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Timothy Egan wins Chautauqua Prize for “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher”

Timothy Egan has won this year’s Chautauqua Prize for “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a biography of the American West photographer Edward Curtis.

The winner was announced this morning in a statement from the Chautauqua Institution, an educational resort in New York State.

Reviewing “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher” in The Washington Post last October, Gary Krist wrote, “Egan’s spirited biography might just bring him the recognition that eluded him in life.” Curtis spent decades in the early 20th century photographing and recording the lives of Native Americans.

“Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher” is Egan’s seventh book. He lives in Seattle and works as a reporter for the New York Times. He contributed to a series on race in America that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001.

The Chautauqua Prize, now in its second year, comes with $7,500 and a free week at the robust summer program on Chautauqua Lake. The award is unusual in that it considers fiction and nonfiction together to find a book that “provides a richly rewarding reading experience.”

The other finalists for this year’s award, chosen from 125 submissions, are:

  • “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” by Ben Fountain (Ecco)
  • “The Presidents Club,” by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy  (Simon & Schuster)
  • “Devil in the Grove,” by Gilbert King (Harper)
  • “The Song of Achilles,” by Madeline Miller (Ecco)
  • “The Names of Things,” by John Colman Wood  (Ashland Creek).

Egan, who won a National Book Award in 2006 for “The Worst Hard Time,” a history of the American Dust Bowl, will deliver a lecture about his new book at the Chautauqua Institution on July 10.


Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.



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