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2023 OWL Awards Shortlist

Posted by BookPal Marketing Team on Dec 06, 2023

2023 OWL Awards Shortlist

With December bliss comes the reveal of our Shortlist! Our book experts have continued on with their search of the best books of the year, narrowing down our category Longlist titles to the highly anticipated 2023 OWL Awards Shortlist. These standout titles get our owl hoots of approval, how about yours??

Each of these books across all categories express unique ideas that impact society for the better. These incredible authors have mastered the art of storytelling to share a new perspective of the world (and of ourselves). Through diligent research and eye-opening insights, they share their wisdom and represent the power of books to ignite continuous learning and growth. Prepare to immerse yourself in the transformative narratives that grace our 2023 OWL Awards Shortlist.

Business: Big Idea

1. Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things by Adam Grant

In Hidden Potential, bestselling author Adam Grant challenges the obsession with innate talent, offering a fresh perspective on personal growth. In a world fixated on talent, Grant challenges the notion that success is reserved for the naturally gifted. Drawing on compelling evidence and captivating stories, he takes us from classrooms to boardrooms, revealing that progress hinges on effective learning, not just hard work.

Grant explores how anyone can surpass expectations by focusing on skills, motivation, and creating opportunities. Hidden Potential is not just about reaching peaks but about the journey of self-improvement and realizing untapped possibilities.

2. The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the Twenty-First Century’s Greatest Dilemma by Mustafa Suleyman with Michael Bhaskar

In The Coming Wave, Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of DeepMind, issues an urgent warning about the imminent risks posed by rapidly advancing technologies like AI. Suleyman, having been at the forefront of AI innovation, argues that the next decade will bring both prosperity and threats to the foundation of global order.

In this groundbreaking book he emphasizes the critical need to control powerful technologies to avoid unprecedented harms and overbearing surveillance. As our governments navigate this delicate balance, The Coming Wave outlines the existential dilemma we face and challenges us to find a narrow path between catastrophe and dystopia.

3. Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well by Amy C. Edmondson

In Right Kind of Wrong, Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson revolutionizes our perception of failure. Contrary to viewing failure as the opposite of success, Edmondson introduces a framework to navigate the complexities of failure.

Through real-life stories and examples, Edmondson provides tailored practices, skills, and mindsets to help us embrace our human fallibility and learn when failure can be beneficial. Right Kind of Wrong guides us to replace shame and blame with curiosity, vulnerability, and personal growth, transforming the way we view and approach failure.


Business: Leadership

1. The Wisdom of the Bullfrog: Leadership Made Simple (But Not Easy) by William H. McRaven

Admiral McRaven, a seasoned Navy SEAL, shares inspirational advice and leadership lessons gathered from his four-decade career. As the longest-serving active-duty Navy SEAL, McRaven draws on experiences like capturing Saddam Hussein and rescuing Captain Phillips to provide invaluable insights on leadership.

Drawing on crisis situations, organizational transitions, and ethical dilemmas, each chapter presents a parable reminiscent of Make Your Bed. The Wisdom of the Bullfrog is a compelling guide for those aspiring to move from good to truly great leadership.

2. The Ultimate Guide to Great Mentorship: 13 Roles to Making a True Impact by Scott Jeffrey Miller

The Ultimate Guide to Great Mentorship is a practical handbook for mentors seeking to maximize their impact. This guide walks mentors through the entire process, from setting expectations and goals to tracking progress and recognizing when it's time for new opportunities.

Filled with sample plans and forms for a more impactful experience, this timely resource eliminates the ambiguity of effective mentorship. This is an essential read that provides growth opportunities for future leaders and emphasizes the mutual benefits of mentorship.

3. Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments Into Extraordinary Results by Shane Parrish

In Clear Thinking, Farnam Street founder Shane Parrish reveals the transformative power of learning to think clearly in life and business. Parrish emphasizes that we often run on autopilot, reacting without reasoning. He provides tools to recognize these moments, navigate the space between stimulus and response, and apply reasoning and rationality for better decision-making.

With stories, mental models, and practical insights, Clear Thinking bridges behavioral science with real-life outcomes, offering an essential manual for leaders to live a more intentional life.


Business: Management & Culture

1. Say the Right Thing: How to Talk about Identity, Diversity, and Justice by Kenji Yoshino and David Glasgow

In Say the Right Thing, Kenji Yoshino and David Glasgow provide a practical and shame-free guide for navigating conversations about identity in a time of social change. Amidst social and political unrest, discussions on critical topics like race, gender equity, and LGBTQ inclusion can be challenging.

