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.

1997 Winners & Finalists

Fiction Winner

  • Penelope Fitzgerald, The Blue Flower (Mariner/Houghton)

Fiction Finalists

  • Don DeLillo, Underworld (Scribner)
  • Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain (Grove)
  • Andrei Makine, Dreams of My Russian Summers (Arcade)
  • Philip Roth, American Pastoral (Houghton Mifflin)

General Nonfiction Winner

  • Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

General Nonfiction Finalists

  • Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air (Villard)
  • James Kugel, The Bible as It Was (Belknap Press)
  • Pauline Maier, American Scripture (Knopf)
  • Stephen Pinker, How the Mind Works (Norton)

Biography/Autobiography Winner

  • James Tobin, Ernie Pyle’s War (Free Press)

Biography/Autobiography Finalists

  • Joseph Ellis, American Sphinx (Knopf)
  • Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf (Knopf)
  • Doris Lessing, Walking in the Shade (HarperCollins)

Poetry Winner

  • Charles Wright, Black Zodiac (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Poetry Finalists

  • Frank Bidart, Desire (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Brenda Hillman, Loose Sugar (Wesleyan)
  • Mark Jarman, Questions for Ecclesiastes (Story Line)
  • Sonya Sanchez, Does Your House Have Lions? (Beacon)

Criticism Winner

  • Mario Vargas Llosa, Making Waves (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Criticism Finalists

  • John Brewer, The Pleasures of the Imagination (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Vivian Gornick, The End of the Novel of Love (Beacon)
  • Alfred Kazin, God and the American Writer (Knopf)
  • Helen Vendler, The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Harvard)

Nona Balakian Excellence in Reviewing Award Winner

  • Thomas Mallon

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

  • Leslie Fiedler