Awards for Excellence in the Study of Religion


To recognize new scholarly publications that make significant contributions to the study of religion, the AAR presents Awards for Excellence every year. These awards honor works of distinctive originality, intelligence, creativity and importance—books that affect decisively how religion is examined, understood, and interpreted. Winners are awarded a $1,000 prize. View a list of past winners.

Awards for Excellence are given in four categories:

  • 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
  • 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
  • Textual Studies: Works that focus on the analysis, interpretation, or translation of a particular text or group of texts in the study of religion


  • Eligible titles must have publications dates between January 1 and December of the previous calendar year (e.g., books submitted by for consideration of the 2022 award must have publication dates between January 1 and December 31, 2021).
  • 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 covering letter (see below).

Competition for AAR Awards for Excellence is open to all books of distinction in the academic study of religion. An author’s membership in the AAR is not a necessary condition for successful participation. Nominations may be submitted by any person, publisher, or institution with the exception of the competition chair and jurors. AAR especially encourages nominations from colleagues and self-nominations.

Submission Instructions

A complete submission includes (1) a letter of rationale and (2) a copy of the nominated book that is either mailed to the AAR office or submitted digitally through the nomination form.

A book may be nominated for more than one category if a complete submission is received for each nomination. Partial submissions will not be considered by the juries. All correspondence regarding the competition and copies of all books nominated should be directed to [email protected].

Nominate a Book

Letters of Rationale

A brief rationale should be enclosed with each nomination. In which category should the work be considered? Why is the work outstanding in its field? How does it differ from established classics? How does the submission affect the way you approach research, consider a tradition, or construct your teaching? Letters of rationale are submitted via the nomination form.

Publisher-generated nominations must identify someone in their publishing house who will serve as contact. 

Copies of Nominated Books

A print copy of the nominated book is required for each submission. AAR will ask that additional copies be sent to jury members if the book is shortlisted for consideration. Books should be mailed to the following address:

American Academy of Religion
Attn: Book Awards
825 Houston Mill RD NE
Atlanta, GA 30329

Selection Process

  • The chair of the Book Awards Jury conducts an initial screening of all complete nominations to determine a shortlist of titles that to be considered by all jury members. AAR requests review copies of shortlisted titles be mailed to those jurors in the spring of each year. Juries for each of the four categories then evaluate the books that have been screened by the chair. Members of the juries confer in June and July to make their final judgments.
  • Results are declared in late summer and will be announced in the Program Book of the AAR Annual Meeting, in a subsequent issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and on the AAR website. Winners will be notified formally by the AAR executive director or jury chair.
  • After the awards have been announced, each winning publisher will be asked to send not later than September 15 three cloth copies of the book to the AAR office for use in promoting the award. In addition, each winning author will be asked to supply a photograph of the author (preferably .png or .jpeg image) for use in announcing the awards at the Awards Ceremony at the Annual Meeting, in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and on the AAR website.

Annual Deadline

2023 TBD

Award Amount