(Evan Karp)

After a long year of books, book tours, new adventures in social media prostitution (whatever that means), and a surge in series and publicationsThe Northern California Book Reviewers presented the best works by NoCal authors published in 2010 and presented the Fred Cody Lifetime Achievement Award to Tamim Ansary. Perhaps aptly, this event was concurrent with the across-town Anarchist Bookfair, which I was sorry to miss … until I got to the library and realized what was happening there.

Since 1981, the Northern California Book Reviewers (formerly BABRA), a volunteer group of book reviewers and book review editors, has honored the work of Northern California authors. Joyce Jenkins, editor of Poetry Flash — one of the event’s sponsors — said:

Over these past 30 years, I’ve seen near-mortal literary combat. The desire to read and write and honor Northern California authors always survives the fray, and is passed to the future. … We review the kinds of books that are often ignored by the media: cutting edge political ideas, serious histories, edgy poetry, fiction by Norther California writers from West Coast presses … these are the books that need to make a bigger impact on the national consciousness. … We dedicate ourselves to identifying and recommending the best new books from hundreds and hundreds of titles by Northern California authors.

One of the NCBR’s founders was Fred Cody, proprietor of the famed independent bookstore Cody’s Books in Berkeley. Shortly after his death, the group created an award in his name to honor a lifetime of achievements and distinguished service to the literary community. For more information, including previous recipients, click here.

The 2011 Awards were presented and sponsored by Northern California Book Reviewers, Poetry Flash, Center for the Art of Translation, PEN West, Mechanics’ Institute, Red Room, San Francisco Public Library and Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.



Ivan and Misha, stories, Michael Alenyikov, TriQuarterly Books

Heidegger’s Glasses, Thaisa Frank, Counterpoint

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, stories, Yiyun Li, Random House

Death is Not an Option, stories, Suzanne Rivecca, W.W. Norton

The More I Owe You, Michael Sledge, Counterpoint

Winner: Ivan and Misha, stories, by Michael Alenyikov


General Nonfiction

Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Simon & Schuster

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, Michael Lewis, W. W. Norton

Maid as Muse: How Servants Changed Emily Dickinson’s Life and Language, Aífe Murray, University Press of New England

Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, Robert B. Reich, Alfred A. Knopf

The Twilight of the Bombs: Recent Challenges, New Dangers, and the Prospects for a World Without Nuclear Weapons, Richard Rhodes, Alfred A. Knopf

Winner: Winner-Take-All Politics, by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson


Creative Nonfiction

Not by Chance Alone: My Life as a Social Psychologist, Elliot Aronson, Basic Books

A State of Change: Forgotten Landscapes of California, Laura Cunningham, Heyday

Cakewalk, a memoir, Kate Moses, The Dial Press

Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, Rebecca Solnit, University of California Press

Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean, Julia Whitty, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Winner: Infinite City, by Rebecca Solnit



Suck on the Marrow, Camille T. Dungy, Red Hen Press

Trance Archive: New and Selected Poems, Andrew Joron, City Lights Publishers

Writing the Silences, Richard O. Moore, University of California Press

Rough Honey, Melissa Stein, The American Poetry Review

Pleasure, Brian Teare, Ahsahta Press

Come on All You Ghosts, Matthew Zapruder, Copper Canyon Press

Winner: Suck on the Marrow, by Camille T. Dungy




Translation by Anne Milano AppelBlindly, by Claudio Magris, from Italian, Penguin Group (Canada)

Translation by David FrickA Thousand Peaceful Cities, by Jerzy Pilch, from Polish, Open Letter Books

Translation by Damion SearlsComedy in a Minor Key, by Hans Keilson, from German, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Winner: David Frick, A Thousand Peaceful Cities



Translation by Kurt Bealsengulf—enkindle, by Anja Utler, from German,
Burning Deck

Translation by Joshua EdwardsFicticia, by María Baranda, from Spanish, Shearsman Books

Translation by John Sakkis and Angelos SakkisMaribor, by Demosthenes Agrafiotis, from Greek, Post-Apollo Press

Winner: John Sakkis and Angelos Sakkis, Maribor


Children’s Literature

Arroz con leche/Rice Pudding: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem, Jorge Argueta, illustrator Fernando Vilela, Groundwood Books/Libros Tigrillo

The Haunting of Charles Dickens, Lewis Buzbee, Feiwel and Friends

The Vinyl Princess, Yvonne Prinz, HarperTeen/HarperCollins Publishers

Other Goose: Re-Nurseried!! and Re-Rhymed!! Children’s ClassicsJ. Otto Seibold, Chronicle Books

Shooting Kabul, N.H. Senzai, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Paula Wiseman Books

Winner: The Haunting of Charles Dickens, by Lewis Buzbee


Special Recognition

Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry, edited by Neelanjana Banerjee, Summi Kaipa, and Pireeni Sundaralingam, University of Arkansas Press


Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Achievement

Afghan American writer, lecturer, editor and teacher Tamim Ansary

[intro included in clip below]

I have come to appreciate that there’s always more work to be done, and it’s never over until it’s over. However, right now I just want to say I’m really glad and, in some ways, amused, that this award is partly in recognition of what I’ve done for the San Francisco Writers Workshop. Amused, I would say, because it’s funny to get an award for something that’s so much fun and has been so personally rewarding. It’s like getting an “A” for recess. And I think of how much poorer my life would be if I hadn’t, because of this workshop, met so many great writers and friends …