nbcc awards

Christopher Bonanos Among Finalists for National Book Critics Circle Awards

Tara Westover’s bestselling memoir, Educated, was nominated for an NBCC Award in autobiography. Photo: Vulture

The National Book Critics Circle announced the 31 finalists for its annual awards today. New York’s own city editor Christopher Bonanos was nominated for his biography Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous, the riveting story of photographer Arthur Fellig (also known as Weegee). Mark Lamster’s biography of architect Philip Johnson, aptly titled The Man in the Glass House, was also nominated in the biography category; check out an excerpt published in New York last year.

A prize that complements and sometimes even seems to counterprogram against the National Book Awards did so this year in unusual fashion, at least in fiction. Whereas the NBAs went for some slightly more outré (though excellent) finalists this year, the NBCC nods include bigger names like Rachel Kushner, for The Mars Room; Denis Johnson, for his posthumous short-story collection The Largesse of the Sea Maiden; and Anna Burns, who has already won the Man Booker Prize for Milkman. Tommy Orange’s widely acclaimed debut, There There, wins the John Leonard Prize for a first book.

Other notable nominees include Zadie Smith, a two-time finalist in fiction, recognized this time for criticism (Feel Free: Essays). In a rare but not unprecedented turn for these awards, Terrance Hayes was nominated in two categories — criticism, for To Float in the Space Between: A Life and Work in Conversation With the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight; and poetry, for American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin. (Hayes has been an NBCC poetry finalist twice, and won a National Book Award for poetry in 2010.) Tara Westover, for her 2018 must-read-list-topping best seller Educated, was also nominated in autobiography.

This year, the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award went to Arte Público Press, the largest publisher of works by Latinx authors in the U.S. The NBCC is made up of 1,000 literary critics and book-review editors, and the awards are decided by a 24-person board within the group. The winners will be announced in a ceremony on March 14 in New York.


Richard Beard, The Day That Went Missing: A Family’s Story (Little, Brown)

Nicole Chung, All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir (Catapult)

Rigoberto Gonzalez, What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth: A Memoir of Brotherhood (University of Wisconsin Press)

Nora Krug, Belonging: A German Reckons With History and Home (Scribner)

Nell Painter, Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over (Counterpoint)

Tara Westover, Educated: A Memoir (Random House)


Christopher Bonanos, Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous (Henry Holt & Company)

Craig Brown, Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Yunte Huang, Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History (Liveright)

Mark Lamster, The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century (Little, Brown)

Jane Leavy, The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created (Harper/HarperCollins)


Robert Christgau, Is It Still Good to Ya?: Fifty Years of Rock Criticism, 1967–2017 (Duke University Press)

Stephen Greenblatt, Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics (W.W. Norton)

Terrance Hayes, To Float in the Space Between: A Life and Work in Conversation With the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight (Wave)

Lacy M. Johnson, The Reckonings: Essays (Scribner)

Zadie Smith, Feel Free: Essays (Penguin Press)


Anna Burns, Milkman (Graywolf Press)

Patrick Chamoiseau, Slave Old Man. Translated by Linda Coverdale (The New Press)

Denis Johnson, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden (Random House)

Rachel Kushner, The Mars Room (Scribner)

Luis Alberto Urrea, The House of Broken Angels (Little, Brown)


Francisco Cantú, The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border (Riverhead Books)

Steve Coll, Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (Penguin Press)

Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (Penguin Press)

Adam Winkler, We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights (Liveright)

Lawrence Wright, God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State (Knopf)


Terrance Hayes, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (Penguin Books)

Ada Limón, The Carrying (Milkweed)

Erika Meitner, Holy Moly Carry Me (Boa)

Diane Seuss, Still Life With Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl (Graywolf Press)

Adam Zagajewski, Asymmetry. Translated by Clare Cavanagh (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

Maureen Corrigan

John Leonard Prize

Tommy Orange

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award

Arte Público Press

Finalists for National Book Critics Circle Awards Announced