Awards for Excellence in the Study of Religion


The AAR Awards for Excellence in the Study of Religion recognize new scholarly publications that make significant contributions to the study of religion. These awards honor works of distinctive originality, intelligence, creativity and importance—books that affect decisively how religion is examined, understood, and interpreted. View a list of past winners.

Awards for Excellence are given in four categories:

  • Analytical-Descriptive Studies: Works of analysis or theory that focus on religion as an object of enquiry or on its typical components, such as myth, ritual, or tradition
  • Constructive-Reflective Studies: Works of contemporary ethics, philosophy, interpretation, theology or analogous forms of critical reflection
  • Historical Studies: Works that focus on the history of a particular religion or religions in a specific historical period or geographical area
  • Textual Studies: Works that focus on the analysis, interpretation, or translation of a particular text or group of texts in the study of religion


  • Competition for AAR Awards for Excellence is open to all books of distinction in the academic study of religion.
  • Eligible titles must have copyright dates between January 1 and December 31 of the previous calendar year (e.g., books submitted by for consideration of the 2024 award must have publication dates between January 1 and December 31, 2023).
  • The competition will not favor works of multiple authorship, reprints, or individual volumes in multivolume projects. If such volumes are nominated, detailed justification is required in the nomination letter.
  • Nominees must be current members of the AAR. An author’s membership in the AAR is required to participate in the program. AAR Staff will confirm membership status during the review process. If membership is not current, nominees will have the opportunity to join. Nominees/authors who do not have current AAR membership will not be eligible for consideration. 
  • Nominations may be submitted by any person, publisher, or institution with the exception of the jury members. AAR especially encourages nominations from colleagues and self-nominations.

Nomination Instructions

There is no limit to the number of titles that may be nominated, but only one nomination can be submitted per nomination form.

To be eligible for consideration, the nominator must submit a completed nomination form, a letter of nomination, and provide a print copy of the nominated book by the submission deadline.

Books may be submitted for more than one award category, and/or to the Best First Book in the History of Religions and/or the Religion and the Arts Book Award, but each submission must include its own nomination letter, print book copy, and completed nomination form.

Nominations must be submitted through the AAR Award Nominations Portal and must include the following: 

1) Nomination Form

A nomination form must be submitted with each nomination submission. Nominators will be required to provide the following information on the nomination form:

  • Book Award Category
  • Name of Book Author
  • Title of Book
  • ISBN -13
  • Name of Publisher 
  • Copyright Date
  • Book Author's Contact Information 
  • Nominator Contact Information

2) Letter of Nomination

The nomination letter must include the following information:

  • Book award category; author name; book title; copyright date; nominator name
  • Why the work is outstanding in its field
  • How the work differs from established classics
  • How the nominated book affects the way you approach research, consider a tradition, or construct your teaching 

3) Print Copy of Nominated Book

A print copy of the nominated book is required with each nomination. Nominations submitted without a print book copy cannot be accepted. 

Nominators will receive instructions on where to send the print copy of the nominated book when the nomination form is submitted. Nominators will also receive a confirmation email upon submission that will include the address information to send the print copy.

Please do not send copies of nominated books to the AAR Office as they will not be accepted. 

All of the required nomination materials, including the print book copy, must be received by the deadline. 

Late or emailed nomination letters, print book copies, and /or incomplete nomination forms cannot be accepted.  

Selection Process

There is a jury for each of the four book award categories. For each book award category, the jury chair conducts an initial screening of all eligible nominations to determine a shortlist of titles to be considered by the jury members.

If a nominated book is shortlisted for further consideration, the AAR will request a print copy of the shortlisted title to be mailed by the publisher to the jurors. 

Juries for each of the four award categories evaluate the shortlisted books and typically confer in summer to make their final selections.

Results are typically announced in early fall.


Award winners will be notified formally by the AAR office.

The award results are announced on the AAR website and may be included in the Program Book of the AAR Annual Meeting, and in a subsequent issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 

After the awards have been announced, each winning publisher will be asked to send three cloth copies of the book to the AAR office for use in promoting the award.


For any questions, please contact us at [email protected].

Annual Deadline

February 29, 2024 | 6 PM ET

Award Amount