Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Shortlisted: Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2013

Pieces of Light has made the shortlist for the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2013.

Here is today's press release:

Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books shortlist in running for bigger reward

Winner to be announced: 25 November 2013

The six books on the shortlist for the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books are competing for a much larger cash prize this year.  The eclectic and fascinating shortlist books are vying for the world’s most prestigious award for popular science writing.

The prize money for the winner has increased from £10,000 to £25,000 while the authors of each of the shortlisted books will receive £2,500 instead of the previous £1,000 award.  The shortlist, announced today (25 September 2013), is composed of:

Bird Sense by Tim Birkhead, published by Bloomsbury
What it’s like to be a bird
The judges said: “Bird Sense opens new worlds to the imagination through a wealth of passionately observed science. It succeeds in conveying a feeling of what it is like to be a bird.”

The Particle at the End of the Universe by Sean Carroll, published by OneWorld Publications
The hunt for the Higgs and the discovery of a new world
The judges said: “This book invites you to imagine the unimaginable. It tells an extraordinary tale of scientific discovery and stands out by its ability to speak to people who are not scientists.”

Cells to Civilizations by Enrico Coen, published by Princeton University Press
The principles of change that shape life
The judges said: “Cells to Civilizations presents an exciting challenge to our thinking on how evolution works. It is unbelievably alive and we could feel our brains growing as we read.”

Pieces of Light by Charles Fernyhough, published by Profile Books
The new science of memory
The judges said: “Our memories of reading this book are exceptionally good ones! It challenges much of what we think we know about memory. It’s a bit like reading a novel, personal and compulsive!”

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson, published by Granta
A 21st century bestiary
The judges said: “Henderson taps into forgotten wonder we first felt as children discovering the creatures of our world. It borrows its format from ancient bestiaries and its title from Borges’ extraordinary tales. The book itself is a beautiful object and brings barely imagined beings to life.”

Ocean of Life by Callum Roberts, published by Allen Lane (Penguin Books)
How our seas are changing
The judges said: “Roberts sets modern conservation in context. For instance he has taken fisheries science and channelled it into the mainstream debate. This book is thrilling: a delightful mix of anecdote, research and polemic.”

Professor Uta Frith DBE FBA FMedSci FRS, Chair of the judges, said: “What stood out for us most was the sheer originality and the ambition of the books we selected for the short list. Here are books that have not only new things to say but also novel ways to say them in. We were delighted to be able to select from a wide range of superbly written science books, authoritative, approachable, and moreover, thrilling to read.”

The winner will be announced at a public event at the Royal Society on 25th November 2013.

William Hill’s odds for the shortlisted books are as follows:

3/1    Bird Sense by Tim Birkhead
7/2    The Particle at the End of the Universe by Sean Carroll
4/1    Ocean of Life by Callum Roberts
5/1    Cells to Civilization by Enrico Coen
5/1    Pieces of Light by Charles Fernyhough
5/1    The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson

Graham Sharpe, Media Relations Director at William Hill, said: “This year has been one of the toughest to select a favourite – the books are all so evenly matched! One thing is definite, they all make very interesting and fun reads. I think this year’s judges have quite a task ahead of them deciding their winner!”

The first chapter of each book is available to download for free at:

The judges on this year’s judging panel are Jon Culshaw, impressionist and comedian; Dr Emily Flashman, Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow at University of Oxford; Professor Uta Frith DBE FBA FRS (Chair), Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development at University College London; Joanne Harris, novelist and author of Chocolat; and Lucy Siegle, journalist and writer on environmental issues.

Commencing in 2011, the global investment management company Winton Capital Management agreed a five year sponsorship deal of the prize. 

The book has also made the shortlist for the Society of Biology Book Awards in the General Biology book section. The prize will be awarded at a ceremony in London on 17 October.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Writers' Alphabet

One fun thing that happened to me at the Edinburgh International Book Festival was that I was grabbed by the nice people at Guardian Books and asked if I'd contribute to a writers' alphabet they were putting together. All I had to do was come up with a favourite word. Most of the letters were already gone, but they did have a succulent-looking V remaining. I walked around Charlotte Square a couple of times and worked out what I wanted to say. Here's the result. 

You can see the entire alphabet, from Ruby Wax on a-whoring to Shadow Titan on Zulu, by going here.