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.

2016 Winners & Finalists

Fiction Winner

  • Louise Erdrich, LaRose (Harper)

Fiction Finalists

  • Michael Chabon, Moonglow (Harper)
  • Adam Haslett, Imagine Me Gone (Little, Brown)
  • Ann Patchett, Commonwealth (Harper)
  • Zadie Smith, Swing Time (Penguin Press)

General Nonfiction Winner

  • Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown)

General Nonfiction Finalists

  • Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (Nation Books)
  • Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (Doubleday)
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (Harvard University Press)
  • John Edgar Wideman, Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File (Scribner)

Biography Winner

  • Ruth Franklin, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Liveright)

Biography Finalists

  • Nigel Cliff, Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story (Harper)
  • Joe Jackson, Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Michael Tisserand, Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White (Harper)
  • Frances Wilson, Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)


  • Hope Jahren, Lab Girl (Alfred A. Knopf)

Autobiography/Memoir Finalists

  • Marion Coutts, The Iceberg (Black Cat Press)
  • Jenny Diski, In Gratitude (Bloomsbury)
  • Hisham Matar, The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between (Random House)
  • Kao Kalia Yang, The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father (Metropolitan Books)

Poetry Winner

  • Ishion Hutchinson, House of Lords and Commons (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Poetry Finalists

  • Tyehimba Jess, Olio (Wave Books)
  • Bernadette Mayer, Works and Days (New Directions)
  • Robert Pinsky, At the Foundling Hospital (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Monica Youn, Blackacre (Graywolf Press)

Criticism Winner

  • Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (Bloomsbury)

Criticism Finalists

  • Mark Greif, Against Everything: Essays (Pantheon)
  • Alice Kaplan, Looking for The Stranger: Albert Camus and the Life of a Literary Classic (University of Chicago Press)
  • Olivia Laing, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone (Picador)
  • Peter Orner, Am I Alone Here?: Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live (Catapult)

John Leonard Prize

  • Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing (Alfred A. Knopf)

Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing Winner

  • Michelle Dean

Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing Finalists

  • Julia M. Klein
  • Christian Lorentzen
  • Becca Rothfeld
  • Leo Robson

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

  • Margaret Atwood

The NBCC Emerging Critics Fellowships

  • Taylor Brorby
  • Paul W. Gleason
  • Zachary Graham
  • Yalie Saweeda Kamara
  • Summer McDonald
  • Ismail Muhamad
  • Heather Scott Partington