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. View a list of past winners.


  • The nomination must be the first book published by the nominee.
  • The nominated book must be written by a single author.
  • 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).
  • 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 copyright dates between January 1 and December 31, 2023).
  • Nominees must be current members of the AAR. An author’s membership in the AAR is required to be eligible for consideration. AAR staff will confirm the author’s membership status during the review process. If membership is not current, nominees will have the opportunity to join. Nominees 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

Competition for the AAR Best First Book in the History of Religions is open to all books that meet the criteria listed above.

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

Books submitted for this award may also be submitted to any of the Awards for Excellence in the Study of Religion 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

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

2) Letter of Nomination

The nomination letter must include the following information:

  • Book award category; author name; book title; copyright date; nominator name
  • 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?

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, or incomplete nomination forms cannot be accepted. 

Selection Process

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. 

Jurors evaluate the shortlisted books and typically confer in summer to make their final selections.

The award result are typically announced in early fall.


The award winner will be notified formally by the AAR office.

The award result is 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 award has been announced, the 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