The National Book Critics Circle Award

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.

2012 Winners & Finalists

Fiction Winner

  • Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Ecco)

Fiction Finalists

  • Laurent Binet, HHhH. tr. by Sam Taylor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master’s Son (Random House)
  • Lydia Millet, Magnificence (W. W. Norton)
  • Zadie Smith, NW (The Penguin Press)

General Nonfiction Winner

  • Andrew Solomon, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (Scribner)

General Nonfiction Finalists

  • Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Random House)
  • Steve Coll, Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power (The Penguin Press)
  • Jim Holt, Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story (A Liveright Book: W. W. Norton)
  • David Quammen, Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic (W.W. Norton)

Biography Winner

  • Robert A. Caro, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (Alfred A. Knopf)

Biography Finalists

  • Lisa Cohen, All We Know: Three Lives (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Michael Gorra, Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece (A Liveright Book: W. W. Norton)
  • Lisa Jarnot, Robert Duncan, The Ambassador from Venus: A Biography (University of California Press)
  • Tom Reiss, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo (Crown Publishers)


  • Leanne Shapton, Swimming Studies (Blue Rider Press)

Autobiography/Memoir Finalists

  • Reyna Grande, The Distance Between Us (Atria Books)
  • Maureen N. McLane, My Poets (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Anthony Shadid, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, In the House of the Interpreter (Pantheon)

Poetry Winner

  • D. A. Powell, Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys (Graywolf Press)

Poetry Finalists

  • David Ferry, Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations (University of Chicago Press)
  • Lucia Perillo, On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths (Copper Canyon Press)
  • Allan Peterson, Fragile Acts (McSweeney’s Books)
  • A. E. Stallings, Olives (Triquarterly: Northwestern University Press)

Criticism Winner

  • Marina Warner, Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights (Belknap Press: Harvard University Press)

Criticism Finalists

  • Paul Elie, Reinventing Bach (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Daniel Mendelsohn, Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture (New York Review Books)
  • Mary Ruefle Madness, Rack, and Honey (Wave Books)
  • Kevin Young, The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (Graywolf Press)

Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing Winner

  • William Deresiewicz

Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing Finalists

  • Abigail Deutsch
  • Lev Grossman
  • Garth Risk Hallberg
  • Kathryn Harrison

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

  • Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar