Sheikh Zayed Book Award Shortlists: Literature, Children’s Literature, and Young Author

In News by Porter Anderson

The three shortlists announced today comprise nine titles selected from a total 39 longlisted works. Winners are to be named in May, and will be eligible for translation funding.

A moment in the 2012 Sheikh Zayed Book Award winners’ ceremony. Image: SZBA

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Substantial Submission Increases in All Three Categories
Today (March 16), the Sheikh Zayed Book Award program based at the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre has announced its shortlists in three categories in this, its 15th year.

Highlighted today are the finalists in the categories of Literature, Children’s Literature, and Young Author. And of the nine titles on these lists, women are the authors of seven. The books come from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine, and Lebanon.

Publishing Perspectives readers will remember our publication of the Zayed Book Award longlists in late November under the direction of Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, and we’ll have news soon of more categories’ shortlists.

The three categories we’re hearing about today were particularly popular this year, the program reporting that all three showed a significant increase in the number of entries year-over-year.

  • The Literature category saw an increase of 33 percent in the number of nominations, bringing this year’s number to 584 submitted titles
  • The Children’s Literature category received 244 entries, an increase of approximately 19 percent compared to the previous year’s entries
  • The Young Author category received 646 submissions, an increase of approximately 30 percent over last year’s submissions
Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2021 Literature Shortlist

This is a category that includes both fiction and poetry. From this category’s longlist of 12 titles, the shortlisted books, all three novels, are:

  • An Taashaq Al-Hayat (To Love Life) by Alawiya Sobh from Lebanon, published by Dar Al Adab Publishing & Distribution in 2020
  • Ghorfat Al-Mosafree (The Passengers Hall) by Ezzat El-Kamhawi from Egypt, published by Al Dar Al Masriah Al Lubnaniah in 2020
  • Fee Athar Enayat Al-Zayyat (In the Footsteps of Enayat Al-Zayyat) by Iman Mersal from Egypt, published by Al Kotob Khan Library in 2019
Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2021 Children’s Literature Shortlist

The Children’s Literature longlists comprised 13 titles. The books selected for the shortlist are:

  • Hadyqat Al Zomorrod (The Emerald Garden) by Moroccan writer Raja Malah, published by Dar AlMoualef Publishing and Distribution/Maalem Printing, Publishing and Distribution in 2019
  • Rehlat Fannan (An Artist’s Journey) by Tunisian writer Mizouni Bannani, published by Dar Al Mua’nasa Publishing in 2020
  • Al Ghool wa Nabtat Al Olayq (The Beast and the Blackberry) by Emirati writer Naseeba Alozaibi, published by Dar Ashjar Publishing and Distribution in 2019
Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2021 Young Author Shortlist

This category recognizes works in science, literature, culture, fine arts and humanities, in addition to scientific theses that are published, produced by authors younger than 40 years.

The Young Author category longlist was the biggest of these three, with 14 titles.

And these shortlisted titles comprise two novels and one critical study:


  • Laylat Yalda (Yalda Night) by Egyptian writer Ghada Al-Absi, published by Dar Al Tanweer in 2018
  • Ma Taraktu Khalfi (What I Left Behind) by Palestinian writer Shatha Mustafa, published by Nofal/Hachette Antoine in 2020

Critical Study

  • Eshkalyat Al Thaat Al Saredah Fee Al Rwayah Al Nesaayah Al Saudiah (The Problems of the Narrated Self in the Saudi Feminist Novel (1999 to 2012) – Critical Study) by Saudi Arabian writer Dr. Asma Muqbil Awad Alahmadi, published by Arab Scientific Publishers, Inc. in 2020

More category announcements are anticipated in coming weeks.

The Book Award’s Biggest Year Yet

At the 2017 Sheikh Zayed Book Award winners’ ceremony in Abu Dhabi. Image: SZBA

As our readership knows, the 2021 cycle of the Sheikh Zayed Book awards is the largest in the program’s largest in its 15-year history, with a total 2,349 titles having been submitted across the program’s nine categories–a 23-percent increase over the 2020 cycle.

Winners are to be honored in a virtual ceremony in May, during which the Cultural Personality of the Year will be named and presented with a gold medal, a certificate of merit, and a cash award of 1 million UAE dirhams (US$272,259). With a purse of 750,000 UAE dirhams (US$204,194) in each of the eight book categories.

Overall, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is among the wealthiest portfolios of publishing-related honors in the world, worth a total of 7 million dirhams (US$1.9 million).

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is here, more on Arabic literature is here, and more on translation is here. More from us on publishing and book awards in the international industry is here. Publishing Perspectives is the media partner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.