The Washington Center for the Book has selected 39 finalists in eight categories for the 2020 Washington State Book Awards (WSBA) for outstanding books published by Washington authors in 2019. This is the 54th year of the program, formerly called the Governor's Writers Awards.

A winner in each category will be announced on September 25, 2020.


  • “The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story” by Aaron Bobrow-Strain, of Walla Walla (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • “A House on Stilts: Mothering in the Age of Opioid Addiction” by Paula Becker, of Seattle (University of Iowa Press)
  • “I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi” by Gina Siciliano, of Seattle (Fantagraphics Books)
  • “Hangdog Days: Conflict, Change, and the Race for 5.14” by Jeff Smoot, of Seattle (Mountaineers Books)
  • “The Good Way: A Himalayan Journey” by Julie Tate-Libby, of Twisp (Koehler Books)

Creative Nonfiction

  • “Hard to Love: Essays and Confessions” by Briallen Hopper, formerly of Tacoma, now in Queens, NY (Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • “Become America: Civic Sermons on Love, Responsibility, and Democracy ” by Eric Liu, of Seattle (Sasquatch Books)
  • “Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese's” by Tiffany Midge, of Seattle (University of Nebraska Press)
  • “Shapes of Native Nonfiction: Collected Essays by Contemporary Writers” by Elissa Washuta, formerly of Seattle now in Columbus, OH and Theresa Warburton, of Bellingham (University of Washington Press)
  • “The Witches Are Coming” by Lindy West, of Seattle (Hachette Books)



  • “Hollow Kingdom” by Kira Jane Buxton, of Seattle (Grand Central Publishing)
  • “Stay and Fight” by Madeline ffitch, formerly of Seattle, now in Athens, OH (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • “One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow” by Olivia Hawker, of Friday Harbor (Lake Union Publishing)
  • “Deep River” by Karl Marlantes, of Duvall (Atlantic Monthly Press)
  • “The Cassandra” by Sharma Shields, of Spokane (Henry Holt and Co)
  • “The Bird King” by G. Willow Wilson, of Seattle (Grove Press)


General Nonfiction

  • “Seattle Style: High Fashion/High Function” by Museum of History & Industry and Clara Berg, of Seattle (University of Washington Press)
  • “Olmsted in Seattle: Creating a Park System for a Modern City” by Jennifer Ott, of Seattle (HistoryLink and Documentary Media)
  • “Seattle Walk Report: An Illustrated Walking Tour through 23 Seattle Neighborhoods” by Susanna Ryan, of Seattle (Sasquatch Books)
  • “The Big Thaw: Ancient Carbon, Modern Science, and a Race to Save the World” by Eric Scigliano, of Seattle (Braided River / Mountaineers Books)
  • “Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World” by Anu Taranath, of Seattle (Between the Lines Press)



  • “Bright Stain” by Francesca Bell, formerly of Spokane now lives in Novato, CA (Red Hen Press)
  • “Turn Around Time: A Walking Poem for the Pacific Northwest” by David Guterson, of Bainbridge Island; illustrated by Justin Gibbens, of Thorp (Mountaineers Books)
  • “All Its Charms” by Keetje Kuipers, of Bainbridge Island (BOA Editions)
  • “Hail and Farewell” by Abby E. Murray, of Puyallup (Perugia Press)
  • “Nightingale” by Paisley Rekdal, formerly of Seattle now lives in Salt Lake City, UT (Copper Canyon Press)



Picture Books

  • "Ghost Cat” by Kevan Atteberry, of Bellevue (Neal Porter Books / Holiday House)
  • “Flora Forager ABC” by Bridget Beth Collins, of Seattle (Little Bigfoot)
  • “Lasting Love” by Caroline Wright, of Seattle, illustrated by Willow Heath, of Seattle (Rodale Kids)


Books for Young Readers

  • "King & Kayla and the Case of Found Fred" by Dori Hillestad Butler, of Kirkland (Peachtree Press)
  • “Sauerkraut” by Kelly Jones, of Shoreline (Alfred A Knopf/Penguin Random House)
  • “Growing Up Gorilla: How a Zoo Baby Brought Her Family Together” by Clare Hodgson Meeker, of Friday Harbor (Lerner Publishing Group)
  • “Last Meeting of the Gorilla Club” by Sara Nickerson, of Seattle (Dutton Children's Books)
  • “Professor Renoir’s Collection of Oddities, Curiosities, and Delights” by Randall Platt, of Port Orchard (HarperCollins Children's Books)
  • “Explorer Academy: The Falcon's Feather” by Trudi Trueit, of Everett (National Geographic Kids)


Books for Young Adult Readers

  • "Between Before & After” by Maureen Doyle McQuerry, of Bainbridge Island (Blink)
  • “Warhead: The True Story of One Teen Who Almost Saved the World” by Jeff Henigson, of Seattle (Delacorte Press)
  • “Brave Face” by Shaun David Hutchinson, of Seattle (Simon & Schuster)
  • “Slay” by Brittney Morris, of Seattle (Simon & Schuster)



The WSBA is a program of the Washington Center for the Book, a partnership of The Seattle Public Library and the Washington State Library (a division of the Office of the Secretary of State). The awards are administered by Linda Johns of The Seattle Public Library and Sara Peté of the Washington State Library. This year's awards program is supported by a grant from the Amazon Literary Partnership.

These awards honor outstanding books published by Washington authors in 2019. An award is given based on the strength of the publication's literary merit, lasting importance and overall quality to an author who is a current resident of Washington state and has maintained residence here for at least three years or previously lived in Washington state for at least five years. For the 2020 WSBA, judges read and evaluated 242 books. 

Submissions for the 2021 awards cycle are not being accepted at this time. For more information, see the Washington Center for the Book's website.


Judges for adults titles:

  • Kerry Halls, Manager, Auntie’s Bookstore, Spokane
  • Kalani Kapahua, Off-site Events Manager, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park
  • Zola Mumford, Reference and Instruction Librarian, North Seattle College Library
  • Betsey Stahler, Collection Development Manager, North Central Regional Library
  • Jenna Zarzycki, Adult Services Librarian, King County Library System

Judges for youth titles:

  • Tamar Clarke, Teen Services Coordinator, Whatcom County Library System
  • Christopher Robert, Librarian, Seattle Public Schools
  • Janelle Smith, owner, Wishing Tree Books, Spokane