Casey Cep, Laura Cumming and Hallie Rubenhold are among the authors shortlisted for the £50,000 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, in a “magnificent” shortlist dominated by female authors.
William Feaver, Julia Lovell and Azadeh Moaveni also appear on the six-strong list, taking in hidden lives and new perspectives on major figures. The winner, who receives increased prize money this year, will be announced at a Science Museum ceremony on 19th November.
Cep is nominated for Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, (William Heinemann) which is part literary biography, part legal thriller. It tells the story of Reverend Willie Maxwell, the murders of those around him and eventually himself, as well as the close interest with which Harper Lee followed the ensuing trial.
Cumming gets the nod for On Chapel Sands (Chatto & Windus), investigating the mysterious circumstances surrounding the disappearance of her mother on a beach in Lincolnshire as a child in 1929, with photographs and paintings revealing what a reluctant community will not.
Feaver’s The Lives of Lucian Freud: Youth (Bloomsbury) also features, a Boswellian portrayal of the life of one of Britain’s most iconic artists, as well as that of Soho in its mid-century prime.
Lovell makes the shortlist for Maoism: A Global History (The Bodley Head), where she examines the man, the complex ideology he established, and its implications not just for policy and life in the People’s Republic, but the world at large.
Moaveni’s Guest House for Young Widows (Scribe) also appears. The book is a series of personal accounts of a number of women whose origins and circumstances may differ, but who for complex reasons take the decision to join Islamic State.
Rubenhold finishes off the list with The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper (Doubleday). It sees Rubenhold reconstruct their lives, sometimes from as little as a single hair, giving voice to these women on the margins and confronting head on the established Ripper mythology.
Chair of judges Stig Abell said: "We have picked six books from 12 and it was a gloriously testing, combative process, full of passionate arguments and the changing of minds, concessions and hold-outs. I think we've ended up with a shortlist full of brilliance and verve, huge scope and evocative detail. I urge everyone to get reading these books. They will not be disappointed. The winner, when it emerges, will have beaten some magnificent competition."
Alongside the Times Literary Supplement editor, the shortlist was chosen by Dr Myriam Francois, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Frances Wilson, Petina Gappah and Dr Alexander Van Tulleken.
The shortlisted authors will take part in a special event at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road, London, hosted by the BBC’s Razia Iqbal on 18th November.