The shortlist is composed of:
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer, published by Allen Lane (Penguin Books)
An exploration of human memory
The judges said: “Moonwalking with Einstein is a real page turner that tells a wonderful story – you are compelled to get to the end to find out what happens and the story bounces along with a jaunty air. Foer has a very down to earth style and in the true spirit of the scientist conducts his experiment with himself as the ‘test particle’.”
My Beautiful Genome by Lone Frank, published by Oneworld
A personal perspective on human genetics
The judges said: “My Beautiful Genome puts a personal story at the heart of the science. To some extent we are all narcissists and we want to learn more about ourselves, Frank provides us with an insight into how our genes help to define us. She keeps you wanting to read more.”
The Information by James Gleick, published by Fourth Estate
The story of information and how it is used, transmitted and stored.
The judges said: “The Information is an audacious book and offers remarkable insight. Gleick takes us, with verve and fizz, on a journey from African drums to computers, liberally sprinkling delightful factoids along the way. This is a book we need to give us a fresh perspective on how we communicate and how that shapes our world.”
The Hidden Reality by Brian Greene, published by Allen Lane (Penguin Books)
An examination of parallel universes and the laws of the cosmos
The judges said: “Multiverses and quantum measurement are not easy subjects but Greene sets about giving insight through metaphor in a very enjoyable way. The Hidden Reality is a beautiful manifesto for exploring the outer reaches of scientific enquiry. You will not understand everything but you will enjoy trying.”
The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker, published by Allen Lane (Penguin Books)
An assessment of the decline of violence in history and its causes
The judges said: “The Better Angels of our Nature pushes the boundaries of the science book in a refreshing way. Pinker takes an intriguing idea and attempts to scrutinise it in a scientific manner – it is a bold intellectual endeavour and at the same time a great read.”
The Viral Storm by Nathan Wolfe, published by Allen Lane (Penguin Books)
An exploration of the world of the virus
The judges said: “The Viral Storm is a fascinating look at our relationship with viruses. It will terrify some readers and reassure others. Wolfe’s passion for exploring and explaining draw you into the world of the virus and may make you reassess our relationship with that world.”
Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell DBE FRS, Chair of the judges, said: “This year’s shortlist is made up of fascinating, provocative books that really made us think about ourselves and the world around us - and parallel worlds . The books explore emerging issues, such as pandemics, as well as the more fundamental questions of what it truly means to be human, from our genetics, to our memories or our propensity for violence. Choosing a winner from these books, each of which has provided us with wonderful new insights, is a daunting prospect.”
This year’s shortlist includes three authors who are new to the prize, two who have been previously shortlisted (James Gleick and Steven Pinker) and one previous winner (Brian Greene).
William Hill’s odds for the shortlisted books are as follows:
2/1 The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker
3/1 Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
5/1 My Beautiful Genome by Lone Frank
5/1 The Viral Storm by Nathan Wolfe
6/1 The Information by James Gleick
7/1 The Hidden Reality by Brian Greene
Graham Sharpe, Media Relations Director at William Hill, said: ‘This award has consistently proved that science does not have to be dull; all of these books are tremendously readable as well as informative. It has been tough to select a betting favourite, and I don’t envy the judges their task of naming the winner!’
The winner will be announced at a public event and award ceremony at the Royal Society on 26th November 2012 and awarded £10,000. The authors of each shortlisted book will receive £1000.
The first chapter of each book is available to download for free.
The judges on this year’s judging panel are Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell DBE FRS, Visiting Professor in Astrophysics, University of Oxford (Chair); Jasper Fforde, author; Tania Hershman, author; Kim Shillinglaw, BBC Commissioning Editor for Science and Natural History and Dr Samuel Turvey, Royal Society University Research Fellow, Institute of Zoology.
Commencing last year, the global investment management company Winton Capital Management agreed a five year sponsorship deal of the prize.