The Los Angeles Times to Honor Terry Tempest Williams, Library of America and Kiese Laymon at the 39th Annual Book Prizes
The annual awards recognize the outstanding literary achievements of 51 finalists in 11 categories, with winners to be announced at the ceremony on April 12
The Los Angeles Times today announced the finalists and honorees of the 39th annual Book Prizes. Terry Tempest Williams will receive the Robert Kirsch Award, Library of America will be honored with the Innovator’s Award and Kiese Laymon will be presented with the Christopher Isherwood Prize. The annual ceremony recognizing outstanding literary achievements will take place on Friday, April 12, 2019, in Bovard Auditorium at the University of Southern California. The ceremony serves as a prologue to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the nation’s largest literary and cultural festival, happening April 13-14 at USC.
Terry Tempest Williams will receive the 2018 Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement, which recognizes a writer whose work focuses on the American West.
“Following a year of record-setting wildfires here in California, we felt the time was right to honor Terry Tempest Williams,” said Times Deputy Managing Editor for Arts and Entertainment Julia Turner. “With issues of the environment and climate change becoming increasingly urgent, what better moment to recognize someone who has focused her creative life on writing about the land and fighting for environmental issues in the most elegant and articulate way.”
Williams is a naturalist and the author of numerous best-selling books, often incorporating themes of environmental and social issues. Influenced by her native Utah, Williams has written 15 books, including “Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place,” which became an instant environmental classic upon publication in 1991, as well as “Finding Beauty in a Broken World,” “When Women Were Birds” and, more recently, “The Hour of the Land,” essays commemorating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.
She has received numerous awards, including the Robert Marshall Award from the Wilderness Society, Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western American Literature Assn. and the Sierra Club’s John Muir Award honoring a distinguished record of leadership in American conservation.
The 2018 Innovator’s Award, which spotlights efforts to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future, will be awarded to Library of America for its contributions to America’s cultural heritage by preserving the nation’s writing and making it widely available.
“We are really pleased to recognize the Library of America for the invaluable work it has done over nearly four decades to preserve our nation’s rich written heritage by showcasing literature in all its forms,” said Kenneth Turan, Times film critic and director of the Book Prizes. “Their distinct black volumes are a sure signal to readers that they are getting the very best.”
Library of America, a nonprofit organization, publishes America’s greatest writing in new editions and provides resources for readers. The organization’s volumes encompass all periods and genres, including well-known and lesser-known works, as well as historically important documents and texts. Through public programs, digital resources and community partnerships, Library of America helps readers worldwide make meaningful connections with the nation’s literary legacy.
Kiese Laymon is the winner of the 2018 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose for his personal narrative “Heavy: An American Memoir.” Sponsored by the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the award encompasses fiction, travel writing, memoir and diary, and honors exceptional work.
“As soon as the five of us had read it, ‘Heavy’ became the frontrunner among the hundred or so books we read this year,” said Rick Whitaker, one of the five judges on the panel. “We admired so many of these memoirs and collections, but the consensus among us was firm.
“Laymon’s remarkable memoir about growing up black in America, published post-Obama, was without question the one we felt most urgently deserved the attention of American readers now. Its title is apt in so many ways: It refers to Laymon’s body, to his life, and to his writing, which does not flinch.”
The Book Prizes recognize 51 remarkable works in 11 categories: autobiographical prose (the Christopher Isherwood Prize), biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction (the Art Seidenbaum Award), graphic novel/comics, history, mystery/thriller, poetry, science and technology, and young adult literature. Judging panels of writers who specialize in each genre select finalists and winners.
The complete list of finalists and further information, including past winners, is available at latimes.com/BookPrizes. Tickets for the ceremony will be made available for purchase on March 7. The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is presented in association with USC. Festival news and updates are available on the event website, Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram (#bookfest).