Founded in 1931 during the depths of America’s Great Depression, the Commonwealth Club’s California Book Awards celebrates its 92nd anniversary this year.
The purpose of the awards is to highlight the work of California authors – a praiseworthy goal at a time when the publishing industry (then and now) remains focused on East Coast writers.
Over the years, many of the most important voices in American literature, such as Joan Didion, Ishmael Reed, Amy Tan, Hector Tobar, and Viet Thanh Nguyen, have been honored with California Book Awards.
Once again, I was honored to serve on the nonfiction jury and read many fine submissions from the Golden State. Here are the stellar books we chose as this year’s finalists. The nonfiction finalists are:
The Man Who Could Move Clouds: A Memoir, by Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Doubleday
American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis, by Adam Hochschild, Mariner Books
Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands, by Kelly Lytle Hernández, W.W. Norton and Company
Geography Is Destiny: Britain and the World: A 10,000-Year History, by Ian Morris Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Last year, we awarded the Gold Medal in nonfiction to historian Alice L. Baumgarten’s South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War, a revelatory work that compels us to rethink the reasons for the U.S. Civil War.
The silver medal in nonfiction went to Conor Dougherty’s deeply reported and empathetic Golden Gates: The Housing Crisis and a Reckoning for the American Dream. The Californiana award went to the father-son team of Richard White and Jesse Amble White for California Exposures: Envisioning Myth and History.
One of the most touching moments in the awards ceremony from that year came from Richard and Jesse’s video remarks. You can watch them here.
Serving on the jury has been tough but rewarding work. The history of the West is a subject that fascinates me – especially as historians and public scholars unearth often deeply unsettling stories about California and the West.
Leave a Reply