Read All About It: The 2017 Colorado Book Award Winners


Some of the 2017 Colorado Book Award winners. Courtesy Colorado Humanities

Looking for real page turners to add to your summer reading list? Go local with the 26th annual Colorado Book Award winning selections.

The second-oldest state book award program in the country (right behind Florida) announced the winners of its yearly contest at the end of May at a celebration event at the Parker Arts, Culture and Events Center.

The Colorado Center for the Book, hosted by Colorado Humanities for the past 13 years, runs the local contest, where area writers can submit works by genre. This year, the Colorado Center for the Book received a near record number of 191 entries for 14 categories. We talked with Josephine Jones, Colorado Humanities’ director of programs, about the long-standing contest and some of her favorite books from this year’s list (find the winners below).

Why did you start the book awards?

“The Colorado Center for the Book was founded to promote a love of reading and books in Colorado. People are often best excited about work that talks about where they live or something they are connected to. Promoting local writers through Colorado readers is the first step, I think, in engaging readers with writing. It’s so much fun, for instance, to open up our book submissions and see Denver street scenes and Colorado landscapes that we all love.”

How are the winners chosen?

“This is a people’s award essentially. The books go through two levels of adjudication by volunteers. A group of volunteer-based selectors choose the finalists and then our selected judges choose the winners from the finalist list. Most of our judges have also published in the genres they are judging or they are professors or librarians or bookstore owners. But we also invite avid readers to volunteer as selectors and judges. We keep our selectors’ and judges’ names anonymous.

“I’m always impressed by the finalist list. To me, if you’ve been able to write a book, get it published and reach this level in our adjudication, it’s a good book to read. That finalist list would be a great annual reading list for people. I’ve done it—it’s really fun! Especially something like Thomas Andrews’ book on the Coyote Valley and Rocky Mountain National Park (see more information below). You might not ordinarily be a reader of nonfiction history, but if you love that landscape as so many of us do, it’s just going to attract you. And it’s such a great narrative.”

Is it difficult for the judges to pick the winners?

“Some categories go into fairly prolonged and heated debates. Our volunteers are usually professionals and they come to an agreement eventually. But if you look at some categories and you see that there are four finalists, it’s because they simply couldn’t leave one out—we ask them to come up with three.”

What’s your favorite thing about this contest?

“Getting to hear the book award winners read at the finalist reading at The Book Bar. It’s about the most fun you can have. You’re in a wonderful little shop on Tennyson Street that’s full of good books, wonderful food and drink and a wonderful staff. Hearing the book in the author’s own voice and getting to meet them and ask questions about the book’s creation is always my favorite part.”

How do you hope that the book awards inspire people?

“As a writer myself, I always feel inspired to do what the anthology editor Mario Acevedo said in an interview after the book awards, ‘Go ahead and risk getting your work out there.’ Writers create alone and it’s often a very lonely process. That point when a book is ready to be shared inspires me to get my own projects done.”

What’s your favorite book right now?

“Well, obviously it’s Thomas Andrews’ ‘Coyote Valley.’ It’s the deep history of this book that I find really exciting.”

The 2017 WINNERS
All available at Amazon, The Book Bar and various other locations

“Found: Short Stories by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers” edited by Mario Acevedo
GENRE: Anthology
WHAT: A collection of 15 tales of short fiction about the consequences of finding something that was once lost or forgotten.

“Rough Riders: Theodore Roosevelt, His Cowboy Regiment, and the Immortal Charge Up San Juan Hill” by Mark Lee Gardner
GENRE: Biography
WHAT: Gardner takes a fresh look at Roosevelt’s famous volunteer army that helped drive the Spaniards from Cuba and pays tribute to their feats and leader with previously unknown pieces of the historical puzzle.

“Octopuses One to Ten” by Ellen Jackson, illustrations by Robin Page
GENRE: Children’s literature
WHAT: The kids will learn to count in the mysterious world of octopuses. Facts, crafts and other learning activities included.

“The Man Who Thought He Owned Water: On the Brink with American Farms, Cities, and Food” by Tershia d’Elgin
GENRE: Creative nonfiction
WHAT: d’Elgin’s uses her family’s experience with water rights to shed light on American farms, food and water administration in the West in light of city growth and climate change.

“Breaking Wild: A Novel” by Diane Les Becquets
GENRE: General fiction
WHAT: A mother of two goes missing after a remote weekend away and ranger Pru Hathaway becomes obsessed with finding her after discovering more of her secrets.

“Colorado Then & Now” by Grant Collier
GENRE: General nonfiction
WHAT: A sequel to “Colorado Yesterday & Today,” this book contains 200 new photographs that capture the changes that have occurred in Colorado throughout the last 145 years.

“Amaryllis and Other Stories” by Carrie Vaughn
GENRE: Genre fiction
WHAT: Tales of strange magic, alien encounters, historical settings and more are found in this compilation of Vaughn’s short fiction work from over the past 15 years.

“Coyote Valley: Deep History in the High Rockies” by Thomas G. Andrews
GENRE: History
WHAT: From the ice age to climate change, delve into what has shaped one hidden corner of Rocky Mountain National Park in this book.

“Waiting for Augusta” by Jessica Lawson
GENRE: Juvenile literature
WHAT: Benjamin Putter embarks on a quest to get to his hometown, which boasts one of the most famous golf courses in the world, and finds a friend, strange and wonderful surprises and maybe even magic on the way.

“13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl” by Mona Awad
GENRE: Literary fiction
WHAT: Awad tackles our body image-obsessed culture through a main character’s struggle to no longer look in the mirror and see a fat girl.

“Blood on the Tracks” by Barbara Nickless
GENRE: Mystery
WHAT: A police special agent is forced to question all she holds dear when one murder leads her to discover a wide-reaching conspiracy and a series of shocking crimes.

“Post-: Poems” by Wayne Miller
GENRE: Poetry
WHAT: The poems in Miller’s fourth collection process grief and finding a way forward through the birth of a child, the death of a father and the sociohistorical and political conflicts and violence that have occurred over the last 15 years.

“Revelation: A Thriller” by Carter Wilson
GENRE: Thriller
WHAT: Harden Campbell must try to escape his sociopath roommate’s grasp with his story of what happened over the past year at Wyland University in this thrilling tale.

“Beneath Wandering Stars” by Ashlee Cowles
GENRE: Young adult literature
WHAT: One woman’s vow to her brother may mean she has to take the most excruciating trip of her life. This is a story of love, danger, laughter and friendship, against all odds.

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