L.A. Times Book Prize finalists include Zadie Smith and Rep. John Lewis; Thomas McGuane will be honored

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., left, and Zadie Smith, author of "Swing Time."
(Mark Humphrey / AP (left); Dominique Nabokov (right)

The finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were announced Wednesday, including five nominees in a new 11th category. And the Prizes named one winner: novelist Thomas McGuane, who will take home the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement.

The 55 nominated books include some of the most talked about titles of 2016, including Zadie Smith’s novel “Swing Time”; Matthew Desmond’s “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” in the current interest category; Rep. John Lewis’ graphic memoir “March: Book Three” in the young adult literature category; and Emma Cline’s “The Girls” in mystery/thriller.

Other notable finalists include Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich’s “Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets” in current interest; Garth Greenwell’s novel “What Belongs To You”; Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” in current interest; James McBride’s biography “Kill ‘Em and Leave: Searching for the Real James Brown”; Nancy Isenberg’s “White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America” in history; and Nathan Hill’s “The Nix,” a contender for the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.


Kirsch Award winner McGuane, the Montana novelist known for the books “Ninety-Two in the Shade,” “Panama” and “Nothing but Blue Skies,” was praised by Times film critic and Book Prizes director Kenneth Turan as “a master storyteller who mines the territory of loneliness and isolation but whose work is also tinged with humor and absurdity.”

For the first time, the L.A. Times Book Prizes will present an award for autobiographical prose. The Christopher Isherwood Prize, sponsored by the Isherwood Foundation and named for the British American writer whose semi-autobiographical writings inspired “Cabaret,” will be awarded to a work of “fiction, travel writing, memoir [or] diary.”

Isherwood Foundation Executive Director Katherine Bucknell said the organization is “absolutely delighted” to sponsor the new award. “Los Angeles was Christopher Isherwood’s adoptive home, and in 1984 he was awarded the Robert Kirsch Award for his own writing,” she noted.

The inaugural finalists for the Isherwood Prize include Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery’s “They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement,” “The Face: Strangers on a Pier” by Tash Aw and Jacqueline Woodson’s novel “Another Brooklyn.”

The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes will be awarded on April 21, the evening before the L.A. Times Festival of Books begins on the campus of the University of Southern California. Tickets to the ceremony, which takes place at USC’s Bovard Auditorium, will be on sale starting March 16.


The complete list of finalists is below.


“Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart” by Claire Harman

“Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies” by Ross King

“Kill ‘Em and Leave: Searching for the Real James Brown” by James McBride

“Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939” by Volker Ullrich (translated by Jefferson Chase)

“Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey” by Frances Wilson


“Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets” by Svetlana Alexievich (translated by Bela Shayevich)

“Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” by Matthew Desmond

“Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” by Jane Mayer

“City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp” by Ben Rawlence

“A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS” by Robert F. Worth



“What Belongs to You” by Garth Greenwell

“Imagine Me Gone” by Adam Haslett

“Sweet Lamb of Heaven” by Lydia Millet

“Swing Time” by Zadie Smith

“Innocents and Others” by Dana Spiotta


“Beverly” by Nick Drnaso

“The Artist” by Anna Haifisch

“Don’t Come in Here” by Patrick Kyle

“What Is Obscenity” by Rokudenashiko (translated by Anne Ishii)

“Demon: Volume 1” by Jason Shiga


“Where the Jews Aren’t: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region” by Masha Gessen

“Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939” by Adam Hochschild

“White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America” by Nancy Isenberg

“An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873” by Benjamin Madley

“Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy” by Heather Ann Thompson



“The Face: Strangers on a Pier” by Tash Aw

“They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement” by Wesley Lowery

“The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between” by Hisham Matar

“Cockroaches” by Scholastique Mukasonga (translated by Jordan Stump)

“Another Brooklyn: A Novel” by Jacqueline Woodson


“Dodgers” by Bill Beverly

“His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae” by Graeme Macrae Burnet

“The Girls” by Emma Cline

“The North Water” by Ian McGuire

“Darktown” by Thomas Mullen


“House of Lords and Commons: Poems” by Ishion Hutchinson

“Mr. Memory & Other Poems” by Phillis Levin

“World of Made and Unmade” by Jane Mead

“A Woman of Property” by Robyn Schiff

“Gap Gardening: Selected Poems” by Rosmarie Waldrop


“Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets” by Luke Dittrich

“Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War” by Mary Roach

“Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond” by Sonia Shah

“Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum Age” by Bruce Watson

“I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life” by Ed Yong



“Spill Simmer Falter Wither” by Sara Baume

“The Whale: A Love Story” by Mark Beauregard

“The Nix” by Nathan Hill

“Ways to Disappear” by Idra Novey

“The Bed Moved” by Rebecca Schiff


“The Head of the Saint” by Socorro Acioli (translated by Daniel Hahn)

“The Passion of Dolssa” by Julie Berry

“The Lie Tree” by Frances Hardinge

“March: Book Three” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

“Burn Baby Burn” by Meg Medina


Thomas McGuane


To be announced March 16