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Riki Rafner

Finalists for the 86th Annual California Book Awards Competition Announced

SAN FRANCISCO – (April 5, 2017) 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 12, at 6 pm at 555 Post Street, San Francisco to recognize the winners at a special program and reception.  For tickets, call (415) 597-6700

“The book awards have been recognizing important contributions from California authors for 86 years now,” commented the Awards Jury Chair, Mary Ellen Hannibal.  “Over that time period our world has experienced massive perturbations.  But today we recognize ourselves to have landed in terra incognita, with our values and even our sense of reality called into question every day on the national stage.  Good books reconfirm a sense of ground, even as they challenge our assumptions about history, family, and relationships. They give us a lot to work with, and provide space for growth.”

While the award winners will be selected by the jury and announced in early May, Hannibal advocated digging deeply into all the finalist volumes.  “It’s a crazy task, to choose among these riches,” she said.  “The hard-working jury will sweat out our decisions, but interested readers would do well to read widely among these accomplished books.” 

This year’s award ceremony on June 12 will include a special tribute to Kevin Starr, a giant of California letters who died this past January.  Starr’s eight-volume history of the state, collectively known as “Americans and the California Dream,” lays out an epic story we are still unfolding today.  State Librarian of California for ten years, Starr’s inclusive and democratic approach remains a beacon among today’s shadows.

The 86th Annual California Book Awards ceremony will take place Monday, June 12, 2017 at 6 pm at the Commonwealth Club, 555 Post Street in San Francisco. 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 86th Annual CBA FINALISTS video here:





The Coyote’s Bicycle, Kimball Taylor, Tin House Books


Engineering Eden, Jordan Fisher Smith, Crown Publishing


The Other Slavery, Andrés Reséndez, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


Spain in Our Hearts, Adam Hochschild, Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


Strangers in Their Own Land, Arlie Russell Hochschild, The New Press



The Jungle Around Us, Anne Raeff, University of Georgia Press


Moonglow: A Novel, Michael Chabon, HarperCollins Publishers


The Portable Veblen, Elizabeth McKenzie, Penguin Press


They May Not Mean To But They Do, Cathleen Schine Sarah Crichton Books / Farrar, Straus and Giroux



The Airport Book, Lisa Brown, Roaring Brook Press


Cloud and Wallfish, Anne Nesbet, Candlewick Press


Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird, Pamela S. Turner, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers


Full of Beans, Jennifer L. Holm, Random House Books for Young Readers

First Fiction


Deceit and Other Possibilities, Vanessa Hua, Willow Publishing, Aquarius Books


Dog Years, Melissa Yancy, University of Pittsburgh Press


Young Adult


Garvey’s Choice, Nikki Grimes, Wordsong


Scythe, Neal Shusterman, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers


The Sun Is Also A Star, Nicola Yoon, Delacorte Press



Buck Studies, Douglas Kearney, Fence Books


Position Paper, Carol Snow, Counterpath Press


Restless Continent, Aja Couchois Duncan, Litmus Press


The Laughter of the Sphinx, Michael Palmer, New Directions Publishing Company


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