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.

1990 Winners & Finalists

Fiction Winner

  • John Updike, Rabbit at Rest (Knopf)

Fiction Finalists

  • Charles Johnson, Middle Passage (Atheneum)
  • Sue Miller, Family Pictures (HarperCollins)
  • Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried (Seymour Lawrence/Houghton Mifflin)
  • Wallace Stegner, Collected Stories (Random House)

General Nonfiction Winner

  • Shelby Steele, The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America (St. Martin’s)

General Nonfiction Finalists

  • Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Verso)
  • Alma Guillermoprieto, Samba (Knopf)
  • O.B. Hardison, Disappearing Through the Skylight: Culture and Technology in the 20th Century (Viking)
  • Kevin Phillips, The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and the American Electorate in the Regan Aftermath (Random House)

Biography/Autobiography Winner

  • Robert Caro, Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (Knopf)

Biography/Autobiography Finalists

  • John Espey, Strong Drink, Strong Language (John Daniel)
  • Patricia O’Toole, The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends, 1880-1918 (Clarkson N. Potter)
  • Richard Rhodes, A Hole in the World (Simon & Schuster)
  • T.H. Watkins, Righteous Pilgrim: The Life and Times of Harold L. Ickes (Holt)

Poetry Winner

  • Amy Gerstler, Bitter Angel (Nort Point)

Poetry Finalists

  • Frank Bidart, In the Western Night (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • John Haines, New Poems, 1980-88 (Story Line Press)
  • Anthony Hecht, The Transparent Man (Knopf)
  • Charles Simic, The Book of Gods and Devils (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich)

Criticism Winner

  • Arthur Danto, Encounters and Reflections: Art in the Historical Present (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Criticism Finalists

  • Stanley Crouch, Notes of a Hanging Judge: Essays and Reviews, 1979-1989 (Oxford University Press)
  • Irving Howe, Selected Writings, 1950-1990 (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich)
  • Camille Paglia, Emily Dickinson (Yale University Press)
  • Wilfrid Sheed, Essays in Disguise (Knopf)

Ivan Sandorf/NBCC Board Award Winner

  • Donald Keene