On Monday afternoon, a roomful of booksellers from around the Pacific Northwest gathered to hear a panel of their peers, members of the PNBA Book Awards Committee, present for the 2020 Book Awards Preview.
Over 400 books have been nominated for the award. To be eligible, a book must have been published between October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019 and have an author (or illustrator) who resides in the Pacific Northwest (WA, OR, ID, MT, AK, or BC). A longlist of 12 titles will be announced in November and the six winning books will be announced in January, 2020.
Committee chair Alexa Butler from Beach Books in Seaside, OR welcomed the audience.
Hana Boxberger, Children’s Book Buyer for Village Books in Bellingham, WA shared some books she is enthusiastic about:
My Heart by Corinna Luyken of Olympia, WA. “My Heart reminds us with each breathtaking turn of th epage how our amazing hearts love and hurt and mend, all to make us exactly who we are. Plus look for the hearts hidden on every spread!”
A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry of Portland, OR. Hana loves that this is “quintessentially middle grade” in that with books for that age, “no matter how dark, there’s always a thread of hope.”
The Cassandra by Sharma Shields of Spokane, WA
Alexa Butler of Beach Books presented next, with a joking comment that “this year is really heavy in great children’s books. We’re going to do bare-knuckle boxing [to determine which books to honor].”
The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen of Seattle, WA. Her slide read, “Easily one of the greatest and strangest young adult fantasy books I’ve read all year. Bird castes, magic, love interest, and teeth for currency. Need I say more?” In person she told us, “It’s just weird, and I love it so much.”
Deep River by Karl Marlantes of WA. “It’s huge.”
Just Like Beverly by Vicki Conrad of Seattle, WA
Ariana Paliobagis of Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, MT shared:
The Cassandra by Sharma Shields. Her slide reads, “A haunting story of a woman trying to find a place for herself in the world while caught in the nuclear age in rural Washington. Echoes of Greek mythology and dark fever dreams make this a character and a novel you won’t soon forget.” Ariana noted that she likes that the book features a very non-traditional protagonist and “is dark and haunting, and you don’t know where it’s going even though you know the mythology” upon which it is based.
A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do by Pete Fromm of Montana. She calls this an “honest, touching, powerful portrait of grief and community.”
The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story by Aaron Bobrow-Strain of WA. Ariana just started reading this but is captured by this nonfiction that uses one woman’s story as a lens through which to view the history of immigration in the US and the US/Mexico border.
Charlotte Glover of Parnassus Books in Ketchikan, AK prefaced her recommendations with the fact that her customers are predominantly cruise ship passengers, so she is driven to find books that appeal to a lot of different readers.
Maybe by Kobi Yamada of Washington. “A Masterful picture book for all ages with gorgeous art and a truly inspiring message. I can see this book appealing to a wide range of people and becoming a classic.”
You Are No Longer in Trouble by Nicole Stellon O’Donnell of Fairbanks, AK. This is the book Charlotte told us she shared with someone on her flight to the conference. The author is a poet and school teacher.
I Am a Stranger Here Myself by Debra Gwartney, of Finn Rock, Oregon.
Sweeney on the Rocks by Allen Morris Jones of Montana. Charlotte says she doesn’t usually read books about the mob, but this was full of “so much verve and snap and sizzle” that she wanted to bring it up.
James Ganas of Third Place Books Ravenna in Seattle, WA shared next.
Is, Is Not by Tess Gallagher of Port Angeles, WA. James had this book with him, and I always note that a reader must love a book to bring it to a conference full of books. He praised the rhythms of her poems as well as her themes. He thinks the book “reads almost like a retrospective on a life while the life is still happening.”
A Grip of Time: When Prison Is Your Life by Lauren Kessler, Eugene, Or. James thinks this book, a memoir by a writing teacher whose students are maximum security prisoners, is very unique.
There were more great titles discussed… Stay tuned to hear what the audience mentioned and which other books the panel members wanted to bring up!