Congratulations to the Winners of the 9th Annual CWA Book of the Year Awards


Traditional Fiction
Tiny Americans by Devin Murphy

Traditional Non-Fiction
In Deep: How I survived Gangs, Heroin, and Prison to Become a Chicago Violence Interrupter by Angalia Bianca, with Linda Beckstrom

Indie Fiction
A Dangerous Identity by Russell Fee

Indie Non-Fiction
The Buddha at My Table by Tammy Letherer


Winners will receive their awards on Saturday, January 18, 2020 at The Book Cellar, 4736-38 Lincoln Ave., in Chicago’s Lincoln Square.

Submissions for the 2020 Book of the Year Awards will open on June 1, 2020

The Book of the Year Contest Guidelines

BOTY Awards 2018

The contest is open to members and non-members. Submissions open on June 1st and close on August 1st. Entries must have a publication date between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019 (date of first publication). We accept only hard copies (paperback or hardbound books) which must be mailed with an entry form and postmarked by August 1st to qualify. Download the entry form (above) for the address.
Digital books are not accepted.

Winners will be chosen in four categories:

Traditional Fiction

Published by the “Big 5”, independent publishers or small presses that do not charge the author a publishing fee.

Indie Fiction

Self-published, print-on-demand, or published by a house that charges the author a publishing fee.

Traditional Nonfiction

Published by the “Big 5”, independent publishers or small presses that do not charge the author a publishing fee.

Indie Nonfiction

Self-published, print-on-demand, or published by a house that charges the author a publishing fee 

Winners will receive a cash prize of $100, an engraved award, a $50 gift card to The Book Cellar, Book of the Year stickers for their books and publication of first chapter in CWA’s Write City Magazine.


Traditional Fiction: Poison Girls by Cheryl L. Reed

Indie Fiction: Chuckerman Makes a Movie by Francie Arenson Dickman

Traditional Nonfiction: Tinker to Evers to Chance by David Rapp

Indie Nonfiction: Redlined: A Memoir of Race, Change and Fractured Community in 1960s Chicago by Linda Gartz

Spirit Award: George Rawlinson, author, publisher, Chicago Writers Association Board of Directors



Traditional Fiction: The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed

Indie Fiction: out the door! by M.L. Collins

Traditional Nonfiction: Algren: A Life by Mary Wisniewski

Indie Nonfiction: Of This Much I’m Sure by Nadine Kenney Johnstone

Spirit Award: Suzy Takacs, owner of The Book Cellar and supporter of Chicago writers and the literary community


Traditional Fiction: The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay

Non-Traditional Fiction: A Bitter Pill to Swallow by Tiffany Gholar

Traditional Nonfiction: The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America by Ethan Michaeli

Non-Traditional Nonfiction: Hugh Hefner’s First Funeral and Other True Tales of Love and Death in Chicago by Pat Colander

Spirit Award: Donald G. Evans, founder and executive director of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame


Traditional Fiction: Old Heart: A Novel by Peter Ferry

Non-Traditional Fiction: The Wet Nose of Danger by James Finn Garner

Traditional Nonfiction: Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation by Dean Jobb

Non-Traditional Nonfiction: a different kind of same by Kelley Clink

Lifetime Achievement Award: Karen Thomson, founder and director of Literature for All of Us


Traditional Fiction: The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai

Non-Traditional Fiction: Carpe Diem, Illinois (A Leo Townsend novel) by Kristin A. Oakley

Traditional Nonfiction: Meaty by Samantha Irby

Non-Traditional Nonfiction: Famous Ski Hills in Wisconsin by Scott Jacobs


Traditional Fiction: Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum

Non-Traditional Fiction: 30 Days to Empathy, by The 31 and Jay C. Rehak (Editor)

Traditional Nonfiction: We Hope You Like This Song by Bree Housley

Non-Traditional Nonfiction: Any Road Will Take You There by David W. Berner


Traditional Fiction: The Temple of Air by Patricia Ann McNair

Non-Traditional Fiction: Coming Out Can Be Murder by Renee James

Traditional Nonfiction: Whiskey Breakfast: My Swedish Family, My American Life by Richard C. Lindberg

Non-Traditional Nonfiction: Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back by Kelly Farley


Traditional Fiction: Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry by Christine Sneed

Non-Traditional Fiction: Honk Honk, My Darling: A Rex Koko Private Clown Mystery by James Finn Garner

Traditional Nonfiction: Three Wishes: A True Story of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak, and Astonishing Luck on our Way to Love and Motherhood by Pamela Ferdinand, Carey Goldberg and Beth Jones

Non-Traditional Nonfiction: Giants in the Park: A Guide to Portrait Statues in Chicago’s Lincoln Park by Krista August