Rachel Howzell Hall, George Saunders, James Hannaham among L.A. Times Book Prize finalists

Separate headshots of a woman and two men
Los Angeles Times 2023 Book Prize finalists Rachel Howzell Hall, left, George Saunders and James Hannaham.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times; Zach Krahmer; Peter Kayafas)

The finalists for the 43rd Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were announced Wednesday, with Rachel Howzell Hall, James Hannaham and George Saunders among the nominees for the annual literary awards.

The winners in three special categories also were announced. James Ellroy will receive the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement; the American Library Assn.’s Freedom to Read Foundation will receive the Innovator’s Award; and Javier Zamora will be presented with the Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose.

The rest of the Book Prize winners, selected from among 56 finalists in 11 categories, will be announced in a ceremony on Friday, April 21, at USC’s Bovard Auditorium, the evening before the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, taking place the weekend of April 22-23.


Javier Zamora talks about “Solito,” his harrowing memoir about journeying from El Salvador to the U.S. as an unaccompanied 9-year-old.

Sept. 15, 2022

Notable fiction finalists include Hannaham’s “Didn’t Nobody Give a S— What Happened to Carlotta,” which follows an Afro-Colombian transgender woman newly released from prison; “Paradais,” Fernanda Melchor’s dark novel of Mexico City’s underclass; and “Exalted,” a Los Angeles-based astrology satire by Anna Dorn.

The mystery/thriller category includes Hall, a previous Book Prize finalist, for her novel “We Lie Here,” about a TV writer who becomes entangled in family secrets on a visit to her parents in Palmdale, Calif. Among the other finalists are Alex Segura’s “Secret Identity,” about a comic-book writer in the 1970s, and Tracy Lien’s Australia-set murder mystery “All That’s Left Unsaid.”

Other nominees include Anand Giridharadas’ ”The Persuaders,” in the current interest category; David Maraniss’ biography “Path Lit by Lightning,” about Native athlete Jim Thorpe; and Ed Yong’s exploration of animal senses, “An Immense World,” in the category of science and technology. Saunders, the acclaimed short-story writer and Booker Prize winner, is a finalist for the Ray Bradbury Prize for science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction with his latest collection, “Liberation Day: Stories.”

Rachel Howzell Hall’s new thriller, ‘We Lie Here,’ concerns a family led by matriarch Queen Bee. A murder in their midst is the least of their problems

July 19, 2022

Ellroy, who will accept the Robert Kirsch Award for bodies of work focused on the American West, is best known for his L.A.-based crime novels such as “L.A. Confidential” and “The Black Dahlia” — both part of his bestselling L.A. Quartet.

Ellroy also has written an investigative memoir, “My Dark Places,” as well as dozens of novels, many of them adapted into films, graphic novels and podcasts.

“We are pleased to recognize L.A. noir iconoclast James Ellroy with this year’s Kirsch Award,” said Times Books Editor Boris Kachka. “James’ writing life was shaped by the tragic, unsolved murder of his mother when he was 10, fostering an obsession with crime and the underworld that has animated his fiction and nonfiction across the decades.”


James Hannaham’s “Didn’t Nobody Give a S— What Happened to Carlotta” answers the question: What if Odysseus were a trans ex-con in gentrified New York?

Aug. 22, 2022

The Freedom to Read Foundation will be honored with the Innovator’s Award, which spotlights efforts to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future. The nonprofit’s work includes protecting the public’s right to access information in libraries and helping provide legal counsel to librarians fighting to preserve their First Amendment rights.

Among the cases the organization has supported was one that resulted in a 2011 Supreme Court ruling overturning a California law banning the sale of violent video games to minors. Freedom to Read also has been active in documenting and opposing the current nationwide wave of bans on school library books.

“Created to support and defend librarians, the organization is as important and relevant today as it was at its inception in 1969,” said Julia Turner, Times deputy managing editor for entertainment and strategy. “We honor its continued fight against book bans and its mission to protect all Americans’ right to read and access information.”

