Kirkus Reviews

Last updated
Kirkus Reviews
Kirkus logo.svg
Kirkus Reviews 031521 cover.png
Editor Virginia Kirkus (1933 – July 1962)
Categories Book reviews
PublisherVirginia Kirkus Bookshop Service, Virginia Kirkus Service, Inc. (from 1962), and others
Kirkus Media, LLC (from 2010)
First issueJanuary 1933;88 years ago (1933-01)
Country United States
Based in New York City, New York, U.S.
ISSN 1948-7428

Kirkus Reviews (or Kirkus Media) is an American book review magazine founded in 1933 by Virginia Kirkus (1893–1980). [1] The magazine is headquartered in New York City. [2] Kirkus Reviews confers the annual Kirkus Prize to authors of fiction, nonfiction, young readers' literature.



Kirkus Reviews, published on the first and 15th of each month, previews books before their publication. Kirkus reviews over 10,000 titles per year. [1] [3]


Virginia Kirkus was hired by Harper & Brothers to establish a children's book department in 1926. The department was eliminated as an economy measure in 1932 (for about a year), so Kirkus left and soon established her own book review service. [4] Initially, she arranged to get galley proofs of "20 or so" books in advance of their publication; almost 80 years later, the service was receiving hundreds of books weekly and reviewing about 100. [3]

Initially titled Bulletin by Kirkus' Bookshop Service from 1933 to 1954, the title was changed to Bulletin from Virginia Kirkus' Service from the January 1, 1955, issue onwards, and successively shortened to Virginia Kirkus' Service with the December 15, 1964, issue, and Kirkus Service in 1967, before it attained its definitive title, Kirkus Reviews, with the January 1, 1969, issue.[ citation needed ]

In 1985 Anne Larsen was brought on as fiction editor, soon to become editor, remaining the editorial head of Kirkus until 2006 and modifying the review format and style for improved readability, concision, accuracy, and impact.


It was sold to The New York Review of Books in 1970 and subsequently sold by the Review to Barbara Bader and Josh Rubins, who served also as the publication's editors. In 1985, magazine consultant James B. Kobak acquired Kirkus Reviews. [5] David LeBreton bought Kirkus from Kobak in 1993. [6] BPI Communications, owned by Dutch publisher VNU, bought Kirkus from LeBreton in 1999. [7] At the end of 2009, the company announced the end of operations for Kirkus. [1]

The journal was purchased from VNU (by then renamed The Nielsen Company, or Nielson N.V.) on February 10, 2010, by businessman Herbert Simon. Terms were not disclosed. It was thereafter renamed Kirkus Media, and book industry veteran Marc Winkelman was made publisher. [8]


In 2017, Kirkus removed its starred review of Laura Moriarty's novel American Heart after noticing the book's "white point of view" and "public concern" about the novel's alleged "white savior narrative", as described by editor-in-chief Claiborne Smith in interviews with Vulture and NPR. [9] The reviewer, a Muslim woman with expertise in young adult fiction, rewrote her text, adding that the story is "told exclusively through the filter of a white protagonist about a Muslim character," while the magazine removed the star. [10] The novel's author Laura Moriarty commented that "the takeaway [from this episode] for white writers is don't even try to write about people who are different from you." [10]

Kirkus Prize

In 2014, Kirkus Reviews started the Kirkus Prize, bestowing $50,000 prizes annually to authors of fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature. [11]


2014 [12] FictionEuphoria Lily King Atlantic Monthly
Nonfiction Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Roz Chast Bloomsbury
Young ReadersAviary Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual Kate Samworth Clarion Books
2015 [13] Fiction A Little Life Hanya Yanagihara Pan Macmillan
Nonfiction Between the World and Me: Notes on the First 150 Years in America Ta-Nehisi Coates Random House
Young ReadersEcho Pam Muñoz Ryan Scholastic Press
2016 [14] Fiction The Sport of Kings C.E. Morgan Farrar Straus & Giroux
Nonfiction In the Darkroom Susan Faludi HarperCollins
Young ReadersAs Brave as You Jason Reynolds Atheneum
2017 [15] FictionWhat It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky Lesley Nneka Arimah Farafina Books
NonfictionThe Gulf: The Making of an American Sea Jack E. Davis Norton
Young ReadersThe Marrow Thieves Cherie Dimaline Dancing Cat Books
2018 [16] FictionSeverance Ling Ma Farrar Straus & Giroux
NonfictionCall Them By Their True Names: American Crises Rebecca Solnit Haymarket Books
Young Readers Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. JamesBolden/Agate
2019 [17] Fiction The Nickel Boys Colson Whitehead Doubleday
Nonfiction How We Fight For Our Lives Saeed Jones Simon & Schuster
Young Readers New Kid Jerry Craft and Jim CallahanHarperCollins
2020 [18] Fiction Luster Raven Leilani Farrar, Straus and Giroux
NonfictionStakes Is High: Life After the American Dream Mychal Denzel Smith Bold Type Books
Young ReadersI Am Every Good Thing. Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. JamesNancy Paulsen Books

