Raja Shehadeh, Yiyun Li and Maria Bamford among L.A. Times Book Prize finalists

A split image of Raja Shehadeh, Yiyun Li and Maria Bamford, each smiling at the camera.
L.A. Times Book Prize finalists Raja Shehadeh, from left, Yiyun Li and Maria Bamford.
(Simone Padovani / Awakening / Getty Images, left and center; Gary Gershoff / Getty Images)

The finalists for the 44th Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were revealed Wednesday morning. Palestinian human rights activist and writer Raja Shehadeh, novelist Yiyun Li and comedian Maria Bamford are among the 66 nominees in 13 categories honoring the highest quality of craft from authors at all stages of their careers.

Bamford is one of 10 finalists, including Sophia Bush, in the newly introduced category of achievement in audiobook production, which is being given in collaboration with Audible and spotlights performance, production and innovation in storytelling.

The awards ceremony, which will take place April 19 at USC’s Bovard Auditorium on the eve of the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, also includes a number of honorees in special categories. Pulitzer Prize-winning, L.A.-born author Jane Smiley will receive the 2023 Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement, which celebrates a writer with a substantial connection to the American West.


Your ultimate L.A. Bookhelf is here — a guide to the 110 essential L.A. books, plus essays, supporting quotes and a ranked list of the best of the best.

April 13, 2023

“Whether it’s her epic reimagining of King Lear in ‘A Thousand Acres,’ exploring campus life at Moo University in the hilarious ‘Moo,’ or her insightful writing about her beloved horses for readers of all ages, Smiley’s work brings a deeper understanding of the American landscape and the people (and creatures) that inhabit it,” said Times Associate Director of Events and Book Prizes Administrator Ann Binney in a news release.

The Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose will go to bestselling author Claire Dederer for “Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma.” The award is sponsored by the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, and includes fiction, travel writing, memoir and diary.

“Claire Dederer’s ‘Monsters,’ a book-length expansion of an essay on the problematic relationship between masculinity and fame, considers how we come to love art made by less-than-perfect humans,” said the judges of the Isherwood Prize. “Dederer engages the essayist form at its best and the result is both critical, literary and provocative.”

The nonprofit organization Access Books, which works to renovate school libraries and to ensure that kids in underserved communities have access to quality literature and resources, will be given the 2023 Innovator’s Award. This honor recognizes efforts to keep books, publishing and storytelling relevant in the future.

“The work Access Books does in creating comfortable and welcoming environments for students to explore literacy and the world of books is incredibly important and has lasting effects,” said Times Interim Executive Editor Terry Tang in a news release.

The Book Prizes recognize titles in the following categories: audiobooks, autobiographical prose, biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction (the Art Seidenbaum Award), graphic novel/comics, history, mystery/thriller, poetry, science fiction, science and technology and young adult literature. Finalists and winners are selected by panels of writers who specialize in each genre.


For more information about the Book Prizes, including the complete list of 2023 finalists, visit

Achievement in Audiobook Production

Maria Bamford, narrator, “Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult: A Memoir of Mental Illness and the Quest to Belong Anywhere”

Sophia Bush, narrator, “Wild and Precious: A Celebration of Mary Oliver”

Helena de Groot, lead producer, “Wild and Precious: A Celebration of Mary Oliver”

Dion Graham, narrator, “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin): A Memoir”

Kerri Kolen, executive producer, “Wild and Precious: A Celebration of Mary Oliver”

Helen Laser, narrator, “Yellowface”

Adam Lazarre-White, narrator, “All the Sinners Bleed”

Elishia Merricks, producer, “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin): A Memoir”

Elishia Merricks, producer, “All the Sinners Bleed”

Suzanne Franco Mitchell, director/producer, “Yellowface”

The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction

Stephen Buoro, “The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa: A Novel”

Sheena Patel, “I’m a Fan: A Novel”

Shannon Sanders, “Company: Stories”

James Frankie Thomas, “Idlewild: A Novel”

Ghassan Zeineddine, “Dearborn”


Leah Redmond Chang, “Young Queens: Three Renaissance Women and the Price of Power”

Gregg Hecimovich, “The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts: The True Story of The Bondwoman’s Narrative”

Jonny Steinberg, “Winnie and Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage”

Elizabeth R. Varon, “Longstreet: The Confederate General Who Defied the South”

David Waldstreicher, “The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley: A Poet’s Journeys Through American Slavery and Independence”

The Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose

Claire Dederer, “Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma”

Current Interest

Bettina L. Love, “Punished for Dreaming: How School Reform Harms Black Children and How We Heal”

Roxanna Asgarian, “We Were Once A Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America”


Zusha Elinson, “American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15”

Cameron McWhirter, “American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15”

Christina Sharpe, “Ordinary Notes”

Raja Shehadeh, “We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I: A Palestinian Memoir”


Susie Boyt, “Loved and Missed”

Yiyun Li, “Wednesday’s Child: Stories”

Elizabeth McKenzie, “The Dog of the North: A Novel”

Ed Park, “Same Bed Different Dreams: A Novel”

Justin Torres, “Blackouts: A Novel”

Graphic Novel/Comics

Derek M. Ballard, “Cartoonshow”

Matías Bergara, “CODA”

Emily Carroll, “A Guest in the House”

Sammy Harkham, “Blood of the Virgin”

Chantal Montellier, “Social Fiction”

Simon Spurrier, “CODA”


Ned Blackhawk, “The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History”

Joya Chatterji, “Shadows at Noon: The South Asian Twentieth Century”

Malcolm Harris, “Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World”

Blair L.M. Kelley, “Black Folk: The Roots of the Black Working Class”

Nikki M. Taylor, “Brooding Over Bloody Revenge: Enslaved Women’s Lethal Resistance”

Innovator’s Award

Access Books


Lou Berney, “Dark Ride: A Thriller”

S. A. Cosby, “All the Sinners Bleed: A Novel”

Jordan Harper, “Everybody Knows: A Novel”

Cheryl A. Head, “Time’s Undoing: A Novel”

Ivy Pochoda, “Sing Her Down: A Novel”


K. Iver, “Short Film Starring My Beloved’s Red Bronco”

Airea D. Matthews, “Bread and Circus: Poems”

Maggie Millner, “Couplets: A Love Story”

Jenny Molberg, “The Court of No Record: Poems”

Simon Shieh, “Master: Poems”

Robert Kirsch Award

Jane Smiley

Science & Technology

Eugenia Cheng, “Is Math Real? How Simple Questions Lead Us to Mathematics’ Deepest Truths”

Jeff Goodell, “The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet”

Jaime Green, “The Possibility of Life: Science, Imagination, and Our Quest for Kinship in the Cosmos”

Caspar Henderson, “A Book of Noises: Notes on the Auraculous”

Zach Weinersmith, “A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through?”

Kelly Weinersmith, “A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through?”

Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction

Tananarive Due, “The Reformatory: A Novel”

Daniel Kraus, “Whalefall”

Victor LaValle, “Lone Women: A Novel”

V. E. Schwab, “The Fragile Threads of Power”

E. Lily Yu, “Jewel Box: Stories”

Young Adult Literature

Jennifer Baker, “Forgive Me Not”

Olivia A. Cole, “Dear Medusa”

Kim Johnson, “Invisible Son”

Amber McBride, “Gone Wolf”

Sarah Myer, “Monstrous: A Transracial Adoption Story”