In the UK, the £50,000 Baillie Gifford Prize’s Shortlist

In News by Porter Anderson

The Baillie Gifford Prize shortlist brings from its longlist three author’s debut publications and a nod to the independent house Swift Press.

Image: Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction

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

Three Debuts From Two Independent Houses
The United Kingdom-based Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction Sunday in association with the Cheltenham Literature Festival has released its six-title shortlist for 2023.

You’ll recall that the Baillie Gifford—known until 2015 as the Samuel Johnson Prize—is open to titles in current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts. Books must be published in English in the United Kingdom, but their authors may be of any nationality. The prize was first awarded in 1999 as the Samuel Johnson, which is still the name of the nonprofit that owns this award. This gave rise to the program’s “winner of winners” prize for of its 25th anniversary in April.

Winner of the Baillie Gifford 25th anniversary ‘winner of winners’ award

The program recently has passed its 25th anniversary effort with a “winner of winners” award to author James Shapiro for his 2006 release 1599: A Year in the Life of Shakespeare (Faber, 2006).

The understanding this year is that the Baillie Gifford will provide a purse of £50,000 (US$60,845) to its winner, with the attendant shortlistees each getting £5,000 (US$6,085). That shortlistee purse is up £1,000 to bring the total prize money for 2023 to a handsome £75,000.

A winner is to be announced on November 16 in an event at London’s Science Museum.

Coming over from the longlist are three authors who are now shortlisted for debut publications: Hannah Barnes, Tania Branigan, and Jeremy Eichler. Each of these books has come from an independent publisher.

Swift Press—the independent publisher of Richard V. Reeves‘ Brookings-based book Of Boys and Men—is on the Baillie Gifford Prize shortlist for the first time, for its publication of Barnes’ Time To Think: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Tavistock’s Gender Service for Children.

And Faber & Faber has reached the shortlist with Branigan’s Red Memory: Living, Remembering and Forgetting China’s Cultural Revolution and Eichler’s Time’s Echo: The Second World War, The Holocaust, and The Music of Remembrance.

Frederick Studemann

In a statement of rationale, jury chairman Frederick Studemann is quoted, praising “the range, originality, and relevance of this year’s shortlist.

“Alongside works from the front line of the battle with climate change and institutional failure within the NHS [the UK’s National Health Service], it includes haunting and inspiring books on the transcendental nature of music and dance, the legacy of the Cultural Revolution as well as the story of one of Europe’s great forgotten revolutions.

“While each title is distinct and different—some are the result of a lifetime’s work, others the product of courageous and clear-sighted reporting—they are all top-class, thought-provoking, even surprising works of literary nonfiction.”

And the Baillie Gifford Prize, as Publishing Perspectives readers know, is one of the well-funded and/or high-visibility awards operating in the English-language space to honor strong and serious quality in the nonfiction sector—much-needed in an era in which Juergen Boos, the chief of Frankfurter Buchmesse declares the upcoming 75th edition of that trade show as “the democracy fair.”

These include Canada’s Cundill History Prize, the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, the German Nonfiction Prize, the Wolfson History Prize, the Business Book of the Year Award, the Royal Society Science Book Prize, and the Parliamentary Book Awards.

The Baillie Gifford Prize 2023 Shortlist

For our internationalist readership, a note that the publishers listed here are the United Kingdom publishers of the Baillie Gifford’s longlisted titles. In cases of books originally published in other markets before being released in the United Kingdom, you may have encountered a title as another publisher’s release and in an earlier year.

Author, Translator (Nationality) Title Publisher and/or Imprint, Year of Win
Hannah Barnes (British) Time to Think: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Tavistock’s Gender Service for Children Swift Press
Tania Branigan (British) Red Memory: Living, Remembering and Forgetting China’s Cultural Revolution Faber & Faber
Christopher Clark (Australian) Revolutionary Spring: Fighting for a New World 1848-1849 Penguin Random House / Allen Lane
Jeremy Eichler (American) Time’s Echo: The Second World War, The Holocaust, and The Music of Remembrance Faber & Faber
Jennifer Homans (American) Mr. B: George Balanchine’s Twentieth Century Granta / Granta Books
John Vaillant (American-Canadian) Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World Hachette UK / Hodder & Stoughton / Sceptre
Jurors and Sponsor

The jurors joining Studemann on the panel for this year’s Baillie Gifford are the literary editor of the Financial Times; author Andrea Wulf; The Guardian theater critic Arifa Akbar; writer and historian Ruth Scurr; journalist and critic Tanjil Rashid; and the Royal Society of Arts CEO Andrew Haldane.

The Baillie Gifford is now named for its funding sponsor, the independent investment partnership founded in 1908 and headquartered in Edinburgh. In the literary world, Baillie Gifford sponsors a number of literary festivals, including principal sponsorships of Hay Festival and Cheltenham Literature Festival and headline sponsorship Stratford Literary Festival, Henley Literary Festival, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the international publishing business’ myriad book and industry 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.

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.