Daniel Ellsberg among finalists for California Book Awards

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees is a finalist for the California Book Awards, alongside Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Article by John McMurtrie originally published by The San Francisco Chronicle.

Daniel Ellsberg became a household name in the 1970s after releasing the Pentagon Papers, the infamous documents that would help solidify opposition to the Vietnam War.

At 86, Ellsberg remains a crusading figure. The Kensington resident’s most recent book, “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner,” has just been named a finalist for a 87th Annual California Book Award.

In its review, The Chronicle called Ellsberg’s book “an earnest plea for a reassessment of a weapons program that he describes as ‘institutionalized madness.’ Many years in the making, it’s a book that arrives at an opportune moment.”

Among the other books nominated in the nonfiction category are “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America,” by UC Berkeley scholar Richard Rothstein, and “All They Will Call You,” by Tim Z. Hernandez.

Nominees for fiction awards include Andrew Sean Greer for “Less,” Viet Thanh Nguyen for “The Refugees” and Rachel Khong for her debut novel“Goodbye, Vitamin.”

City Lights Publishers was nominated for three poetry titles, by David Brazil, Tongo Eisen-Martin and Barbara Jane Reyes.

Now in their 87th year, the California Book Awards were announced by the Commonwealth Club, which will host the awards ceremony June 11. The winners will be named June 1.

Past winners of the California Book Award include Michael Chabon, Karen Joy Fowler, Adam Johnson, Yiyun Li, Peter Orner, Adrienne Rich, Kay Ryan, Rebecca Solnit and John Steinbeck.

Here are the finalists for the 87th California Book Awards:


“All They Will Call You,” Tim Z. Hernandez

“Color of Law: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner,” by Richard Rothstein

“Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner,” by Daniel Ellsberg

“Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life,” by Lauren Markham

“Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town,” by Brian Alexander


“Less,” by Andrew Sean Greer

“Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun,” by Sarah Ladipo Manyika

“So Much Blue,” by Percival Everett

“The Age of Perpetual Light,” by Josh Weil

“The Refugees,” by Viet Thanh Nguyen


“After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again,” by Dan Santat

“Maya Lin: Thinking With Her Hands,” by Susan Goldman Rubin

“Short,” by Holly Goldberg Sloan

“The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse,” by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (illustrator)

First Fiction

“Goodbye, Vitamin,” by Rachel Khong

“Large Animals,” by Jess Arndt

“The Most Dangerous Place on Earth,” by Lindsey Lee Johnson

“What We Lose,” by Zinzi Clemmons

Young Adult

“The 57 Bus,” by Dashka Slater

“We Are Okay,” by Nina Lacour

“What Girls Are Made Of,” by Elana K. Arnold


“Heaven Is All Goodbyes,” by Tongo Eisen-Martin

“Holy Ghost,” by David Brazil

“I Love It Though,” by Alli Warren

“Invocation to Daughters,” by Barbara Jane Reyes

“Tony Greene Era,” by Kevin Killian

Category: News


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