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.

2020 Winners & Finalists


  • Martin Amis, Inside Story (Knopf)
  • Randall Kenan, If I Had Two Wings (W.W. Norton)
  • Maggie O’Farrell, Hamnet (Knopf)
  • Souvankham Thammavongsa, How to Pronounce Knife (Little, Brown)
  • Bryan Washington, Memorial (Riverhead)


  • Walter Johnson, The Broken Heart of America: St, Louis and the Violent History of the United States (Basic)
  • James Shapiro, Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future (Penguin Press)
  • Sarah Smarsh, She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs (Scribner)
  • Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent (Random House)
  • Tom Zoellner, Island on Fire: The Revolt That Ended Slavery in the British Empire (Harvard Univ. Press)
    Island on Fire- The Revolt That Ended Slavery in the British Empire


  • Amy Stanley, Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World (Scribner)
    Stranger in the Shogun’s CityStranger in the Shogun’s City
  • Zachary D. Carter, The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes (Random House)
  • Heather Clark, Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath (Knopf)
  • Les Payne, Tamara Payne, The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X (Liveright)
  • Maggie Doherty, The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s (Knopf)


  • Cathy Park Hong, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning (One World)
    Minor Feelings
  • Shayla Lawson, This Is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope (HarperPerennial)
  • Riva Lehrer, Golem Girl (One World)
  • Wayétu Moore, The Dragons, The Giant, The Women (Graywolf)
  • Alia Volz, Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco (HMH)


  • Victoria Chang, Obit (Copper Canyon)
  • francine j. harris, Here Is The Sweet Hand (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
    Here Is The Sweet Hand
  • Amaud Jamaul Johnson, Imperial Liquor (Univ. of Pittsburgh Press)
  • Chris Nealon, The Shore (Wave)
  • Danez Smith, Homie (Graywolf)


  • Nicole R. Fleetwood, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration (Harvard Univ. Press)
    Marking Time
  • Namwali Serpell, Stranger Faces (Transit)
  • Cristina Rivera Garza, Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country (Feminist Press)
  • Vivian Gornick, Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Wendy A. Woloson, Crap: A History of Cheap Stuff in America (Univ. of Chicago Press)

    John Leonard Prize

  • Kerri Arsenault, Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains (St. Martin's)
  • Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, The Undocumented Americans (One World)
  • Raven Leilani, Luster (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Megha Majumdar, A Burning (Knopf)
  • Douglas Stuart, Shuggie Bain (Grove)
  • Brandon Taylor, Real Life (Riverhead)
  • C Pam Zhang, How Much of These Hills Is Gold (Riverhead)

    Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

  • Jo Livingstone
  • Rumaan Alam
  • Jake Cline
  • Sophie Haigney
  • Dean Rader

    Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award

  • The Feminist Press at the City University of New York