Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books shortlist in running for largest cash prize yet

25 September 2013

An eclectic and fascinating list of books is competing for the biggest ever prize offered by the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books this year. The cash prize the six shortlisted books are vying for has increased by £15,000 on recent years to £25,000.

The authors of each of the shortlisted books for the world’s most prestigious award for popular science writing will also receive £2,500 instead of the previous £1,000 award.  The prize is the ultimate accolade in science writing and attracts entries from across the globe. 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.”

Of the increase in prize money, David Harding, Winton’s Founder and President said: “Winton is delighted to be able to enlarge the size of the Royal Society Winton Book Prize. We think that the evolution of science and technology is the most exciting story on the planet and deserves to have more people reading and writing about it than presently do so”

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 enjoyable reads. I think this year’s judges have quite a task ahead of them deciding their winner!”

The judges on this year’s 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.

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