CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. (May 15, 2013) — Chautauqua Institution is delighted to announce Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Timothy Egan as the 2013 winner of The Chautauqua Prize.


As author of the winning book, Egan receives $7,500 and all travel and expenses for a one-week summer residency at CHQ, a not-for-profit educational and cultural center in southwestern New York state. He will host a public reading and book signing on Wednesday, July 10, on the Institution grounds.

"Given the history of CHQ, and its role as a summer retreat for lovers of history, art, brisk argument and the written word, I couldn't be more thrilled to be a small part of this," said Egan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for The New York Times and the best-selling author of six books. "You've helped to give the subject of my book, the American Indian photographer Edward Curtis, a bit of a renaissance."

Now in its second year, The Chautauqua Prize is a national prize that celebrates a book of fiction or literary/narrative nonfiction that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and honors the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts.

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher is a nonfiction account of Edward Curtis' early-20th-century quest to document the lives of 80 American Indian tribes. Chautauqua Prize reviewers described the book as "compelling" and "exhaustive," and noted that Egan, who won the 2006 National Book Award for The Worst Hard Time, "captures in language what Curtis expresses in photography."

"CHQ is very proud to honor Timothy Egan and Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher with the 2013 Chautauqua Prize," said Sherra Babcock, Chautauqua Institution vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, who coordinates the prize selection process. "Egan writes with such lyrical prose that Edward Curtis and his obsession to document the Native American haunted me long after I read the last sentence."

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher was chosen from a finalist shortlist that includes five other outstanding titles: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (Ecco) by Ben Fountain; The Presidents Club (Simon & Schuster) by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy; Devil in the Grove (Harper) by Gilbert King; The Song of Achilles (Ecco) by Madeline Miller; and The Names of Things (Ashland Creek Press) by John Colman Wood.

Chautauqua Institution received 125 books from 67 publishers as nominations for the 2013 Chautauqua Prize, each evaluated by three reviewers representing a panel of Chautauquans who are professionally involved with books and the literary arts. Thirty titles received recommendations from at least two of the three reviewers and advanced to the longlist stage. A three-person, independent, anonymous jury chose the finalists and winner.

The hallmark of The Chautauqua Prize is its focus not only on the literary quality or the writing, but on the reading experience as judged by thoughtful, experienced CHQ readers.

With a history steeped in the literary arts, Chautauqua Institution is home to the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, founded in 1878, which honors nine outstanding books of fiction, nonfiction, essays and poetry every summer. Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher will count toward members' reading lists (though not officially designated as a CLSC selection), ensuring continued readership by thousands of active readers.

Further literary arts programming at CHQ includes summer-long interaction of published and aspiring writers at the Chautauqua Writers' Center, the intensive workshops of the nationally recognized Chautauqua Writers' Festival, and lectures by prominent authors on the art and craft of writing.

The preeminent expression of lifelong learning in the United States, Chautauqua Institution is a 139-year-old community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state that comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. Over the course of nine weeks, more than 100,000 people visit CHQ and participate in programs, classes and community events for all ages — all within the beautiful setting of a historic lakeside village.

Details on The Chautauqua Prize are available online at Books published in 2013 will be accepted as submissions for the 2014 prize beginning Sept. 9, 2013.


Sherra Babcock
Vice President
Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education
Chautauqua Institution