National Book Critics Circle Award Winners Announced

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Always books. Never boring.

The winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards for the 2021 publishing year were announced on March 17th in a virtual ceremony.

The National Book Critics Circle consists of nearly 800 members and was established in 1974 in New York with the goal to honor outstanding writing and foster “… a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature.”

The distinguished award is the only in the United States with a deciding committee made of book critics. Awards are granted in six categories to books published in English in the U.S. The categories are: Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, Autobiography, Poetry, and Criticism. There were additional awards given for the Toni Morrison Achievement Award, the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the John Leonard Prize for Best First Book, and the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

Here are the winners!


The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers


How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith


All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days by Rebecca Donner


Gay Bar: Why We Went Out by Jeremy Atherton Lin


frank:sonnets by Diane Seuss


Girlhood by Melissa Febos

John Leonard Prize for Best First Book

After Parties by Anthony Veasna So

This was sadly awarded posthumously as So died at 28.

Toni Morrison Achievement Award

The Cave Canem Foundation received this award. It was founded in 1996 and provides support for Black poets.

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award

The novelist  Percival Everett, who has more than 30 novels, collections of poetry and stories published.

Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

Merve Emre, a contributor at The New Yorker.

Winners and finalists can be viewed here.

Find more news and stories of interest from the book world in Breaking in Books.