A line of gold and silver trophies. Color Photograph.

And the Winner is… (My Top Five Book Awards)

Anyone else out there wish that book award ceremonies received as much pomp as the Oscars, Golden Globes (well, not this year), the BAFTAs, or the American Music Awards? Authors hobnobbing with publishers and editors, dressed to the nines, attending Stephen King’s after party in a posh hotel in West Hollywood Park. Celebrated and political acceptance speeches and wardrobes dissected in real time on Twitter and the following day by the morning talk show hosts? Chuck Palahniuk getting played off the stage early for excessive use of colorful language?

At least the bloggers over at Girlxoxo.com know how to track with what’s important in life. They’ve even created a really handy guide to help us all keep track of the year’s major literary awards. In honor of the roughly 55 awards handed out to celebrate literary greatness, here are my top five (I’m sensing a theme here) literary awards to know about. If you have your favorites, please share them in the comments section below!

1. The Schneider Family Book Award

Coming in at number one, the Schneider Family Book Award honors authors and illustrators whose books depict a disability as a part of the human experience. Now in its 22nd year, eight titles in the Teen, Middle Grade, and Young Children categories were honored at the LibLearnX virtual ALA conference just last week.

This author received the following quote from Katherine Schneider, the award’s originator, about this year’s award recipients:

“Katherine Schneider, the originator of the SFBA was disappointed to note that less than 40% of this year’s winners are available in accessible formats.”*

She looks forward to reading those that are available: A Kind of Spark, A Bird Will Soar, and A Face for Picasso.

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2. The Booker Prize

Sometimes referred to as just “The Booker” and formerly known as the Man Booker Prize (because it was sponsored by the Man Group from 2002-2019), it is awarded to the best novel, in the opinion of the judges, written in the English language and published in the UK and Ireland. Well-known recipients of the prize include Nadine GordimerRuth Prawer Jhabvala, Kingsley AmisPenelope LivelyBen Okri, Ian McEwan, and Hilary Mantel. After being shortlisted twice for the award, Damon Galgut was awarded the Booker Prize in 2021 for The Promise.

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3. The Coretta Scott King Book Awards

Awarded annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019. To accompany the award, the ALA recently launched a special blog that celebrates African American storytelling, offers programming ideas for libraries and schools, and book reviews and recommendations. Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre took home the top prize at LibLearnX last week for both author and illustrator.

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4. The Neustadt Prize

This biennial prize is the only international literary award originating in the United States wherein playwrights, poets, and novelists are equally eligible. Recipients receive $50,000, a certificate, and a replica eagle feather cast in silver. Established in 1969, Neustadt Laureates have included Edwidge Danticat, Mistry Rohinton, Gabriel García Márquez, and Elizabeth Bishop. Last awarded in 2020 to Ismail Kadare, the 2022 Laureate will be announced on October 26. “World Literature Today,” co-sponsor of the award with The University of Oklahoma, announced the finalists in June of 2021.

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5. Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year

Also known as simply “The Diagram” prize, this humorous literary award recognizes, you guessed it, books with odd titles. Sponsored by “The Bookseller,” the award is definitely the funny bone tickler we all need and deserve as we are living through this pandemic. Originally created to provide some levity at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1978, there have only been two years in its history where no titles were odd enough to award the prize. Some of my favorite contenders include Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots by Ronald C. Arkin, Versailles: The View from Sweden by Elaine Dee and Guy Walton, and People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It by Gary Leon Hill.

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* Note: at the time of publishing, the National Library Service has plans to make these titles accessible for all readers. This process may take up to one year. 

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