books & Books, in Key West, Florida.”

The recipient of the Toni Morrison Achievement Award, established by the NBCC in 2021 to honor institutions that have made lasting and meaningful contributions to book culture, is the American Library Association. As Appel states, “We honor the ALA for its longstanding commitment to equity, including its twentieth century campaigns against library segregation and for LGBT+ literature, and its perennial stance as a bulwark against those regressive and illiberal supporters of book bans.  At a time when our nation’s libraries remain under relentless assault from both political and economic forces, the ALA towers over the literary landscape as a beacon for our most vulnerable voices.”

The National Book Critics Circle Awards, founded in 1974 at the Algonquin Hotel and considered among the most prestigious in American letters, are the sole prizes bestowed by a jury of working critics and book review editors. The awards for publishing year 2023 will be presented on March 21, 2024 at the New School in New York City, in a ceremony that will be free and open to the public.

National Book Critics Circle Finalists

Publishing Year 2023 


Susan Kiyo Ito, I Would Meet You Anywhere: A Memoir (The Ohio State University Press)

David Mas Masumoto, with artwork by Patricia Wakida, Secret Harvests: A Hidden Story of Separation and the Resilience of a Family Farm (Red Hen Press)

Ahmed Naji, Rotten Evidence: Reading and Writing in an Egyptian Prison, translated by Katharine Halls (McSweeney’s)

Safiya Sinclair, How to Say Babylon: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster)

Matthew Zapruder, Story of a Poem: A Memoir (Unnamed Press)


Jonathan Eig, King: A Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Gregg Hecimovich, The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts: The True Story of the Bondwoman’s Narrative (Ecco)

Yunte Huang, Daughter of the Dragon: Anna May Wong’s Rendezvous with American History (Liveright)

Rachel Shteir, Betty Friedan: Magnificent Disruptor (Yale University Press)

Jonny Steinberg, Winnie and Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage (Knopf)


Nicholas Dames, The Chapter: A Segmented History from Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century (Princeton University Press)

Myriam Gurba, Creep: Accusations and Confessions (Avid Reader Press)

Naomi Klein, Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Grace E. Lavery, Pleasure and Efficacy: Of Pen Names, Cover Versions, and Other Trans Techniques (Princeton University Press)

Tina Post, Deadpan: The Aesthetics of Black Inexpression (NYU Press)


Teju Cole, Tremor (Random House)

Daniel Mason, North Woods (Random House)

Lorrie Moore, I Am Homeless if This Is Not My Home (Knopf)

Marie NDiaye, Vengeance Is Mine, translated by Jordan Stump (Knopf)

Justin Torres, Blackouts (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)


Roxanna Asgarian, We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Kerry Howley, Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs (Knopf)

Christina Sharpe, Ordinary Notes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Jeff Sharlet, The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War (W. W. Norton)

Dina Nayeri, Who Gets Believed? When the Truth Isn’t Enough (Catapult Books)


Saskia Hamilton, All Souls (Graywolf Press)

Kim Hyesoon, Phantom Pain Wings, translated by Don Mee Choi (New Directions)

Romeo Oriogun, The Gathering of Bastards (University of Nebraska Press)

Robyn Schiff, Information Desk (Penguin Books)

Charif Shanahan, Trace Evidence (Tin House)


Kareem Abdulrahman’s translation of The Last Pomegranate Tree by Bachtyar Ali (Archipelago Books)

Natascha Bruce’s translation of Owlish by Dorothy Tse (Graywolf Press)

Don Mee Choi’s translation of Phantom Pain Wings by Kim Hyesoon (New Directions)

Todd Fredson’s translation of Zakwato & Loglêdou’s Peril by Azo Vauguy (Action Books)

Maureen Freely’s translation of Cold Nights of Childhood by Tezer Özlü (Transit Books)

Tiffany Tsao’s translation of Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu (Feminist Press)


Ariana Benson, Black Pastoral (University of Georgia Press)

Emilie Boone, A Nimble Arc: James Van Der Zee and Photography (Duke University Press)

Victor Heringer, The Love of Singular Men, translated by James Young (New Directions)

Tahir Hamut Izgil, Waiting to Be Arrested at Night: a Uyghur Poet’s Memoir of China’s Genocide, translated by Joshua L. Freeman (Penguin Press)

Donovan X. Ramsey, When Crack Was King (One World)

Martin J. Siegel, Judgment and Mercy: The Turbulent Life and Times of the Judge Who Condemned the Rosenbergs (Cornell University Press)


Marion Winik


Becca Rothfeld


Rhoda Feng

Christoph Irmscher

Sophie Pinkham

Audrey Wollen


American Library Association


Judy Blume

The National Book Critics Circle was founded in 1974 at New York’s legendary Algonquin Hotel by a group of the most influential critics of the day, and awarded its first set of honors the following year. Comprising more than 700 working critics and book-review editors throughout the country, the NBCC annually bestows its awards in six categories, honoring the best books published in the past year in the United States. It is considered one of the most prestigious awards in the publishing industry. The finalists for the NBCC awards are nominated, evaluated, and selected by the 24-member board of directors, which consists of critics and editors from some of the country’s leading print and online publications, as well as critics whose works appear in these publications. For more information about the history and activities of the National Book Critics Circle and to learn how to become a supporter, visit You can follow the NBCC on Facebook, X, and Instagram.

For more information, contact Katie Freeman at or 917-613-1532.