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Notes from the LAT 2010 Book Prizes


As most of you know, the LA Times Book Awards were this past Friday night, and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books took place on Saturday and Sunday at UCLA. 125,000 people were expected at the LATFOB and judging from the crowds I saw both days, it is likely that the book fest hit its mark or more.

But first the awards: the full list of the winners may be found here. (For those of you looking for a good reading list, the lists of winners and finalists are a great place to start. I’ve already downloaded on to my iPod the audible version of the First Fiction winner, Phillipp Meyer’s American Rust)

I was a judge for the category of Current Interest—along with my wonderful and wise colleagues Henry Weinstein and Bill Boyarsky, The three of us read a preposterous number of books, many of which were very deserving. (A few, not so much.)

We finally narrowed it down to the five below, all of which featured excellent writing and reporting and dealt topics of consequence.

“Columbine” by Dave Cullen
“Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers
“Strength in What Remains” by Tracy Kidder
“Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sharon WuDunn
“The Healing of America: The Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Healthcare” by T.R. Reid

The winner was Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun–my personal favorite and a book I can recommend unhesitatingly to any of you. It’s a great story, meticulously reported, and possessed of the grace and velocity of a good novel.

Eggers also got a newly created Innovator’s Award–which “recognizes the people and institutions that are doing cutting edge work to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future, whether in terms of new business models, new technologies or new applications of narrative art.”

(For the details go here.)

However, while assuredly very deserving of the latter honor, Eggers turned out not be be your average techno nerd/writer. In the course of accepting the two awards, Eggers blurted that the only way he got any reading done was to completely unplug the Internet at his house. “I only go online twice a day,” he said. Even then, in order to get a WiFi signal, he takes his laptop and drives to the parking lot of a local carpet store, and steals their WiFi.

When he and I spoke later on in the evening, we talked about the unplugging issue and I mentioned in passing that, unplugging aside, I thought that the iPhone app for his magazine “McSweeney’s was particularly good.

Eggers winced. “I’ve never seen it,” (said Mr. Innovation).

Me: “What?! You’re kidding.”

Eggers: (apologetically) I saw the drawing. I mean, I thought the drawing was good.

Me: No really, that’s bad.

Eggers: Probably.

[Here’s a demo of the app.]

Yet as a writer, a publisher, and as an innovative promoter of the written word-–from basic literacy to literature— Eggers is very, very good. As LA Times Book Review editor David Ulin said to me after he interviewed Dave Eggers on Saturday at the Book Festival—he’s the real deal.


  • “The Healing of America: The Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Healthcare” by T.R. Reid

    From the title, you couldn’t pick a worse book. Now, not only do you want every state to be the same as the liberal dream, you want every country to conform to some global standard, presumably managed by the U.N.

    No thanks. I like my freedoms and being able to call the county commissioner if I want something. I’m sure not going to worry about contacting someone in France to see how they do things before I decide what’s best for me.

    Liberals (I know that it’s all of them) hate the individual.

    They can’t do much of anything without injecting their socialist politics and anti-American rhetoric into everything, including the weather! (It’s hot today, it must be global warming.)

    – – –

    Over the past two weeks, I’ve been drug to three different in-town festivals. The crowds and number of rude people who block everyone else while they walk four or five abreast and then stop and talk in the middle of the flow drives me crazy – plus, a few of them smelled bad. Those sounded like they were from Europe.

    The number of folks at the L.A. book festival was more than the attendance of a big football game. That’s fine if you have your own seat for an event or a special relaxing room for participants, but it would drive me nuts for making my way through that mob.

    Did the festival drag in many people from the suburbs or was it mainly hippies, limousine liberals, minorities, and illegals?

  • Woody, the rant above sounds entirely crazy from beginning to end. Please bring your real self to the table.

    Otherwise you are just further making the case for me shutting down comments.


  • I propose that we put my comment to a vote.

    And, I didn’t even mention the tour of homes that we took and the painted portrait over the fireplace in one of them of the two “partners” who lived there. I’m not saying, but I think they are gay.

  • Were there any conservative books in the running for prizes? Probaby none were submitted, or the LAT would have shut down the entire festival.

  • Woody, this alone: Liberals (I know that it’s all of them) hate the individual.

    And statements like this are preposterous on their face. Were there any conservative books in the running for prizes? Probably none were submitted, or the LAT would have shut down the entire festival.

    Obviously if you checked the list of authors for the festival or the list of finalists for all the book prizes, you’d find those statements to be silly. Yet the remarks aren’t framed clearly jokes, so it’s hard to know what to do with them. They simply shut down discussion.

    I don’t get it.

  • Proving, once again, that liberals (maybe all of them) have no sense of humor. If you have to tell someone that you’re kidding or exaggerating, then the joke is bad or they’re clueless.

  • Celeste,

    Thanks so much for including my book (Columbine) in the five. I was really honored to be in that company. And Dave was so gracious when he met me. I was honored to “lose” to him–hahaha, though I didn’t feel like a loser at all.

    He also inspired me to get involved in his group (826…?) with young kids. If I ever get my butt moved to NYC, I plan to dive in.

    The fest was incredible, too.

    Thanks for this fun post.

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