Winners for the 2019 Outstanding Works of Literature (OWL) Award Announced

Announcing the 2019 OWL Award Winners

Introducing the top fifteen books of 2019!

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

Every year, it is our pleasure and honor to announce the winners in each category—and this year is no exception. In our third year of the OWL Awards, we’ve expanded the field to reflect the various trends within the three most popular overarching themes among our clients: Business, Education, and Miscellaneous.

The result is fifteen categories, for which we had several hundred submissions. After narrowing the submissions down to a longlist of 5 per category, then a shortlist of 3 per category, our editorial team has selected the top title in each category. We invite you to take a deeper look at each award-winning title for your 2020 planning and consideration:


Business Category Winners

Big Idea

IndistractableIndistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal

It may come as no surprise to see Nir Eyal on our list of OWL Award Winners for 2019.  After his bestseller Hooked, we were very excited to encounter and read his latest, Indistractable.

In this new book, Eyal reveals the hidden psychology driving us to distraction. He describes why solving the problem is not as simple as swearing off our devices: abstinence is impractical and often makes us want more.  From the outset, our team and readers were hooked (no pun intended). This book is so thoroughly researched and well-presented, it’s hard not to view this as a total game-changer with respect to one’s efficiency, accountability (to self and to others), and productivity. Indistractable provides a framework and game plan for any reader looking to improve time management and also still have time for the important things.

As one reader put it, “the mix of storytelling and real-life examples were entertaining while they provided fascinating insights that were relatable.” These ideas and principles helped us achieve greater productivity not only here at work, but also in our own personal lives.



Management Mess to Leadership SuccessManagement Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow by Scott Jeffrey Miller

Scott Jeffrey Miller, the Executive Vice President of Thought Leadership at FranklinCovey, has written a book we feel is so actionable! It is organized in such a way that key takeaways, stories, and challenges are broken out by chapter or day of the month—so we all know exactly what to work on as we progress through the weeks. “The solution-oriented approach is what really sets this book apart,” states one reader, “there were multiple chapters I want to implement right away.”

How often do we all encounter and face challenges?  (All day, every day, right?).  Scott’s book is meant to be an actionable resource for solving those issues and finding solutions and resources that will work for your team or organization.


Management & Culture

The RemixThe Remix: How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace by Lindsey Pollak

In this highly accessible, readable, and enjoyable book, Lindsey Pollak presents the essential guide to creating work environments and teams that work for all (quite the feat!).  We learned a LOT about other generations and came away with new insights, perspectives, and tips for being a better communicator in a workplace where most (if not all) generations are represented.

From another reader: “It is fascinating to learn about the different generations, and very helpful when trying to understand others you work with who aren’t of the same generation as you! Author Lindsey Pollak gives good tips on how to pivot (or remix) the way you lead or approach a situation based on previously explained biases and/or misconceptions about generations and their behavior.”

We also love the end-of-chapter key takeaways. They serve as actionable reminders, and we will be referring to this book and resource often!


Sales & Marketing

The IconistThe Iconist: The Art and Science of Standing Out by Jamie Mustard

Jamie Mustard encourages and invites us all to see the primal and elemental “blocks” in all things around us.  Through the use of blocks, we can stand out in a crowd and create memorable impressions, expressions, and experiences via our products, brands, music, messaging, and/or art.

It’s basic and simple in principle, yet so often overlooked in practical use. Jamie’s clear, thought-provoking writing—complete with true, real-life examples of how blocks are elemental, primal, and familiar to us all—conveys the importance of how these blocks can change lives. One reader said, “this is essential reading—I’ve already begun to see blocks in everyday life, helping me see how things can be seen and remembered, and how other things can easily get lost.”


Women in Business

Everything is FigureoutableEverything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo

The world of business is full of inspirational women from whom we can all gain insights, knowledge, and actionable tools to help us be more productive, successful, and efficient in 2020 and beyond, and Marie Forleo is no exception. This indispensable handbook will show you how to become the creative force of your own life by retraining your brain to think more creatively and positively in the face of setbacks.