The authors, founders of the Meltzer Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at NYU School of Law, present seven user-friendly principles that help potential allies avoid conversational pitfalls, engage in respectful disagreement, offer genuine apologies, and better support marginalized individuals. Whether at work, college, or family gatherings, Yoshino and Glasgow equip readers with practical tools to consciously help others and promote inclusion.

2. The Performance Paradox: Turning the Power of Mindset Into Action by Eduardo Briceño

The Performance Paradox is a groundbreaking guide by Eduardo Briceño, an expert on growth mindset, that unveils the key to personal and team success. This book explores the Performance Paradox, where focusing solely on performance can hinder success.

Briceño provides insights on avoiding the chronic performance trap, embracing the power of mistakes, integrating learning into daily habits, and leading teams for continuous improvement. With a refreshing framework, this guide empowers individuals and companies to achieve their boldest aspirations by navigating the delicate balance between learning and performing.

3. Team Habits: How Small Actions Lead to Extraordinary Results by Charlie Gilkey

Team Habits unveils the power of small, team-based changes with company-wide impacts. Charlie Gilkey highlights common challenges in team dynamics, such as lack of planning, missed goals, and unclear communication. He then emphasizes that collective habits are as crucial for teams as personal habits are for individuals.

With practical exercises, a Team Habits Quiz, and a guide to creating a team habits roadmap, this book guides readers in transforming their groups for improved collaboration and success. Discover how changing even the smallest habits can lead to powerful results for your team.


Business: Sales & Marketing

1. Creating Superfans: How to Turn Your Customers Into Lifelong Advocates by Brittany Hodak

In Creating Superfans, entrepreneur Brittany Hodak reveals how to turn your business into a beloved brand by building a dedicated fanbase. Drawing from her experience with brands like Walmart, Disney, and Amazon, Hodak shares a powerful framework to transform your business from a commodity to a brand that customers love.

Through entertaining stories and memorable case studies featuring stars like Taylor Swift and Mötley Crüe, Hodak shares her SUPER Model, a game changing customer experience system. Whether you're launching a new business or managing a well-established brand, this book provides a shared playbook for unlocking the unmatched power of superfandom.

2. For the Culture: The Power Behind What We Buy, What We Do, and Who We Want to Be by Marcus Collins

Marcus Collins, the mind behind renowned ad campaigns, argues that culture is the most potent force for shaping behavior. Drawing on his experiences with Beyoncé, Apple, Nike, and the Brooklyn Nets, Collins breaks down how culture influences behavior.

Whether you're a manager, employee, activist, or artist, the key to getting people to take action lies in understanding the cultural forces that drive them. This book is your go-to guide for anyone seeking to influence people effectively.

3. Magic Words by Jonah Berger

In Magic Words, bestselling author Jonah Berger explores the science of language, revealing six types of words that can amplify your impact in various aspects of life. From persuading others and building relationships to boosting creativity and motivating teams, Berger explores the power language holds.

With insights from the new science of language, this book reveals how words can change minds, engage audiences, and drive action. Whether you're a salesperson or anyone seeking to increase impact, Magic Words provides a powerful toolkit and actionable techniques for achieving extraordinary results in communication and influence.


Business: Women in Business

1. Gravitas: The 8 Strengths That Redefine Confidence by Lisa Sun

Lisa Sun, a noted fashion entrepreneur and former McKinsey consultant, shares eight strengths that empower women to be confident and successful in this inspiring book. Drawing from her own experiences, Sun challenges society's narrow view of confidence and redefines it as an inclusive construct rooted in innate strengths.

With a blend of personal journey, research, and real-world examples, Gravitas offers valuable insights and strategies for women in various life stages and roles, showing them how to live with total self-assurance and find their own gravitas.

2. In Her Own Voice: A Woman’s Rise to CEO: Overcoming Hurdles to Change the Face of Leadership by Jennifer McCollum

In Her Own Voice by Jennifer McCollum, CEO of Linkage, draws on 25 years of research to offer practical advice and empowerment for women seeking career advancement and organizations aiming to improve gender equity. Despite the proven benefits of gender-balanced leadership, the progress remains slow, exacerbated by challenges such as the aftermath of COVID-19.

This book addresses the specific hurdles women face, offering actionable insights and competencies to overcome obstacles, from silencing inner critics to building confidence. A timely blueprint, this book will help women identify, measure, and conquer barriers at any career stage.