Related Research Articles

National Book Award Literary award

The National Book Awards are a set of annual U.S. literary awards. At the final National Book Awards Ceremony every November, the National Book Foundation presents the National Book Awards and two lifetime achievement awards to authors.

Laila Lalami

Laila Lalami is a Moroccan-American novelist, essayist, and professor. After earning her Licence ès Lettres degree in Morocco, she received a fellowship to study in the United Kingdom (UK), where she earned an MA in linguistics.

West Virginia University Press is a university press and publisher in the state of West Virginia. A part of West Virginia University, the Press publishes books and journals with a particular emphasis on Appalachian studies, history, higher education, the social sciences, and interdisciplinary books about energy, environment, and resources. The Press also has a small but highly regarded program in fiction and creative nonfiction, including Deesha Philyaw's The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction in 2020. WVU Press also collaborates on digital publications, notably West Virginia History: An Open Access Reader.

Martin Hyatt is an American contemporary writer. Born in Louisiana, he later attended Goddard College, Eugene Lang College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. Hyatt's fiction is usually set in the working-class American South. His work is characterized by its lyricism and realism. He has taught writing at a number of colleges and universities, including Hofstra University and Parsons School of Design. He has taught Creative Writing at School of Visual Arts, St. Francis College, and Southern New Hampshire University.

Laura Moriarty is an American novelist.

Ayad Akhtar American actor and playwright

Ayad Akhtar is an American playwright, novelist, and screenwriter of Pakistani heritage who received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His work has received two Tony Award nominations for Best Play and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Akhtar's writing covers various themes including the American-Muslim experience, religion and economics, immigration, and identity. In 2015, The Economist wrote that Akhtar's tales of assimilation "are as essential today as the work of Saul Bellow, James Farrell, and Vladimir Nabokov were in the 20th century in capturing the drama of the immigrant experience."

Chinelo Okparanta

Chinelo Okparanta is a Nigerian-American novelist and short-story writer. She was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, where she was raised until the age of 10, when she emigrated to the United States with her family.

Martha Brockenbrough is an American author of fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. Her first book, It Could Happen To You: Diary Of A Pregnancy and Beyond, was published by Andrews McMeel Publishing in 2002. She is the founder of National Grammar Day and The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG).

<i>The Moors Account</i>

The Moor's Account is a novel by Laila Lalami. It was a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist in 2015.

Chigozie Obioma Nigerian writer

Chigozie Obioma is a Nigerian writer. In a review, he was called "the heir to Chinua Achebe" by The New York Times. In 2015, Obioma was named one of "100 Global Thinkers" by Foreign Policy magazine. He is best known for writing the novels The Fishermen (2015) and An Orchestra of Minorities (2019), both of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize in their respective years of publication, making Obioma one of only two writers to have been honoured in this way, the other being Rohinton Mistry. Between Obioma's two books, his work is being translated into 30 languages. Obioma is also a professor, currently teaching fiction classes at the University Nebraska-Lincoln.

Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American novelist. He is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Nguyen's debut novel, The Sympathizer, won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction among other accolades, including the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction from the American Library Association, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from an American Author from the Mystery Writers of America, and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in Fiction from the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association. He was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2017. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Nguyen is also a regular contributor, op-ed columnist for The New York Times, covering immigration, refugees, politics, culture and South East Asia.

