Former Royal Society Science Book Prize winners Bill Bryson and Gaia Vince have made the six-book shortlist for this year's £25,000 award.
The shortlist was whittled down from 172 submissions to find the best popular science writing from around the world for a non-specialist audience. Half the shortlisted titles come from indies, with the other three from Penguin Random House imprints.
Bryson, who picked up the 2004 prize for A Short History of Nearly Everything (Black Swan), is nominated this time for The Body: A Guide for Occupants (Transworld). His bestseller explores human anatomy, how it functions and its remarkable ability to heal itself.
Writer and broadcaster Vince has also won the prize before–in 2015 with Adventures in the Anthropocene (Vintage). She makes the 2020 shortlist with Transcendence: How Humans Evolved through Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time (Allen Lane). The book takes a fresh look at evolution and argues that the delicate combination of our genes, environments and cultures makes us smart.
Also in the running is postdoctoral scientist and debut author Dr Camilla Pang with Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships (Viking). Pang, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of eight, examines life’s everyday interactions through a set of scientific principles, showing how thinking differently can be a superpower instead of a disability.
Linda Scott is nominated for her first solo book, The Double X Economy: The Epic Power of Empowering Women (Faber). It looks at the systemic nature of women’s economic exclusion, from the villages of Africa and the slums of Asia to the boardrooms of London and the universities of the United States.
Also joining the list for the first time is journalist and author Susannah Cahalan with The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness (Canongate). It sees her investigate the troubled history of psychiatry, using a famous experiment by psychologist David Rosenhan as a case study
Author and physicist Jim Al-Khalili completes the line-up with The World According to Physics (Princeton University Press). The book argues that the wonders of the universe should be appreciated by everyone and that physics gives us the tools to better understand the universe and ourselves.
Chair of judges Professor Anne Osbourn, group leader at the John Innes Centre and director of the Norwich Research Park Industrial Biotechnology Alliance, said: “These books make science intriguing, accessible and exciting. Some raise awareness of the scientific process and of our understanding that scientists are humans too. Others are a call to arms, asking us to consider our place in the universe and what we can bring to humanity in our various ways.”
The winner of the £25,000 prize will be announced via a virtual awards ceremony streamed on the Royal Society website on 3rd November 2020, with £2,500 awarded to each of the five shortlisted authors.