Nonfiction: The UK’s £50,000 Baillie Gifford Prize 2021 Longlist

In News by Porter Anderson

The 13-title longlist for this year’s Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction includes two translations. A shortlist is due October 15.

In London’s King’s Cross redevelopment, on August 31. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Purple Images

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

Holgate: ‘Rigor, Endeavor, Variety, Real Verve
By the time the Women’s Prize for Fiction had announced last evening that Susanna Clarke had won its £30,000 honor for Piranesi, London’s Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction was counting down to today’s noontime release of its £50,000 2021 longlist. And that was just a day after the British Academy Book Prize rolled out its £25,000 shortlist.

That’s an aggregate £105,000 in three prizes (US$145,090) heard from in as many days. One win, one shortlist, one longlist. Nonfiction, fiction, nonfiction.

As you can see, the United Kingdom’s seasonal swarm of publishing and book awards is once more engaged in trying to arrest your autumnal attention.

You may remember that the Baillie Gifford’s £50,000 purse (US$68,861) was won last year by journalist and author Craig Brown for One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time (4th Estate).

Baillie Gifford, the program’s sponsor, is an independent investment partnership established in Scotland in 1908. Today, it operates from offices in Edinburgh, London, New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dublin, Zurich, Frankfurt, Toronto, Buenos Aires, and Krakow.

And today’s release of the Gifford’s 13-title longlist once again affirms the strong work being examined and acknowledged by several quite lucrative nonfiction prizes. In addition to the Baillie Gifford, our readership is accustomed to following the annual awards cycles, for example, of the Cundill History Prize; the newly renamed British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding (formerly the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize), which produced its four-title shortlist on Tuesday; and the German Nonfiction Prize.

In fact, the second title you’ll see on this longlist, Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape by Cal Flyn was included Tuesday on the British Academy Book Prize’s shortlist.

The newly announced Bailey Gifford longlist features two translations, Harald Jähner’s Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945–1955, translated by Shaun Whiteside, and Maria Stepanova’s In Memory of Memory, which is translated by Sasha Dugdale. The Stepanova work from Fitzcarraldo Editions was shortlisted for the International Booker Award this year, when David Diop and Anna Moschovakis won for At Night All Blood Is Black.

Andrew Holgate

In a statement issued for the longlist announcement, Andrew Holgate, chair of the jury, is quoted talking about looking for breadth in this year’s selection, saying, “We have worked incredibly hard as a group of judges on this longlist, and ranged a long way out of our boundaries to ensure we picked up promising books that might not otherwise have been considered.

“I think and hope that the results of that speak for themselves–a list full of rigor, endeavor, variety, and real verve, open to a broad readership, with some terrific surprises, and an onus on originality.

“I can’t thank my fellow judges enough for their generosity, commitment, and cohesiveness, and I can’t wait for the shortlist now.”

The shortlist for the Baillie Gifford Prize is to be named on October 15 during the Cheltenham Literature Festival. Each shortlisted author receives £1,000 (US$1,376).

The winner is expected to be named November 16.

The Baillie Gifford Prize 2021 Longlist

Title Author Publisher and/or Imprint
Consumed: A Sister’s Story Arifa Akbar Hachette / Sceptre
Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape
(Editor’s note: the American subtitle from Viking is Nature Rebounding in the Post-Human Landscape)
Cal Flyn William Collins
Minarets in the Mountains: A Journey Into Muslim Europe Tharik Hussain Bradt Travel Guides
Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945-1955 Harald Jähner, translated by Shaun Whiteside Penguin Random House / WH Allen
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty Patrick Radden Keefe Pan Macmillan / Picador
The Mutant Project: Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans Eben Kirksey Bristol University Press
Things I Have Withheld  Kei Miller Canongate
Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell John Preston Penguin Random House / Viking
Blood Legacy: Reckoning With a Family’s Story of Slavery Alex Renton Canongate
Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain Sathnam Sanghera Penguin Random House / Viking
In Memory of Memory Maria Stepanova, translated by Sasha Dugdale Fitzcarraldo Editions
Burning Man: The Ascent of DH Lawrence Frances Wilson Bloomsbury Circus
Free: Coming of Age at the End of History Lea Ypi Penguin Random House / Allen Lane

Working with Holgate on the longlist are jurors Sara Collins, Helen Czerski, Kathryn Hughes, Johny Pitts, and Dominic Sandbrook.

This is the award program that formerly was known as the Samuel Johnson Prize, from 1999 to 2015.

In 2016, Baillie Gifford became the sponsor of the Johnson, and the award was renamed the Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction.

In London’s Borough Market, July 9. Image- Getty iStockphoto: Victor Huang

More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing industry and book awards is here, more on the United Kingdom’s market is here, more on the Baillie Gifford Prize is here, and more on nonfiction is here.

More 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 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 International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, 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.