On Monday night, the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association had its annual Christian Book Awards ceremony. They award the best book in various categories (fiction, children, Christian life, etc.), and they also name a single Book of the Year overall. Previous winners have been books by Philip Yancey, Max Lucado, and for the last two years running, The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren.
This year, they cut the categories down from twenty categories to six, and they changed the judging so that of the six category winners, the one with the highest overall ranking score becomes the book of the year. (A full list of the nominees and winners is available here.) So - guess what was this year's winner?
The Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, edited by Kevin Vanhoozer, published by Baker Academic.
Shock and scandal! A 900-page, $55 academic theological reference work is the Christian publishing industry's 2006 book of the year! Wow. I was bummed that it beat out our nominee in the Bible Reference & Study category (IVP's Dictionary of Old Testament: Historical Books), but I'm thrilled that such a weighty, substantive book was honored for its significance in scholarship.
The funny thing is that the industry had all these big plans to promote the book of the year with big endcap displays in stores and to try to get major media coverage and whatnot. Well, I'm not sure that Vanhoozer's dictionary is going to be a stocking stuffer that everyday folks will pick up at Wal-Mart. It may be the lowest-selling, highest-priced book of the year ever. But kudos to Baker Academic. It's a sea change in what is recognized as an award-winning Christian book.