And the winner is....

Jon Foro on August 28, 2019
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How did fall sneak up on us so fast? At least it’s prime time for book publishing, when many high-profile titles are released in anticipation of holiday sales. It’s also a rush to get books in front of judges ahead the Booker Prize in October, the National Book Awards in early November, and the Nobel Prize in Literature, which will hand out awards in October for both 2018 and 2019, after scandals sideswiped the Nobels last year.

And there’s also our personal favorite “best of” list: the Amazon Books editors’ Best Books of the Year in the fall. Last year, the Amazon Books editors selected Tara Westover's Educated as the best book of 2018, and this memoir continues to linger in our minds even deep into 2019.

But “awards season” is something of a misnomer — the accolades have actually been rolling out throughout 2019, honoring books across numerous genres. Here’s a sampling of the organizations recognizing literary excellence, and the books and authors they have celebrated.

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The American Library Association Awards

Announced in January, the ALAs honor children’s books across a variety of categories. This year, the Randolph Caldecott Medal for best illustrated children’s book went to Sophie Blackall’s Hello Lighthouse, which Publishers Weekly called “a jewel of a creation and a gift to those who dream of retreat.” Other winners included Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina, which won the Newbery Medal, and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, which won the Michael L. Printz Award.


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The PEN America Literary Awards

Since 1963, the PEN awards have recognized excellence in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, biography, and more. Awarded in February, this year’s winners featured books by a number of debut authors, including Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black, a timely, powerful short-story collection that tackles the urgent issue of racism in America with candor and surprising humor. Bernice Yeung’s In a Day’s Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America’s Most Vulnerable Workers, and Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ Heads of the Colored People: Stories were among other honorees.


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The National Book Critics Circle Awards

The NBCCs focus on books published in English and the United States in six categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, Autobiography, Poetry, and Criticism. Awarded in March, this year’s winners featured a mix of new and familiar voices, including Tommy Orange’s There There, which won the John Leonard Prize for best first book. The Amazon Books editors had named There There one of the top 10 books of 2018, and many agreed, including The Washington Post’s Ron Charles, who called Orange’s novel of Native Americans living in Oakland “a devastating debut.” 


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The Pulitzer Prizes

By waiting until April, the Pulitzer Prize Board takes their time in announcing their winners for books published the previous year. They can do it — they’re the Pulitzers. This year, they picked some of the Amazon Books editors’ own favorites. The Fiction prize went to Richard Powers for The Overstory, an epic, ambitious, and gorgeously written novel about our lost connection to the natural world. David Blight won the Nonfiction award for his thorough and highly readable biography, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.


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The Edgar Awards

Some of the most popular awards for readers concern specific genres. The Edgar Awards — decided by the Mystery Writers of America, “the premier organization for mystery and crime writers” — honor the best mystery fiction, nonfiction, new writers, and more. This year’s winner for Best Novel went to Walter Mosley for Down the River unto the Sea, a book the Los Angeles Times enthusiastically described as “a wild ride that delivers hard-boiled satisfaction while toying with our prejudices and preconception.”

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The RITA Awards

Bestowed by the Romance Writers of America in July, the RITA is “the highest award of distinction in romance fiction,” with prizes in a number of romantic categories. J.R. Ward took home the Paranormal Romance prize for Dearest Ivie, a vampire-laced story of a fiery couple doomed by an undeniable passion. Other winners included Nisha Sharma’s My So-Called Bollywood Life for Young Adult Romance, and Mia Vincy’s A Wicked Kind of Husband for Historical Romance (Long).  


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The Hugo Awards

Described as “science fiction’s most prestigious award,” the Hugo winners have been chosen by members of the World Science Fiction Convention since 1953. The Hugo for Best Novel went to The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, in which a meteorite hits the eastern seaboard in the 1950s, forcing humanity to find a way to escape into space. Featuring former WWII WASP pilot Elma York who wants to become the first female astronaut, Kowal’s novel also nabbed the Nebula Award and the Locus Award in 2019, making it the first novel to sweep all three major science fiction awards since Connie Willis’ Blackout/All Clear in 2011.


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A version of this article originally appeared on Amazon Charts.


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