About the Book Prizes
The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were first awarded in 1980, with the idea of honoring literary excellence and celebrating the community of readers in Los Angeles. The inspiration of former Times book editor Art Seidenbaum, those first prizes included awards in four book categories – fiction, history, general nonfiction and poetry – as well as the inaugural Robert Kirsch Award, which was presented to Wallace Stegner for his extraordinary career and dedication to the literature of the west.
Now, more than thirty years later, the Book Prizes have expanded to 10 categories, have honored more than thirty writers from the west with the Kirsch Award, and now offer an Innovator’s Award, which recognizes the people and institutions that are doing cutting edge work to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future. But the essential mission – a commitment to literary excellence, to intelligence and engagement, to the writer of brilliance and the career of importance, to the most enduring aesthetic and cultural values – perseveres. Over the decades the recipients of these prizes have included a who’s who of contemporary literature, including Nobel Laureates Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Czeslaw Milosz and Doris Lessing: former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky; National Book Award winners Joan Didion and Allen Ginsberg; and Dave Eggers, who won the current interest prize for “Zeitoun” in the same year that he was named winner of the Innovator’s Award for his work with McSweeney’s, the 826 Literacy organization and his multitude of other achievements in the world of books.
The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes are judged by working writers, so in a very real sense they express the admiration of a community of peers. But even more, they tell us that reading is important, an essential way of connecting with, and understanding, the world in which we live. In a culture of flash and fashion, this can only bear repeating, which is what the Book Prizes do. Every year, they remind us of the power of books to move and enlighten us, to connect us to the best that we as human beings have to offer, to illuminate us through the written word.