Simon Schama shortlisted for £30k Baillie Gifford Prize

Simon Schama shortlisted for £30k Baillie Gifford Prize

Historian Simon Schama has been shortlisted for the £30,000 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2017 for his book chronicling four centuries of Jewish history.

Schama's Belonging: the Story of the Jews, 1492-1900 (The Bodley Head), telling stories of individuals representing the struggle of Jewish people, is included on a shortlist of titles spanning history, popular science, travel and memoir, on subjects including Islam, AIDS activism and cyborgs. Shortlisted authors hail from the UK, US, Ireland and Bulgaria.

Christopher de Bellaigue is in the running for The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason (The Bodley Head), giving The Bodley Head two spots on the prize's six-strong shortlist. It looks at some of the visionaries and radicals of historic Islamic civilizations from Cairo to Tehran. According to the judges - comprising author and chairman of ITV Sir Peter Bazalgette, science writer Anjana Ahuja, writer Ian Bostridge, academic professor Sarah Churchwell and journalist Razia Iqbal - it "challenges preconceptions" and "shows how we should stop thinking in binary and dichotomous terms about Islam".

Granta Books also has two books in contention for the prize: in the field popular science, Mark O’Connell's "eloquent discourse" about the quest for immortality through transhumanism, To Be A Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death (Granta Books) and Border: A Journey to The Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova, a book the judges deemed "ambitious and beautiful" in its fusion of travel writing and memoir while examining the border zone between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece.

David France is shortlisted for How to Survive A Plague (Picador), the story of the grassroots AIDS activists, many of whom suffered from the disease, who helped develop the essential drugs that shifted the tide in the fight against an infection that was mostly fatal at the time. The judges hailed it "that rarest of things" - "an important social document, about medicine and the history of patient activism, that is also a gripping read".

And Daniel Mendelsohn makes an appearance for An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and An Epic (William Collins), a book bringing Homer’s classic to life. The judges called it "tender, funny and beautifully written" in its exploration of the father/son relationship.

Longlisted books knocked out of the running include former Chatto editor Jenny Uglow's Mr Lear (Faber & Faber) and journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge's debut, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Bloomsbury Circus).

Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair of judges, commented: "The exceptional shortlist for the 2017 Baillie Gifford Prize covers religion, culture, science and sexuality... and that’s just for starters. But what all the six books have in common is that they’re incredibly well-written, they’re really enjoyable and they tell great stories."

The winner of the 2017 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction will be announced on 16th November at an awards dinner at RIBA, supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation. The winner will receive £30,000 and each of the shortlisted authors will receive £1,000.

Last year's winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction (previously the Samuel Johnson Prize) was Philippe Sands for East West Street (W&N). He donated his £30,000 prize between three charities, with subsequent donations following on from then-chair of the judges Stephanie Flanders and Hachette UK.