The National Book Critics Circle Awards

Each year, the National Book Critics Circle presents awards for the finest books published in English in six categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, Autobiography, Poetry, and Criticism.

In addition, we award the John Leonard Prize for the best first book in any genre, voted on by NBCC membership; the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, which recognizes outstanding work by a member of the NBCC; and the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award and Toni Morrison Achievement Award, which are given respectively to individuals and literary institutions for transformative contributions to book culture. Beginning in 2023, we’ll award the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize, for the best book of any genre translated into English and published in the United States.

2021 NBCC Award Winners

  • Cover of The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois; abstract images of a woman, a tree and a sun

    Fiction

    Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

    The Love Songs of W.E.B DuBois

    Harper

  • Cover of How The Word is Passed; all text, with the title words bolded

    Nonfiction

    Clint Smith

    How the Word Is Passed

    Little, Brown

  • Cover of All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days; an X created out of Nazi-era documents and photos

    Biography

    Rebecca Donner

    All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler

    Little, Brown

  • Autobiography

    Jeremy Atherton Lin

    Gay Bar: Why We Went Out

    Little, Brown

  • Cover of Frank: Sonnets; a shirtless man making a fist and curling his bicep

    Poetry

    Diane Seuss

    frank: sonnets

    Graywolf

  • Cover of Girlhood; the word Girlhood, in shades of pink, repeated and gradually disappearing

    Criticism

    Melissa Febos

    Girlhood

    Bloomsbury

  • The cover of Afterparties, with a pink sky and two boys smoking in a pickup truck

    John Leonard Prize

    Anthony Veasna So

    Afterparties

    Ecco

  • Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

    Merve Emre

  • Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award

    Percival Everett

  • Toni Morrison Achievement Award

    Cave Canem Foundation

2021 NBCC Award Finalists

  • Fiction

    • Joshua Cohen

      The Netanyahus NYRB
    • Rachel Cusk

      Second Place FSG
    • Sarah Hall

      Burntcoat Custom House
    • Colson Whitehead

      Harlem Shuffle Doubleday
  • Nonfiction

    • Patrick Radden Keefe

      Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty Doubleday
    • Joshua Prager

      The Family Roe: An American Story Norton
    • Sam Quinones

      The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth Bloomsbury
    • Rebecca Solnit

      Orwell's Roses Viking
  • Biography

    Cover of Clairvoyant of the Small; an abstract representation of a flock of birds
    Cover of Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer looking determined and holding up a fist
    Cover of Mike Nichols, A Life; black and white photo of a young Mike Nichols looking pensive
    Cover of Fierce Poise; a photo of Helen Frankenthaler sitting on a floor covered with paint
    • Susan Bernofsky

      Clairvoyant of the Small: The Life of Robert Walser Yale University Press
    • Keisha N. Blain

      Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America Beacon Press
    • Mark Harris

      Mike Nichols: A Life Penguin Press
    • Alexander Nemerov

      Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York Penguin Press
  • Autobiography

    • Hanif Abdurraqib

      A Little Devil in America: Notes In Praise Of Black Performance Random House
    • Rodrigo Garcia

      A Farewell To Gabo And Mercedes: A Son’s Memoir HarperVia
    • Doireann Ní Ghríofa

      A Ghost In the Throat Biblioasis
    • Albert Samaha

      Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes Riverhead
  • Poetry

    • B.K. Fischer

      Ceive BOA
    • Donika Kelly

      The Renunciations Graywolf
    • Rajiv Mohabir

      Cutlish Four Way
    • Cheswayo Mphanza

      The Rhinehart Frames Univ. of Nebraska
  • Criticism

    Cover of Why Didn't You Just Do What You Were Told; an orange-toned photo of a woman in sunglasses
    Cover of Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul; a slanted view of a man in an oil painting
    The cover of The Right to Sex, simple, bold text on a blue-green gradient
    • Jenny Diski

      Why Didn't You Do What You Were Told? Bloomsbury
    • Jesse McCarthy

      Who Will Pay Reparations On My Soul? Liveright
    • Mark McGurl

      Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon Verso
    • Amia Srinivasan

      The Right To Sex FSG
  • John Leonard Prize

    Cover of Somebody's Daughter; the silhouette of a snake over multicolored rounded shapes
    Cover of My Monticello, a white line drawing of Monticello over a red sky and black flames
    Cover of Detransition, Baby, green and blue abstract, overlapping faces
    Cover of Pop Song, all black with a white, gestural drawing of a woman's form
    The cover of Philomath, a red, partial engraving of a tree stump's rings
    • Ashley C. Ford

      Somebody's Daughter Flatiron Books
    • Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

      My Monticello Henry Holt
    • Torrey Peters

      Detransition, Baby One World
    • Larissa Pham

      Pop Song Catapult
    • Devon Walker-Figueroa

      Philomath Milkweed Editions
  • Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

    • Christoph Irmscher

    • Julian Lucas

    • Jeremy Lybarger

    • Jennifer Wilson