Kirkus Prize Judges

Each panel is composed of an author, a bookseller or librarian, and a Kirkus critic.

FICTION
2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014

Meg Wolitzer, Author

Meg Wolitzer is the author, most recently, of The Interestings, which was named a best book of the year by Entertainment Weekly, Time, and the Chicago Tribune, and a notable book by the New York Times Book Review and the Washington Post. Previous novels include The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, and The Wife. She has also written for young readers. Wolitzer was guest editor of The Best American Short Stories 2017, and is on the faculty of the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton. She lives in New York City.

Hannah Oliver Depp, Bookseller

Hannah Oliver Depp is the Operations Director of WORD Bookstores in Jersey City, N.J. and Brooklyn, N.Y. She serves on the American Bookselling Association Diversity Task Force, the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association board of directors, and is a founding member of Indies Forward, an organization dedicated to fostering the next generation of bookselling industry leaders. She writes for BookRiot and co-hosts the PostRacial, PostGender, PostPodcast podcast. She likes King Arthur, holds a master’s degree in literature from American University, and is an East Coast woman for life.

Mark Athitakis, Critic

Kirkus critic Mark Athitakis has written about books and authors for many publications, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Barnes & Noble Review, and Oprah.com. He has been a board member of the National Book Critics Circle and served for two years as the chair of its fiction committee. His book, The New Midwest: A Guide to Contemporary Fiction of the Great Lakes, Great Plains, and Rust Belt, was released this year by Belt Publishing. He lives in Arizona.

NONFICTION

Ibram X. Kendi, Author

Ibram X. Kendi is Professor of History and International Relations and the Founding Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University in Washington, D.C. His second book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction. Stamped was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and a NAACP Image Award. He has published essays in the New York Times, Salon, Time, the Washington Post, and Black Perspectives. He has received research fellowships, grants, and visiting appointments from a variety of universities, foundations, professional associations, and libraries, including the American Historical Association, Library of Congress, National Academy of Education, Spencer Foundation, Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, and Brown University. Kendi lives in Washington, D.C.

Javier Ramirez, Bookseller

If you know the name of a Chicago bookstore, it’s highly likely that Book Table manager Javier Ramirez has worked there. One of the industry’s most voracious readers, he consumes everything: children’s books, serious nonfiction, and all literature in between (with a soft spot for horror). Since 2011, he has co-hosted Publishing Cocktails, the semi-annual gatherings of Chicago’s literati, pairing libations with bookstore cash mobs, author appearances, and book swaps—where he is always easy to spot in his signature band T-shirts, handing out hugs, laughter, and book/film/music recommendations. Recipient of a James Patterson holiday bonus, one of New City’s Lit 50 2015, and with more than a handful of well-known novels by notable authors featuring his name listed in the acknowledgments, Javier is truly the definition of a “literary citizen.”

Linda Simon, Critic

Linda Simon, a Kirkus critic and member of the National Book Critics Circle, is the author of several biographies (Coco Chanel, William James, Thornton Wilder, Alice B. Toklas) and cultural histories. Her most recent book is Lost Girls: The Invention of the Flapper. Her reviews have appeared in many publications, including Kirkus Reviews, the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Georgia Review, Journal of American History, Los Angeles Times, Michigan Quarterly Review, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, New England Quarterly, Newsday, the New York Times Book Review, Smithsonian, South Atlantic Quarterly, Women’s Review of Books, and Washington Post Book World.

YOUNG READERS’ LITERATURE

Pam Muñoz Ryan, Author

Pam Muñoz Ryan is the 2018 U.S. nominee for the international Hans Christian Andersen award, and the author of the 2015 Kirkus Prize winner and Newbery Honor book, Echo. She has written over 40 books for young people—picture books, early readers, and middle-grade and young adult novels. She is the author recipient of the NEA's Human and Civil Rights Award, the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, the Willa Cather Award, the Pura Belpré medal, the PEN USA award, and many others. Her novels include Esperanza Rising, Riding Freedom, Becoming Naomi León, Paint the Wind, The Dreamer, and Echo. She was born and raised in Bakersfield, California, holds a bachelor's and master's degree from San Diego State University, and lives in north San Diego county in California with her family.

Jos N. Holman, Librarian

Jos N. Holman is the director of the Tippecanoe County Public Library in Lafayette, Indiana, having started his library career as a children’s librarian. He earned his master’s in library and information science at the University of Texas. He is a former president of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and has served on both the Newbery and Caldecott committees of the Association for Library Service to Children as well as numerous state and regional organizations. As a performer, he enacts oral interpretations of black poetry, tells stories, and juggles.

Laura Simeon, Critic

Kirkus reviewer Laura Simeon is the librarian and diversity coordinator at Open Window School in Bellevue, Washington. She has a master’s in history from the University of British Columbia and a master’s in library and information science from the University of Washington. She is co-chair of the U.S. Selection Committee for the United World Colleges, international secondary schools dedicated to promoting intercultural understanding; a member of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee; a guest blogger for Lee & Low; a School Library Journal reviewer, and a past member of the VOYA Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers selection committee.

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    One of the most coveted designations in the book industry, the Kirkus Star marks books of exceptional merit.

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    The Kirkus Prize is among the richest literary awards in America, awarding $50,000 in three categories annually.

    See the 2019 winners.

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