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A Librarian’s Look at Book Awards

By Wendy Hellekson MLIS

The number of book awards can be daunting. Just doing a cursory Google Search can result in over eight million results. Which ones are good? Do some of them have more importance than others? As a librarian, the recent Gazette article on book awards reminded me just how many awards there are out there. How can you even figure out if the award is good or worth anything? I often take a look at the American Library Association (ALA) website. This link provides a list to many awards that are recognized by the ALA and also provides a list of the winning books. 

There are so many choices of Awards even through the ALA website. It is helpful to look for the book genre and see what awards there are. One thing to note is that librarians have a different definition for media. In this case, media is any kind of material that is published for mass consumption.

I work with high school students, so young adult awards are of interest to me. The most prestigious young adult awards are The Alex Awards, Newberry Medal Awards and the Michael Printz Awards. The Alex Awards are books that are of special interest to 12 to 18-year-olds. By looking at these awards you can see trends in different genre. Most of these awards have subgenres, check these out too. 

There are also awards that are dedicated to subgenres of media. African American books are a hot topic and looking at the Coretta Scott King Awards is very helpful for me. These books are terrific and have engaging materials with African Americans in the subject. The same goes for The Stonewall Book Awards that are dedicated to LGBTQ peoples and their lives. I have purchased many fantastic books after reviewing this award list too. For adult nonfiction, the best list is The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. These books cover a variety of topics and provide interesting reads. 

The best thing about the list from the American Library Association is that they back the awards. Their inclusion of an award provides a level of trust in the veracity of that award, and that is priceless.

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