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8 Major Book Awards and Their Winners

Updated on March 24, 2022
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I am the author of three middle-grade children's books, and I blog on the side. My favorite topics are movies, writing, and pop culture.


About Book Awards

Have you ever picked up a book and seen a sticker of a medal stuck on the cover? I’ve always wondered what they meant, how prestigious they were, and how they were won.

Authors don’t typically write books in order to win awards. But in a profession filled with self-doubt and a lottery-thin chance of success, it’s nice to see great work recognized.

I can only imagine how satisfying it is for a writer to see their writing to be acknowledged in such a prestigious way. Below are eight major awards that writers (and illustrators) can win along with a brief history of each award and past winners.

The source for all award information can be found here.

The Man Booker Prize Medal


The Man Booker Prize for Fiction

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction is awarded annually to a living author who has published a book in the United Kingdom written in English and published in the year that the prize is given out. The Booker Prize Foundation Advisory Committee is the organization that selects a group of judges to vote on the winner each year.The winning author receives £50,000 as part of their award along with an increase in sales and notoriety.

This prize has been given out since 1969. Authors cannot be self-published. They submit their work to the judges who then narrow down the entries until they have selected a winner.

They also select the winners of the Man Booker International Prize which is given once every two years to a book published in English or with an English translation. The author’s entire body of work is considered rather than just one piece of writing.

Previous winners of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction include:

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992)

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2002)

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (2014).

Learn more about the Man Booker Prize here!

The Newberry Medal


The Newberry Medal

The Newberry Medal is a children’s book award given out to the best children’s book by the Association for Library Service to Children. Established in 1922, it is named for John Newberry.

Newberry was a publisher in the 1700’s who helped to market books for children. At that time, the British middle class found themselves with more money to spend on items like children’s books.

Newberry inherited part ownership of a newspaper business which he helped to make a success and led him to starting his own publishing company, publishing high quality educational books for children. He built relationships with children’s authors who then contributed pieces to his newspapers. When he died in 1767, the American Library Association decided to create a children’s book award named in his honor.

Previous winners of the award include:

The Crossover by Kwarme Alexander (2015)

Holes by Louis Sachar (1999)

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1990)

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (1961).

Learn more about The Newberry Award here!

The Caldecott Medal


The Caldecott Medal Award

Since 1938, The Caldecott Medal Award is given to the best illustrated picture book of the year according to the Association for Library Service to Children. It is named after English Illustrator Randolph Caldecott.

Caldecott was a Victorian Illustrator who illustrated nursery rhymes, postcards, greeting cards, poems, and travel books. The story books that he illustrated include Granny’s Story Box (1873), Jackanapes. (1883), Lob Lie-by-theFire (1885), and The Owls of Olynn Belfry, a Tale for Children (1885). The award is meant to honor illustrators who don’t always get the credit they deserve but who are especially important in the picture book industry.

Books that have won the award include:

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (2015)

The Polar Express (1986)

Jumanji (1982)

One Fine Day (1972)

Learn more about Randolph Caldecott here!

Learn more about the award here!

The National Book Award Medal


The National Book Award

The National Book Award has been given out by the National Book Foundation since 1936. The first ceremony was held at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City in 1950. They select winners in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people’s literature. Winners receive a $10,000 prize.

Past winners include:

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison in 1953 (fiction)

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson in 1979 (children’s literature)

The Color Purple by Alice Walker in 1983 (hardcover fiction)

Redeployment by Phil Klay (2014).

Ursual K. LaGuin speaking at the National Book Award Ceremony

National Book Critics Circle Logo


National Book Critics Circle Award

Founded in 1974, The National Book Critics Circle Award is given out each March in six categories: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Winners are voted on by critics, the only national award to do so. Their first ceremony was held in April 1974 at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City.

Past winners include:

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison in 1977 (fiction)

Atonement by Ian McEwan in 2002 (fiction)

The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation by David Brion Davis in 2014 (general nonfiction)

Learn more about the National Book Critics Circle Award here!

National Book Critics Circle Award Ceremony Video

The Nobel Prize Medal


The Nobel Prize in Literature

There are six Nobel Prize categories: physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, peace, and economics. Named for Alfred Nobel, a Swedish engineer, the idea for the awards was suggested by Nobel himself in his will.

In 1901, six years after his death, the Swedish Academy began to hand out awards in these categories. The six year delay was due to protests by Nobel’s family after he wrote in his will that the entirety of his fortune be used to set up the foundation. The prize honors the writers themselves rather than a particular body of work.

Past winners include:

Patrick Modiano (2014)

Toni Morrison (1993)

Joseph Brodsky (1987)

John Steinbeck (1962)

Learn more about the Nobel Prize in Literature here!

The Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction Logo


The Pen/Faulkner Award

The Pen/Faulkner Award is named after author William Faulkner who created the award using the money earned from his Nobel Prize. The word "Pen" refers to Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists.

Founded in 1981, submissions are judged by fellow authors who read about 300 submissions (both novels and short story collections) and select one winner and four nominees who attend a buffet dinner where the awards are handed out.

Aside from the award, they also receive a $15,000.00 prize with runners up receiving $5,000.00

Previous winners include:

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (2014)

The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1999)

World’s End by T. Coraghessan Boyle (1988)

Learn more about the Pen/Faulkner Award here!

The Pulitzer Prize Medal


The Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prize was established by American journalist Joseph Pulitzer in his will. The prize recognizes writers in: journalism, letters, drama, music, and special awards and citations. There are 21 sub-categories within each category. Author awards are broken down into biography or autobiography, drama, fiction, general nonfiction, history, music, novel, and poetry awards.

Winners receive $10,000 except for the winner of the public service category in journalism, who also receives a gold medal. The ceremony takes place in April, and awards are given out by the president of Columbia University. Different sub-categories have been added over the years.

Previous fiction winners include:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr in 2015

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout in 2009

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1961)

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway in 1953.

Learn more about The Pulitzer Prize here!

What are your favorite award-winning books? Leave your answers in the comments below!


Do you keep track of the major book prizes awarded each year?

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