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.

1996 Winners & Finalists

Fiction Winner

  • Gina Berriault, Women in Their Beds (Counterpoint)

Fiction Finalists

  • Louis Begley, About Schmidt (Knopf)
  • Andre Dubus, Dancing After Hours (Knopf)
  • Jamaica Kincaid, The Autobiography of My Mother (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Henry Roth, From Bondage (St. Martin’s)

General Nonfiction Winner

  • Jonathan Raban, Bad Land (Pantheon)

General Nonfiction Finalists

  • David Denby, The Great Books (Simon & Schuster)
  • Daniel Goldhagen, Hitler’s Willing Executioners (Knopf)
  • Richard Kluger, Ashes to Ashes (Knopf)
  • Bernard Lewis, The Middle East (Scribner)

Biography/Autobiography Winner

  • Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes (Scribner)

Biography/Autobiography Finalists

  • Peter Conn, Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography (Cambridge)
  • David Hajdu, Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Alan Shapiro, The Last Happy Occasion (Chicago)
  • Jan Swafford, Charles Ives: A Life in Music (Norton)

Poetry Winner

  • Robert Hass, Sun Under Wood (Ecco)

Poetry Finalists

  • Stephen Dunn, Loosestrife (Norton)
  • Martín Espada, Imagine the Angels of Bread (Norton)
  • Jane Shore, Music Minus One (Picador)
  • C.K. Williams, The Vigil (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Criticism Winner

  • William Gass, Finding a Form (Knopf)

Criticism Finalists

  • Gene H. Bell-Villada, Art for Art’s Sake and Literary Life (Nebraska)
  • Margaret Anne Doody, The True Story of the Novel (Rutgers)
  • Dan Hofstadter, The Love Affair as a Work of Art (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Cynthia Ozick, Fame and Folly (Knopf)

Nona Balakian Excellence in Reviewing Award Winner

  • Dennis Drabelle

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

  • Albert Murray