Bookshelf: Awards season celebrates a year of great books

Charis Books & More has been nominated for Bookstore of the Year by Publishers Weekly. Pictured here are Charis Circle Executive Director E.R. Anderson (left) and Charis Books & More co-owner Sara Luce.  Curtis Compton/

Charis Books & More has been nominated for Bookstore of the Year by Publishers Weekly. Pictured here are Charis Circle Executive Director E.R. Anderson (left) and Charis Books & More co-owner Sara Luce. Curtis Compton/

Spring is traditionally the season of rebirth and renewal, but it seems doubly so this year as we begin to cautiously emerge from a long year due to the pandemic. The local literary scene is kicking off the season with a variety of awards and honor programs that celebrate some of the books that have kept us company during these difficult times.

One of the South’s most prestigious literary awards, the Thomas Robinson Prize, will be presented to novelist Barbara Kingsolver by Mercer University on April 17.

A native of Kentucky who lives in Virginia, Kingsolver is best known for “The Poisonwood Bible,” a 1998 Pulitzer Prize finalist about a Georgia family of Baptist missionaries who relocate to the Belgian Congo in 1959. Set against a backdrop of political upheaval as the country fights for independence, the book spans three decades and is told from the viewpoints of four sisters and their mother. “How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons)” is Kingsolver’s most recent book, a collection of poems and meditations published in 2020.

Author Barbara Kingsolver. Contributed by Steven Hopp

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Established in 2012, the Thomas Robinson Prize, formerly known as the Sidney Lanier Prize until the Georgia poet fell out of favor for having served in the Confederacy, recognizes established authors and poets who write about the South. Past winners include Ernest Gaines, Wendell Berry, Natasha Trethewey and Ron Rash. The prize is selected by a committee of Southern literary scholars from Mercer University, Emory University, University of Georgia, Middle Georgia State College, University of South Carolina and University of Alabama, among other experts in the field.

The award presentation will be livestreamed at 1 p.m. April 17 at

The Georgia Center for the Book has announced its annual list of Books All Georgians Should Read. Among the 10 titles are the novels “The Last Widow” by Karin Slaughter and “The Nature of Remains” by Ginger Eager; the poetry collections “Slide to Unlock” by Julie Bloemeke and “Body Braille” by Beth Gylys; and the nonfiction “Coming Full Circle: From Jim Crow to Journalism” by Wanda Smalls Lloyd and “Smokelore: A Short History of Barbecue in America” by Jim Auchmutey.

For a full list, go to, where you’ll also find a list of Books All Young Georgians Should Read.

In an era when independent bookstores are having to innovate and reinvent themselves to compete with Amazon, the time is ripe to launch the new Bookstore of the Year Award presented by Publishers Weekly, the trade magazine for the publishing industry. There are five nominees for the award and among them is Charis Books and More. A prime example of a business that has mastered the art of the pivot, Charis moved from its longtime home in Little Five Points to Decatur in 2019. There they established a partnership with Agnes Scott College to serve its student population while still serving the general public with its women-, Black- and LGBTQ-centric book sales and programming.

The awards ceremony will be livestreamed at 4:30 p.m. May 25 at

The award will be presented in conjunction with Publisher Weekly’s new U.S. Book Show, designed to fill the void left by the long-running BookExpo, which announced its closure last year. A trade show for booksellers, librarians, publishers, authors and literary agents, the U.S. Book Show takes place online May 25-27. Tickets are $35-$149 plus fees. For more information go to

The 57th annual Georgia Author of the Year Awards has announced its long list of nominees for 2021. As reported in the AJC last year, the Georgia Writers Association, which oversees the awards, eliminated self-published authors from the competition. The move created strife in the organization, but it resulted in increasing the overall quality of the nominations and making the prize more prestigious.

There are 11 categories this year, including detective/mystery, first novel, history, romance, memoir and young adult. Nominees include “Crooked Truth” by Kristine F. Anderson, “Far Beyond the Gates” by Philip Lee Williams, “Still” by Sandra Meek, “Memorial Drive” by Natasha Trethewey, “You Were There Too” by Colleen Oakley, “Salty Bitter Sweet” by Mayra Cuevas and “Cumberland Island: Footsteps in Time” by Stephen Doster and Benjamin Galland. For a complete list, go to

Winners will be announced June 12 on Facebook Live at

Author Joshilyn Jackson

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It’s not technically an award, but when a New York Times-bestselling author selects your new novel to highlight on her popular virtual panel discussion, it’s kind of like winning a prize. The AJC Decatur Book Festival presents again this year “Joshilyn Jackson Reads,” a nine-part series starting May 4. Joining Jackson ― whose latest domestic thriller, “Mother May I,” comes out April 6 ― will be author Nicki Salcedo (“All Things Beautiful,” “Interconnections”), who will also moderate some panels.

Featured books and authors include “While Justice Sleeps” by Stacey Abrams, “Family Law” by Gin Phillips, “The Newcomer” by Mary Kay Andrews and “Firekeeper’s Daughter” by Angeline Boulley. For more information go to

Suzanne Van Atten is a book critic and contributing editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.