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.

The Ivan Sandrof Life Achievement Award

The Ivan Sandrof Life Achievement Award was established in 1981 to honor Ivan Sandrof (1911-1979), the first president of the National Book Critics Circle. The Sandrof Award is given to a person who has, over time, made significant contributions to book culture.

Ivan Sandrof

Sandrof was born in Gardner, Massachusetts, on July 10, 1911. He began his journalism career with the Worcester Telegram in 1941, and after a brief stint as a reporter for Stars and Stripes during World War II, returned to the paper until his retirement in 1976. He was appointed literary editor in 1960. Sandrof was also the author of four books of regional history: Your Worcester Street (1948), Massachusetts Towns: An 1840 View (1963), More Massachusetts Towns (1965) Yesterday’s Massachusetts (1977). From many years, he wrote a regular book column in the Worcester Evening Gazette, as a critic, he contributed to Esquire, the New Yorker and the New York Times.  Sandrof became a civic leader in his adopted hometown, serving on the board of the Worcester Historical Society, and chaired the committee that preserved the historic Cape Cod home of naturalist and writer Henry Beston. In calling for the establishment of an organization for book critics in 1974, Sandrof declared that, “Publishers have associations and the publicity representatives of the publishers have an organization. The critics howl alone.” He was at the NBCC’s helm for its first meeting at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City on April 15, 1975. Sandrof passed away in his beloved Worcester on February 11, 1979.

Past Winners

  • 1982  Leslie A. Marchand
  • 1984  The Library of America
  • 1987  Robert Giroux
  • 1989  James Laughlin
  • 1990  Donald Keene
  • 1992  Gregory Rabassa
  • 1994  William Maxwell
  • 1995  Alfred Kazin & Elizabeth Hardwick
  • 1996  Albert Murray
  • 1997  Leslie Fiedler
  • 1999  Lawrence Ferlinghetti & Pauline Kael
  • 2000  Barney Rosset
  • 2001  Jason Epstein
  • 2002  Richard Howard
  • 2003  Studs Terkel
  • 2004  Louis D. Rubin, Jr.  
  • 2005  Bill Henderson 
  • 2006  John Leonard
  • 2007  Emilie Buchwald          
  • 2008  PEN American Center
  • 2009  Joyce Carol Oates
  • 2010  Dalkey Archive Press
  • 2011  Robert Silvers  
  • 2012  Sandra Gilbert & Susan Gubar
  • 2013  Rolando Hinojosa-Smith
  • 2014  Toni Morrison
  • 2015  Wendell Berry
  • 2016  Margaret Atwood
  • 2017  John McPhee
  • 2018  Arte Público Press
  • 2019  Naomi Shihab Nye
  • 2020  Feminist Press
  • 2021 Percival Everett
  • 2022 Joy Harjo