Inventing Ourselves (Doubleday) has won the £25,000 2018 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize, making its author Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore the fourth consecutive woman to scoop the accolade. Blakemore's book was praised by the judges for turning the traditional narrative around teenage behaviour on its head, using cutting-edge research in the field, in a relateable and illuminating way for parents.
In the book, Blakemore, who is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, calls out the way in which teenage behaviours – such as risk-taking, peer pressure and heightened self-consciousness – have been ridiculed throughout history, instead making the case that adolescence is a period of great creativity and transformation which should be celebrated rather than stigmatised. It is based on her own laboratory research as well as incorporating insights from Socrates to Shakespeare.
Chair of the judges, Professor Dame Frances Ashcroft, Professor of Physiology at the University of Oxford, called Inventing Ourselves "a worthy winner" and "a captivating read on the teenage brain".
"Blakemore explains the science behind teenage behaviour in a lucid and engaging way, deconstructs the myths that surround it, offers new insight into how we should treat teenagers, and reflects on how our new knowledge might usefully influence policy decisions," said Ashcroft further. "She illustrates all this with engaging anecdotes from her own teenage years, so that the book is both an entertaining memoir and a scientific study of how the adolescent brain develops – of how we become ourselves. This is truly a book that everyone should read."
The awards ceremony host, Professor Brian Cox, agreed it has "something to offer every reader". "The best science writing helps us to look at ourselves and our world in new ways, and does this by combining compelling storytelling with scientific depth and detai. This book not only has all of these qualities, but also has something to offer every reader - whether you are a teenager, parent of a teenager, or just interested in understanding your former teenage self," he said.
"It is also particularly gratifying to know that it was a research fellowship from the Royal Society that helped kick-start Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s work in this very important field of adolescent brain development. I know from personal experience just how valuable the research fellowship scheme is as it helped my career a great deal."
Inventing Ourselves was chosen from a six-strong shortlist, including Lucy Cooke's The Unexpected Truth About Animals (Doubleday/Black Swan), Professor Daniel M Davis' The Beautiful Cure (Bodley Head), Dr Professor Mark Miodownik's Liquid (Viking), Simon Winchester's Exactly (William Collins) and, currently shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize, Hannah Fry's Hello World (Doubleday). The five shortlisted authors were each awarded £2,500.