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Shortlist announced for The Baillie Gifford Prize 2019

Shortlist announced for The Baillie Gifford Prize 2019

The shortlist for the £50,000 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, which celebrates the best in non-fiction writing, is announced today, Tuesday 22 October.

The six titles on this year’s shortlist are:

Women’s lives are brought to the fore in four of the six titles on the 2019 shortlist. Laura Cumming investigates the mysterious circumstances surrounding the disappearance of her mother on a beach in Lincolnshire as a child in 1929, with photographs and paintings revealing what a reluctant community will not. In stark contrast to this quiet drama are the fates of Hallie Rubenhold’s subjects: the five female victims of the notorious Jack The Ripper. Rubenhold reconstructs their lives, sometimes from as little as a single hair, giving voice to these women on the margins and confronting head on the established Ripper mythology.

Women in extreme circumstances feature again in Azadeh Moaveni’s Guest House for Young Widows, a series of personal accounts of a number of women whose origins and circumstances may differ, but who for complex reasons take the decision to join Islamic State.

Part literary biography, part legal thriller, Casey Cep’s Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee tells the stranger-than-fiction story of the Reverend Willie Maxwell, the murders of those around him and eventually himself, as well as the close interest with which Harper Lee followed the ensuing trial.

Two books about major 20th century figures complete the shortlist. The first, The Lives of Lucian Freud: Youth is a Boswellian portrayal of the life of one of Britain’s most iconic artists, as well as that of Soho in its mid-century prime. A very different figure and his legacy comes under the spotlight in Julia Lovell’s biography, Maoism: A Global History, in which Lovell examines the man, the complex ideology he established, and its implications not just for policy and life in the People’s Republic, but the world at large.

Stig Abell, chair of judges, says:

"We have picked six books from twelve and it was a gloriously testing, combative process, full of passionate arguments and the changing of minds, concessions and hold-outs.  I think we've ended up with a shortlist full of brilliance and verve, huge scope and evocative detail.  I urge everyone to get reading these books.  They will not be disappointed.  The winner, when it emerges, will have beaten some magnificent competition."

The shortlist has been chosen by a panel chaired by Times Literary Supplement editor Stig Abell who is joined by Dr Myriam Francois, TV producer and writer; Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, professor of English Literature; Frances Wilson, critic and biographer; Petina Gappah, writer and lawyer and Dr Alexander Van Tulleken  BMBCh MPH, doctor and TV presenter.

The shortlisted authors will take part in a special event at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road, London, hosted by the BBC’s Razia Iqbal on 18 November. Tickets are available at

The winner of the 2019 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction will be announced on Tuesday 19 November at an awards dinner at the Science Museum generously supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

The winner will receive £50,000 and each of the shortlisted authors will receive £1,000.

Last year’s winner was Serhii Plokhy for Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy, the account of the 1986 nuclear disaster which also won the Pushkin House Book Prize 2019.


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