German Nonfiction Prize Names Its First Round of Finalists

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Eight titles now are in contention for the €25,000 honor, in the delayed first award cycle of the German Nonfiction Prize.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Winner Announcement: June 14 in Berlin
Because of the circumstances of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the German Nonfiction Prize has become one of the longest awaited events in the dense forest of world publishing’s many awards programs. Created in May 2019 by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels,Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, its expected first year was scuttled by the timing of the contagion.

So it is that only today (April 6), this two-year-old €42,500 (US$50,227) prize program is issuing its first list of finalists. And not unlike the issue-driven Aspen Words Literary Prize, a criterion of this honor is that the winning title is not only to be a work of nonfiction written in German but also one that “inspires social debate.”

Our readers will recall the program’s announcement of its jurors in January, a panel that now has selected eight nominations from 240 submissions coming from some 135 publishers in Switzerland and Austria as well as Germany.

The winner is to receive €25,000 (US$29,571), the seven nominees €2,500 each ($2,956) from the Stiftung Buchkultur und Leseförderung des Börsenvereins des Deutschen Buchhandels (the Foundation for Book Culture and the Promotion of Reading of the Börsenverein). Deutsche Bank Stiftung (Deutsche Bank Foundation) is the main sponsor of the prize, which is also supported by the technology and information provider MVB and the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss (Humboldt Forum Foundation in the Berlin Palace).

The minister of state for culture Monika Grütters is patron of the German Nonfiction Prize.

German Nonfiction Prize 2021: Nominated Titles

In a prepared statement for today’s announcement, Kia Vahland, serving as chair of the jurors’ panel, is quoted, saying, “The books in this selection vary in style, themes, scope and methods. But they all explore the world in their own unique way and get to the bottom of things.

Kia Vahland

“Their authors want to understand before they explain. They avoid well-trodden paths and confront history as well as the present.

Their views—of others and of themselves—are unsparing. They each come with very different experiences and knowledge—and, not content with just these, explore new territory through their writing.

“Doubt, curiosity and a measure of tenacity consume and drive them.

“In search of insight rather than affirmation, they ask questions that are larger than their respective subjects. In this way, they inspire a broad, inquisitive readership.”

A series of events is planned and can be seen here and “alternate live streams are planned” in some cases, should physical presentation be impossible amid prevailing coronavirus spread-mitigation measures. Using the hashtag #sachbuchpreisbloggen, eight book bloggers are to present the nominated titles in the coming weeks. Their reviews will be shared on the social media pages of the German Nonfiction Prize.

The winner of the prize is to be announced on June 14 in Berlin, and an awards ceremony is to be held at the Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss.

Jurors in the German Nonfiction Prize 2021 are, from left, Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger, Kia Vahland, Jeanne Rubner, Denis Scheck, Klaus Kowalke, Hilal Sezgin, Tania Martini. Image: Börsenverein, Monique Wuestenhagen


More from Publishing Perspectives on the German Nonfiction Prize is here, and on publishing and book awards in general is here. More on the German market is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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