Literary Awards

2018 Literary Award Winner

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author photoThe Literary Awards Committee of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) is pleased to announce the 2018 Literary Award winner: Dan Egan for The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, published by W. W. Norton & Company. The award is for the highest literary achievement by a Wisconsin author for a work written in 2018.

The Great Lakes―Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Superior―hold 20 percent of the world’s supply of surface fresh water and provide sustenance, work and recreation for tens of millions of Americans. But they are under threat as never before, and their problems are spreading across the continent. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes is a compulsively readable portrait of an ecological catastrophe happening right before our eyes, blending the epic story of the lakes with an examination of the perils they face and the ways we can restore and preserve them for generations to come.

Dan Egan is a reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and a senior water policy fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's School of Freshwater Sciences. He has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A graduate of the Columbia Journalism School, he lives in Milwaukee with his wife and children.

2017 Literary Award Winner

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Nick PetrieNicholas Petrie
The Drifter

The Literary Awards Committee of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) is pleased to announce the 2017 Literary Award winner: Nicholas Petrie for The Drifter, published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. This is the highest literary achievement by a Wisconsin author for a work written in 2016.

Nicholas received his MFA in fiction from the University of Washington, won a Hopwood Award for short fiction while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, and his story At the Laundromat won the 2006 Short Story Contest in The Seattle Review, a national literary journal.  His first novel, The Drifter, was nominated for 2016 Edgar, International Thriller Writer (ITW) and Barry awards for Best First Novel, and the 2016 Hammett Prize for Best Novel. He was also named one of Apple's 10 Writers to Read in 2017.  A husband and father, he has worked as a carpenter, remodeling contractor and building inspector.  He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

About the Book

Nicholas Petrie’s debut novel is an exciting thriller that introduces Peter Ash, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, who comes home from the wars with post-traumatic stress and a mission to help a Marine friend’s widow rebuild an old porch at her home. What he finds under there, a mean ugly dog and a suitcase full of cash and explosives, sends him on an adventure through the city of Milwaukee. Petrie combines the usual elements of a suspense mystery novel with insightful reflections on how returning veterans cope with fitting in again to “normal” society.

2015 Literary Award Winner

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MediumNickolas Butler
Shotgun Lovesongs 

The Literary Awards Committee of the Wisconsin Library Association has chosen Nickolas Butler’s Shotgun Lovesongs as the Literary Award winner for 2015. The award is for the highest literary achievement by a Wisconsin author for a work written in 2014. 

Shotgun Lovesongs is, in many ways, a quiet novel. The reader is allowed to sit with the characters, and to be moved by their emotions and their bonds of love and friendship.  While the sense of place is very strong, it still relates to most rural communities (and is therefore relatable for many readers). The Awards Committee appreciated the characters’ flaws and depth and the novel’s multiple points of view, each adding another layer to the story. Mr. Butler’s excellent descriptions bring both the setting and the people into focus for readers. This is a novel that lingers in the readers’ mind, with big thematic moments but not artificial melodrama.  

The Wisconsin Library Association Literary Award is made possible by a grant from the WLA Foundation.

2016 Literary Award Winner

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addarioThe Literary Awards Committee of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) is pleased to announce the 2016 Literary Award winner: Lynsey Addario for: It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War. This is the highest literary achievement by a Wisconsin author for a work written in 2015. 

Lynsey Addario, a 1995 graduate of UW-Madison, has written a book that is gripping, enlightening and (surprisingly, considering her unique experiences) relatable. This work of literary non-fiction offers many thrilling tales, addressing the risks and nomadic lifestyle inherent to a combat photographer’s career. Readers will gain a deeper appreciation of how photographers capture images that tell stories without words. This book is recommended to anyone searching for a riveting read, one that challenges our views of other cultures, offers compelling war reporting and inspires with a story of overcoming great obstacles to further one’s life passion.  

2014 Literary Award Winner

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larrywatson-1Larry Watson
Let Him Go

The Wisconsin Library Association has chosen Let Him Go by Larry Watson, who taught at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for 25 years before joining the faculty at Marquette University, as the winner of the 2014 Wisconsin Library Association Literary Award, given for the highest literary achievement by a Wisconsin author for a book published in 2013.

Let Him Go is the story of George and Margaret Blackledge living in 1951 North Dakota. They’ve lost their only son and now their 4-year-old grandson has been taken away as well. Margaret is determined to get him back and George, who is just about done with life, nevertheless does what he can to help her. “Watson is the master of spare prose. Let Him Go is quietly riveting as Watson explores just what’s worth fighting for and the sacrifices people are willing to make.” said Jane Jorgenson, Chair of the Literary Awards Committee.

The Wisconsin Library Association Literary Award is made possible by a grant from the WLA Foundation.