On January 24, the National Book Critics Circle announced 30 finalists in six categories for its annual awards honoring the best books of the previous publishing year. The finalists were named at a virtual "make-up" ceremony celebrating the winners of last year's awards; although the winners were previously announced, last year's ceremony was canceled due to the pandemic.

In addition, finalists for the 2020 John Leonard Prize for Best First Book were announced, and winners were named for the $1,000 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing and the Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement. The winner of the Balakian Citation, recognizing outstanding work by a member of the NBCC, is the New Republic's Jo Livingstone. The recipient of the Sandrof Award, given to a person or institution who has made significant contributions to book culture, is the Feminist Press.

This year's National Book Critics Circle Awards will be presented virtually on March 25, 2021 via Wildbound Live, which also produced this week's event. The awards ceremony is free and open to the public.

The finalists in each category, and for the Leonard Prize, are as follows:




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




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

John Leonard Prize