At a thoroughly enjoyable public event yesterday, shortlisted authors and judges of the Royal Society Prize for Science Books 2010 met to discuss the ins and outs of popular science books - why we read them, how authors write them and what the future holds. After an introduction by Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, the judges held a fascinating discussion about what they were looking for, what makes a good science book and what lets them down. Each shortlisted author then spoke briefly about their book or read an extract from it, before going on to discuss questions from the audience about why they wrote their books, how they decided on their books’ titles and covers, what they saw as the most important science questions still unanswered today, and what might be perceived as an apparent lack of diversity in the authorship of science books.
The £10,000 prize was awarded to Nick Lane for Life Ascending (Profile Books). The other shortlisted books were: A World Without Ice by Henry Pollack (Avery Books, Penguin Group), Everyday Practice of Science: Where Intuition and Passion Meet Objectivity and Logic by Frederick Grinnell (Oxford University Press), God’s Philosophers: How the medieval world laid the foundations of modern science by James Hannam (Icon Books), We Need To Talk About Kelvin by Marcus Chown (Faber and Faber), and Why Does E=mc2? by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw (Da Capo Press, Perseus Books Group).
The others on the twelve-book ‘longlist’ were: Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne (Oxford University Press), In Search of the Multiverse by John Gribbin (Allen Lane, Penguin Press), Storms of My Grandchildren by James Hansen (Bloomsbury), Darwin’s Island: The Galapagos in the Garden of England by Steve Jones (Little, Brown), The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist (Yale University Press), and Complexity: A Guided Tour by Melanie Mitchell (Oxford University Press).
For more information about the entries, the prize and a forthcoming webcast of the event, see http://royalsociety.org/events/Science-Books-2010-ceremony/.