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 two prizes voted on by membership: the John Leonard Prize for the best first book in any genre and the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize, for the best book of any genre translated into English and published in the United States. We also award 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.

John Leonard Prize

Winners of the John Leonard Prize in 2018, 2017 and 2016.

Named for the longtime critic and NBCC co-founder John Leonard, the Leonard Prize is awarded for the best first book in any genre and was launched in 2013. Recent winners include Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So (2021) and Luster by Raven Leilani (2020).

Nominations for the John Leonard Prize for a first book in any genre are solicited from the voting members of the NBCC, and finalists for the Prize are the titles that received the most nominations. A panel of NBCC member-volunteers read the finalists and select the winner, and the prize is presented at the NBCC award ceremony in March.


Each fall, we invite NBCC members to join the volunteer Leonard Committee. The Leonard Committee members commit to reading the entire slate of finalists, generally 5-7 books.

Any and all members of the NBCC can join the Leonard Committee. In the past, the reading committee has received ebooks of the finalists. The member panel votes for the winner, which is announced in January.