The Porchlight Business Book Awards are now open for entries! And we are doing things a little differently this year.
Awards season is now upon us.
Any book published in the U.S. in 2023 is eligible for entry, and all submissions to the awards are free. All books are judged on the quality of the writing, the originality and applicability of their ideas, and their ability to help us understand and navigate the world around us.
Books can be entered in the following categories:
Leadership & Strategy | Seeing the big picture, making decisions, and inspiring the organization.
Management & Workplace Culture | Motivating people, guiding processes, and managing projects.
Marketing & Communications/Sales & Influence | Building an audience, creating customers, and inspiring a passionate following.
Innovation & Creativity | Thinking creatively, designing solutions, and fostering entrepreneurship.
Personal Development & Human Behavior | Growing as people, understanding others, and building a career.
Current Events & Public Affairs | Expanding awareness and exploring systems, culture, and trends to build better businesses and communities.
Narrative & Biography | Learning from the stories of individuals, companies, and industries.
Big Ideas & New Perspectives | Imagining the future, exploring possibilities, and breaking through boundaries.
The awards entry form, links to past years’ winners, and more can be found on our awards page.
So, what are we doing differently this year?
We are eliminating the stages of competition we have used in the past. The 2023 Porchlight Business Book Awards will culminate in a list of 40 books we believe are able to bring the greatest benefit to individuals and organizations. We will sort those books into eight categories (five books in each category) as usual to help individuals and organizations more easily identify the right one for their circumstances and needs. But there will no longer be a shortlist or overall winner named, as in previous years. We will also not be requiring two physical copies of each book to be sent for consideration.
These are big decisions, and we didn’t make them lightly, so let us provide the big reasons that we're doing it this way.
1. We believe it is more useful to view books as in conversation, rather than in competition, with each other.
Finding the right book at the right time can change your life, or the life of your organization. But the right book for me and my company right now might not be the right one for you and yours. We may work in different industries, have different positions or goals, or be at different points in our lives and careers. And while holding a competition to name one book the best has a marketing benefit, in the ecosystem of ideas we exist in, we know it’s ultimately absurd to say one book is better for everyone than all the rest in any given year. It becomes an arbitrary and slightly political process. We know this, so we’re going to see what it’s like to not do that this year.
2. Doing the awards as we’ve done them in the past is a heavy lift, and not only for us.
How many times did we all feel (and read and write and say) during the beginning and heights of the pandemic that we could never go back to business-as-usual, to the grind, to the rat race? We continue to see extreme changes to our workplaces and routines, and we know you likely still have a lot on your plate—maybe even more. Our company exists as connective tissue within the publishing industry to make things easier, to help solve some of bookselling’s thorniest scenarios, and to do it in a way that keeps books human. This is as good a time as any to question our processes and reset some of them. And we’ve determined there is no need to have publishers, authors, and others in the industry pack up and send two copies of the 700+ books we receive every year—many of which we’ve already received review copies of over the course of the year. And we can lower the carbon footprint of our awards, and the amount of work we’re asking everyone to do, if we start with digital entries. So we are going to do that this year.
These two decisions have been a long time coming, and I’ll share three personal moments from the past five years that reflect why.
When we went to New York City for our book awards and industry appreciation party in 2018, I was asked by multiple people which of the eight books on the shortlist was my favorite. (We brought 25 copies of each to the event, and they were wondering which to take home). The overall winner that year, Winners Take All, was my first answer every time. I was the person who initially reviewed the book earlier in the year, it was in an awards category I curated, and I felt great about us as a company elevating it into the top spot overall. But I loved all the books on the shortlist that year and I suggested other books on top of Winners Take All based on who asked and what I knew about them as people. And yet another, rather odd thing happened. I found myself recommending Ellen Ruppel Shell’s The Job to people almost as often as Winners Take All. But because they were both in the Big Ideas & New Perspectives category, only one could move on to win the category and contend for book of the year, and we didn't send copies of Ellen Ruppel Shell's to the event. So I couldn’t physically hand The Job to people, which as a bookseller I yearned to do. Eliminating category winners will put the 40 books we choose on an equal footing, and let readers decide for themselves which are best for them—which to take home.
In the pandemic year of 2020, when we met about opening the awards, my personal perspective was that there was absolutely no way we could pull it off. The economy had been shut down, my kids were young and trying to do virtual school in the next room, and it felt like it was going to be too much at a time that was itself just too much. But with everything in upheaval, when confidence in our most basic assumptions and institutions was called into question and our understanding of the world shaken, we knew that there was tremendous value in holding up the best books of the year as a guide. With so much disinformation, dishonesty, and indecency coursing through our national debate, there was a pressing reason to champion books as a source of information, facts, truth, and moral grounding. So we decided to push through, remain consistent amidst the chaos unfolding around us, and proceed with the awards in the way we’d always done it. But we knew then that change was upon us.
Fast forward to March of this year: I was watching the Oscars with my wife and kids. It was the kids’ first time experiencing this spectacle, and they were transfixed. But my nine-year-old son also saw through it, and asked near the end of the show, “But why do they even do this, Dad? How do they pick? It’s not like one of these movies is really the best. Like, who decides?” As I tried to dadsplain it to him, he reiterated (in his nine-year-old-ese) how arbitrary it all was, and I had to agree. So I tried another route and told him how we do the same thing where I work, picking one book as the best book of the year, and how naming one book the best is a good way to honor all the great work that is being done in publishing. He didn’t buy it, and I think he was right.
Out of the mouths of babes, they say.
So we’ve asked ourselves: can we celebrate the work being done in the industry and 40 of the best books of the year without making it a competition? Can we do it in a way that requires less of a lift from the people who produce and promote the books we read and sell? Can we do it in a way that allows all 40 books to shine on their own even more brightly? We think so, and we’re going to do that this year.
Call for entries will close on October 2nd.