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 two prizes voted on by membership: the John Leonard Prize for the best first book in any genre and the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize, for the best book of any genre translated into English and published in the United States. We also award 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.

2009 Winners & Finalists

Fiction Winner

  • Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (Holt)

Fiction Finalists

  • Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage (Wayne State University Press)
  • Marlon James, The Book of Night Women (Riverhead)
  • Michelle Huneven, Blame (Sarah Crichton Books/FSG)
  • Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite (Knopf)

General Nonfiction Winner

  • Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Pantheon)

General Nonfiction Finalists

  • Wendy Doniger, The Hindus: An Alternative History (Penguin Press)
  • Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City (Metropolitan Books)
  • Tracy Kidder, Strength in What Remains (Random House)
  • William T. Vollmann, Imperial (Viking)

Biography Winner

  • Blake Bailey, Cheever: A Life (Knopf)

Biography Finalists

  • Brad Gooch, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor (Little, Brown)
  • Benjamin Moser, Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector (Oxford University Press)
  • Stanislao G. Pugliese, Bitter Spring: A Life of Ignazio Silone (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Martha A. Sandweiss, Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line (Penguin Press)


  • Diana Athill, Somewhere Towards the End (Norton)

Autobiography/Memoir Finalists

  • Debra Gwartney, Live Through This: A Mother’s Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Mary Karr, Lit (Harper)
  • Kati Marton, Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America (Simon & Schuster)
  • Edmund White, City Boy (Bloomsbury)

Poetry Winner

  • Rae Armantrout, Versed (Wesleyan)

Poetry Finalists

  • Louise Glück, A Village Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • D.A. Powell, Chronic (Graywolf Press)
  • Eleanor Ross Taylor, Captive Voices: New and Selected Poems, 1960–2008 (Louisiana State University Press)
  • Rachel Zucker, Museum of Accidents (Wave Books)

Criticism Winner

  • Eula Biss, Notes From No Man’s Land: American Essays (Graywolf Press)

Criticism Finalists

  • Stephen Burt, Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry (Graywolf Press)
  • Morris Dickstein, Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression (Norton)
  • David Hajdu, Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture (Da Capo Press)
  • Greg Milner, Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music (Faber)

Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing Winner

  • Joan Acocella

Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing Finalists

  • Michael Antman
  • William Deresiewicz
  • Donna Seaman
  • Wendy Smith

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

  • Joyce Carol Oates