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.

1991 Winners & Finalists

Fiction Winner

  • Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres (Knopf)

Fiction Finalists

  • Louis Begley, Wartime Lies (Knopf)
  • Gish Jen, Typical American (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Richard Powers, The Gold Bug Variations (Morrow)
  • Norman Rush, Mating (Knopf)

General Nonfiction Winner

  • Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (Crown)

General Nonfiction Finalists

  • Thomas Geoghegan, Which Side Are You on? Trying to Be for Labor When It’s Flat on Its Back (FSG)
  • Melissa Fay Greene, Praying for Sheetrock (Addison-Wesley)
  • Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools (Crown)
  • Dennis Overbye, Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos: The Scientific Quest for the Secret of the Universe (HarperCollins)

Biography/Autobiography Winner

  • Philip Roth, Patrimony: A True Story (Simon & Schuster)

Biography/Autobiography Finalists

  • John Cheever, The Journals of John Cheever (Knopf)
  • Robert Kanigel, The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan (Scribner)
  • Diane Middlebrook, Anne Sexton: A Biography (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Art Spiegelman, Maus II (Pantheon)

Poetry Winner

  • Albert Goldbarth, Heaven and Earth: A Cosmology (Georgia)

Poetry Finalists

  • Diane Ackerman, Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New & Selected Poems (Random House)
  • Allen Grossman, The Ether Dome and Other Poems: New & Selected (1979-1991) (New Directions)
  • Philip Levine, What Work Is (Knopf)
  • Adrienne Rich, An Atlas of the Difficult World (Norton)

Criticism Winner

  • Lawrence L. Langer, Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory (Yale)

Criticism Finalists

  • Norman F. Cantor, Inventing the Middle Ages: The Lives, Works & Ideas of the Great Medievalists of the Twentieth Century (Morrow)
  • J. Hoberman, Vulgar Modernism: Writing on Movies and Other Media (Temple Univ. Press)
  • Louise J. Kaplan, Female Perversions: The Temptations of Emma Bovary (Talese/Doubleday)
  • John Updike, Odd Jobs (Knopf)

Reviewer’s Citation Winner

  • George Scialabba