Press Release

The Commonwealth Club of California

595 Market Street San Francisco, CA 94105

Contact: Riki Rafner, 415.597.6712 –





Fowler, Marra, Schlosser, George, Heyday Press among winners of the


83RD  Annual California Book Awards Competition

Awards Ceremony: Monday June 9, 2014 at 6 p.m.

Sponsored by Bank of the West


SAN FRANCISCO – (May 5, 2014) The Commonwealth Club has announced this year’s winners of the California Book Awards.  Book lovers from around the state will gather on Monday, June 9, at 6pm at 595 Market Street, 2nd floor, in San Francisco to recognize the winners at a special program and reception.  Tickets may be purchased online at or call (415) 597-6700


Dr. Gloria Duffy, the President and CEO of The Commonwealth Club said, “The Club is proud to announce, for the 83rd consecutive year, the winners of its annual awards for the best published writing by California authors.  Notably, this year, several individuals who have spoken at Club forums are award winners, including Eric Schlosser for his chilling account of an accident involving a nuclear missile and former California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George for his oral history.


After several years, during which our modest endowment for the Book Awards has recovered from negative financial markets, the Club is again pleased to be able to award cash prizes to the top winners in each category of the California Book Awards.  We are grateful to the late Bill Lane, long-time publisher of Sunset Magazine, and Dr. Martha Cox, for their generous endowment for the Book Awards that make these cash awards possible.


As always, we are thankful to the exceptionally thoughtful and committed book jurors who volunteer their time to carefully read the hundreds of submissions we receive.”  


"It is a great yearly pleasure to ponder, discuss, opine about, and finally choose the winners of the California Book Awards, in conversation with a committed, passionate jury," says Chair Mary Ellen Hannibal.  "Our 2013 selections include novels that wrestle with familial bonds amid ethnic conflagration and across species; nonfiction that drills down into how we try to define and protect ourselves and our neighbors; and poetry that puts fresh forms around custom and country.  The huge imagination and energy of the Golden State are once again in full, literary glory."


"Every year the jury reads literally hundreds of books in four major categories," Hannibal, an author herself, explained about the process.  "In late March the specialized sections of the jury share finalists with the whole team, and then we all read all the selections in all the categories.  I read originally for nonfiction.  This year we had a startlingly fresh view of Jesus of Nazareth; a definitive biography of Woodrow Wilson; a deep and surprising portrait of nuclear arms; a personal and paradigm-shifting narrative about cancer; and a flip-your-assumptions profile of Haiti.  All of them are award-worthy and it was hard to choose among them.  A similar dilemma was presented in the fiction, poetry, juvenile, and young adult categories.  Our literature clearly puts California on the map as much as any geographical feature of our topography or technology company does.  The soul of the state is in these books - once again I'm struck with the generosity and hard work of writers who labor to bring us so many layers of meaning and pleasure. "


Paul Wible, Senior Executive Vice President of Bank of the West’s National Finance Group, will host the California Book Awards ceremony for the fifth year and added his congratulations to the winning authors.


“Like the Commonwealth Club Book Awards, Bank of the West has a long history in California. From our early days as a community bank over 140 years ago, our commitment to being a good corporate neighbor has never wavered. With our deep ties to California we’re proud to support the Commonwealth Club and this important award program that showcases our state’s outstanding literary talent.”


The 83rd Annual California Book Awards ceremony will take place Monday, June 9 at 6 pm at the Commonwealth Club of California, 595 Market Street in San Francisco. This year’s awards presentation is once again being sponsored by Bank of the West.  The event is open to the public.  The Awards reception with wine and light refreshments will begin at 5:00 p.m., followed by the awards presentation at 6 p.m. A book-signing will take place immediately after the ceremony. 



Since 1931, the California Book Awards have honored the exceptional literary merit of California writers and publishers. Each year a select jury considers hundreds of books from around the state in search of the very best in literary achievement.  Eligible books must be written while the author is a resident in California, and must be published during the year under consideration.


The California Book Awards have often been on the vanguard, honoring previously unknown authors who go on to garner national acclaim. John Steinbeck received three gold medals – for Tortilla Flat in 1935, In Dubious Battle in 1936 and The Grapes of Wrath in 1939.


Recent award winners include Jared Diamond, Adam Johnson, Kay Ryan, Bill Vollman, Joyce Maynard, Andrew Sean Greer, Yiyun Li, Adrienne Rich, Chalmers Johnson, Richard Rodriguez, Michael Chabon, Philip Levine, Rebecca Solnit, Galen Rowell, Jonathan Lethem, Peter Orner and Kevin Starr.

Founded in 1903, The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation’s oldest and largest public affairs forum, with more than 18,000 members. The Club hosts speeches, debates and discussions on topics of regional, national and international interest.


About Bank of the West
Founded in 1874, $68 billion-asset Bank of the West (, member FDIC and equal housing lender, offers a wide range of personal, commercial, wealth management and international banking services. The bank operates more than 600 retail and commercial banking locations in 19 Western and Midwestern states. Bank of the West is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, which has a presence in 80 countries with 190,000 employees, including 145,000 in Europe.


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Gold Medals Awarded to:


FICTION: Karen Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Putnam/Marian Wood


FIRST FICTION: Anthony Marra: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Hogarth


NONFICTION: Eric Schlosser: Command And Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, Penguin Press


POETRY: Brenda Hillman: Seasonal Works With Letters On Fire, Wesleyan University Press


JUVENILE: Marissa Moss: Barbed Wire Baseball, Harry N. Abrams Books for Young Readers


YOUNG ADULT: Tom McNeal: Far Far Away, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, Random House



Deborah Valoma: Scrape the Willow Until It Sings: The Words and Work of Basket Maker Julia Parker

 Photographs by Lee Fatherree


CALIFORNIANA: Ronald M. George, retired California Supreme Court Chief Justice, Chief: The Quest for Justice in California, University of California, Berkeley: Public Policy Press




Silver Medals Awarded to:


NON FICTION: Amy Wilentz: Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti, Simon & Schuster


POETRY: Victoria Chang: The Boss, McSweeney's




California Book Awards:


Link to #CBA83 Awards Ceremony page:


Link to #CBA83 video of winners:


Link to CBA page: