Beyond those broad guidelines and a requirement that the author be alive, the Chautauqua Prize aims merely to “celebrate a book that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and honor the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts.”
The winner will receive $7,500 and — possibly even more valuable — an all-expenses-paid one-week trip for two to the Chautauqua summer program. Just in case you don’t win, start saving now: Suites at the gracious Athenaeum Hotel run more than $500 a night. (Name-dropping disguised as full disclosure: My brother has a house on the campus.)
As the seat of the country’s oldest continuously meeting book club, Chautauqua makes a natural sponsor for a national literary award. Every summer some of the world’s most prominent authors, politicians and scientists speak to thousands of well-heeled guests who swarm to this idyllic setting on Chautauqua Lake. (Several years ago, Jane Goodall taught my younger daughter how to say “hello” in chimpanzee.) As a very minor and informal consultant during the planning stages of this prize, I’m eager to see who wins the first time this summer.