The National Book Critics Circle Award - Fiction

The National Book Critics Circle Awards are awarded annually in several categories including fiction. The awards are chosen by the 700+ members.
Award Year Authors(s) Title
2011 Edith Pearlman Binocular Vision No matter the situation in which her characters find themselves--an unforeseen love affair between adolescent cousins, a lifetime of memories unearthed by an elderly couple's decision to shoplift, the deathbed secret of a young girl's forbidden forest tryst with the tsar, the danger that befalls a wealthy couple's child in a European inn of misfits--Edith Pearlman conveys their experience with wit and aplomb, with relentless but clear-eyed optimism, and with a supple prose that reminds us, sentence by sentence, page by page, of the gifts our greatest verbal innovators can bestow.
2010 Jennifer Egan A Visit From the Goon Squad Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs confront their pasts in this powerful story about how rebellion ages, influence corrupts, habits turn to addictions, lifelong friendships fluctuate and turn, and how art and music have the power to redeem.
2009 Hilary Mantel Wolf Hall Assuming the power recently lost by the disgraced Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell counsels a mercurial Henry VIII on the latter's efforts to marry Anne Boleyn against the wishes of Rome, a successful endeavor that comes with a dangerous price.
2008 Roberto Bolano 2666 An American sportswriter, an elusive German novelist, and a teenage student interact in an urban community on the U.S.-Mexico border where hundreds of young factory workers have disappeared.
2007 Junot Diaz The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the fuku - the ancient curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still dreaming of his first kiss, is only its most recent victim - until the fateful summer that he decides to be its last.
2006 Kiran Desai The Inheritance of Loss In the northeastern Himalayas a rising insurgency in Nepal challenges the old way of life--and opens up a grasping world of conflicting desires.
2005 E.L. Doctorow The March In 1864, after Union general William Tecumseh Sherman burned Atlanta, he marched his sixty thousand troops east through Georgia to the sea, and then up into the Carolinas. The army fought off Confederate forces and lived off the land, pillaging the Southern plantations, taking cattle and crops for their own, demolishing cities, and accumulating a borne-along population of freed blacks and white refugees until all that remained was the dangerous transient life of the uprooted, the dispossessed, and the triumphant.
2004 Marilynne Robinson Gilead In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an Iowa preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition. He tells of the tension between his father and grandfather and he tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his namesake, John Ames Boughton.
2003 Edward Jones The Known World Henry Townsend, a black farmer, boot maker, and former slave, has a fondness for Paradise Lost and an unusual mentor--William Robbins, perhaps the most powerful white man in antebellum Virginia's Manchester County. Under Robbins's tutelage, Henry becomes proprietor of his own plantation as well as his own slaves. When he dies his widow Caldonia succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart.
2002 Ian McEwan Atonement In "Atonement" McEwan takes the reader from a manor house in England in 1935 to the retreat from Dunkirk in 1941, from London's World War II military hospitals to a reunion of the Tallis clan in 1999.
2001 Winfried Georg Sebald Austerlitz In this story of an orphan's quest for his heritage after World War II, Sebald embodies in Austerlitz the universal human search for identity, the struggle to impose coherence on memory, and a struggle complicated by the mind's defenses against trauma.
2000 Jim Crace Being Dead Baritone Bay, mid-afternoon: A couple, naked, married almost 30 years, lies murdered in the dunes.
1999 Jonathan Lethem Motherless Brooklyn St. Vincent's Home for Boys, Brooklyn, early 1970s. A local tough guy and fixer, Minna shows up to take Lionel Essrog, a.k.a. The Human Freakshow, and three of his fellow orphans on mysterious errands. The four grow up to be the Minna Men, a fly-by-night detective agency-cum-limo service, and their days and nights revolve around Frank, the prince of Brooklyn, who glides through life on street smarts, attitude, and secret knowledge. Then one dreadful night, Frank is knifed and thrown into a Dumpster, and Lionel must become a real detective.