We loved Everything is Figureoutable and its lessons: “Marie’s tools, tips, and strategies were not only helpful but actionable. She can be tough on her readers, but she is always an inspiration.”

Marie’s engaging and thought-provoking style helps us all strive to be, do, and seek better for ourselves, our work, and our people.


Education Category Winners

Picture Books

SulweSulwe by Lupita Nyong’o and Vashti Harrison

Sulwe’s power, love, beauty, and self-acceptance come from within. That is the lesson that this beautifully illustrated book conveys to readers. From page one, we fell in love with Sulwe, and we know others all over the world will too: “Sulwe is a beautiful story and has so much meaning.  It delivers a powerful message for all.  The illustrations are beyond beautiful. This is one of my favorite children’s books of the year, by far.  Teaching kids at a young age about positive self-esteem is so important and this book does just that and more.”

Another reader said, “Poignant and powerful!  Sulwe sings its message of self-acceptance and inner beauty with wonderful and vibrant drawings and a storyline that is relatable.  Truly a masterpiece!”



GutsGuts by Raina Telgemeier

Raina Telgemeier’s latest is a brave and enduring graphic novel that deals with issues that will help and appeal to many elementary readers. We love how this book not only shows what anxiety is, but also how kids can deal with it: “many kids will be able to connect to the main character and her problems. I like how it conveys that it’s okay to have anxiety and talk to others about it while demonstrating how to cope with it in a safe way.”

Another reader chimed in to say, “it’s a wonderful exploration of things we hold inside and fear, and how freeing it is to show them.  Everyone has something going on with them that you don’t know about. You are not alone.”

These are indeed important messages for young elementary kids to know and learn.


Middle School

The Boy at the Back of the ClassThe Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf

We love The Boy at the Back of the Class for its timeliness, relevance, and presentation. Told through the eyes of a child, the book highlights the importance of friendship, kindness, and acceptance in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

One reader remarked, “I enjoyed this book immensely. The plot is very relatable to events that are currently happening in the world, and I enjoyed getting to know the characters. It was a page-turner!”

While another said, “I liked the use of pictures throughout, it made it seem like a kid was telling the story. It was relatable to kids in the middle school reading level by using words and explanations they would understand.”


High School

Scars Like WingsScars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

Scars Like Wings is one of those books that bursts onto the scene and steals the show. We felt its message so deeply in our core. Learning to adapt in the face of struggle and be resilient is part of being human, and it’s certainly not easy.

One reader shared, “I really loved this book, and it addresses a couple very heavy topics (mental health, bullying, etc.)  in a very relatable way.  I felt as though many teens could relate to and identify with the topics and characters in this book without it taking away from the enjoyment of the story.”

Ultimately a story of true strength, compassion, and resilience—as we all have our burdens to carry and scars to wear—we love the message of learning to cope with the struggles, tragedies, and obstacles we will all face.


Advanced Reading

I'm Telling the Truth But I'm LyingI’m Telling the Truth, But I’m Lying: Essays by Bassey Ikpi

Thank you, Bassey Ikpi, for writing so openly about mental health!  It goes without saying that talking about mental health and its importance—and bringing it to the forefront of discussion in order to do away with any stigma surrounding it—are the best things we as a community and society can do for one another. Reading this book left us all speechless in a good way.  One reader put it best:

“This memoir completely broke my heart, but in a good way. The author, Bassey Ikpi, is extremely honest and raw. She’s so open about the things she’s gone through that it felt like I was in the room with her watching as she cried on the floor. She provides an in-depth look into the life of someone struggling with their mental health and she holds nothing back. I truly appreciated how vulnerable she was in her writing. These essays will hopefully show so many others that they are not alone and even though it may take everything in you just to get out of bed in the morning, there is still something worth living for. Ikpi’s words will stay with me long after finishing her work. I will definitely recommend this book to everyone for years to come!”


Miscellaneous Category Winners

Health & Wellness

Permission to FeelPermission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive by Marc Brackett

Permission to Feel is a title that truly brings so many relevant issues together—with an actionable solution helping adults, parents, and children all over the country and the world.

