L.A. Times awards 2008 book prizes


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In a scaled-down awards ceremony on the fifth floor of the L.A. Times building, the 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were awarded Friday night with as much enthusiasm and humor as any of the more grandly produced affairs of recent years.

Leading for humor was Terry Pratchett, who accepted his prize for young adult novel by video. The tape showed Pratchett leaning back in a chair, books to one side and a stiff, somewhat cranky cat on the other. Pratchett occasionally directed his remarks to the cat, which perched on Pratchett’s desk, eventually turning to face the camera as if the award were its own. The audience’s laughter prompted master of ceremonies David L. Ulin to quip, ‘I wish I had a cat.’


Everyone enthused. Zoe Ferraris -- pictured above, with Ulin and Ron Carlson, after winning for first fiction for her novel ‘Finding Nouf’ -- spoke glowingly of Saudi Arabia, a place she’s ‘been obsessed with’ since she moved away 18 years ago. Poet Frank Bidart noted that there is no real competition between writers, ‘no need to choose between ... Colette and Faulkner.’ Mark Mazower, whose book ‘Hitler’s Empire’ won the history prize, gave thanks for the tolerance of his wife, who ‘put up with the Nazis for longer than the French.’ And Michael Koryta, the twentysomething winner of the mystery/thriller prize, said he’d been nervous about the possibility of having to speak before the crowd, but as he arrived he ‘had the opportunity to meet a lifetime hero, James Ellroy -- and now you all don’t seem so scary.’

Many of the nominees and winners will be at the Festival of Books this weekend. The winners are below, and all nominees are after the jump.

Winner, Biography: Paula J. Giddings, ‘Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching’

Winner, Current Interest: Barton Gellman, ‘Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency

Winner, Fiction: Marilynne Robinson, ‘Home

Winner, Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction: Zoe Ferraris, ‘Finding Nouf


Winner, History: Mark Mazower, ‘Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe’

Winner, Mystery/Thriller: Michael Koryta, ‘Envy the Night’

Winner, Poetry: Frank Bidart, ‘Watching the Spring Festival: Poems’

Winner, Science & Technology: Leonard Susskind, ‘The Black Hole War: My Battle With Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics

Winner, Young Adult Literature: Terry Pratchett, ‘Nation’

Robert Kirsch Award Winner: Robert Alter

Biography nominees:
H.W. Brands, ‘A Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’
Ernest Freeberg, ‘Democracy’s Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent
Jon Meacham, ‘American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
Jackie Wullschlager, ‘Chagall: A Biography’

Current Interest nominees:
Steve Coll, ‘The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century
Dexter Filkins, ‘The Forever War
Jane Mayer, ‘The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals
Jill Bolte Taylor, ‘My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey’

Fiction nominees:
Sebastian Barry, ‘The Secret Scripture’
Richard Price, ‘Lush Life
Joan Silber, ‘The Size of the World
Marisa Silver, ‘The God of War

Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction nominees:
Uwem Akpan, ‘Say You’re One of Them
Sadie Jones, ‘The Outcast’
Roma Tearne, ‘Mosquito’
David Wroblewski, ‘The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

History nominees:
Michael Dobbs, ‘One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War’
Drew Gilpin Faust, ‘This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War
Thomas J. Sugrue, ‘Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North’
Rick Wartzman, ‘Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ ‘

Mystery/Thriller nominees:
Colin Harrison, ‘The Finder’
Simon Lewis, ‘Bad Traffic: An Inspector Jian Novel
Nina Revoyr, ‘The Age of Dreaming
Tom Rob Smith, ‘Child 44’

Poetry nominees:
Jorie Graham, ‘Sea Change: Poems’
Marie Howe, ‘The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems’
Cole Swensen, ‘Ours’
Connie Voisine, ‘Rare High Meadow of Which I Might Dream’

Science & Technology nominees:
Avery Gilbert, ‘What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life’
Kenneth R. Miller, ‘Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul
Martin J.S. Rudwick, ‘Worlds Before Adam: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform’
Carl Zimmer, ‘Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life’

Young Adult literature nominees:
Candace Fleming, ‘The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary’
Neil Gaiman, ‘The Graveyard Book’
Oscar Hijuelos, ‘Dark Dude
Nate Powell, ‘Swallow Me Whole’

-- Carolyn Kellogg