Last Friday afternoon, as part of the week’s virtual regional trade show, booksellers from around the Pacific Northwest watched members of the PNBA Book Awards Committee present a selection of books they are excited about for the 2021 Book Awards.
About 400 titles have been nominated for the award (more were arriving during the conference). To be eligible, a book must have been published between October 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020 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, 2021.
The committee is chaired by Alexa Butler from Beach Books in Seaside, OR. Other members sharing their enthusiasm for regional titles included Ruby Meyers of Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland, OR; Rosa Hernandez of Third Place Books, Seattle, WA; Realy Ann Wingert of Rediscovered Books in Boise and Caldwell, ID; Anna Ecklund, freelancer and former bookseller at University Book Store of Seattle, WA; Earl Dizon of Green Bean Books in Portland, OR, and Jill Owens Leigh of Powell’s Books in Portland, OR.
Below are some of the books mentioned in the preview; a second post with the rest of the titles recommended by the committee and audience will be posted on Friday.
The Writer’s Library: The Authors You Love on the Books That Changed Their Lives by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager. Rosa likes that this book will help you rediscover old favorites. She appreciates that it is full of good short pieces, so you feel like you’re at dinner with your favorite authors.
Birdsong by Julie Flett. Ruby recommends this beautiful picture book about an intergenerational friendship, seasons, and changes in a lifetime.
This Is My America by Kim Johnson. Realy Ann picked this to share because it was such a ambitious, and well-written young adult novel. It’s a murder mystery and a spotlight on institutional racism, but it also shows a powerful relationships, like the one between the main character and her father on death row.
Lupe Wong Won’t Dance by Donna Barba Higuera. Earl declares this “wonderful middle grade!” The Chinese-Mexican main character loves baseball, but her PE class’s square dancing segment is getting in the way of the straight A’s she needs to get the opportunity to meet her baseball hero. This passionate and relatable story should appeal to fans of Kelly Yang and Jewell Parker Rhodes.
Snail Crossing by Corey R. Tabor. Jill’s picture book pick is charming, light, and hilarious. It was also a big hit with the six-year-old in the house– engaging even for someone who thought they were getting too grown-up for picture books.
Godshot by Chelsea Bieker. Anna’s appreciation for this debut novel got a lot of affirmations from the panel and the audience alike. Anna told us that this surprising novel touches on serious issues of abandonment and abuse as well as found family and coming of age manages to be beautiful– breathtaking, even. (To read more about the author and book, you can visit our archives.)
Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. Even though the committee has to make sure this book is eligible (was Allie in the PNW when it published?), Alexa wanted to share her love for it no matter what. It’s hilarious and thick– a real treat.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. Rosa enthused that “the hype is real– this is a very good book!” Great family dynamics, representation, and magic systems make it easy to understand why this YA is a bestseller.
The Galleons by Rick Barot. Ruby shone the spotlight on this poetry collection, in which every poem is on-theme (the theme of history) in such varied ways.
Spindle and Dagger by J. Anderson Coats. Realy Ann wanted to make sure folks knew this was YA and not middle grade, since this richly-imagined historical fiction has some intense themes. The writing and story are so good (and the audiobook on Libro.fm is so well done) that she recommends it for adults as well as teens.
The Blue House by Phoebe Wahl. This new picture book is reminiscent of Virgina Lee Burton’s The Little House, but is its own wonderful, beautiful entity, Earl tells us. The book addresses gentrification on a personal level, and it delights as a physical level as well, with gorgeous endpapers and details under the dust jacket.