At a virtual event on January 20, the National Book Critics Circle announced 30 finalists in six categories for its annual awards honoring the best books of the previous publishing year.

In addition, finalists for the John Leonard Prize for Best First Book were announced. Other announcements included the winner of the annual prize for a working book critic, a lifetime achievement award, and the inaugural Toni Morrison Achievement award for an institution.

The awards for publishing year 2021 will be presented on March 17 via Wildbound Live at a virtual ceremony that is free and open to the public.

The announced finalists and winners are as follows:







  • Ceive by B.K. Fischer (BOA)
  • The Renunciations by Donika Kelly (Graywolf)
  • Cutlish by Rajiv Mohabir (Four Way)
  • The Rhinehart Frames by Cheswayo Mphanza (Univ. of Nebraska)
  • frank: sonnets by Diane Seuss (Graywolf)

John Leonard Prize

2021 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

  • Merve Emre

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Percival Everett

The recipient of the inaugural Toni Morrison Achievement Award

  • Cave Canem Foundation