California Book Awards



Blackouts, by Justin Torres 
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

All-Night Pharmacy, by Ruth Madievsky 

Orphan Bachelors: A Memoir, by Fae Myenne Ng 
Grove Press

Mass for Shut-Ins, by Mary-Alice Daniel 
Yale University Press

Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed, by Dashka Slater MacMillan Children’s Group

The Honey Jar: An Armenian’s Escape to Freedom, by Joan Schoettler 
Bushel & Peck Books

California Against the Sea: Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline, by Rosanna Xia 
Heyday Book

KAOS Theory: The Afrokosmic Ark of Ben Caldwell, by Robeson Taj Frazier 
Angel City Press


The Chinese Groove, by Kathryn Ma 
Counterpoint Press

Daughter of the Dragon: Anna May Wong’s Rendezvous with American History, by Yunte Huang 
W.W. Norton and Company

The Blood Years, by Elana K. Arnold 
Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins Children’s Books

Since 1931, the California Book Awards have honored the exceptional literary merit of California writers and publishers. Eligible books must be written while the author is a resident in California and must be published during the year under consideration.

Books published in 2024 may be submitted starting in August.

Click to learn more about the awards


Christopher Chen is an associate professor of literature and creative writing at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Chen has published articles, poetry, interviews and reviews in boundary 2, Post45 Contemporaries, 1913: A Journal of Forms, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and The New Inquiry. He is the author of Literature and Race in the Democracy of Goods (Bloomsbury, 2022), a comparative study of contemporary Black and Asian North American experimental poetry. 

Roy Eisenhardt is a lecturer at UC Berkeley and USF schools of law. He is a former attorney, president of the Oakland Athletics and executive director of the California Academy of Sciences.

Peter Fish is a San Francisco-based writer, editor and teacher. For many years travel editor of Sunset magazine, he now writes regularly for the San Francisco ChronicleViaCoastal Living and other publications. In fall of 2018 he was Rachel Rivers-Coffey Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Appalachian State University; he currently teaches travel and nature writing for Stanford Continuing Studies. His fiction has appeared most recently in The Sewanee Review.

Kelly Loy Gilbert is the author of Conviction, a finalist for the Morris Award; Picture Us in the Light, a California Book Award winner and Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist; and, most recently, When We Were Infinite. She writes and occasionally teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Gravity Goldberg is the director of public programs and visitor experience at The Contemporary Jewish Museum. She sits on the advisory board for the Litquake Literary Festival, and is the co-founder of Instant City: A Literary Exploration of San Francisco. She lives in San Francisco with her brilliant husband and fluff ball of a cat.

Mary Ellen Hannibal is a journalist and author, most recently of Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction. It received a Nautilus Book Award and was named one of the best books of 2016 by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Gordon Jack is the author of two young adult novels, The Boomerang Effect (HarperTeen, 2016) and Your Own Worst Enemy (HarperTeen, 2018). When he’s not writing books, he’s recommending them as librarian at Los Altos High School, where he’s worked since 1995.

Scott James is an Emmy-winning veteran journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times. His most recent book is Trial by Fire: A Devastating Tragedy, 100 Lives Lost, and a 15-Year Search for Truth, which reopened the investigation into one of America’s deadliest criminal cases. Trial by Fire won the 2021 top prize for nonfiction from the New England Society Book Awards, plus was the subject of an episode of the CBS News program “48 Hours.” James is also the author of the two bestselling novels SoMa and The Sower, both written under the pen name Kemble Scott.

Evan Karp is the founding director of Quiet Lightning and events manager for Booksmith and Berkeley Arts & Letters. He’s written literary columns for the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, SF WeeklySF/Arts and The Rumpus, and his nonfiction and poetry have appeared widely in print and online. Evan has released three albums combining music, words and other sounds, two with his brother Miles as Turk & Divis and one with Maw Shein Win as Vata & the Vine.

Nathalie Khankan is the author of Quiet Orient Riot, published by Omnidawn in 2020, recipient of the 2021 California Book Award in Poetry. She was the founding director of the Danish House in Palestine and now teaches Arabic language and literature at UC Berkeley.

Maya Makker (she/her) grew up in the Central Valley and studied at UC Davis. She has worked as an educator in art, history, and science museums, and is passionate about telling diverse stories in our cultural institutions. Her love of books and collaborating with youth led her to 826 Valencia, where she now works as the communications manager.