3. Without a Doubt: How to Go from Underrated to Unbeatable by Surbhi Sarna

In Without a Doubt, Surbhi Sarna shares her inspiring journey that led her from a teenage cancer scare to founding a medical start-up for early ovarian cancer detection. Despite being a young woman of color without a medical degree or traditional connections, Sarna used her unique qualities to overcome doubts and achieve success.

Her story demonstrates how she became a leader without an MBA, built a network without connections, and raised funds despite not knowing venture capitalists. Sarna's experience shows you how to overcome setbacks, defy impossible standards, lead with empathy, empower others, and persuade the right people to achieve their goals.


Education: Picture Books

1. Ninja Nate by Markette Sheppard Illustrated by Robert Paul Jr.

In this action-packed and heartwarming picture book a boy named Nathaniel, aka Ninja Nate, adopts a ninja alter ego to cope with a new disability. Throughout the summer, he embraces his ninja persona, even hiding his robotic leg beneath the costume. As he faces the first day of fifth grade, Nathaniel grapples with revealing his true self to his friends. With support from his brother Sensei Charlie and ninja mom Mama Mary, Nathaniel embarks on a journey to be both a boy and a robot, showcasing his courage to share his complete and authentic self.

2. Big by Vashti Harrison

"Big" beautifully captures a child's quest for self-acceptance, emphasizing the profound impact of words—how they can either wound or uplift. This oversized and thoughtfully crafted book mirrors its message, overflowing with care and love. Through spare text and exquisite illustrations, Vashti Harrison delicately navigates the emotional journey of being big in a world that values smallness, offering a poignant portrayal of standing out and feeling invisible simultaneously.

3. The Artist by Ed Vere

In this adorable picture book by New York Times bestselling author-illustrator Ed Vere, a courageous young artist embarks on a grand adventure to share her creativity with the world. The story follows our brave hero through challenges and triumphs as she transforms a dull gray city into a vibrant, lively place, bringing beauty to its inhabitants. A reminder that it's okay to embrace uniqueness and color outside the lines, and celebrate the joy art brings to people’s lives.


Education: Elementary

1. Sejal Sinha Battles Superstorms by Maya Prasad Illustrated by Abira Das

Get ready to fall in love with Sejal Sinha, a young Indian American girl with a passion for science and a vivid imagination. While anticipating Diwali celebrations, Sejal and her cousin Mira face a new challenge as a hurricane threatens their home. Utilizing Cardboard Box Magic and Sejal's favorite stuffed animal, Professor Cheetah, the girls embark on a thrilling adventure into the eye of the storm with their homemade Hurricane Hunter to battle the superstorm head-on!

2. The Invisible Elephant by Anna Anisimova Illustrated by Yulia Sidneva

Follow the heartwarming journey of a young blind girl who joyfully explores her environment through senses and imagination. Despite her visual impairment, the girl embraces the world with creativity and joy. From the zoo to art class, her magical mind transforms a walking stick into a horse and a sled into a whale. As she learns braille, her family and friends cheer her on, showcasing her unique way of navigating the world. With stunning illustrations, this special book encourages children to appreciate diverse perspectives on seeing the world.

3. The Beach Dilemma by Laura Wiltse Prior Illustrated by Marta Kissi 

Middle-child Emma finds herself sandwiched between her two brothers once more as her family embarks on a weeklong beach vacation with friends. However, she hatches a clever plan to escape the middle by adopting a new role. Determined to avoid the usual pitfalls of being neither here nor there, Emma decides to act BIG. But will it work? Join Emma on this delightful journey as she navigates the highs and lows of family dynamics, discovering the true meaning of embracing your unique self.


Education: Middle School

1. Farther Than the Moon by Lindsay Lackey

Houston Stewart has always dreamed of becoming an astronaut. When he gets accepted into the Junior Astronaut Recruitment Program, his dream seems to be coming true, but there's a catch – he can't bring his little brother, Robbie, who has cerebral palsy with him. They have been inseparable since his dad left, but Houston must take this giant leap on his own.

As Houston faces the program's challenges, Houston realizes that Robbie may never experience space like they've always hoped. Despite this, Houston is determined to honor Robbie's dream. "Farther Than the Moon" is a heartfelt story about family, dreams, and the determination to reach for the impossible.

2. The Antiracist Kitchen: 21 Stories (and Recipes) edited by Nadia L. Hohn Illustrated by Roza Nozari

Indulge in a flavorful anthology where Nadia Hohn makes talking about racism as easy as baking a cake. This collection showcases the powerful role of food in combating discrimination, reclaiming culture, and celebrating diversity.

