L.A. Times Book Prize finalists include Joyce Carol Oates and Ta-Nehisi Coates; John Rechy receives lifetime achievement award

Former Los Angeles Times editor and publisher Davan Maharaj speaks at the L.A. Times Book Prizes in 2016.
Former Los Angeles Times editor and publisher Davan Maharaj speaks at the L.A. Times Book Prizes in 2016.
(Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)

Finalists for the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes include Joyce Carol Oates, Ron Chernow, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jesmyn Ward. The awards will be presented on the campus of USC on April 20, the eve of the L.A. Times Festival of Books.

Finalists for the book prizes, which are awarded in 10 categories, include Carmen Maria Machado’s “Her Body and Other Parties” and Gabriel Tallent’s “My Absolute Darling” in the first fiction category; Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America” in current interest; Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West” in fiction; and Angie Thomas’ “The Hate U Give” in young adult literature.

Other notable books to appear among the finalists are Jonathan Eig’s “Ali: A Life” in biography; Claire Messud’s “The Burning Girl” in fiction; Dan Egan’s “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes” in history, and Los Angeles author Ivy Pochoda’s “Wonder Valley” in the mystery/thriller category.


In the special categories, pioneering gay author John Rechy will receive the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement, and Well-Read Black Girl founder Glory Edim will take home the Innovator’s Award.

Benjamin Taylor is the winner of the Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose for his book “The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered.” Taylor becomes the second author to win the Isherwood Prize in autobiographical writing, which was awarded for the first time last year to Wesley Lowery.

Kirsch Award winner Rechy, known for his novels “City of Night” and “Numbers,” which explored the gay underground in mid-century America, was hailed by Times film critic and Book Prizes director Kenneth Turan as “a groundbreaking writer and admired teacher.”

“To quote an equally celebrated Los Angeles author, Gore Vidal, Rechy is ‘one of the few original American writers of the last century,” Turan said.

Edim, the winner of the Innovator’s Award, founded the book club and digital platform Well-Read Black Girl in 2015, with the goal of honoring black women writers and increasing discussions about their books.

“Going from a hashtag to a cultural force, Well-Read Black Girl created a vital new space for literary discussion and engagement,” said Times books editor Carolyn Kellogg.


Taylor’s Isherwood Prize-winning “The Hue and Cry at Our House” was published last May by Penguin. The memoir tells the story of Taylor’s encounter with John F. Kennedy on the day the president was assassinated, and the sometimes difficult year that followed.

The winners of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes will be announced in a ceremony at USC’s Bovard Auditorium on April 20; tickets go on sale March 15. The ceremony takes place the day before the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books kicks off on the USC campus.

The complete list of winners and finalists is below.


Mohsin Hamid, “Exit West”

Victor LaValle, “The Changeling”

Claire Messud, “The Burning Girl”

Vivek Shanbhag, “Ghachar Ghochar”

Jesmyn Ward, “Sing, Unburied, Sing”


Ta-Nehisi Coates, “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy”

James Forman Jr., “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America”

Nancy MacLean, “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America”

Lauren Markham, “The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life”

Rick Wartzman, “The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America”


E. Lockhart, “Genuine Fraud”

Jason Reynolds, “Long Way Down”

Dashka Slater, “The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives”

Angie Thomas, “The Hate U Give”

Renee Watson, “Piecing Me Together”


Alessandra Lynch, “Daylily Called it a Dangerous Moment”

Shane McCrae, “In the Language of My Captor”

Evie Shockley, “semiautomatic”

Patricia Smith, “Incendiary Art”

David Wojahn, “For the Scribe”


Michael Connelly, “The Late Show”

Paul LaFarge, “The Night Ocean”

Attica Locke, “Bluebird, Bluebird”

Joyce Carol Oates, “A Book of American Martyrs”

Ivy Pochoda, “Wonder Valley”


Ron Chernow, “Grant”

Jonathan Eig, “Ali: A Life”

John A. Farrell, “Richard Nixon: The Life”

Adam Federman, “Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray”

Laura Dassow Walls, “Henry David Thoreau: A Life”


Stephen Alford, “London’s Triumph: Merchants, Adventurers, and Money in Shakespeare’s City”

Mark Bowden, “Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam”

Dan Egan, “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes”

Frances FitzGerald, “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America”

Richard Rothstein, “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America”


Cornelia Dean, “Making Sense of Science: Separating Substance from Spin”

Jennifer Doudna and Samuel Sternberg, “A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution”

Robert M. Sapolsky, “Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst”

Max Tegmark, “Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”

Matthew Walker, “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams”


Gabrielle Bell, “Everything is Flammable”

Manuele Fior, translated by Jaime Richards, “The Interview”

Leslie Stein, “Present”

Connor Willumsen, “Anti-Gone”

Yuichi Yokoyama, “Iceland”


Elif Batuman, “The Idiot”

Rachel Khong, “Goodbye, Vitamin”

Carmen Maria Machado, “Her Body and Other Parties”

Gabriel Tallent, “My Absolute Darling”

Jenny Zhang, “Sour Heart”


John Rechy


Glory Edim, Well-Read Black Girl


Benjamin Taylor, “The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered”