National Book Foundation to Present Lifetime Achievement Award to Carolyn Reidy

September 2020



The late President and CEO of Simon & Schuster to be honored at the 2020 National Book Awards for her industry-leading career in publishing

Literarian medal, 2014. Photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan.

The National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards,  announced Carolyn Reidy, the late President and CEO of Simon & Schuster, as the recipient of its 2020 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. Carolyn Reidy was unparalleled in her devotion to literature, and throughout her career at Simon & Schuster and beyond, Reidy was a tireless advocate for readers, writers, booksellers, and all booklovers across the country. Carolyn Reidy passed away on May 12, 2020. The Literarian Award will be presented to Reidy in a video montage of authors and others Reidy worked with during her career, and will be accepted by her husband, Stephen Reidy.

“Books and readers around the world have benefitted deeply from having Carolyn Reidy at the helm of the publishing industry for four decades,” said David Steinberger, Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation. “On top of her responsibilities at Simon & Schuster, Carolyn Reidy served on our Board and as the chair of the Foundation’s Program Committee. In her almost two decades of generous service, she instilled energy, creativity, and insight into all of the National Book Foundation’s programming. Though the National Book Foundation has not presented the Literarian Award posthumously before, the Foundation’s Board was unanimous that we should recognize Carolyn and her legacy of service to literature.”

In addition to her role as CEO and President, Reidy gave unreservedly of her time both mentoring those rising through the ranks, and more formally guiding industry and charitable organizations, serving for many years on the Boards of the Association of American Publishers and Literacy Partners as well as the National Book Foundation.

“Carolyn Reidy was a singular force in the world of books, and we are forever grateful for her passion and advocacy not just for the Foundation, but also for authors and readers everywhere.” said Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “It was an honor to work alongside her and see firsthand how she always brought her keen vision, business acumen, and relentless compassion to everything she did; it is with great pride that we recognize her innumerable contributions in service to literature and her undeniable impact on the literary community at large.”

During Reidy’s tenure, Simon & Schuster published books by National Book Awards-honored authors such as Isabel Allende, Anthony Doerr, Walter Isaacson, Stephen King, David McCullough, Annie Proulx, Jason Reynolds, Neal Shusterman, Jesmyn Ward, among many others. From books by cultural icons to works by political leaders; from romance to children’s books, Reidy underscored the importance of reaching readers across the spectrum, and embodied it in her effort to promote a diversity of titles and leave no community overlooked.

Reidy will be honored with the Literarian Award at the 71st National Book Awards Ceremony on November 18, 2020. Her husband, Stephen Reidy, will accept the Award on her behalf along with the $10,000 prize, which Mr. Reidy will donate to Carolyn Reidy’s favorite charity, Worldreader, a non-profit that believes readers build a better world. Worldreader combines 21st-century technology, culturally relevant digital books, and supportive programming to improve learning outcomes, workforce readiness, and gender equity in vulnerable communities around the world. Since 2010, Worldreader has reached 15 million children and young adults across the Global South.

This is the sixteenth year that the Foundation has presented the Literarian Award, which is given to an individual or organization for a lifetime of achievement in expanding the audience for books and reading. Past recipients include Dr. Maya Angelou, Joan Ganz Cooney, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Terry Gross, Kyle Zimmer, the literary organization Cave Canem, Richard Robinson, Doron Weber, and, most recently, Oren J. Teicher. Nominations for the Literarian Award are made by former National Book Award Winners, Finalists, and judges, and other writers and literary professionals from around the country. Final selections are made by the National Book Foundation’s Board of Directors.




Carolyn Reidy became President and Chief Executive Officer of Simon & Schuster, Inc. in January 2008. In this role, she was responsible for all the publishing and operations of Simon & Schuster’s numerous publishing groups as well as its international companies in Australia, Canada, India and the United Kingdom.

Reidy joined Simon & Schuster in 1992 as President of the Trade Division, was named President of the Adult Publishing Group in 2001, and became President and CEO of Simon & Schuster in 2008. During Reidy’s time with the company, Simon & Schuster has published many acclaimed works, including books by Pulitzer Prize winners David W. Blight, Anthony Doerr, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Frank McCourt and David McCullough and Siddhartha Mukherjee; world figures, celebrities, newsmakers and journalists including Jimmy Carter, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dick Cheney, Jaycee Dugard, Walter Isaacson, Phil Knight and Bob Woodward; bestselling novelists Mary Higgins Clark, Vince Flynn, Stephen King, Ruth Ware and Jennifer Weiner; works of practical advice from authorities including Ray Dalio, Angela Duckworth, Dr. Michael F. Roizen and Dr. Mehmet C. Oz, and Rhonda Byrne’s worldwide multi-million copy bestseller The Secret; and bestselling children’s and teen authors including Cassandra Clare, Jason Reynolds, Shannon Messenger, Rachel Renée Russell and Neal Shusterman.

Prior to Simon & Schuster, Reidy was President and Publisher of Avon Books, after having worked at William Morrow and Random House, where she was publisher of Vintage Books and Associate Publisher of the Random House imprint. In 2017 Reidy was named “Person of the Year” by Publishers Weekly. In 2007 Reidy was named one of “The 50 Women to Watch,” by the Wall Street Journal, and she was also is a recipient of the Matrix Award from the New York Women in Communications. She graduated from Middlebury College, and obtained an M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Indiana University, where in 2011 she was recipient of the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award.