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.

1985 Winners & Finalists

Fiction Winner

  • Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist (Knopf).

Fiction Finalists

  • Don DeLillo, White Noise (Viking)
  • Peter Taylor, The Old Forest and Other Stories (Dial)
  • Richard Powers, Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance (Beech Tree/Morrow)
  • Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove (Simon and Schuster)

General Nonfiction Winner

  • J. Anthony Lukas, Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (Knopf)

General Nonfiction Finalists

  • Tracy Kidder, House (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford)
  • Alan Riding, Distant Neighbors: The Portrait of the Mexicans (Knopf)
  • Eva Keuls, The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens (Harper and Row)

Biography/Autobiography Winner

  • Leon Edel, Henry James: A Life (Harper & Row)

Biography/Autobiography Finalists

  • Elizabeth Frank, Louise Bogan (Knopf)
  • James Lord, Giacometti: A Biography (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Leonard Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses (Knopf)
  • Michael Lesy, Visible Light: Four Creative Biographies (Times Books)

Poetry Winner

  • Louise Gluck, The Triumph of Achilles (Ecco Press)

Poetry Finalists

  • Amy Clampitt, What the Light Was Like (Knopf)
  • Gjertude Schnackenberg, The Lamplit Answer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Galway Kinnell, The Past (Houghton Mifflin)
  • James Merrill, Late Settings (Atheneum)

Criticism Winner

  • William Gass, Habitations of the Word (Simon & Schuster)

Criticism Finalists

  • Paul Robinson, Opera and Ideas: From Mozart to Strauss (Harper and Row)
  • Robert Storey, Pierrots on the Stage of Desire: 19th Century French Literary Artistis and Comic Pantomine (Princeton)
  • Phillip Fisher, Hard Facts: Setting and Form in the American Novel (Oxford)
  • Mary McCarthy, Occasional Prose: Essays (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich)