The Baillie Gifford Prize 2017 announces shortlist
The shortlist for the £30,000 Baillie Gifford Prize, which celebrates the best in non-fiction writing, is announced today.
The six titles on this year’s shortlist are:
- The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason, Christopher de Bellaigue (The Bodley Head)
- How to Survive A Plague, David France (Picador)
- Border: A Journey to The Edge of Europe, Kapka Kassabova (Granta Books)
- An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and An Epic, Daniel Mendelsohn (William Collins)
- To Be A Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death, Mark O’Connell (Granta Books)
- Belonging: the Story of the Jews, 1492-1900, Simon Schama (The Bodley Head)
The six titles chosen by the judging panel span history, popular science, travel and memoir, with several addressing grand themes including identity, faith, medicine and mortality.
The history of Islam is the subject of Christopher de Bellaigue’s The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle, which looks at some of the visionaries and radicals of historic Islamic civilizations from Cairo to Tehran. Historian Simon Schama chronicles more than four centuries of Jewish history through remarkable personal stories in Belonging: the Story of the Jews, 1492-1900.
Kapka Kassabova’s Border: A Journey to The Edge of Europe examines the border zone between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, once rumoured to be an easier crossing point into the West than the Berlin Wall. If Kassabova’s book is a fusion of travel writing and memoir then Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and An Epic combines the latter with literary studies, reflecting on the father-son relationship through the lens of Homer’s seminal poem.
There are two works of popular science on the list, with two very different books exploring the boundaries of science. David France’s How to Survive a Plague tells the story of the grassroots AIDS activists, many of whom suffered from the disease, who helped develop the essential drugs that shifted the tide in the fight against an infection that was mostly fatal at the time. Mark O’Connell’s To Be A Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death explores the technological and philosophical movement of transhumanism through encounters with some of its key players.
Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair of judges, says:
‘The exceptional shortlist for the 2017 Baillie Gifford Prize covers religion, culture, science and sexuality... and that’s just for starters. But what all the six books have in common is that they’re incredibly well-written, they’re really enjoyable and they tell great stories.’
The shortlist has been chosen by a panel chaired by author and Chairman of ITV Sir Peter Bazalgette, together with Anjana Ahuja, science writer; Ian Bostridge, tenor and writer; Professor Sarah Churchwell, academic and writer and Razia Iqbal, journalist and broadcaster.
The winner of the 2017 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction will be announced on Thursday 16 November at an awards dinner at RIBA generously supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation.
The winner will receive £30,000 and each of the shortlisted authors will receive £1,000.
The first winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction (previously the Samuel Johnson Prize) was Philippe Sands for East West Street. He donated his £30,000 prize between three charities: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF); SOS Méditerrannée; and Women for Refugee Women. Baillie Gifford matched Philippe’s donation, with Stephanie Flanders, chair of the Baillie Gifford Prize judges also donating her honorarium for judging the prize. Hachette UK, the parent group of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, East West Street’s publisher, also made a donation.