• The Hub

    News, Notes, Talk

    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

  • Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

    For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.

    %d bloggers like this: