A “page-turning thriller” about the race to crack the genetic code, a portrayal of life in European Organization for Nuclear Research's (CERN) underground bunker and an exploration of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are among the titles shortlisted for The Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.
Matthew Cobb presents the race to crack the genetic code in Life’s Greatest Secret (Profile), while Large Hadron Collider physicist Jon Butterworth portrays life in CERN’s underground bunker in Smashing Physics (Headline) and David Adam combines science and personal memoir in The Man Who Couldn’t Stop (Picador), an exploration of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which also recounts his own experience as an OCD sufferer.
The other shortlisted titles released today (5th August) include Alex Through the Looking-Glass: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life by Alex Bellos (Bloomsbury), Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe Mcfadden and Professor Jim Al-Khalili (Bantam Press) and Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet we Made by Gaia Vince (Chatto & Windus).
Chair of judges Ian Stewart said: “While these books vary widely in their subject matter, they all excel at telling the human story, making science accessible and real without dumbing it down. Whether it's through Gaia Vince's reports of her ecological Adventures in the Anthropocene, finding out what it’s like to work at the Large Hadron Collider in Smashing Physics, or Bellos's infectious enthusiasm in Alex Through the Looking-Glass, these books provide wonderfully engaging entry routes into complex topics.”
Fellow judge and award-winning novelist Sarah Waters added: “The best science writers can move and thrill us just as much as Austen or Dickens. While our education system leads us to believe that we are all either science people or arts people, these books prove that the two disciplines shouldn't be separated. Great science writing is an art and these writers have applied their expertise, enthusiasm and craft to shine light on even the most challenging of subjects.”
Founded in 1988, (and previously known under different banners including the Aventis Prize and Rhône-Poulenc Prize), the Prize celebrates outstanding popular science books from around the world and is open to authors of science books written for a non-specialist audience. Over the decades it has championed writers such as Stephen Hawking, Jared Diamond, Stephen Jay Gould and Bill Bryson.
The winner will be crowned at an evening ceremony on 24th September and will receive a cheque for £25,000, with £2,500 awarded to each of the five shortlisted authors.
Professor Brian Cox OBE, currently The Royal Society’s Professor of Public Engagement in Science, will be hosting the awards ceremony.