2020 marks the 40th year of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, given to books published in 2019 across twelve categories. Usually the awards ceremony would be the highlight of an annual weekend-long festival of books, but this year the winners were announced via Twitter, and speeches posted to YouTube.
Walter Mosley, best known for his Easy Rawlins mystery series, was honored for his contribution to work focusing on the American West with the 2019 Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement. Below are the winning titles and authors for six of the twelve categories. You can view the full list of winners and finalists here. Congratulations to all!
The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell
*Winner: Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction
An ambitious, genre-blending, first novel that weaves together the stories of three very different founding families across generations. Old Drift has been praised by the likes of Alice Sebold and Salman Rushdie, who called it “A dazzling debut, establishing Namwali Serpell as a writer on the world stage.” (The New York Times Book Review).
Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century by George Packer
Drawing on Holbrooke's diaries and papers, Packer's engaging nonfiction narrative offers an in-depth look at a man who was both admired and despised, brilliant, but also deeply flawed, and his role in America's foreign politics at the height of its influence and blind self-confidence.
The Topeka School by Ben Lerner
A moving family drama set at the turn of the century in the American Midwest, Lerner's novel explores the struggles of overcoming trauma and transgressions, and the effort to raise a son in what has become a culture of masculine toxicity. The Topeka School landed on multiple lists of the best books of 2019, including President Barack Obama's favorites of the year.
They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
A little-explored topic in the conversation on American slave owners, Jones-Rogers drew on a number of sources to demonstrate how white women in the South actively engaged in the slave market as a means to their own economic and social empowerment.
Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha
A suspense-filled story of two families, one Korean-American, the other African-American, who are forced to confront their past as Los Angeles once again ignites with unrest and violence in the wake of a racially motivated crime. A gripping and original novel about racial tension in the City of Angels.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
*Winner: Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction
Newly established this year, Marlon James' Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the first to receive this award. An epic novel that melds African history, mythology, and fantasy, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is story of a missing boy, and the mercenary hired to find him. The first book in the Dark Star trilogy, and lauded by Neil Gaiman as "A fantasy world as well-realized as anything Tolkien made."
The winners of the 2019 book awards were announced in twelve categories, 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the prize.