2020 Regional Meetings

Open Registration:

All remaining regional meetings for 2020 have been canceled

AAR Best First Book in the History of Religions Award

The AAR History of Religions Jury invites nominations for Best First Book in the History of Religions Award. Established by the American Council of Learned Societies in 1891, this award is now administered by the American Academy of Religion.

This award honors exceptional scholarship and eligible books must meet four criteria:

  1. The nomination must be the first book published by the nominee.
  2. It must be in the field of "History of Religions" (in the broad sense that it raises historical and/or comparative methodological questions in the field of religion).
  3. It must have a publication date within the calendar year preceding the award year (e.g., books submitted by for consideration of the 2020 award must have publication dates between January 1 and December 31, 2019).
  4. The nominated book must be written by a single author.

The winner is presented with a cash award of $1,000 and is recognized in a variety of AAR publications. For a list of prior award winners, see here.

Nomination Deadline: February 10 annually

Submission Procedures

A complete submission includes (1) a letter of nomination and (2) a copy of the nominated book mailed to the AAR executive office. Complete submissions must be received by February 10. Partial submissions will not be considered by the juries.

Nominations may be submitted by any person, publisher, or institution with the exception of the competition chair and jurors. AAR especially encourages letters of nominations from colleagues and self-nominations; if requested, publishers will often send a review copy to the AAR offices for the purposes of award consideration.

A copy of each nominated book should be sent directly to the AAR office at:

American Academy of Religion
Attn: Best First Book Award
825 Houston Mill RD NE Suite 300
Atlanta, GA 30329

Letters of Nomination

A brief rationale should be enclosed with each nomination; this is considered the nomination letter. What makes the book an outstanding first monograph? What about the book signifies the promise of the author’s further contributions to the field? How does the submission affect the way you approach research, consider a tradition, or construct your teaching? Letters of nomination may be sent by mail or e-mailed to

Publisher-generated nominations must identify someone in their publishing house who will serve as contact. AAR will ask that additional copies be sent to jury members if the book is shortlisted for consideration.

Jury Consideration Process

The jury evaluation process has two stages:

First, the chair of the jury screens all complete nominations to determine a shortlist of titles that will be considered by all the jury members. AAR requests review copies of shortlisted titles be mailed to those jurors in the spring of each year.

Second, juries for each of the four categories evaluate the books that have been screened by the chair. Members of the juries confer in June and July to make their final judgments.

Award Procedures

  1. The AAR president, upon consultation with the executive director and chair, appoints as jurors AAR members who have a broad grasp of religious studies, who are recognized for their expertise in one or more of its subfields, and whose fairness and critical judgment are widely respected in the profession. Jurors serve for two years, without compensation except for receiving copies of the short-listed books. Any juror who has been involved in the production of a book nominated for an award will be recused. Recommendations of persons who might serve as jurors may be made directly to the AAR Offices at
  2. Competition for the AAR Best First Book in the History of Religions is open to all books that meet the criteria listed above. An author’s membership in the AAR is not a necessary condition for successful participation. The current value of each award is $1,000. One award is given per category per calendar year, provided the critical number of books for consideration is received in that particular category.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 Executive Offices 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.

All correspondence regarding the competition and copies of all books nominated should be directed in the first instance to the AAR Offices:

American Academy of Religion
Attn: Best First Book Award
825 Houston Mill RD NE Suite 300
Atlanta, GA 30329
Phone: 404-727-3059
Fax: 404-727-7959