Mariana Enriquez, Michael Connelly, S.A. Cosby among L.A. Times Book Prize finalists

a triptych of author portraits
S.A. Cosby, left, Mariana Enriquez and Michael Connelly are finalists for L.A. Times Book Prizes.
(Flatiron Books/Associated Press/Los Angeles Times)
Share via

The finalists for the 42nd Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were announced today, with Claire Vaye Watkins, Joy Williams, Michael Connelly and Martín Espada among the nominees for the annual literary awards.

Recipients in two special categories were also announced. The Innovator’s Award will go to Reginald Dwayne Betts, a poet, 2021 MacArthur fellow and founder of Freedom Reads; and the Robert Kirsch Award for Lifetime Achievement will be given to Chicano novelist, journalist and former L.A. Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez. A winner was also announced in one additional category: The Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose went to Deborah Levy for her memoir “Real Estate: A Living Autobiography.”

The rest of the winners will be announced at USC’s Bovard Auditorium on April 22, the day before the 27th Los Angeles Times Festival of Books kicks off its first in-person event since the beginning of the pandemic. Winners in the special categories will also be celebrated that day.


“I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness” is a novel torn from Watkins’ desert life — Charles Manson, addiction and the incessant pursuit of true freedom.

Sept. 30, 2021

Nominated books in the current interest category include “Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival and Hope in an American City” by Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Andrea Elliott; “Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could” by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank); and “Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury” by National Book Award winner Evan Osnos, among others. Nominees in biography include books on Stephen Crane, Mike Nichols and Edgar Allan Poe.

In fiction, the finalists include Williams’ ”Harrow,” Véronique Tadjo’s “In the Company of Men” and Saïd Sayrafiezadeh’s “American Estrangement.” Nominees for the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction include Natasha Brown’s “Assembly” and Benjamín Labatut’s “When We Cease to Understand the World,” translated by Adrian Nathan West.

Other nominated works include S.A. Cosby’s “Razorblade Tears” and Megan Abbott’s “The Turnout” for mystery/thriller; CM Burroughs’ “Master Suffering” and Mai Der Vang’s “Yellow Rain” in the poetry category; Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s “The Disordered Cosmos” and Katharine Hayhoe’s “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World” for science and technology; and Lee Lai’s “Stone Fruit” and Malinda Lo’s “Last Night at the Telegraph Club” for the graphic novel/comic and young-adult categories, respectively.

Finalists for the third Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction include Ryka Aoki’s “Light From Uncommon Stars,” Rivers Solomon’s “Sorrowland” and Mariana Enriquez’s “The Dangers of Smoking in Bed,” translated by Megan McDowell.

“Razorblade Tears,” S.A. Cosby’s follow-up to the Times Book Prize-winning “Blacktop Wasteland,” follows two men hunting the killers of their gay sons.

July 6, 2021

The Robert Kirsch Award for Lifetime Achievement recognizes a writer’s contributions to literature about the American West. Rodriguez, who was born in El Paso, Texas, writes extensively about the Chicano experience and is known for his work as a youth leader and arts advocate across the country. He is co-founder of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore in Sylmar and author of the bestselling memoir “Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A,” the poetry collection “Borrowed Bones” and the book of essays “From Our Land to Our Land.”

“Luis wrote his way out of poverty and pain — through poetry, memoir, essays, fiction and journalism,” said Times books editor Boris Kachka. “Over the decades, he has used his craft to advocate for youth lost to gang life, to promote peace in our communities, and to bring people together in this chaotic world.”


After being sentenced to nine years in prison at age 16, Reginald Dwayne Betts, the Innovator’s Award winner, went on to become a prison reform advocate, legal scholar and poet. The award, which recognizes efforts to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future, will honor Betts for his work at Freedom Reads, an organization that expands access to literature in prisons and juvenile detention centers.

From the acclaimed author of novels and short stories, ‘Harrow’ is a magnificent, moving story about people picking up the pieces of apocalypse.

Sept. 7, 2021

“Betts has written powerfully about the role of books and reading in navigating his own prison experience,” said Julia Turner, Times deputy managing editor for arts and entertainment. “In its mission to bring books directly into the lives of the incarcerated, Freedom Reads offers readers a gateway to the transformative power of literature.”

Of Levy’s “Real Estate,” the third in a series of memoirs, the Christopher Isherwood Prize committee said the book “breathes deep on its own. Levy gorgeously wrestles with place, people, art, and work to create a funny, wise, and affecting self-portrait of a person much in the middle of discovering who she was, is, and hopes to be.”

See the full list of finalists below.


John Tresch, “The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science”

Mark Harris, “Mike Nichols: A Life

Nick Davis, “Competing With Idiots: Herman and Joe Mankiewicz, A Dual Portrait”


Paul Auster, “Burning Boy: The Life and Work of Stephen Crane”

Rebecca Donner, “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler”


Claire Vaye Watkins, “I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness”

Joy Williams, “Harrow”

Mariana Enriquez, “The Dangers of Smoking in Bed,” translated by Megan McDowell

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, “American Estrangement

Véronique Tadjo, “In the Company of Men”

Graphic novel/comics

Ann Xu and Hiromi Goto, “Shadow Life

Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, “The Waiting,” translated by Janet Hong

Lee Lai, “Stone Fruit”

Michael DeForge, “Heaven No Hell”

R. Kikuo Johnson, “No One Else”


Ada Ferrer, “Cuba: An American History”

Alaina E. Roberts, “I’ve Been Here All the While: Black Freedom on Native Land”

Mae Ngai, “The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics”

Mia Bay, “Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance”

Olivette Otele, “African Europeans: An Untold History”


Alison Gaylin, “The Collective

Megan Abbott, “The Turnout”


Michael Connelly, “The Dark Hours”

S.A. Cosby, “Razorblade Tears

Silvia Moreno-Garcia, “Velvet Was the Night”


CM Burroughs, “Master Suffering”

Diane Seuss, “frank: sonnets”

Mai Der Vang, “Yellow Rain”

Martín Espada, “Floaters”

Rita Dove, “Playlist for the Apocalypse”

Science and technology

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, “The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey Into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred”

Emma Marris, “Wild Souls: Freedom and Flourishing in the Non-Human World”

Katharine Hayhoe, “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World”


Meghan O’Gieblyn, “God, Human, Animal, Machine: Technology, Metaphor and the Search for Meaning”

Scott Weidensaul, “A World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds”

The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction

Benjamín Labatut, “When We Cease to Understand the World,” translated by Adrian Nathan West

Jackie Polzin, “Brood”

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, “My Monticello”

Natasha Brown, “Assembly”

Thomas Grattan, “The Recent East”

The Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction

Mariana Enriquez, “The Dangers of Smoking in Bed,” translated by Megan McDowell

Marissa Levien, “The World Gives Way”

Rivers Solomon, “Sorrowland”

Ryka Aoki, “Light From Uncommon Stars”

Zen Cho, “Spirits Abroad”

Young adult literature

Darcie Little Badger, “A Snake Falls to Earth”

Kekla Magoon, “Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther’s Promise to the People”

Malinda Lo, “Last Night at the Telegraph Club”

Paula Yoo, “From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial That Galvanized the Asian American Movement”

Rita Williams-Garcia, “A Sitting in St. James”

Current interest

Andrea Elliott, “Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival and Hope in an American City”

Heather McGhee, “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together”

Reuben Jonathan Miller, “Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration”


Evan Osnos, “Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury”

Adam Schiff, “Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could”