And the nominees for the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Awards are …

And the nominees for the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Awards are …

Isabel Wilkerson, Cathy Park Hong, Martin Amis and Victoria Chang are among the 30 finalists for the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Awards. Announced Sunday, this year’s nominees come from award categories spanning autobiography, biography, fiction, nonfiction, poetry and criticism.

Winners will be revealed March 25 at 7 p.m. via a virtual ceremony on the Wildbound Live website. The event will be free and open-to-the-public.

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The announcement also named seven writers — including Raven Leilani, Megha Majumdar and C Pam Zhang — as nominees for the John Leonard Prize, which is awarded to the best first book across any genre. The Feminist Press at the City University of New York will take home the organization’s lifetime achievement award, and New Republic critic Jo Livingston will receive the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. The organization’s 2019 awardees, whose ceremony was cancelled last March due to the COVID-19 health crisis, were honored Sunday in a ceremony held just before this year’s nominees were announced.

The news comes months after several board members resigned this summer amid accusations of racism and privacy violations at the organization, which was founded in 1974 and represents nearly 800 members nationwide. The National Book Critics Circle Awards ceremony is held annually in March.

The complete list of the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Awards finalists and special award recipients is below.


  • Cathy Park Hong, “Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning”
  • Shayla Lawson, “This Is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope”
  • Riva Lehrer, “Golem Girl”
  • Wayétu Moore, “The Dragons, The Giant, The Women”
  • Alia Volz, “Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco”


  • Amy Stanley, “Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World”
  • Zachary D. Carter, “The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes”
  • Heather Clark, “Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath”
  • Les Payne, Tamara Payne, “The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X”
  • Maggie Doherty, “The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s”


  • Nicole Fleetwood, “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration”
  • Namwali Serpell, “Stranger Faces”
  • Cristina Rivera Garza, “Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country”
  • Vivian Gornick, “Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader”
  • Wendy A. Woloson, “Crap: A History of Cheap Stuff in America”


  • Martin Amis, “Inside Story”
  • Randall Kenan, “If I Had Two Wings”
  • Maggie O’Farrell, “Hamnet”
  • Souvankham Thammavongsa, “How to Pronounce Knife”
  • Bryan Washington, “Memorial”


  • Walter Johnson, “The Broken Heart of America: St, Louis and the Violent History of the United States”
  • James Shapiro, “Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future”
  • Sarah Smarsh, “She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs”
  • Isabel Wilkerson, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent”
  • Tom Zoellner, “Island on Fire: The Revolt That Ended Slavery in the British Empire”


  • Victoria Chang, “Obit”
  • Francine J. Harris, “Here Is The Sweet Hand”
  • Amaud Jamaul Johnson, “Imperial Liquor”
  • Chris Nealon, “The Shore”
  • Danez Smith, “Homie”

John Leonard Prize

  • Kerri Arsenault, “Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains”
  • Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, “The Undocumented Americans”
  • Raven Leilani, “Luster”
  • Megha Majumdar, “A Burning”
  • Douglas Stuart, “Shuggie Bain”
  • Brandon Taylor, “Real Life”
  • C Pam Zhang, “How Much of These Hills Is Gold”

Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

  • Jo Livingstone


    • Rumaan Alam
    • Jake Cline
    • Sophie Haigney
    • Dean Rader

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award

  • The Feminist Press at the City University of New York