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.

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)


  • Amy Stanley, Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World (Scribner)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Amaud Jamaul Johnson, Imperial Liquor (Univ. of Pittsburgh Press)
  • Chris Nealon, The Shore (Wave)
  • Danez Smith, Homie (Graywolf)


  • Nicole Fleetwood, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration (Harvard Univ. Press)
  • 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

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

    Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award

  • The Feminist Press at the City University of New York