The National Book Critics Circle Award

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.

2020 NBCC Award Finalists

  • Fiction

    Inside Story
    If I Had Two Wings
    How to Pronounce Knife
    • Martin Amis

      Inside Story Knopf
    • Randall Kenan

      If I Had Two Wings W.W. Norton
    • Maggie O’Farrell

      Hamnet Knopf
    • Souvankham Thammavongsa

      How to Pronounce Knife Little, Brown
    • Bryan Washington

      Memorial Riverhead
  • Nonfiction

    The Broken Heart of America
    Shakespeare in a Divided America
    She Come By It Natural
    Caste- The Origins of Our Discontent
    Island on Fire- The Revolt That Ended Slavery in the British Empire
    • Walter Johnson

      The Broken Heart of America: St, Louis and the Violent History of the United States Basic
    • James Shapiro

      Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future Penguin Press
    • Sarah Smarsh

      She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs Scribner
    • Isabel Wilkerson

      Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent Random House
    • Tom Zoellner

      Island on Fire: The Revolt That Ended Slavery in the British Empire Harvard Univ. Press
  • Biography

    Stranger in the Shogun’s CityStranger in the Shogun’s City
    The Price of Peace
    Red Comet
    The Dead Are Arising
    The Equivalents
    • Amy Stanley

      Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World Scribner
    • Zachary D. Carter

      The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes Random House
    • Heather Clark

      Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath Knopf
    • Les Payne, Tamara Payne

      The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X Liveright
    • Maggie Doherty

      The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s Knopf
  • Autobiography

    Minor Feelings
    This is Major
    Golem Girl
    The Dragons, The Giant, The Women
    Home Baked- My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco
    • Cathy Park Hong

      Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning One World
    • Shayla Lawson

      This Is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope HarperPerennial
    • Riva Lehrer

      Golem Girl One World
    • Wayétu Moore

      The Dragons, The Giant, The Women Graywolf
    • Alia Volz

      Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco HMH
  • Poetry

    Here Is The Sweet Hand
    Imperial Liquor
    The Shore
    • Victoria Chang

      Obit Copper Canyon
    • Francine J. Harris

      Here Is The Sweet Hand Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    • Amaud Jamaul Johnson

      Imperial Liquor Univ. of Pittsburgh Press
    • Chris Nealon

      The Shore Wave
    • Danez Smith

      Homie Graywolf
  • Criticism

    Marking Time
    Stranger Faces
    Unfinished Business
    • Nicole Fleetwood

      Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration Harvard Univ. Press
    • Namwali Serpell

      Stranger Faces Transit
    • Cristina Rivera Garza

      Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country Feminist Press
    • Vivian Gornick

      Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    • Wendy A. Woloson

      Crap: A History of Cheap Stuff in America Univ. of Chicago Press
  • John Leonard Prize

    The John Leonard Prize for Best First Book is selected by the organization’s membership. The 2020 winner will be announced on March 25, 2021.

    The Undocumented Americans
    A Burning
    Shuggie Bain
    Real Life
    How Much of These Hills Is Gold
    • Kerri Arsenault

      Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains St. Martin's
    • Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

      The Undocumented Americans One World
    • Raven Leilani

      Luster Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    • Megha Majumdar

      A Burning Knopf
    • Douglas Stuart

      Shuggie Bain Grove
    • Brandon Taylor

      Real Life Riverhead
    • C Pam Zhang

      How Much of These Hills Is Gold Riverhead
  • Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

    The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing is an annual award recognizing outstanding work by a member of the NBCC. The citation is awarded in honor of Nona Balakian, a founding member of the National Book Critics Circle, and comes with a cash prize of $1,000 funded by board member Gregg Barrios. The winner of the 2020 Balakian Prize is Jo Livingstone. The finalists are listed below.

    • Rumaan Alam

    • Jake Cline

    • Sophie Haigney

    • Dean Rader

  • Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award

    • The Feminist Press at the City University of New York