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.

1979 Winners & Finalists

Fiction Winner

  • Thomas Flanagan, The Year of the French (Holt, Rinehart & Winston)

Fiction Finalists

  • Philip Roth, The Ghost Writer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • William Styron, Sophie’s Choice (Random)
  • Norman Mailer, The Executioner’s Song: A True Life Novel (Little, Brown)
  • Elizabeth Hardwick, Sleepless Nights (Random)
  • Leslie Epstein, King of the Jews: A Novel of the Holocaust (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan)

General Nonfiction Winner

  • Telford Taylor, Munich: The Price of Peace (Doubleday)

General Nonfiction Finalists

  • Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Joan Didion, The White Album (Simon & Schuster)
  • Edward Hoagland, African Calliope: A Journey to the Sudan (Random)
  • Douglas Hofstadter, Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Brain (Basic)

Poetry Winner

  • Philip Levine, Ashes and 7 Years from Somewhere (Atheneum)

Poetry Finalists

  • Anthony Hecht, The Venetian Vespers (Atheneum)
  • John Hollander, Blue Wine and Other Poems (Johns Hopkins)
  • David Smith, Goshawk, Antelope (Illinois)
  • Howard Moss, Notes From the Castle (Atheneum)

Criticism Winner

  • Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (Random)

Criticism Finalists

  • Frances FitzGerald, America Revised: History Schoolbooks in the Twentieth Century (Atlantic-Little, Brown)
  • Richard Gilman, Decadence: The Strange Life of an Epithet (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Sandra M. Gilbert & Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (Yale)
  • Robert Alter with Carol Cosman, A Lion for Love: A Critical Biography of Stendhal (Basic)