Sathnam Sanghera, Arifa Akbar and Patrick Radden Keefe are among the authors on this year’s 13-strong Baillie Gifford Prize longlist.
The £50,000 non-fiction award features a range of international authors including two books in translation.
Sanghera’s Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain (Viking) looks at the many ways modern Britain is rooted in its imperial past, while Akbar’s Consumed: A Sister's Story (Sceptre) blends memoir and medical history to tell the story of Akbar’s sister and her battle with a serious illness. Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty (Picador) is a portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by the opioid OxyContin.
Elsewhere on the list is Maria Stepanova’s In Memory of Memory translated by Sasha Dugdale (Fitzcarraldo Editions), which was also shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize. The Russian poet, essayist and journalist tells the survival story of her seemingly ordinary Jewish family who managed to resist the persecutions and repressions of the last century. Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945–1955 by Harald Jähner, translated by Shaun Whiteside (W H Allen), is an exploration of the lesser told yet important history of Germany in the first decade after the Second World War.
Also in contention is Alex Renton’s Blood Legacy: Reckoning With a Family's Story of Slavery (Canongate) which addresses his family’s contribution to the transatlantic slave trade through a story of personal discovery, which considers how we can begin to make reparations for the past. John Preston’s Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell (Viking) is also in with a shout, telling the gripping story of the rise and fall of infamous business tycoon Robert Maxwell, while Frances Wilson’s Burning Man: The Ascent of D H Lawrence (Bloomsbury Circus) follows the life of Lawrence from the peninsular underworld of Cornwall in 1915 through post-war Italy to the mountains of New Mexico.
Elsewhere on the list is Lea Ypi’s Free: Coming of Age at the End of History (Allen Lane) which tells the coming of age story of Ypi during Albania’s turbulent political upheaval after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Meanwhile Cal Flyn’s Island of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape (William Collins) looks at what happens when nature is allowed to reclaim its place, through an examination of ghost towns and exclusion zones, no man’s land and post-industrial hinterlands.
Tharik Hussain’s Minarets in the Mountains: A Journey into Muslim Europe (Bradt Guides) sheds light on a Europe often not acknowledged or understood, taking readers through regions where Islam has had in integral role shaping the places and culture of people. Eben Kirksey’s The Mutant Project: Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans (Bristol University Press) takes readers on a continent-hopping journey to meet the key scientists, lobbyists, and entrepreneurs who are bringing cutting-edge genetic engineering tools like CRISPR to their local clinics, as well as talking to disabled scholars, doctors, hackers, chronically ill patients and activists who provide alternative visions of a genetically modified future for humanity.
Award-winning poet and novelist Kei Miller completes the list with Things I Have Withheld (Canongate), a collection of essays that examines the silence in which so many important things are kept. Miller recounts everyday acts of racism and prejudice and challenges readers to interrogate what seems unsayable and why.
Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate, chair of judges, said: “We have worked incredibly hard as a group of judges on this longlist, and ranged a long way out of our boundaries to ensure we picked up promising books that might not otherwise have been considered. I think and hope that the results of that speak for themselves — a list full of rigour, endeavour, variety and real verve, open to a broad readership, with some terrific surprises, and an onus on originality. I can’t thank my fellow judges enough for their generosity, commitment and cohesiveness, and I can’t wait for the shortlist now.”
The juding panel also included award-winning novelist Sara Collins, physicist, oceanographer, writer and broadcaster Dr Helen Czerski, biographer and critic Kathryn Hughes, author and TV presenter Johny Pitts and historian Dominic Sandbrook.
This year's shortlist will be announced on 15th October, live from the Cheltenham Literature Festival. The winner will be announced at an event at the Science Museum on16th November.
Last year’s winner was Craig Brown for One, Two, Three, Four: The Beatles in Time (Fourth Estate) which, in paperback, became a Waterstones Book of the Month.
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