Contact Information

<p style="font-size: 12px; background-color: rgb(240, 240, 240);"><strong style="font-size: 12px;">Riki Rafner</strong><br />
Director of Media/Public Relations<br />
<a class="spamspan" href="; style="font-size: 12px; font-weight: bold;"></a><br />
(415) 597-6712</p>
<p style="font-size: 12px; background-color: rgb(240, 240, 240);">The Commonwealth Club<br />
555 Post Street<br />
San Francisco, CA 94102</p>

SAN FRANCISCO – (March 28, 2016) The Commonwealth Club has announced this year’s finalists for the California Book Awards.  Book lovers from around the state will gather on Monday, June 13, at 6 p.m. at 555 Post Street, San Francisco to recognize the winners at a special program and reception.  For tickets, call (415) 597-6700


“Literature probes and distills the meaning of life,” said Dr. Gloria Duffy, President and CEO of the Commonwealth Club.  “California writers have such a rich source of inspiration and deep reservoir of expression for their work.  The Club has been proud to recognize the best of California literature every year for 85 years.  This spring, we will once again pay tribute to California’s best literary work.  Our thanks to the generous jurors, many of them authors themselves, who take the time to review hundreds of submissions each year.”

The Awards jury chair, Mary Ellen Hannibal, added that “By early May the jury will announce winners from a slate of supremely accomplished finalists. Among them are works that have already received major national awards, including fiction by Adam Johnson and nonfiction by Sam Quinones.  The jury strives to uncover books that have been overlooked by others, however, so we also have gems from relative unknowns Lucia Berlin and Ernest J. Finny.  "Choosing among these books is an agonizing pleasure," Hannibal commented.  "One not to deprive yourself of -- read all the finalists!"

She added that the celebratory spirit of the awards ceremony will include pause for remembering two vital members of the Awards team who died this year.  Justin Chin was a long-time poetry juror, author of five volumes of poetry himself.  “Justin had an ability to quiet the rest of us, to bring our attention to deep tones in all categories of writing which we otherwise would have passed over.  His kind generosity is sorely missed,” said Hannibal. We would also like to acknowledge Martha Heasley Cox, an extraordinary benefactor of literature and creativity. Dr. Cox foundationally supported the California Book Awards, among other endowments all focused on encouraging and supporting new talent.  She was also a long-time fiction juror. “Martha was an unparalleled reader,” Hannibal commented. "We all strive to read as generously and as carefully as she did."

The 85th Annual California Book Awards ceremony will take place Monday, June 13, 2016 at 6 pm at the Commonwealth Club, 555 Post 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. 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 Adam Johnson, Jared Diamond, Karen Fowler, 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 20,000 members. The Club hosts speeches, debates and discussions on topics of regional, national and international interest.


Link to 85TH Annual CBA FINALISTS video here:


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Ghettoside, Jill Leovy, Spiegel & Grau


Dreamland, Sam Quinones

Bloomsbury Press -


Neurotribes, Steve Silberman, Avery


Custer's Trials, T.J. Stiles, Knopf/Doubleday:


A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin: Farrar, Straus and Giroux


Elevation 6040, Ernest J. Finney, Texas Review Press


Fortune Smiles, Adam Johnson, Penguin/Random House


Drum Dream Girl, Margarita Engle, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers):


Mummy Cat, Marcus Ewert,

Clarion Books - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH Books for Young Readers):


George, Alex Gino, Scholastic Press


Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth, Judd Winick, Random House

First Fiction

The Girl Who Slept With God, Val Brelinski, Viking/Random House


The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Grove/Atlantic


Young Adult

Full Cicada Moon, Marilyn Hilton, Dial Books for


Echo, Pam Munoz Ryan, Scholastic Press


Challenger Deep, Neal Shusterman,

Harper Teen


The Alex Crow, Andrew Smith, Dutton Books for Young Readers:



Land Sparing, Gabriella Klein, Nightboat Books:


Notes on the Assembla


ge, Juan Felipe Herrera, City Lights Publishers:


Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems, Robin Coste Lewis, Knopf/Doubleday


The Ghost in Us Was Multiplying, Brent Armendinger, Noemi Press: 


Cancer Angel, Beth Murray, Belladonna Publishing



Founded in 1903, The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation’s largest and most active public affairs forum, with about 22,000 members.  Based in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the Club hosts over 450 conversations, town hall meetings, lectures, performances and discussions each year on issues of regional, national and international significance.  At least one million people hear The Commonwealth Club’s weekly radio broadcasts on more than 230 stations across the country. The Club hosts Climate One, a dialogue on climate change, and the program series Inforum.  The Club is temporarily located at 555 Post Street in San Francisco.  The Club’s new headquarters is currently under construction at 110 The Embarcadero in San Francisco.


For more information




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