1998 Alice Munro The Love of a Good Woman: Stories In perhaps her boldest collection to date, short story master Alice Munro evokes with almost clairvoyant assurance the vagaries of love, the tension and deceit that lie in wait under the polite surfaces of society, and the strange, often comical desires of the human heart.
1997 Penelope Fitzgerald The Blue Flower In eighteenth-century Germany, the impetuous student of philosophy who will later gain fame as the Romantic poet Novalis seeks his father's permission to wed his true philosophy -- a plain, simple child named Sophie. The attachment shocks his family and friends. This brilliant young man, betrothed to a twelve-year-old dullard! How can it be?
1996 Gina Berriault Women in Their Beds Berriault employs her vital sensibility--sometimes distracted and ironic, sometimes achingly raw--to explore the inevitability of suffering and the nature of individuality in a collection of stories that are such models of economy that they seem almost telepathic.
1995 Stanley Elkin Mrs. Ted Bliss Tells the story of an eighty-two-year-old widow starting life anew after the death of her husband. As Dorothy Bliss learns to cope with the mundane rituals of life in a Florida retirement community, she inadvertently becomes involved with a drug kingpin trying to use her as a front for his operations.
1994 Carol Shields The Stone Diaries Born in 1905, Daisy Stone Goodwill drifts through the roles of child, wife, widow, and mother, and finally into her old age. Bewildered by her inability to understand her place in her own life, Daisy attempts to find a way to tell her story within a novel that is itself about the limitations of autobiography.
1993 Ernest J. Gaines A Lesson Before Dying Black schoolteacher, Grant Wiggins, restores a sense of dignity to Jefferson, a black man wrongly condemned to die. The setting is a small 1940s Cajun Louisiana community.
1992 Cormac McCarthy All the Pretty Horses Cut off from the life of ranching he has come to love by his grandfather's death, John Grady Cole flees to Mexico, where he and his two companions embark on a rugged and cruelly idyllic adventure.
1991 Jane Smiley A Thousand Acres When a proud Iowa farmer decides to retire and leave his large farm property to his three daughters, events unfold that threaten to tear the family apart.
1990 John Updike Rabbit at Rest In this final episode of the author's " Rabbit " saga, ex-basketball player Harry " Rabbit " Angstrom has acquired heart trouble, a Florida condo and a second grandchild. His son is behaving erratically and his wife decides in mid-life to become a working girl. Rabbit explores the bleak terrain of late middle age, looking for reasons to live.
1989 E.L. Doctorow Billy Bathgate Billy Bathgate is an urban Huck Finn who comes of age in New York City in the 1930s as the protege of Dutch Schultz, one of the most abominable gangsters of his time, but one of life's great teachers as well.
1988 Bharati Mukherjee The Middleman and Other Stories These stories explore the new immigrant groups who are changing how America lives, earns and votes. From an aristocratic Filipino woman in Atlanta to an Iraqi Jew in Queens, this stunning book speaks of, to, and from these new citizens.
1987 Philip Roth The Counterlife About people enacting their dreams of renewal and escape, some of them going so far as to risk their lives to alter seemingly irreversible destinies.
1986 Reynolds Price Kate Vaiden A chronicle of a lifetime of joy and sadness--narrated by the feisty, irrepressible woman who lived it.
1985 Anne Tyler The Accidental Tourist Meet Macon Leary--a travel writer who hates both travel and strangeness. Grounded by loneliness, comfort, and a somewhat odd domestic life, Macon is about to embark on a surprising new adventure, arriving in the form of a fuzzy-haired dog obedience trainer who promises to turn his life around.
1984 Louise Erdrich Love Medicine The first book in the tetralogy that includes The Beet Queen, Tracks, and The Bingo Palace follows the lives of two native American families.
1983 William Kennedy Ironweed Francis Phelan is a man trying to make peace with the ghosts of his past and present.
1982 Stanley Elkin George Mills
1981 John Updike Rabbit is Rich Rabbit, basically decent but no intellectual, is ten years down the road from Rabbit Redux . Updike's hero, now a middle-aged Toyota dealer, still seeks peace and contentment -- items not standard equipment in his life.