Hanif Abdurraqib American poet and essayist

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic. He is the author of 2016 poetry collection The Crown Ain't Worth Much, the 2017 essay collection They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, the 2019 non-fiction book, Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes on A Tribe Called Quest on the American hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, and the 2019 poetry collection A Fortune for Your Disaster. Go Ahead in the Rain was on the long list for the 2019 National Book Award.

The Kirkus Prize is an American literary award conferred by the book review magazine Kirkus Reviews. Established in 2014, the Kirkus Prize bestows US$150,000 annually. Three authors are awarded US$50,000 each, divided into three categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, and Young Readers' Literature. It has been described as one of the most lucrative prizes in literature.

Jason Reynolds American young adult novelist

Jason Reynolds is an American author of novels and poetry for young adult and middle-grade audiences, including Ghost, a National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.

Lesley Nneka Arimah is a Nigerian writer, and winner of the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa, the 2017 O. Henry Prize, the 2017 Kirkus Prize, and the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing. She has been described as "a skillful storyteller who can render entire relationships with just a few lines of dialogue" and "a new voice with certain staying power."

<i>Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut</i> 2017 picture book by Derrick Barnes

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is a 2017 picture book by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James. The book, Barnes' first picture book, is a poem describing a boy's feelings and experience while getting a haircut. James, who was not the first choice to be the illustrator, wanted the oil color illustrations to have the feel of fine art.

Anna-Marie McLemore is a Mexican-American author of young adult fiction magical realism, best known for their Stonewall Honor-winning novel When the Moon Was Ours, Wild Beauty, and The Weight of Feathers.

In book reviews, a starred review is a review marked with a star to denote a book of distinction or particularly high quality. A starred review can help to increase sales of a book.

<i>The Nickel Boys</i> 2019 novel by Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys is a 2019 novel by American novelist Colson Whitehead. It is based on the real story of the Dozier School, a reform school in Florida that operated for 111 years and had its history exposed by a university's investigation. It was named one of TIME's best books of the decade. It is the follow-up to Whitehead's 2016 novel The Underground Railroad, which won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

<i>The Secret Lives of Church Ladies</i>

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is a debut short story collection by Deesha Philyaw. The book contains nine stories about Black women, church, and sexuality and was released on September 1, 2020 by West Virginia University Press. It was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction and received The Story Prize.


  1. 1 2 3 Rich, Motoko (December 11, 2009). "End of Kirkus Reviews Brings Anguish and Relief". The New York Times . ISSN   0362-4331. Archived from the original on October 29, 2011. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  2. "Contact Us". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
  3. 1 2 "Kirkus Reviews History". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
  4. Marcus, Leonard S. (2008). Minders of Make-Believe . Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp.  104, 111. ISBN   978-0-395-67407-9.
  5. Dougherty, Philip H. (April 4, 1985). "Consultant Acquires Kirkus Reviews". The New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  6. "Kirkus Reviews being acquired". Publishers Weekly. August 23, 1993. Archived from the original on May 21, 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  7. "Kirkus Reviews Acquired By Publisher of Billboard". August 2, 1999. Archived from the original on January 27, 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  8. Rich, Motoko (February 10, 2010). "Kirkus Gets a New Owner – From the N.B.A." The New York Times. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  9. Heller, Nathan (23 October 2017). "Kirkus Reviews and the Plight of the "Problematic" Book Review". The New Yorker . ISSN   0028-792X . Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  10. 1 2 Neary, Lynn (21 October 2017). "Kirkus Changes Review After 'American Heart' Draws Outrage As 'White Savior Narrative'". NPR. ISSN   0028-792X . Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  11. Colin Dwyer (2014-09-30). "First-Ever Kirkus Prize Picks 18 Finalists : The Two-Way". NPR . Retrieved 2015-11-23.
  12. White, Caitlin. "Women Take Home All Three 2014 Kirkus Prizes". Bustle. Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  13. "2015 Finalists | Kirkus Reviews". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  14. "2016 Kirkus Prize Winners Announced". the American Booksellers Association. 2016-11-03. Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  15. Reviews, Kirkus (2017-11-07). "The Winners Of The 2017 Kirkus Prize". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  16. "2018 Finalists | Kirkus Reviews". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  17. "Kirkus Prize: 2019 Winners". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  18. "Winners of the 2020 Kirkus Prize Announced". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 2020-11-10.