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.

2019 Winners & Finalists


  • Myla Goldberg, Feast Your Eyes (Scribner)
  • Ben Lerner, The Topeka School (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Valeria Luiselli, Lost Children Archive (Knopf)
  • Edwidge Danticat, Everything Inside (Knopf)
  • Colson Whitehead, The Nickel Boys (Doubleday)


  • Kate Brown, Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future (W.W. Norton)
  • Peter Hessler, The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution (Penguin Press)
  • Patrick Radden Keefe, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (Doubleday)
    Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday)
  • Walt Odets, Out of the Shadows: Reimagining Gay Men’s Lives (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Rachel Louise Snyder, No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us (Bloomsbury)


  • Josh Levin, The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth (Little, Brown)
  • Charles King, Gods of the Upper Air: How A Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century (Doubleday)
  • Lucasta Miller, L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated “Female Byron” (Knopf)
  • George Packer, Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century (Knopf)
  • Sonia Purnell, A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II (Viking)


  • Laura Cumming, Five Days Gone: The Mystery of My Mother’s Disappearance as a Child (Scribner)
  • Ronan Farrow, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators (Little, Brown)
  • Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman, Sounds Like Titanic: A Memoir (W. W. Norton)
  • Mira Jacob, Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations (One World)
  • Chanel Miller, Know My Name: A Memoir (Viking)
    Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller (Viking)


  • Jericho Brown, The Tradition (Copper Canyon Press)
  • Ilya Kaminsky, Deaf Republic (Graywolf Press)
  • Morgan Parker, Magical Negro (Tin House)
    Magical Negro by Morgan Parker (Tin House Books)
  • Mary Ruefle, Dunce (Wave Books)
  • Brian Teare, Doomstead Days (Nightboat Books)


  • Hanif Abdurraqib, Go Ahead in the Rain (University of Texas Press)
  • Lydia Davis, Essays One (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (W.W. Norton)
  • Peter Schjeldahl, Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light, 100 Art Writings 1988-2018 (Abrams)
  • Maria Tumarkin, Axiomatic (Transit Books)

    John Leonard Prize

  • Sarah M. Broom, The Yellow House: A Memoir (Grove)
  • Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Fleishman Is In Trouble (Random House)
  • Chia-Chia Lin, The Unpassing (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • T Kira Madden, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir (Bloomsbury)
  • Julia Phillips, Disappearing Earth (Knopf)
  • Jia Tolentino, Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion (Random House)
  • Bryan Washington, Lot: Stories (Riverhead)

    Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

  • Katy Waldman
  • David Biespiel
  • Josephine Livingstone
  • Wendy Smith
  • David L. Ulin

    Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Naomi Shihab Nye