Joan Didion Named Winner of Los Angeles Times Kirsch Award

NEW YORK, March 10, 2006 – Joan Didion has been named the winner of the 26th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes' Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement. The award honors a living author with a substantial connection to the American West whose contribution to American letters deserves special recognition.

The award was announced March 9 along with the 45 finalists for the 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes during an evening reception at the National Arts Club in New York. Serving as event hosts were Times Editor Dean Baquet; Kenneth Turan, director of the Book Prizes and Times film critic; and Times Book Editor David L. Ulin.

The Book Prizes will be presented April 28 at UCLA's Royce Hall in Los Angeles as the lead-in to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, April 29-30. In addition to the Kirsch Award, the evening will honor 2005's outstanding books in nine categories: biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction (the Art Seidenbaum Award), history, mystery/thriller, poetry, science and technology, and young adult fiction.

The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were established in 1980. Each Book Prize includes a $1,000 cash award. The named awards commemorate the life and work of Robert Kirsch, who served as The Times' book critic for more than 25 years prior to his death in 1980, and of the late Art Seidenbaum, who founded the Book Prizes.

Didion is renowned as a journalist, playwright, essayist and novelist. Born in Sacramento and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, much of Didion's writing draws from her life in California. Her books include Play It as It Lays, A Book of Common Prayer, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Democracy: A Novel, The White Album, and her most recent book, The Year of Magical Thinking.

Presenting the 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes will be Blanche Wiesen Cook (Biography), Ronald Brownstein (Current Interest), Luis J. Rodriguez (Fiction), David L. Ulin (First Fiction -- the Art Seidenbaum Award), Leo Braudy (History), Mary Higgins Clark (Mystery/Thriller), Dana Goodyear (Poetry), Tim Rutten (Robert Kirsch Award), Robert Lee Hotz (Science and Technology) and Adam Gopnik (Young Adult Fiction).

Information about the awards ceremony and the Book Prize awards program is available at or by calling 1-800-LATIMES, ext. 72366.

The Book Prize awards ceremony will inaugurate the 11th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, one of the nation's premier public literary festivals and the largest of its kind on the West Coast. The Festival will be held April 29-30 on the UCLA campus. As part of the Los Angeles Times' yearlong 125th anniversary celebration, this year's Festival of Books will have panels featuring Times editorial staff and a 125th anniversary-themed Times Pavilion.


Andrew Delbanco, Melvlile: His World and Work (Alfred A. Knopf)
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (Simon & Schuster)
Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, Mencken: The American Iconoclast (Oxford University Press)
Hilary Spurling, Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse, the Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954 (Alfred A. Knopf)
Steven Watts, The People's Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century (Alfred A. Knopf)

Current Interest
Steve Bogira, Courtroom 302: A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse (Alfred A. Knopf)
Kurt Eichenwald, Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story (Broadway Books)
Jonathan Harr, The Lost Painting (Random House)
Anthony Shadid, Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War (Henry Holt)
John Updike, Still Looking: Essays on American Art (Alfred A. Knopf)

E.L. Doctorow, The March: A Novel (Random House)
Mary Gaitskill, Veronica (Pantheon Books)
Gabriel García Márquez, Memories of My Melancholy Whores [translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman] (Alfred A. Knopf)
Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down (Riverhead Books)
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore [translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel] (Alfred A. Knopf)

First Fiction (the Art Seidenbaum Award)
Kirstin Allio, Garner (Coffee House Press)
Karen Fisher, A Sudden Country: A Novel (Random House)
Olga Grushin, The Dream Life of Sukhanov (Marian Wood/G.P. Putnam's Sons)
Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation: A Novel (HarperCollins)
Marlon James, John Crow's Devil (Akashic Books)

Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945 (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press)
Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich in Power, 1933-1939 (Penguin Press)
Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves (Houghton Mifflin)
Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (Penguin Press)
Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (W.W. Norton)

Michael Connelly, The Lincoln Lawyer: A Novel (Little, Brown)
James Crumley, The Right Madness (Viking)
John Harvey, Ash & Bone (Harcourt)
Robert Littell, Legends: A Novel of Dissimulation (Overlook Press)
Peter Robinson, Strange Affair (William Morrow/HarperCollins)

Jack Gilbert, Refusing Heaven: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf)
Gail Mazur, Zeppo's First Wife: New and Selected Poems (University of Chicago Press)
Marilyn Nelson, The Cachoeira Tales and Other Poems (Louisiana State University Press)
Lucia Perillo, Luck Is Luck: Poems (Random House)
Donald Revell, Pennyweight Windows: New & Selected Poems (Alice James Books)

Science and Technology
Sean B. Carroll, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom (W.W. Norton)
Mariana Gosnell, Ice: The Nature, the History, and the Uses of an Astonishing Substance (Alfred A. Knopf)
Brad Matsen, Descent: The Heroic Discovery of the Abyss (Pantheon Books)
Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science (Basic Books)
Diana Preston, Before the Fallout: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima (Walker & Company)

Young Adult Fiction
John Green, Looking for Alaska (Dutton/Penguin Young Readers Group)
Margo Lanagan, Black Juice (Eos/HarperCollins Children's Books)
Per Nilsson, You & You & You [translated from the Swedish by Tara Chace] (Front Street/Boyds Mills Press)
Andreas Steinhöfel, The Center of the World [translated from the German by Alisa Jaffa] (Delacorte Press/Random House Children's Books)
Markus Zusak, I Am the Messenger (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children's Books)

Finalist Selection Process

Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalists were selected by eight three-member committees (the fiction panel covers both the fiction and first fiction categories). Most of the judges are published authors and serve a two-year term. None of the judges, except for the Kirsch award, are current Los Angeles Times employees.

There is no nationality requirement for author nominees in any category. With the exception of significant new translations of a deceased author's work, all authors should be living at the time of U.S. publication.

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books was created in 1996 to promote literacy, celebrate the written word, and bring together those who create books with the people who love to read them. Some 130,000 people attend the event annually.

General event information is available online at or by calling 1-800-LA TIMES, ext. 7BOOK. Detailed speaker and event information will be provided in the official festival program, which will be published in the April 23rd edition of the Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing company, is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the country and the winner of 37 Pulitzer Prizes. Celebrating this year its 125th anniversary covering Southern California, The Times maintains the largest newsgathering operation in California and publishes five daily regional editions: Los Angeles metropolitan area, Orange County, Ventura County, the San Fernando Valley and the Inland Empire of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

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Mike Lange

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