National Book Critics Circle announces new award category

John Leonard (1939-2008), was a former editor of the New York Times Book Review and a founding member of the NBCC.
John Leonard (1939-2008), was a former editor of the New York Times Book Review and a founding member of the NBCC. (Copyright Rodney Brooks)

The National Book Critics Circle announced Wednesday the addition of a new award category for best first book in any genre.

The John Leonard Prize joins the NBCC’s current roster of awards for fiction, general nonfiction, biography, autobiography, poetry and criticism.

In an effort to get the organization’s almost 500 members more involved, this new prize will be chosen directly by the membership at large. The exact process for polling members and choosing the winner will be discussed at the annual meeting taking place Wednesday in New York. (The other six awards are determined by the NBCC’s 24-person board.)

The new John Leonard award is named after the influential critic, who died in 2008. Leonard was born in Washington and went on to write and edit for the New York Times Book Review. He co-founded the NBCC in 1974 with Nona Balakian and Ivan Sandrof. In 2006 the organization honored him with a lifetime achievement award.

The first winner of the John Leonard prize will be announced at the NBCC’s annual awards ceremony in early 2014.

@RonCharles

 

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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