We Northern Californians Have Book Awards Too

Jay Griffith’s A Sideways Look at Time has won the 2003 Discover Award for Non-Fiction. The award, sponsored by Barnes & Noble, grants Griffith $10,000 and heavy promotion in B&N stores. There’s just one problem. The people at B&N can’t keep track of publishing dates. Griffith’s book came out in 1999.

Michael Chabon on Philip Pullham.

The 2004 Northern California Book Award nominees have been announced:

Best Novel:

L’Affaire by Diane Johnson
Dream of the Blue Room by Michelle Richmond
And Now You Can Go by Vendela Vida
Daughter’s Keeper by Ayelet Waldman
Old School by Tobias Wolff

Short Story Collections:

Red Ant House by Ann Cummins
Denny Smith by Robert Gluck
How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by Z.Z. Packer


Life Watch by Willis Barnstone
The Starry Messenger by George Keithley
Notes from a Divided Country by Suji Kwock Kim
Apprehend by Elizabeth Robinson
The Room Where I Was Born by Briane Teare


The Chinese in America: A Narrative History by Iris Chang
Her Husband: Hughes and Plath, a Marriage by Diane Middlebrook
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West by Rebecca Solnit

Children’s Literature:

The City of Ember by Jeanne DePrau
Oh No! Gotta Go! by Susan Middleton Elya
Just A Minute: a Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales
The Day the Babies Crawled Away by Peggy Rathmann
Vampire High by Douglas Rees

Special Award: Translation: TBA

Lifetime Achievement: Philip Levine

The winners will be announced on March 24, 2004, and since the event is local, I may just be covering it.

And if there’s any lesson to be learned from this deal, it’s to keep your relationship with a best-selling author and take advantage of the nepotism. Nick Laird has won a six-figure deal for two books. The first one is titled Utterly Monkey. Kyle Smith is no doubt steaming after passing on a date with Z.Z. Packer. (via Maud, who I will never refer to as diminuitive)


  1. I really liked that Orringer book. It didn’t make as much of a splash as Knopf seemed to be shooting for, but some of the stories are brilliant.

  2. Diane Johnson??? That has to be a Book Babes nomination …

    Seriously, Ed, what do you plan to do about that?

  3. I actually LOVE Diane Johnson — she’s like Diner frosting.

    Also, she’s ill and known in Cali — that, plus movies, may have something to do with.

  4. Well, I should point out to everyone that the noms are all situated in NORTHERN CALIFORNIA. This is not a nationwide event. It’s an effort to celebrate local talent (i.e., Vollman, Alice Walker, and the like). In fact, if it weren’t for the NCBAs, I might never have read An Na’s excellent A Step from Heaven, a children’s book which dealt with both alcoholism and Asian immigrants with taut prose and heartfelt narrative.

    What do I plan to do about Diane Johnson? Nothing. The real threat there is Vendela Vida. If you thought Sofia Coppola was inarticulate, you haven’t seen Vida at a book signing. And Sofia, at least, has the decency to wash her hair.

  5. Hey, your blog is fun. If you do go to the NCIBA event, come up and say hello. These events can be a bit awkward for the lesser-known (& unknown) authors among us. I recently did a signing at which I had to sit beside some famous writer of mysteries or detective fiction or some such best-selling genre. His line of fans stretched out the door; I think I was probably mistaken for his assistant.

  6. Michelle: Thanks very much for the response. I must confess that I haven’t read your books, but I will definitely add “Dream of the Blue Room” to my list of coveted titles. And should I attend (which is likely), I will happily say hello.

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