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The Commonwealth Club of California 
110 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 
Contact: John Zipperer

Press Release  


Finalists Announced: 92nd Annual California Book Awards Competition

SAN FRANCISCO – (March 9, 2023) Celebrating its 92nd birthday, The Commonwealth Club of California’s California Book Awards has selected this year’s finalists for its 2023 awards. One of the oldest and most distinguished literary award programs in the nation has chosen 26 outstanding books in six categories, out of hundreds of titles submitted. From these finalists the award jury will choose gold and silver medal award winners to be announced in May. 

“The California Book Awards remind us how important it is to give recognition to authors and to honor the role books play in our collective health and well-being,” commented Award Jury Co-Chair Gravity Goldberg.  

The finalists, Goldberg notes, “illuminate the issues that define our moment.” Fiction nominees include an epic novel set in 1940s Owens Valley, and a brooding examination of family loss. Among the First Fiction nominees is a harrowing account of sexual exploitation in Oakland, and a poignant portrait of friendship between two Sierra Nevada mountain climbers. Nonfiction contenders include an engrossing tale of a magically gifted family in Colombia and a groundbreaking history of the migrant rebels who sparked the 1910 Mexican Revolution. Among the Juvenile finalists is a moving illustrated biography of Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley; Young Adult finalists include a graphic novel that takes a new approach to the classic “three wishes” fable. In Poetry, finalists include a collection inspired by works of visual art and one that draws on the language of computer programming.  

The California Book Awards jury is made up of authors, editors, librarians, professors, and other literary professionals who spend six months reading the hundreds of books submitted by publishers—large and small—from all over the nation. Out of these they choose the best titles for finalists, and from those the gold and silver medalists announced in May.  


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 Rachel Kushner, Susan Orlean, David Treuer, Morgan Parker, and Steph Cha.  

Founded in 1903, The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation’s oldest and largest public affairs forum. The Club hosts hundreds of speeches, debates and discussions each year on topics of regional, national and international interest; its weekly radio program—heard on more than 230 stations nationwide—is the oldest continuing radio program in the country. 




Heartbroke, Chelsea Bieker, Catapult 


The Furrows, Namwali Serpell, Hogarth Books 


Properties of Thirst, Marianne Wiggins, Simon & Schuster 





The Red Arrow, William Brewer, Alfred A. Knopf   


Out There, Kate Folk, Random House 


The Rabbit Hutch, Tess Gunty, Alfred A. Knopf   


Native Air, Jonathan Howland, Green Writers Press 


Nightcrawling, Leila Mottley, Alfred A. Knopf    




The Man Who Could Move Clouds: A Memoir, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Doubleday 


American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy's Forgotten Crisis, Adam Hochschild, Mariner Books 


Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands, Kelly Lytle Hernández, W.W. Norton and Company 


Geography Is Destiny: Britain and the World: A 10,000-Year History, Ian Morris, Farrar, Straus and Giroux 




Hello I Must Be Going, David Hernandez, University of Pittsburgh Press 


To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness, Robin Coste Lewis, Alfred A. Knopf   


Before Whiteness, D.S. Marriott, City Lights Publishers  


Time Regime, Jhani Randhawa, Gaudy Boy 


How to Make an Algorithm in the Microwave, Maya Salameh, University of Arkansas Press 



Notes from a Sickbed, Tessa Brunton, Lerner Publishing Group 


Ophelia After All, Racquel Marie, Feiwel & Friends 


Cold, Mariko Tamaki, Roaring Brook Press 


The Well, Jake Wyatt, illustrated by Choo, First Second 




Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement, Angela Joy, illustrated by Janelle Washington, Roaring Brook Press 


In the Beautiful Country, by Jane Kuo, Quill Tree Books 


Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams’s Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration, Elizabeth Partridge, illustrated by Lauren Tamaki, Chronicle Books 


Twin Cities, Jose Pimienta, Random House Children’s Books 


Hello, Moon, Evan Turk, Atheneum Books for Young Readers