Kentucky Literary Award

First awarded in 2003, the Kentucky Literary Award is a celebration of Kentucky literature. Eligible books include those written by Kentuckians or books with a substantial Kentucky theme. Fiction and non-fiction works will be considered in alternating years.

The winner of the 2013 Kentucky Literary Award was The Kentucky Derby: How the Run for the Roses Became America's Premier Sporting Event by Dr. James Nicholson.The Kentucky Derby details the history of the Derby from its beginning in 1875, and the book examines how and why the famous race has withstood the cultural changes of so many years and endures as the most exciting two minutes in sports. Dr. Nicholson is a native of Lexington where he grew up on one of Kentucky's most famous horse farms, Jonabell. Published in 2012 by the University Press of Kentucky, The Kentucky Derby is Dr. Nicholson's first book.

Along with The Kentucky Derby, finalists for the 2013 Kentucky Literary Award were A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music by Jason Howard; Arab and Jewish Women in Kentucky: Stories of Accommodation and Audacity by Nora Rose Moosnick; Bluegrass Baseball: A Year in the Minor League Life by Katya Cengal; and, Confederate Outlaw: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia by Brian McKnight.

The winner of the 2013 Kentucky Literary Award was announced at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest's Meet the Authors Reception on Friday, April 19, 2013.

The 2014 Kentucky Literary Award will go to a work of fiction written by a Kentuckian or with a significant Kentucky theme. Finalists for the award are Ghosting by Kirby Gann, Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman, The Next Time You See Me by Holly Goddard Jones, Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler, and The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman by Sena Jeter Naslund. The winner will be announced at the Meet the Authors Reception for the Southern Kentucky Book Fest on Friday, April 25, 2014.

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Eligibility: Books eligible for the Kentucky Literary Award must have been written by a Kentucky author or have a Kentucky-related theme. A Kentucky author is defined as a writer meeting one or more of the following qualifications: a native-born Kentuckian; an author living in Kentucky; an author whose permanent home address is Kentucky but who does not at present live in Kentucky.

The selection committee welcomes suggestions for consideration; however, the committee determines the finalists for the award. If you have a suggestion for the Kentucky Literary Award, please contact Kristie Lowry through the contact link on this website. For full consideration, nominations for the award must be submitted by December 1, 2013, and the book must be a work of fiction published between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2013. No self-published, publish-on-demand, non-English, or reprinted book will be considered. Textbooks, children’s books, edited collections, cookbooks, poetry, and anthologies will not be considered.

Procedures: The Kentucky Literary Award Selection Committee will review books that meet the criteria for the award and ultimately determine which works will be considered for the award. No entry fee is required. The Southern Kentucky Book Fest will request review copies of any book that they would like to consider for the award. Additional review copies may be needed for finalists.

Judges: A panel of judges selected by the partners of the Southern Kentucky Book Fest (WKU Libraries, Barnes & Noble, and Warren County Public Library) will consider all finalists. Awards will be granted at the discretion of the Selection Committee. Entries will be judged principally on the quality of the writing, but interpretation, organization, and presentation will also be considered in the decision.

Announcement of winner: The winner will be announced at the Meet the Authors Reception held the evening before the Southern Kentucky Book Fest.

Award: The winner will be given a commemorative certificate and a cash prize of $500.


2013 - Non-Fiction - The Kentucky Derby: How the Run for the Roses Became America's Premier Sporting Event by Dr. James Nicholson

2012 - Fiction - The Girl in the Blue Beret by Bobbie Ann Mason

2008-2011 - Award Hiatus

2007 - Fiction - Kentucky Waltz by Garry Barker

2007 - Non-Fiction - Boone: A Biography by Robert Morgan

2007 - Poetry - Dismal Rock by Davis McCombs

2006 - Fiction - Abundance by Selena Jeter Naslund

2006 - Non-Fiction - Beaver Creek by Michelle Slatalla

2006 - Poetry - Happy Hour at the Two Keys Tavern by Jeff Worley

2005 - Fiction -The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

2005 - Non-Fiction -Thomas Merton's Gethsemani by Monica Weis

2005 - Poetry - Given by Wendell Berry

2004 - Fiction -The Coal Tattoo by Silas House

2004 - Non-Fiction -A Taste of the Sweet Apple by Joanna Holt Watson

2004 - Poetry -The Total Light Process by James Baker Hall

2003 - Fiction -Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by Z.Z. Packer

2003 - Non-Fiction -Keeping Faith by Fenton Johnson

2003 - Poetry -Afternoon in the Country of Summer by Charles Semones

2002 - Fiction - A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House

2002 - Non-Fiction - Elvis Presley by Bobbie Ann Mason

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