LA Times announces 2009 Book Prize finalists


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The Los Angeles Times has announced the finalists for its 2009 Book Prizes: for the first time, graphic novels will be in competition for an LA Times Book Prize of their own. There are now 10 competitive categories: biography, current interest, fiction, graphic novel, history, mystery/thriller, poetry, science/technology, young adult literature and the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. The complete list of finalists for the 30th annual LA Times Book Prizes, to be awarded April 23, are below. In addition to adding the new graphic novel category, the LA Times will present its first Innovators Award to author and publisher Dave Eggers for his multifaceted, spirited commitment to literature. Eggers leads the trend-bucking independent publishing house McSweeney’s, which offers books, magazines and a form-shifting quarterly journal. He also founded the 826 literacy centers -- now operating in Los Angeles and six other cites -- which help at-risk young people engage with the written word. A bestselling author, his work continues to garner critical acclaim; his book ‘Zeitoun’ is a 2009 LA Times book prize finalist in current interest.

The Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement for writers connected to the American West will go to Evan S. Connell, best known for his paired novels ‘Mrs. Bridge’ and ‘Mr. Bridge.’


Nominees in the new Graphic Novel category, by Gilbert Hernandez, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Taiyo Matsumoto, David Mazzucchelli and Joe Sacco, are a diverse selection of works that include the Gen-Y favorite Scott Pilgrim, a new take on the classic Love & Rockets series, and an illustrated journalistic account of the Gaza strip.

The current interest nominees reflect an interest in how America intersects with the world. Both Eggers’ book and Tracy Kidder’s ‘Strength in What Remains’ trace the unexpected paths of immigrants, while T.R. Reid’s ‘The Healing of America’ looks at healthcare ideas and systems of other industrialized nations in relation to our own.

Four women and one man are vying for the top prize in fiction. Local author Michelle Huneven, who is also in the running for a National Book Critics Circle Award for her novel ‘Blame,’ is nominated with Kate Walbert, Jane Gardam, Jill Ciment and Rafael Yglesias, who returns to fiction after a 13-year hiatus.

Announcing the first-ever LA Times book prizes in 1980, then-book editor Art Seidenbaum wrote, ‘This is not so much a competition as a recognition.’ Nevertheless, a winner will be declared for each category on April 23. The prizes will be awarded in an invitation-only ceremony in connection with the 15th annual LA Times Festival of Books, which takes place April 24-25. Last year, more than 130,000 people attended the festival, which is held at UCLA; many of the book prize finalists will participate in panels, discussions and book signings.

2009 LA Times Book Prize Finalists

The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience’ by Kirstin Downey
Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits’ by Linda Gordon
Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic’ by Michael Scammell
‘Louis D. Brandeis: A Life’ by Melvin Urofsky
‘The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst’ by Kenneth Whyte

Current Interest
Columbine’ by Dave Cullen
‘Zeitoun’ by Dave Eggers
‘Strength in What Remains’ by Tracy Kidder
‘Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide’ by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sharon WuDunn
‘The Healing of America: The Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Healthcare’ by T.R. Reid

Heroic Measures’ by Jill Ciment
The Man in the Wooden Hat’ by Jane Gardam
Blame’ by Michelle Huneven
‘A Short History of Women’ by Kate Walbert
‘A Happy Marriage’ by Rafael Yglesias

Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction
‘An Elegy for Easterly’ by Petina Gappah
Tinkers’ by Paul Harding
‘American Rust’ by Philipp Meyer
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders’ by Daniyal Mueenuddin
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned’ by Wells Tower


Graphic Novel
‘Luba’ by Gilbert Hernandez
‘GoGo Monster’ by Taiyo Matsumoto
Asterios Polyp’ by David Mazzuchelli
‘Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe’ by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Footnotes in Gaza’ by Joe Sacco

Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science’ by Richard Holmes
‘Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line’ by Martha A. Sandweiss
Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance 1950-1963’ by Kevin Starr
‘Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940’ by Amy Louise Wood
‘Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic 1789-1815’ by Gordon S. Wood

Bury Me Deep’ by Megan Abbott
‘The Hidden Man’ by David Ellis
Black Water Rising’ by Attica Locke
‘A Darker Domain’ by Val McDermid
The Ghosts of Belfast’ by Stuart Neville

‘Apocalyptic Swing’ by Gabrielle Calvocoressi
‘Dearest Creature’ by Amy Gerstler
‘What the Right Hand Knows’ by Tom Healy
‘Practical Water’ by Brenda Hillman
’]Open Interval[‘ by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

Science and Technology
‘The Day We Found the Universe’ by Marcia Bartusiak
The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom’ by Graham Farmelo
Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places’ by Bill Streever
‘Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human’ by Richard Wrangham
‘Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science’ by Carol Kaesuk Yoon

Young Adult Literature
‘The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy’ by James Cross Giblin
‘The Lost Conspiracy’ by Frances Hardinge
‘Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith’ by Deborah Heiligman
‘Marching for Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don’t You Grow Weary’ by Elizabeth Partridge
‘Tales from Outer Suburbia’ by Shaun Tan

-- Carolyn Kellogg