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Booker Worthen Literary Prize
aka: Worthen Prize

The Booker Worthen Literary Prize is awarded each year to the best work, fiction or non-fiction, by an author living in central Arkansas. With a stipend of $2,000, it is one of the state’s most lucrative and prestigious literary prizes.

The Booker Worthen Literary Prize was established in 1999 in the memory of William Booker Worthen, who was a member of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) Board of Trustees for twenty-two years, as well as part of the Worthen Bank empire. The award is funded in part by interest from an endowment for the award donated by the Worthen family.

The Worthen Prize is awarded in a joint program with the Porter Fund Literary Prize. This generally occurred in October, but, in 2008, the year that CALS took over responsibility of the Arkansas Literary Festival (ALF), the reception was moved to coincide with the festival, although it was not an official part of the ALF. In 2012, however, the award ceremony returned to October. The winning book is selected by the Worthen Prize Committee. To qualify, authors must live in the CALS service area, which includes over thirty counties in central Arkansas with which the library system has a lending agreement; there is a three-year period of eligibility based on a book’s copyright year. Three authors—Mara Leveritt, Kevin Brockmeier, and Grif Stockley—have won the award twice.






Arkansas, 1800–1860: Remote and Restless

S. Charles Bolton


The Boys on the Tracks

Mara Leveritt


The Rumble of a Distant Drum: The Quapaws and Old World Newcomers, 1673–1804.

Morris S. Arnold


Blood in Their Eyes: The Elaine Race Massacres of 1919

Grif Stockley


Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three

Mara Leveritt


The Truth about Celia

Kevin Brockmeier


Communities of Kinship: Antebellum Families and the Settlement of the Cotton Frontier

Carolyn Earle Billingsley


Promises Kept

Sidney S. McMath


A Brief History of the Dead

Kevin Brockmeier


Turn away Thy Son: Little Rock, the Crisis that Shocked the Nation

Elizabeth Jacoway


The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

Trenton Lee Stewart


Ruled by Race: Black/White Relations in Arkansas from Slavery to the Present

Grif Stockley


The Broken Vase

Phillip H. McMath and Emily Matson Lewis


The Thousand-Year Flood: The Ohio-Mississippi Disaster of 1937

David Welky


Civil War Arkansas, 1863: The Battle for a State

Mark K. Christ


Fiat Flux: The Writings of Wilson R. Bachelor, Nineteenth-Century Country Doctor and Philosopher

William D. Lindsey


Racial Cleansing in Arkansas, 1883–1924: Politics, Land, Labor, and Criminality

Guy Lancaster


We Wanna Boogie: The Rockabilly Roots of Sonny Burgess and the Pacers

Marvin Schwartz


Anti-Catholicism in Arkansas: How Politicians, the Press, the Klan, and Religious Leaders Imagined an Enemy

Kenneth C. Barnes


Dardanelle and the Bottoms: Environment, Agriculture, and Economy in an Arkansas River Community, 1819–1970

Mildred Diane Gleason

For additional information:

“3 Authors Turn a New Page with Library Group Honors.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 12, 2003, p. 4D.

“Arnold’s Book, Poetry Collection, Win Honors.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 30, 2001, p. 5H.

“Laurels for State Literary Lights Make Dinner One for the Books.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 31, 1999, p. 10D.

Staff of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Last Updated 8/3/2018

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