Joan Didion, renowned as a journalist, playwright, essayist and novelist, was presented with the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement. Born in Sacramento and a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Didion draws much of her writing from her life in California. Her books include Play It as It Lays, A Book of Common Prayer, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Democracy: A Novel, The White Album, and her most recent book, The Year of Magical Thinking.
The citation noted, "Joan Didion is the voice of contemporary California. From her definitive collections Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album which evoke a landscape of dislocation, fragmentation, where the center is not holding to her more recent Where I Was From and The Year of Magical Thinking, she has never aspired to anything less than telling us who we are."
The Robert Kirsch Award, presented this year by Tim Rutten, recognizes the body of work by an author who resides in and/or whose work focuses on the Western United States and whose contributions to American letters merit body-of-work recognition. The late Robert Kirsch served as The Times' book critic for more than 25 years before his death in 1980. He was a novelist, editor and teacher as well as one the nation's foremost book critics.
This year's Los Angeles Times Book Prizes honored outstanding literary achievement in nine categories: biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction, history, mystery/thriller, poetry, science and technology, and young adult fiction. Each winner, including Didion, receives a $1,000 cash award.
National Endowment for the Arts Chair Dana Gioia served as the master of ceremonies for the presentation of the Book Prizes.
Book Prizes Winners
Biography: Hilary Spurling, Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse, the Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954 (Alfred A. Knopf); presented by Blanche Wiesen Cook
Current Interest: Anthony Shadid, Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War (Henry Holt); presented by Ronald Brownstein
Fiction: Gabriel García Márquez, Memories of My Melancholy Whores [translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman] (Alfred A. Knopf); presented by Luis J. Rodriguez
Art Seidenbaum Award For First Fiction: Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation: A Novel (HarperCollins); presented by David L. Ulin
History: Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves (Houghton Mifflin); presented by Leo Braudy
Mystery/Thriller: Robert Littell, Legends: A Novel of Dissimulation (Overlook Press); presented by Mary Higgins Clark
Poetry: Jack Gilbert, Refusing Heaven: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf); presented by Dana Goodyear
Science and Technology: Diana Preston, Before the Fallout: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima (Walker & Company); presented by Robert Lee Hotz
Young Adult Fiction: Per Nilsson, You & You & You [translated from the Swedish by Tara Chace] (Front Street/Boyds Mills Press); presented by Adam Gopnik
2005 Book Prize finalists (including winners)
Andrew Delbanco, Melvlile: His World and Work (Alfred A. Knopf)
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (Simon & Schuster)
Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, Mencken: The American Iconoclast (Oxford University Press)
Hilary Spurling, Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse, the Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954 (Alfred A. Knopf)
Steven Watts, The People's Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century (Alfred A. Knopf)
Steve Bogira, Courtroom 302: A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse (Alfred A. Knopf)
Kurt Eichenwald, Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story (Broadway Books)
Jonathan Harr, The Lost Painting (Random House)
Anthony Shadid, Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War (Henry Holt)
John Updike, Still Looking: Essays on American Art (Alfred A. Knopf)
E.L. Doctorow, The March: A Novel (Random House)
Mary Gaitskill, Veronica (Pantheon Books)
Gabriel García Márquez, Memories of My Melancholy Whores [translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman] (Alfred A. Knopf)
Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down (Riverhead Books)
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore [translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel] (Alfred A. Knopf)
First Fiction (the Art Seidenbaum Award)
Kirstin Allio, Garner (Coffee House Press)
Karen Fisher, A Sudden Country: A Novel (Random House)
Olga Grushin, The Dream Life of Sukhanov (Marian Wood/G.P. Putnam's Sons)
Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation: A Novel (HarperCollins)
Marlon James, John Crow's Devil (Akashic Books)
Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945 (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press)
Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich in Power, 1933-1939 (Penguin Press)
Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves (Houghton Mifflin)
Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (Penguin Press)
Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (W.W. Norton)
Michael Connelly, The Lincoln Lawyer: A Novel (Little, Brown)
James Crumley, The Right Madness (Viking)
John Harvey, Ash & Bone (Harcourt)
Robert Littell, Legends: A Novel of Dissimulation (Overlook Press)
Peter Robinson, Strange Affair (William Morrow/HarperCollins)
Jack Gilbert, Refusing Heaven: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf)
Gail Mazur, Zeppo's First Wife: New and Selected Poems (University of Chicago Press)
Marilyn Nelson, The Cachoeira Tales and Other Poems (Louisiana State University Press)
Lucia Perillo, Luck Is Luck: Poems (Random House)
Donald Revell, Pennyweight Windows: New & Selected Poems (Alice James Books)
Science and Technology
Sean B. Carroll, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom (W.W. Norton)
Mariana Gosnell, Ice: The Nature, the History, and the Uses of an Astonishing Substance (Alfred A. Knopf)
Brad Matsen, Descent: The Heroic Discovery of the Abyss (Pantheon Books)
Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science (Basic Books)
Diana Preston, Before the Fallout: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima (Walker & Company)
Young Adult Fiction
John Green, Looking for Alaska (Dutton/Penguin Young Readers Group)
Margo Lanagan, Black Juice (Eos/HarperCollins Children's Books)
Per Nilsson, You & You & You [translated from the Swedish by Tara Chace] (Front Street/Boyds Mills Press)
Andreas Steinhöfel, The Center of the World [translated from the German by Alisa Jaffa] (Delacorte Press/Random House Children's Books)
Markus Zusak, I Am the Messenger (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children's Books)
About the Book Prizes
The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were established in 1980. Los Angeles Times Book Prizes finalists and winners are selected by eight three-member committees. Fiction category judges also choose the first fiction category finalists and winner. Most of the judges are published authors and serve a two-year term. None of the judges, except for the Kirsch award, are current Los Angeles Times employees.
There is no nationality requirement for author nominees in any category. With the exception of significant new translations of a deceased author's work, all authors should be living at the time of U.S. publication.
The Book Prizes have honored numerous internationally distinguished literary figures including Ray Bradbury, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Tony Hillerman, Christopher Isherwood, Milan Kundera, Ursula Le Guin, Frank McCourt, David McCullough, Larry McMurtry, Tillie Olsen, Ishmael Reed, Carl Sagan and W.G. Sebald. Information about the Book Prize awards ceremony and awards program is available at www.latimes.com/bookprizes.
About the Los Angeles Times
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the country, with a daily readership of nearly 2.4 million and about 3.4 million on Sunday. With its media businesses and affiliates - including latimes.com, TheEnvelope.com, Times Community Newspapers, Recycler Classifieds, Hoy, and California Community News - the Los Angeles Times reaches approximately 7.7 million or 59 percent of all adults in the Southern California marketplace every week.
The Los Angeles Times, which this year marks its 125th anniversary covering Southern California, is part of Tribune Company (NYSE: TRB), one of the country's leading media companies with businesses in publishing, the Internet and broadcasting. Additional information about the Los Angeles Times is available at www.latimes.com/mediacenter.