The Washington Center for the Book has selected eight winners and 35 finalists for the 2021 Washington State Book Awards (WSBA) for outstanding books published by Washington authors in 2020. This is the 55th year of the program, formerly called the Governor's Writers Awards.

The eight award winners are: Jess Walter for “The Cold Millions” (Fiction); E.J. Koh for “The Magical Language of Others” (Biography/Memoir); Clyde Ford for “Think Black” (Creative Nonfiction); Jennifer Haupt as editor for “Alone Together: Love, Grief and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19” (General Nonfiction); Phoebe Bosché, Anna Bálint, and Thomas Hubbard for “Take a Stand: Art Against Hate, a Raven Chronicles Anthology” (Poetry); Jennifer K. Mann for “The Camping Trip” (Picture Book); Sara Kapit for “Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!” (Books for Young Readers); and Jennifer Longo for “What I Carry” (Young Adult Literature).

“Our goal for the Book Awards program has always been to celebrate Washington authors,” said Linda Johns, co-manager of the Washington Center for the Book. “This year we are thrilled to highlight many voices of Washington writers that truly capture this moment in time, from ‘Alone Together,’ an essay collection about living through the COVID era with work from 21 Washington authors in the print edition to Raven Chronicles’ ‘Take a Stand: Art Against Hate,’ featuring pieces by 39 Washington writers.” Johns also noted that “Seismic,” a finalist in the General Nonfiction category, featured work by 11 Puget Sound area authors on how literary culture influences social change.

The awards also honor Cassandra Tate, author of “Unsettled Ground” (General Nonfiction finalist), who died in June 2021. Tate, a journalist and historian who lived in West Seattle, authored more than 200 essays for HistoryLink.

2021 Washington State Book Awards (for books published in 2020)


Washington State Book Award for Fiction

Winner: “The Cold Millions,” by Jess Walter, of Spokane (HarperCollins)


  • “The Second Star,” by Alma Alexander, of Bellingham (Crossroad Press)
  • “Living Color: Angie Rubio Stories,” by Donna Miscolta, of Seattle (Jaded Ibis Press)
  • “Vera Violet,” by Melissa Anne Peterson, of Shelton (Counterpoint Press)
  • “The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows,” by Olivia Waite, of Seattle (Avon Impulse)

Washington State Book Award for Biography and Memoir

Winner: “The Magical Language of Others,” by E.J. Koh, of Seattle (Tin House Books)


  • “Quitter,” by Erica C. Barnett, of Seattle (Viking Books)
  • “House Lessons,” by Erica Bauermeister, of Port Townsend (Sasquatch Books)
  • “The Fixed Stars,” by Molly Wizenberg, of Seattle (Abrams Press)

Washington State Book Award for Creative Nonfiction

“Think Black,” by Clyde Ford, of Bellingham (Amistad / HarperCollins)


  • “Every Penguin in the World: A Quest to See Them All,” by Charles Bergman, of Seattle (Sasquatch Books)
  • “Nature Obscura: A City’s Hidden Natural World,” by Kelly Brenner, of Seattle (Mountaineers Books)
  • “Black Imagination,” by Natasha Marin, of Seattle (McSweeney’s)
  • “Seismic: Seattle, City of Literature,” edited by Kristen Millares Young, Seattle (Seattle City of Literature)

Washington State Book Award for General Nonfiction

Winner: “Alone Together: Love, Grief and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19,” edited by Jennifer Haupt, of Bellevue (Central Avenue Publishing)


  • “Pieometry: Modern Tart Art and Pie Design for the Eye and the Palate,” by Lauren Ko, of Seattle (William Morrow Cookbooks)
  • “The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers,” by Emily Levesque, of Seattle (Sourcebooks)
  • “The Apocalypse Factory: Plutonium and the Making of the Atomic Age,” by Steve Olson, of Seattle (W.W. Norton Company)
  • “Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next),” by Dean Spade, of Seattle (Verso Books)
  • “Unsettled Ground: The Whitman Massacre and Its Shifting Legacy in the American West,” by Cassandra Tate, of Seattle (Sasquatch Books); awarded posthumously

Washington State Book Award for Poetry

Winner: “Take a Stand: Art Against Hate, a Raven Chronicles Anthology,” edited by Phoebe Bosché and Anna Bálint, of Seattle, and Thomas Hubbard, of Kirkland (Raven Chronicles Press)


  • “Insubordinate,” by Ebo Barton, of Tukwila (Ebo Barton)
  • “DMZ Colony,” by Don Mee Choi, of Seattle (Wave Books)
  • “Post Romantic,” by Kathleen Flenniken, of Seattle (University of Washington Press)
  • “Feeding Hour,” by Jessica Gigot, of Bow (Wandering Aengus Press)
  • “Terrain,” by Gina Hietpas, of Sequim (Blue Cactus Press)

Washington State Book Award for Young Adult Literature

Winner: “What I Carry,” by Jennifer Longo, of Bainbridge Island (Random House Books for Young Readers)


  • “Girl, Unframed,” by Deb Caletti, of Kenmore (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
  • “Spindle and Dagger,” by J. Anderson Coats, of Everett (Candlewick Press)
  • “Heiress Apparently,” by Diana Ma, of Seattle (Amulet)
  • “Into the Deep: Science, Technology and the Quest to Protect the Ocean,” by Christy Peterson, of Vancouver (Lerner Publishing)
  • “Today Tonight Tomorrow,” by Rachel Lynn Solomon, of Seattle (Simon Pulse)

Washington State Book Award for Books for Young Readers

Winner: “Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!,” by Sarah Kapit, of Bellevue (Dial Books for Young Readers)


  • “Dear Beast,” written by Dori Hillestad Butler, of Kirkland; illustrated by Kevan Atteberry, of Bellevue (Holiday House)
  • “Measuring Up,” by Lily LaMotte, of Seattle (Harper Alley / HarperCollins)
  • “Whispering Pines,” by Heidi Lang, of Richland (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
  • “Field Guide to Getting Lost,” by Joy McCullough, of Shoreline (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
  • “Tornado Brain,” by Cat Patrick, of Seattle (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)

Washington State Book Award for Picture Books

Winner: “The Camping Trip,” written and illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann, of Bainbridge Island (Candlewick Press)


  • “The Spirit of Springer,” written by Amanda Abler, of Seattle; illustrated by Levi Hastings, of Seattle (Little Bigfoot / Sasquatch Books)
  • “This Old Dog,” written by Martha Brockenbrough, of Seattle; illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo (Levine Querido)
  • “Snail Crossing,” written and illustrated by Corey Tabor, of Tacoma (Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins)
  • “Play Day School Day,” written and illustrated by Toni Yuly, of Bremerton (Candlewick Press)



Judges for adult titles: Kerry Halls, Manager, Auntie’s Bookstore, Spokane; Tiffany Midge, author and Washington State Book Award finalist 2020; Zola Mumford, Reference and Instruction Librarian, North Seattle College Library; Betsey Stahler, Collection Development Manager, North Central Regional Library; and 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; and Janelle Smith, owner, Wishing Tree Books, Spokane.


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 2020. 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.

For more information, visit Washington Center for the Book, call the Library at 206-386-4636 or Ask Us.