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.

1989 Winners & Finalists

Fiction Winner

  • E.L. Doctorow, Billy Bathgate (Random House)

Fiction Finalists

  • Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club (Putnam)
  • Oscar Hijeulos, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Jane Smiley, Ordinary Love & Good Will (Knopf)
  • John Casey, Spartina (Knopf)

General Nonfiction Winner

  • Michael Dorris, The Broken Cord (Harper & Row)

General Nonfiction Finalists

  • Tracy Kidder, Among Schoolchildren (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Barbara Ehrenreich, Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class (Pantheon)
  • David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922 (Henry Holt)
  • Amy Wilentz, The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier (Simon & Schuster)

Biography/Autobiography Winner

  • Geoffrey C. Ward, A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt (Harper & Row)

Biography/Autobiography Finalists

  • Bil Gilbert, And God Gave Us This Country: Tekamthi and the First American Civil War (Atheneum)
  • Otto Friedrich, Glenn Gould: A Life and Variations (Random House)
  • Roger Moris, Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician (Henry Holt)
  • Tobias Wolff, This Boy’s Life: A Memoir (Atlantic Monthly Press)

Poetry Winner

  • Rodney Jones, Transparent Gestures (Houghton Mifflin)

Poetry Finalists

  • August Kleinzahler, Earthquake Weather (Moyer Bell Ltd.)
  • Robert Hass, Human Wishes (Ecco Press)
  • Thylias Moss, Pyramid of Bone (University Press of Virginia)
  • Nancy Willard, Water Walker (Knopf)

Criticism Winner

  • John Clive, Not by Fact Alone: Essays on the Writing and Reading of History (Knopf)

Criticism Finalists

  • William L. Vance, America’s Rome (Yale University Press)
  • David Bromwich, A Choice of Inheritance: Self and Community from Edmund Burke to Robert Frost (Harvard University Press)
  • Charles Solomon, Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation (Knopf)
  • Cynthia Ozick, Metaphor & Memory: Essays (Knopf)

Ivan Sandrof/NBCC Board Award Winner

  • James Laughlin, founder and publisher of New Directions, for his distinguished contribution to American letters