Madison McCartha is a poet, critic, and multimedia artist whose debut book of poetry and visual art, Freakophone World, was published by Inside the Castle in 2021. Their second book, The Cryptodrone Sequence, is forthcoming from Black Ocean. McCartha holds an MFA from the University of Notre Dame, and is a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. McCartha's writing can be found in Black Warrior ReviewBombDenver QuarterlyjubilatThe Spectacle, and elsewhere.

Sarah Rosenthal is the author of Estelle Meaning Star (Chax, forthcoming); The Grass Is Greener When the Sun Is Yellow (Operating System, 2019, a collaboration with Valerie Witte); Lizard (Chax, 2016); and Manhatten (Spuyten Duyvil, 2009), as well as numerous chapbooks. She edited A Community Writing Itself: Conversations with Vanguard Writers of the Bay Area (Dalkey Archive, 2010). Her film We Agree on the Sun has received screenings and awards from numerous film festivals, including Best Experimental Short at the 2021 Berlin Independent Film Festival.

Scott Saul is a historian and critic who has written for The New York TimesHarper'sThe Nation, and other publications. He is the author of Becoming Richard Pryor (2014), longlisted for the PEN Biography Prize, and Freedom Is, Freedom Ain't: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties (2003), which received the American Book Award. He teaches courses in American literature and history at UC-Berkeley, where he is a professor of English. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and son.

Julia Flynn Siler is the author of two New York Times bestselling works of nonfiction, The House of Mondavi and Lost Kingdom. She is a former staff writer and longtime contributor to The Wall Street Journal, and her work has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, the Oxford Dictionary of Food and Wine, and other publications. She received a 2016–2017 National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar award to support her new book, The White Devil’s Daughter’s: The Women Who Fought Slavery in San Francisco’s Chinatown (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019).

Lauren Silver is the vice president for education at The Commonwealth Club. She has taught in museums, pre-K–12 classrooms, and universities, and she holds a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from UC Berkeley, where her research focused on young children’s development of art and narrative.

Mary Taugher is a fiction writer whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals in print and online, including Narrative MagazineThe Gettysburg ReviewSanta Monica ReviewNotre Dame ReviewPrime Number Magazine, and Coolest American Stories. She lives in San Francisco, where she is working on a short story collection.

Dora-Linda Wang is the author of The Kitchen Shrink: A Psychiatrist’s Reflections on Healing in a Changing World (Riverhead Penguin Random House, 2010), her historical memoir of practicing as a psychiatrist, as the noble profession of medicine devolves into an industry driven by dollars.  A graduate of the Yale School of Medicine, she has served as president of the American Psychiatric Association Caucus of Asian American Psychiatrists. She has won a Lannan Foundation Writers Residency, a New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, and the Pfeiffer Visiting Scholar Award from Stanford University.  Born in Brazil, she has roots in San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles.  

Please direct any questions regarding the Book Awards to: 

Click to learn more about the awards.

The California Book Awards for Youth

Since 2020, The Commonwealth Club has partnered with the National Writing Project to bring the California Book Awards to youth. Each year, students are invited to read the finalists in the Juvenile and Young Adult Literature categories and publish their responses to a set of writing prompts online. Working with schools, libraries and other educational settings, the project supports young people’s literacy development by providing a safe and age-appropriate space for reading, writing, sharing and media creation.


  • Books in the categories of Fiction, First Work of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Juvenile (to age 12), Young Adult, Californiana, and Contribution to Publishing
  • Work must have been written by authors living in California at the time their work was published or submitted for publication.
  • To be eligible for Californiana, the work must deal with a California-based issue, topic, or historical period.
  • To be eligible for Contribution to Publishing, the publisher must be a California resident.
  • To be eligible for Juvenile, the writer AND illustrator (if applicable) must be California residents.
  • To be eligible for First Work of Fiction, the work must be the author’s first fictional effort. Previously published short story collections will disqualify an author from the First Work of Fiction category; however, the author can still submit for the Fiction category.
  • Short story collections and essays by the same author will be accepted for consideration under the Fiction category.
  • If certain stories in the short story or essay collection have been published previously, the work may still be submitted for consideration. Eligibility is at the discretion of the jury.


  • Self-published works
  • Works from a publishing house that does not have some sort of vetting process
  • E-books
  • Guidebooks or manuals
  • “As told to” books
  • Anthologies from multiple authors
  • Works by dual authors, unless both authors are California residents
  • Translations of deceased authors or older works
  • Reprints of books published in previous years

Please direct any questions regarding the Book Awards to: