Shortlist for the 2020 Outstanding Works of Literature (OWL) Award Announced

2020 OWL Award Shortlist

At BookPal, we believe in the power of books to ignite continuous learning and growth. Three years ago, we created the Outstanding Works of Literature (OWL) Awards to recognize books that do just that.

Over the years, we’ve seen many great titles rise to the top.  This year, we continue to highlight fifteen categories that reflect the diverse types of books we sell every day. After narrowing down the list to five longlisted titles in each category, our editorial team has selected the top three books per category that represent top reading recommendations for individuals and teams to inspire new ideas, expand perspectives, and fall in love with reading.

Introducing the three shortlisted books in each category:

Big Idea

The Future is Faster Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis & Steven Kotler

The Future is Faster Than You Think

Diamandis, a space-entrepreneur-turned-innovation-pioneer, and Kotler, bestselling author and peak performance expert, probe the science of technological convergence and how it will reinvent every part of our lives, taking humanity into uncharted territories and reimagining the world as we know it.


Upstream by Dan Heath


So often in life, we get stuck in a cycle of reacting to problems as they arise as opposed to fixing the systems that caused the problems. New York Times bestselling author Dan Heath explores how to prevent problems before they happen, drawing on insights from hundreds of interviews with unconventional problem solvers.


You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy

You're Not Listening

When was the last time you listened to someone, or someone really listened to you? This eye-opening wake-up call by New York Times reporter Kate Murphy draws attention to the worldwide epidemic of not listening, exposing the profound impact that it is having on us all and showing what we can do about it.


Leading with Gratitude by Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton

Leading With Gratitude

The influential New York Times bestselling authors—the “apostles of appreciation” Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick—provide managers and executives with easy ways to add more gratitude to the everyday work environment to help bolster morale, efficiency, and profitability.


Think Like a Rocket Scientist by Ozan Varol

Think Like a Rocket Scientist

In this accessible and practical book, Ozan Varol reveals nine simple strategies from rocket science that you can use to make your own giant leaps in work and life—whether it’s landing your dream job, accelerating your business, learning a new skill, or creating the next breakthrough product.


Unleashed by Frances Frei & Anne Morriss


Showing how the boldest, most effective leaders use a special combination of trust, love, and belonging to create an environment in which other people can excel, Frei and Morriss offer practical, battle-tested tools along with interviews and stories from their own personal experience to make these ideas come alive.

Management & Culture

Doing Agile Right by Darrell Rigby, Sarah Elk, & Steve Berez

Doing Agile Right

Agile, done well, enables vigorous innovation without sacrificing the efficiency and reliability essential to traditional operations. The authors break down how agile really works, show what not to do, and explain the crucial importance of scaling agile properly in order to reap its full benefit.


The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias by Pamela Fuller, Mark Murphy, & Anne Chow

The Leader's Guide to Unconscious Bias

Ideal for every manager who wants to understand and move past their own preconceived ideas, The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias provides more than thirty unique tools, such as a prep worksheet and a list of ways to reframe your unconscious thoughts, in order to overcome unconscious bias.


Welcome to Management by Ryan Hawk

Welcome to Management

In Welcome to Management, Ryan Hawk provides practical, actionable insights designed to ensure that the transition between employee to manager is a successful one by presenting a new three-part framework distilled from best practices drawn from in-depth interviews as well as his own professional experience.

Sales & Marketing

The Expansion Sale by Erik Peterson & Tim Riesterer

The Expansion Sale

Tap into the real value of your existing customers. The Expansion Sale provides everything that marketing, sales, and customer service professionals at B2B companies need to initiate, manage, and mine customer conversations for unprecedented profits and growth.


The Forever Transaction by Robbie Kellman Baxter

The Forever Transaction

In The Forever Transaction, bestselling author Robbie Baxter offers practical advice for entrepreneurs and business leaders to build and launch a recurring revenue business while explaining how to make sure the company culture supports this new way of working.


Virtual Selling by Jeb Blount

Virtual Selling

Virtual Selling is the definitive guide to leveraging video-based technology and virtual communication channels to engage prospects, advance pipeline opportunities, and seal the deal—allowing you to engage more prospects and customers, in less time, at a lower cost, while reducing the sales cycle.

Women in Business

Launching While Female by Susanne Althoff

Launching While Female

Journalist and professor Susanne Althoff investigates the obstacles women and nonbinary entrepreneurs—especially those of color—face when launching, funding, and growing their companies, obstacles that persist because the current start-up world was engineered by and for white men.


Power Moves by Lauren McGoodwin

Power Moves

From the founder of the influential website Career Contessa, an invaluable career resource for women feeling stuck or unfulfilled that combines actionable advice, learning tools to make impactful life changes, and an in-depth discussion of how to build a meaningful career on your terms.


Unapologetically Ambitious by Shellye Archambeau

Unapologetically Ambitious

Full of empowering wisdom from one of Silicon Valley’s first female African American CEOs, this inspiring leadership book offers a blueprint for how to achieve your personal and professional goals with practical strategies, tools, and approaches readers can employ right now.

Picture Books

Antiracist Baby Picture Book by Ibram X. Kendi & Ashley Lukashevsky

Antiracist Baby

With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces young readers to the concept and power of antiracism. Providing the language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age, Antiracist Baby is the perfect gift for readers of all ages dedicated to forming a just society.


I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes & Gordon C. James

I Am Every Good Thing

This upbeat, empowering, important picture book from the team that created the award-winning Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut features a confident Black narrator who is proud of everything that makes him who he is. Told in verse, I Am Every Good Thing is a necessary read full of positive self-affirmation for young readers.


Perfect Pigeons by Katherine Battersby

Perfect Pigeons

A colorful flock of pigeons pride themselves on their perfect unity. All except one: a bespectacled pigeon who is happiest doing its own thing. When the flock finally confronts their contrary friend, they learn a thing or two about true perfection—and that we don’t all have to be the same to belong together.


Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake & Jon Klassen

Skunk and Badger

Wallace and Gromit meets Winnie-the-Pooh in a fresh take on a classic odd-couple friendship, from Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake with full-color and black-and-white illustrations throughout by Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.


The Amelia Six by Kristin L. Gray

The Amelia Six

Eleven-year-old Millie doesn’t realize just how much adventure awaits her when she’s given the opportunity of a lifetime: to spend the night in Amelia Earhart’s childhood home with five other girls. When Amelia’s famous aviator goggles go missing, the girls have to work together to find them before the night is over.


Tune it Out by Jamie Sumner

Tune it Out

Twelve-year-old Lou Montgomery’s life has been centered on her mother’s plan to make her a singing star, but a crisis turns her whole world upside down. When she is diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder, Lou learns that it isn’t something to be ashamed of, and music might just be the thing that saves her.

Middle School

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

The List of Things That Will Not Change

Despite her parents’ divorce, her father’s coming out as gay, and his plans to marry his boyfriend, ten-year-old Bea is reassured by her parents’ unconditional love, excited about getting a stepsister, and haunted by something she did last summer at her father’s lake house.


The Ship We Built by Lexie Bean

The Ship We Built

Rowan decides to attach letters to balloons and release them into the universe, hoping someone new will read them and understand. But when he befriends a classmate who knows what it’s like to be lonely and scared, even at home, Rowan realizes that there might already be a person he can trust right by his side.


When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed

When Stars are Scattered

This remarkable graphic novel tells the story of Omar and his younger brother Hassan growing up in a refugee camp. When an opportunity for Omar to get an education comes along, he must decide between going to school every day or caring for his nonverbal brother.

High School

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko


Raised in isolation, Tarisai yearns for the closeness she could have as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11, but her mother, The Lady, has magically compelled Tarisai to kill the Crown Prince. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?


This Is My America by Kim Johnson

This is My America

Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. When her brother is accused of killing his white girlfriend, Tracy starts to investigate—determined to prove both his and her father’s innocence.


We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

We are Not Free

From New York Times best-selling and acclaimed author Traci Chee comes We Are Not Free, the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II.

Advanced Reading

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

Deacon King Kong

In September 1969, an old church deacon known as Sportcoat unexpectedly shoots a drug dealer at point-blank range. The lives of those involved—the victim, the witnesses, the cops assigned to the case, members of Sportcoat’s church, the neighborhood’s Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself—become deeply intertwined.


The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

The Girl With the Louding Voice

The unforgettable, inspiring story of a teenage girl growing up in a rural Nigerian village who longs to get an education so that she can find her “louding voice” and speak up for herself, The Girl with the Louding Voice is a simultaneously heartbreaking and triumphant tale about the power of fighting for your dreams.


Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Transcendent Kingdom

Gifty, a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience at Stanford, is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees around her. But even as she turns to science to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised.

Health & Wellness

Breath by James Nestor


No matter what you eat, how much you exercise, how young or wise you are, none of it matters if you’re not breathing properly. Journalist James Nestor draws on thousands of years of medical texts and recent cutting-edge studies to figure out what went wrong with our most basic biological function and how we can fix it.


The New Rules of Aging Well by Frank Lipman & Danielle Claro

The New Rules of Aging Well

From renowned integrative doctor Frank Lipman comes a radically simple program to reverse the symptoms we reflexively call “normal aging,” including feeling achy, stiff, sluggish, weak, and vulnerable to chronic illness. This improves not only our life span but, more importantly, our quality of life and how we feel.


Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty

Think Like a Monk

In this inspiring, empowering book, Jay Shetty draws on the timeless wisdom he learned as a monk to show us how we can clear the roadblocks to our potential and power. Think Like a Monk reveals how to overcome negative thoughts and habits and access the calm and purpose that lie within all of us.

Gift & Special Interest

A Wealth of Pigeons by Steve Martin & Harry Bliss

A Wealth of Pigeons

Multitalented comedian Steve Martin and heralded New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss team up to create a collection of humorous cartoons and comic strips, with amusing commentary about their collaboration throughout.


Storey’s Curious Compendium of Practical and Obscure Skills by How-To Experts at Storey Publishing

Storey's Curious Compendium

Drawn from 35 years of publishing trusted how-to books, this visual volume gathers entertaining and practical step-by-step knowledge from Storey Publishing’s wide-ranging library, covering topics from gardening and animal husbandry to wilderness survival skills, home repair, cooking, and self-care.


The 99% Invisible City by Roman Mars & Kurt Kohlstedt

The 99% Invisible City

Based on their popular 99% Invisible podcast, Mars and Kohlstedt zoom in on the various elements that make our cities work, exploring the origins and other fascinating stories behind everything from power grids and fire escapes to drinking fountains and street signs.


A Pilgrimage to Eternity by Timothy Egan

A Pilgrimage to Eternity

Moved by his mother’s death and his Irish Catholic family’s complicated history with the church, Timothy Egan decided to embark on a thousand-mile pilgrimage along the Via Francigena, once the major medieval trail leading the devout to Rome, to explore Christianity in the world that it created.


We Are Called to Be a Movement by William Barber

We are Called to Be a Movement

A single, inspiring sermon from Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II of the Poor People’s Campaign: a call to action for a moral revival to save the heart and soul of our democracy, and for people to rise up, come together, and effect change as a community.


White Too Long by Robert P. Jones

White Too Long

Drawing on history, public opinion surveys, and personal experience, Robert P. Jones delivers a provocative examination of the unholy relationship between American Christianity and white supremacy, and issues an urgent call for white Christians to reckon with this legacy for the sake of themselves and the nation.

Politics & Current Events

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson


Through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling author Isabel Wilkerson examines how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.


Rigged by David Shimer


In Rigged, David Shimer tells the sweeping story of covert electoral interference past and present. He exposes decades of secret operations to shape electoral outcomes, melding deep historical research with groundbreaking interviews with more than 130 key players.


Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein

Why We're Polarized

With thoughtful and persuasive analysis, Why We’re Polarized reveals the structural and psychological forces behind America’s descent into division and dysfunction and offers a clear framework for understanding everything from Trump’s rise to the Democratic Party’s leftward shift to the politicization of everyday culture.

Biography & Memoir

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Anonymous

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt

Part memoir and part joyful romp through the fields of imagination, Becoming Duchess Goldblatt reveals the unforgettable story behind a beloved pseudonymous Twitter personality, showing how a writer deep in grief rebuilt a life worth living.


Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett

Hollywood Park

Mikel Jollett was born into one of the country’s most infamous cults and subjected to a childhood filled with poverty, addiction, and emotional abuse. Yet, ultimately, his is a story of fierce love and family loyalty told in a raw, poetic voice that signals the emergence of a uniquely gifted writer.


Untamed by Glennon Doyle


In her most revealing and powerful memoir yet, activist, speaker, and bestselling author Glennon Doyle explores the joy and peace we discover when we stop striving to meet others’ expectations and start trusting the voice deep within us.



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This post was written by Megan Habel, the Brand Strategist at BookPal. She is currently reading Normal People by Sally Rooney.

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