Historian Simon Schama, former Chatto editor Jenny Uglow and journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge are among those longlisted for 2017's Baillie Gifford Prize, a £30,000 prize rewarding authors of any nationality for penning the best of non-fiction.
The 12-strong international longlist represents authors from the UK, US, Morocco, Bulgaria and Ireland and comprises books from literary biography and history to popular science, memoir and polemic, across topics as diverse as race and religion, totalitarian regimes and cyborgs.
Journalist Eddo-Lodge is longlisted for her provocatively named debut, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Bloomsbury Circus), that follows her blog of the same name in which she wrote about her frustration with the way discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led. The book explores an "eradicated" black history, the political purpose of white dominance, "whitewashed" feminism and the link between class and race, hailed by The Good Immigrant author Nikesh Shukla as "one of the most important books of 2017".
Also exploring race, religion and identity, Schama has been longlisted for The Story of The Jews: Belonging (The Bodley Head) and - published on the same imprint - Christopher de Bellaigue is recognised for The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason (The Bodley Head) countering historic and current narratives around Islamic civilisations.
Offering new perspectives on radical Islam, Soaud Mekhennet is longlisted for Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind The Lines of Jihad (Virago), a book documenting her experiences as a Western Muslim woman behind the lines of jihad. While focusing on the regimes of Stalin and Mussolini, Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine (Allen Lane) is longlisted as an account of the deliberate starvation of the Ukrainian people under the USSR, and Caroline Moorehead is longlisted for A Bold and Dangerous Family: The Rosselis and the Fight Against Mussolini (Chatto & Windus), which explores one family’s resistance to another regime.
Books with a literary anchor on the longlist include that of former Chatto editorial director Jenny Uglow, also former chair of the Royal Society of Literature. She is nominated for Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense (Faber & Faber), chronicling her journey to make sense of Edward Lear's poems. Daniel Mendelsohn is longlisted for An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and an Epic (William Collins).
Representing popular science in the category, Mark O’Connell is on the list for To Be A Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death (Granta Books) on transhumanism. He is joined by David France for his blend of social, medical and scientific history in How to Survive a Plague (Picador) that tells the story of the grassroots AIDS activists, many of whom suffered from the disease, who helped develop essential drugs in the fight against it.
The second book published by Granta on the longlist is Kapka Kasssabova's historic memoir Border: A Journey to The Edge of Europe (Granta Books), examining the border zone between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, also a meditation on the borders between cultures and ourselves.
Rounding off the longlist is Allan Jenkins’ memoir, Plot 29 (4th Estate), in which the author and Observer journalist reflects on the challenges of being a foster child and the therapeutic merits of gardening. His documentary of the same name was a 2012 Oscar nominee, won a Directors Guild Award and a Peabody Award, and was nominated for two Emmys.
Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair of judges, said all books on the longlist were "wonderful well-written" and "really contemporary". He was joined on the judging panel by science writer Anjana Ahuja, tenor Ian Bostridge, academic and writer Professor Sarah Churchwell and journalist and broadcaster Razia Iqbal.
“Two sweaty hours in a small room… but eventually white smoke. We’re really excited about this longlist," said Bazalgette. "We’ve got history, science, biography, polemic and memoir. But two things link them all – they’re wonderfully well-written and they’re really contemporary.”
The shortlist for the 2017 award will be announced on 6th October and the winner on 16th November.