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Here are this year’s finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards.

Snigdha Koirala

January 20, 2022, 9:00pm

Tonight, the National Book Critics Circle announced the latest finalists for its annual awards in six categories: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Finalists for the Leonard Prize for the best first book, as well as the winners of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, the inaugural Toni Morrison Achievement Award for an institution, and the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award were also announced.

Founded in 1974, the National Book Critics Circle Awards is considered one of the most prestigious recognitions in American letters, and is made up of 600 working critics and book-review editors across the country. This year’s winners will be announced on March 17 at Wildbound Live, in a virtual ceremony open and free to the public.

The winner of this year’s Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing is Merve Emre. Colette Bancroft, the prize committee chair, described Emre’s essay on Leonora Carrington’s The Hearing Trumpet as an “offer[ing of] rich context about the life and times of the Surrealist author and artist” in which she “weav[es…] the biography into her insightful consideration of Carrington’s novel.”

Of this year’s winner of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, Percival Everett, prize committee chair Jacob Appel said, “Everett isn’t just brilliant—but he is brilliant over and over and over again, novel after novel, story after story, each successively more original and thought-provoking. There are two kinds of readers in America: those who are reading Percival Everett and those who are missing out.”

The Toni Morrison Achievement Award was founded in order to recognize institutions that have created a significant and enduring impact on book culture. In its inaugural year, it celebrates Cave Canem. “In naming Cave Canem as the first Morrison honoree, the NBCC has chosen an organization that embodies the deep commitment to literary and social justice, equity in publishing and excellence in writing that distinguished Morrison’s career,” Appel remarked. “Since its founding by Cornelius Eady and Toi Derricotte twenty-five years ago, Cave Canem has become both the premier body for cultivating and promoting Black poetic voices and has left a truly indelible mark on the broader literary landscape. No institution has played such a definitive role in shaping the poetry of the 21st century.”

Here is the full list of finalists in each category:


Hanif Abdurraqib, A Little Devil in America: Notes In Praise Of Black Performance
(Random House)

Jeremy Atherton Lin, Gay Bar: Why We Went Out
(Little, Brown)

Rodrigo Garcia, A Farewell To Gabo And Mercedes: A Son’s Memoir

Doireann Ní Ghríofa, A Ghost In the Throat

Albert Samaha, Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes


Susan Bernofsky, Clairvoyant of the Small: The Life of Robert Walser
(Yale University Press)

Keisha N. Blain, Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America
(Beacon Press)

Rebecca Donner, All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler
(Little, Brown)

Mark Harris, Mike Nichols: A Life
(Penguin Press)

Alexander Nemerov, Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York
(Penguin Press)


Melissa Febos, Girlhood

Jenny Diski, Why Didn’t You Do What You Were Told?

Jesse McCarthy, Who Will Pay Reparations On My Soul?

Mark McGurl, Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon

Amia Srinivasan, The Right To Sex


Joshua Cohen, The Netanyahus

Rachel Cusk, Second Place

Sarah Hall, Burntcoat
(Custom House)

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois

Colson Whitehead, Harlem Shuffle


Patrick Radden Keefe, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

Joshua Prager, The Family Roe: An American Story

Sam Quinones, The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth

Clint Smith, How the Word Is Passed
(Little, Brown)

Rebecca Solnit, Orwell’s Roses


B.K. Fischer, Ceive

Donika Kelly, The Renunciations

Rajiv Mohabir, Cutlish
(Four Way)

Cheswayo Mphanza, The Rhinehart Frames
(University of Nebraska)

Diane Seuss, frank: sonnets

John Leonard Prize

Ashley C. Ford, Somebody’s Daughter
(Flatiron Books)

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, My Monticello
(Henry Holt)

Torrey Peters, Detransition, Baby
(One World)

Larissa Pham, Pop Song

Anthony Veasna So, Afterparties

Devon Walker-Figueroa, Philomath
(Milkweed Editions)

Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

Merve Emre


Christoph Irmscher

Julian Lucas

Jeremy Lybarger

Jennifer Wilson

Toni Morrison Achievement Award

Cave Canem Foundation

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award

Percival Everett

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