The four winners of the Chicago Writers Association’s 4th Annual Book of the Year Awards serve up a literary buffet that brings out the flavor of the Midwestern experience. There’s a little something to fill any book-lover’s appetite. A haunted house story set in a fictional town outside of Chicago. A tale of political intrigue in a fictional small Illinois town that gives a lesson on unschooling. A raw, wickedly funny collection of essays by the Chicago-based writer of the popular blog, bitches gotta eat. A nostalgic tour of ski hills in Wisconsin and other Midwestern oddities. The winning books are:

  • Traditional Fiction: “The Hundred-Year House” by Rebecca Makkai
  • Non-Traditional Fiction: “Carpe Diem, Illinois (A Leo Townsend novel)” by Kristin A. Oakley
  • Traditional Non-Fiction: “Meaty” by Samantha Irby
  • Non-Traditional Non-Fiction: “Famous Ski Hills in Wisconsin” by Scott Jacobs

The awards will be presented at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at The Book Cellar, 4736-38 Lincoln Ave., in Chicago’s Lincoln Square. At the event, which is free and open to the public, the authors will read from their award-winning books and have copies available for purchase and signing. The finalist judges were last year’s winning authors – Susan Nussbaum (“Good Kings, Bad Kings”), Jay Rehak (“30 Days to Empathy”), Bree Housley (“We Hope You Like This Song” and David W. Berner (“Any Road Will Take You There”). “For the second year, I've had the pleasure to chair the BOTY Awards committee,” said Tori Collins, CWA president. “It is one of my favorite programs of the Chicago Writers Association because it allows writers from Chicago to be recognized in their city by their peers.  It promotes the building of a diverse literary culture; giving writers a more stable place as a citizen in the literary world and further allows us to support the 4 Cs of writing: creativity, commerce, craft and community. A special thank you to everyone who was involved in this process.” The awards, divided into four categories (traditionally and non-traditionally published fiction and non-fiction), were open to books published between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014 and authored by Chicago area authors or CWA members. (Non-traditional is defined as self- and print-on-demand published.) In selecting Makkai’s “The Hundred-Year House,” Nussbaum found the book to be “rich in complex characters and endlessly imaginative.” Rehak chose Oakley’s “Carpe Diem, Illinois” because its protagonist has “both an edge and a playfulness that proved to be highly engaging.” While acknowledging that her decision was a tough one, Housley picked “Meaty,” stating that “Irby’s voice sings crudely with an underlying beauty that punches its way to the surface without warning.” In support of his choice of “Famous Ski Hills in Wisconsin,” Berner called Jacob’s book “a tender, funny, heartfelt look at a young man's maturation as he discovers not all is what it seems, not all remains the same, even if much of it continues to evoke the wonder it once held, and in some ways still holds."

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