2021 Major Book Awards Winners Recap

Now that all of the major literary and genre book awards have been announced (see the 2021 calendar here), it’s time for a recap … well, more like a highlight reel.

Book Awards

The awards season kicked off in January 2021 with the 2020 Costa Book Awards. The Category Award Winners were announced on Jan. 4th, followed by the Book of the Year – presented on Jan. 26th to The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story, Monique Roffey. These awards celebrate the most enjoyable books of the year by writers resident in the UK and Ireland.

The 2021 American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards were announced on Jan. 25th. There are several awards including the Alex Awards which goes to 10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults. The winners included Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi – which also won for Best Novella in the 2021 World Fantasy Awards (presented Nov. 6, 2021).

February started out with the presentation for another popular ALA Award, the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. The 2021 winners were announced on Feb. 4th and went to Deacon King Kong, James McBride for Fiction and Fathom: The World in the Whale, Rebecca Giggs for Non-Fiction.

Deacon King Kong

On Feb. 14, 2021, The 2020 Cybilis Awards were presented to books written for children and young adults. The winners included Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez for Best Young Adult Fiction, Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas for Young Adult Speculative Fiction and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You for High School Non-Fiction.

In March, there were quite a few book award winners announced. On Mar. 10, The 2020/2021 Story Prize was given to The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw. The 2021 Audie Award Winners were announced on Mar. 22nd. Audiobook of the Year went to Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor). The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Narrated by Robin Miles) won both Best Female Audiobook Narrator and Best Fantasy Audiobook. Clap When You Land, Elizabeth Acevedo (Narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo, Melania-Luisa Marte) won for both Best Young Adult Audiobook and Best Multi-Voiced Performance.

Clap When You Land

Finally, also in March, The 2020 National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced on the 25th. The John Leonard Prize (for the Best First Book) went to Luster, Raven Leilani and the Fiction winner was Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell which also won The Book of the Year for The British Book Awards.

The next month was ushered in with the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards Winners announced on April 8th. There are several different awards honoring outstanding voices in translation, fiction, poetry, science writing, essay, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, and drama. The PEN/Jean Stein Book Award has the largest monetary prize ($75,000) and goes to a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact, which has broken new ground by reshaping the boundaries of its form and signaling strong potential for lasting influence. It was awarded to Be Holding: A Poem, Ross Gay.

The 2021 Edgar Award Winners were also announced in April on the 26th. These awards honor the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television. Among the winners were When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole for Best Paperback Original and Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara for Best Novel.

When No One is Watching

As we moved in to May, we had the announcement of the winners of The 2021 British Books Awards aka The Nibbies. The Award for Book of the Year went to Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart. which also won in the Best Debut Fiction category. Hamnet won a Nibbie for Best Fiction and as mentioned above, also won Best Fiction for the National Book Critics Circle Award)

Later in the month on May 23rd, the 2020 Bram Stoker Awards Winners were announced. These awards honor “superior achievement” in dark fantasy and horror writing. The award for Superior Achievement in a Novel went to The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones. This author also had another winner in Superior Achievement in Long Fiction for Night of the Mannequinns. Coincidentally, both these books also won the same prizes in the 2021 Shirley Jackson Award Winners presented on Aug. 15, 2021.

June had an abundance of riches in terms of book award announcements. On the 2nd, At Night All Blood is Black, written by David Diop and translated from French by Anna Moschovakis was announced as the 2021 International Booker Prize Winner. Jun. 11 saw the announcement of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize Winners and Nominated Finalists. The Fiction winner was The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich. There were 2 genre awards also announced in June and Network Effect, Martha Wells won Best Novel for both the 2021 Nebula Awards Winners announced on the 5th and the 2021 Locus Award Winners announced on Jun. 25.

Network Effect

The next major book award announcement was the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction presented on Sep. 8, 2021. Piranesi, Sussana Clarke came out on top (also the winner of Audiobook of the Year in the Audie Awards).

Finally we get to the end of the year. November is like the last hurrah for major book award announcements. On the 3rd, we had the 2021 Booker Prize WinnerThe Promise, Damon Galgut. On Nov. 06, the 2021 World Fantasy Awards. Best Novel went to Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson. On Nov. 08th, What Strange Paradise, Omar El Akkad became the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize Winner. The National Book Award Winners were announced on Nov,. 17. Hell of a Book, Jason Mott was the Fiction Winner.

Normally, that would be it, but this year, the Hugo Awards moved from August to December 18, 2021. This will be updated with the winner once it’s announced.


In 2021, many of the book award dates got moved around, there were some virtual award ceremonies and some were able to have in person events. I wonder what 2022 has in store for us.

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