Winners of the Reading the West Book Awards Announced

On May 25, Denver author Kali Fajardo-Anstine hosted the online ceremony to crown the winners of the 31st annual Reading the West Book Awards. Fajardo-Anstine was the winner in last year’s fiction category for her book Sabrina & Corina: Stories.

Two things were notable about the 2021 event: The awards, in nine categories, were given in an online presentation, and Colorado readers were invited to vote for their favorites. This year, over 6,000 bookseller and public votes were cast to help select winners from the group of finalists.

The Reading the West Book Awards are sponsored and promoted by the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association, including indie bookstores in thirteen states. The awards honor the best fiction, nonfiction and illustrated books for adults and children set in or created by someone in the western region.

The mission of the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association is "to support and promote independent bookstores in our region, raise awareness of the value of locally owned businesses in our communities, and celebrate literary culture and an open exchange of ideas as crucial to a free society."

The Association began over a half-century ago in Denver and has grown to represent hundreds of bookstores in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

In addition to the nine categories, an Advocacy Honor was also granted to an outstanding book that promotes equity and inclusivity and addresses themes of social, economic and/or environmental justice. That award for 2021 went to My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir, by Jenn Shapland, published through Tin House Books.

We covered the shortlisted finalists earlier this year. Following is a list of the winners:

click to enlarge REBECCA ROANHORSE
Rebecca Roanhorse
Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse, Gallery/Saga Press

Debut Fiction
All Things Left Wild, James Wade, Blackstone Publishing

When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, edited by Joy Harjo, W.W. Norton & Company

Narrative Nonfiction
The Reign of Wolf 21: The Saga of Yellowstone's Legendary Druid Pack, Rick McIntyre, Greystone Press

Illustrated Nonfiction
Our Wild Tails: The Adventures of Henry & Baloo, Cynthia Bennett, Gibbs Smith

Eating the West (Culinary/Cookbook)
The Mexican Home Kitchen: Traditional Home-Style Recipes That Capture the Flavors and Memories of Mexico, Mely Martínez, Rock Point

Picture Book
Simon at the Museum, Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Christine Davenier, Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Young Reader/Middle-grade
The Elephant's Girl, Celesta Rimington, Crown Books for Young Readers

Young Adult
Tigers, Not Daughters, Samantha Mabry, Algonquin Young Readers

See more about the awards, including previous winners, at