With the RULER system (recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing and regulating), parents, kids, and adults alike can exercise a common language and approach to understanding, assessing, and assigning language to emotions and feelings that can otherwise derail us, build up over time, manifest themselves in unhealthy ways, and be disruptive to one’s overall growth, learning, development.

“The author does a wonderful job defining a problem, researching it, and providing applicable solutions.  I was very impressed with his engaging writing style,” said one reader.

Likewise, another reader exclaimed, “Everyone needs to read Permission to Feel, his RULER framework is simple to follow and effective when practiced and implemented. I believe this will deeply transform schools, work environments, and society as a whole.”


Gift & Special Interest

1000 Places to See Before You Die1,000 Places to See Before You Die (Deluxe Edition): The World as You’ve Never Seen It Before by Patricia Schultz

This is one of the most exquisite and enjoyable books we’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering, experiencing, and reading. 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, Deluxe Edition is a visual exploration of all the incredible places our world has to offer from none other than Patricia Schultz!

“Stunning presentation and photography!  I could spend hours and weeks with this book and still want more, all the while plotting my never-ending list of places to visit.”

“This is a beautiful book that captures iconic monuments, places, and landscapes.  Flipping through this book makes me want to travel and see parts of the world I never knew existed. This is a great gift book/coffee table book that will give you the travel itch.”



Holy EnvyHoly Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others by Barbara Brown Taylor

Holy Envy is a memoir beautifully mixed with theology. We were excited to encounter Barbara Brown Taylor’s latest book, and readers found it “thought-provoking, engaging, and worthwhile.”

As she returns to her own traditions and faith for guidance, Barbara is able to show us how, more often than not, God has an uncanny way of using outsiders and unexpected individuals to teach insiders (Christians) how incredible, capable, and all-knowing God really is.

One reader remarks, “The author writes about a subject that is deeply meaningful to me and I greatly appreciated her innovative approach.”

Coming from a place of respect and empathy for those who worship differently and those who exercise different faiths, this is a book for everyone and one that will likely become a favorite among readers of religious-focused titles.


Politics & Current Events

The ThreatThe Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump by Andrew G. McCabe

We were all excited to read The Threat by Andrew McCabe—and we weren’t alone!  Here are a few thoughts from our readers:

“The Threat is an engaging and interesting read on several levels.  First, it is a relatively brief autobiography of the author’s career with the FBI.  That, of and by itself, is very interesting.  Second, it is a very good and succinct overview of the FBI’s investigative procedures and processes.  Third, The Threat provides an excellent discussion of the evolution of the FBI following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.”

“The book was a quick read and held my attention for its entirety. The subject matter is relevant and speaks loudly to the state of our nation. Andrew McCabe had a great deal to share and I felt he did an amazing job.”


Biography & Memoir

They Called Us EnemyThey Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker

A book that has captured our attention: They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott with illustrations from Harmony Becker. Thank you for sharing your story, George, and thank you for sharing this book with the world!

“This is an amazing book. You don’t realize how little you know until you read it. It makes you think about America and the wrongs we’ve committed in the past and even recently allowed. An amazing retelling that I cannot recommend highly or often enough.”

“This book is an amazing read, I couldn’t put it down! I feel the way the story was told—through a graphic novel format—made this even more compelling.  Not only is it easier to read, but it allows us to really take in the emotions from the graphics. The time in which this was published couldn’t be more crucial.  Our political climate is in chaos and this book does a great job of reminding us about our past, how we should stand up for what’s right, and make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”


Congratulations to all the longlist, shortlist, and category winners of this year’s OWL Awards! BookPal would like to extend a special thanks to all publishers and authors who submitted their titles. We appreciated all of them, and look forward to the inspiring and groundbreaking titles to come in 2020!


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This post was written by Karlyn Hixson, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Editorial at BookPal.  She is currently reading The Connector’s Advantage by Michelle Tillis Lederman.

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