Alex Segura’s “Secret Identity,” about a Latina who invents the Legendary Lynx and moonlights as a PI, is the unlikely culmination of a life spent in love with genres.

March 14, 2022

Zamora, winner of the 2022 Christopher Isherwood Prize, walked unaccompanied from El Savador to California at age 9 to reunite with his parents. Twenty years later, the author and poet wrote about it in his debut memoir, “Solito.”

The judges of the Isherwood Prize, which honors exceptional autobiographical work that might encompass fiction, travel writing, memoir or diary, commented on not just the remarkable story itself “but the way it’s told.”

“Somehow Zamora, an award-winning poet, stays true to the child’s perspective at no sacrifice to language or craft,” the judges said. “We’re delighted to give him this prize.”


See the full list of finalists below.


Tomiko Brown-Nagin, “Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality”

Beverly Gage, “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century”

Jennifer Homans, “Mr. B: George Balanchine’s 20th Century”

David Maraniss, “Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe

Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, “His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice”


Mircea Cărtărescu, “Solenoid” (translation by Sean Cotter)

Anna Dorn, “Exalted”

James Hannaham, “Didn’t Nobody Give a S— What Happened to Carlotta

Jamil Jan Kochai, “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories”

Fernanda Melchor, “Paradais” (translation by Sophie Hughes)

Graphic novels/comics

Alex Graham, “Dog Biscuits”

Yamada Murasaki, “Talk to My Back” (translation by Ryan Holmberg)

Tommi Parrish, “Men I Trust”

Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith, “Wash Day Diaries”

Noah Van Sciver, “Joseph Smith and the Mormons”


Margaret A. Burnham, “By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners”


Hugh Eakin, “Picasso’s War: How Modern Art Came to America”

Kerri K. Greenidge, “The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family”

Andrew M. Wehrman, “The Contagion of Liberty: The Politics of Smallpox in the American Revolution”

Donald Yacovone, “Teaching White Supremacy: America’s Democratic Ordeal and the Forging of our National Identity”


Rachel Howzell Hall, “We Lie Here”

Laurie R. King, “Back to the Garden”

Tracey Lien, “All That’s Left Unsaid”

Alex Segura, “Secret Identity

Peng Shepherd, “The Cartographers”


Dionne Brand, “Nomenclature: New and Collected Poems”

James Cagney, “Martian: The Saint of Loneliness”

Marwa Helal, “Ante body”

Cynthia Parker-Ohene, “Daughters of Harriet: Poems”

Solmaz Sharif, “Customs: Poems”

Science & Technology

Juli Berwald, “Life on the Rocks: Building a Future for Coral Reefs”

Jessica Hernandez, “Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science”

Sabrina Imbler, “How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures”

James Vincent, “Beyond Measure: The Hidden History of Measurement From Cubits to Quantum Constants”

Ed Yong, “An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us”

The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction

Aamina Ahmad, “The Return of Faraz Ali”

Maayan Eitan, “Love”

Sidik Fofana, “Stories from the Tenants Downstairs”

Oscar Hokeah, “Calling for a Blanket Dance”

Morgan Thomas, “Manywhere: Stories”

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

Sara Gran, “The Book of the Most Precious Substance


Nicola Griffith, “Spear”

Alex Jennings, “The Ballad of Perilous Graves”

Ray Nayler, “The Mountain in the Sea: A Novel”

George Saunders, “Liberation Day: Stories”

Young-adult literature

Samira Ahmed, “Hollow Fires”

Lyn Miller-Lachmann, “Torch”

Sabaa Tahir, “All My Rage”

Andrew Joseph White, “Hell Followed With Us”

Kip Wilson, “The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin”

Current interest

Anand Giridharadas, “The Persuaders: At the Front Lines of the Fight for Hearts, Minds, and Democracy”

Sarah Kendzior, “They Knew: How a Culture of Conspiracy Keeps America Complacent”

Dahlia Lithwick, “Lady Justice: Women, the Law, and the Battle to Save America”

Luke Mogelson, “The Storm is Here: An American Crucible”

Dorothy Roberts, “Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families — and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World”