Through 21 stories and recipes, these award-winning North American children's authors share the role of food in their lives and how it has helped fight discrimination, reclaim culture and celebrate people with different backgrounds. From chopping to searing, marinating to stewing, "The Antiracist Kitchen" emphasizes the transformative act of sharing a meal, showcasing how it can unite people from diverse backgrounds.

3. Lasagna Means I Love You by Kate O’Shaughnessy

What are the essential ingredients that make a family? Nan was all the family Mo ever needed. But when her beloved Nan is suddenly gone, Mo lands in foster care, grappling with her topsy-turvy life. A notebook and a suggestion to find a hobby lead Mo to discover a handmade cookbook with cherished family recipes.

Drawn not only to the recipes but also the attached stories, Mo embarks on a quest to collect and share family recipes, hoping to find her own. As she teaches herself to cook and builds a website, Mo realizes that if she wants a family recipe—or a real family—she’s going to have to make it up herself. 


Education: First Year Experience (FYE)

1. Hidden Genius: The Secret Ways of Thinking That Power the World’s Most Successful People by Polina Marinova Pompliano

What distinguishes the truly exceptional from the merely great? Drawing on five years of research on the world's most successful individuals, Polina Marinova Pompliano examines how they reason their way through problems, unleash their creativity, and perform under extreme pressure.

These high performers don't rely on tricks or shortcuts for greatness; instead, they embrace mental frameworks that reshape their worldview. By unlocking their hidden genius, they reach their fullest potential. This transformative guide provides you with the insights to do the same.

2. Outsmart Your Brain: Why Learning is Hard and How You Can Make It Easy by Daniel T. Willingham

Unlock the secrets of effective learning in this groundbreaking guide and explore techniques to study more efficiently, overcome exam stress, and rediscover the joy of learning.

Unlike conventional methods like highlighting and rereading, this comprehensive guide emphasizes real comprehension over mere familiarity. Tailored for teachers and students of all ages, "Outsmart Your Brain" offers practical, scientifically backed advice. Each chapter not only presents specific strategies but also demystifies why traditional study approaches fall short. Bid farewell to exam stress and discover strategies to study more effectively.

3. Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Get ready to unlock your true purpose in life with Arnold Schwarzenegger's practical wisdom. From bodybuilding to Hollywood stardom and political leadership, Arnold shares seven rules for success drawn from his extraordinary journey.

Explore Arnold’s toolkit for a meaningful life with his characteristic earnestness and power. Grounded in clear vision, expansive thinking, hard work, direct communication, resilient problem-solving, open-minded curiosity, and a commitment to giving back, Arnold's approach is a testament to his father's core lesson: be useful.


Education: Community-Wide Read

1. The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese

Set in Kerala on South India’s Malabar Coast from 1900 to 1977, the story unfolds over three generations of a family marked by a peculiar affliction—each generation experiences a drowning death. Amidst the water-rich landscape of Kerala, the narrative begins with a twelve-year-old girl's journey to her wedding, a journey that shapes the destiny of the family.

As Big Ammachi, the matriarch, witnesses profound changes, the novel becomes a poignant exploration of joy, triumph, hardship, and loss. "The Covenant of Water" is a hymn to medical progress, human understanding, and the sacrifices made by past generations for the present. This is a masterful literary novel that captures the essence of time and the resilience of the human spirit.

2. The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz

What defines a fulfilling and meaningful life? The unexpected answer lies in relationships. Drawing on insights from the Harvard Study of Adult Development, this book explores the profound impact of connections on our well-being.

Drawing on personal stories from the study participants and other research, 'The Good Life' explores how various relationships—friendships, partnerships, family, colleagues, and more—contribute to a happier and healthier existence. Explore how it's never too late to enhance the quality of our connections for a more meaningful life.

3. While You Were Out: An Intimate Family Portrait of Mental Illness in an Era of Silence by Meg Kissinger

In the vibrant 1960s suburbs of Chicago, Meg Kissinger's family projected an image of joy and exuberance. Yet, hidden behind this facade was a harsh reality—a medicated mother, a volatile father, and children grappling with bipolar disorder and depression, leading to tragic losses.

"While You Were Out" unfolds as a deeply personal journey that transcends into an exploration of flawed mental health care systems. Blending memoir and investigative reporting, Kissinger delves into the consequences of silence, the repercussions of inadequate public policies, and the promise found in emerging treatment approaches. This poignant narrative reveals a family's unwavering love and resilience amidst profound sorrow.


We wanted to congratulate all the amazing titles that have made it through to the final round of our OWL Awards. If you want to be the first to hear about what books win in each category be sure to sign up for our newsletter. Happy reading!