6 books compete for the non-fiction ‘winner winner’ award
The award was launched in 1999 to reward English language books from any country in current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts.
Judges have selected six of the 24 winners of the award – known until 2015 as the Samuel Johnson Award – as finalists for the one-off award. The winner will be announced on April 27 at a ceremony in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The optional shortlist includes cultural kaleidoscope “One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time” by Craig Brown, the only British writer on the list. Books by Canadians are Wade Davis’ mountaineering odyssey “Into the Silence” and Margaret McMillan’s history of the post-World War I peace talks, “Paris 1919.”
The US finalists are “Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea” by Barbara Demick; “Empire of Pain” by Patrick Radden Keefe about the Sackler family and its connections to the opioid crisis; and James Shapiro “1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare.”
Just two of the six books are by women, reflecting a historic imbalance in non-fiction publishing that prize organizers say is being redressed. In the last ten years, 40% of the winners have been women.
Editor Jason Cowley, chairman of the judging panel, said that despite their different themes, “there is a family resemblance” among the six books.
He said the works combine literary prestige with “a kind of formal innovation.”
“All the books are very good at conveying what Hilary Mantel called the atmospheric pressure of the times,” he said.