Indian American physician author Siddhartha Mukherjeeâ€™s latest book on the cell, the foundational unit of life, is on the longlist for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, which celebrates the best in non-fiction writing.
The prestigious British prize aims to recognize and reward the best of non-fiction and is open to authors of any nationality. It covers all non-fiction in the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts.
“The medical world is also examined in The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human by Siddhartha Mukherjee, who was longlisted for the prize in 2016,” notes Frederick Studemann, chair of judges.
“Mukherjee offers a captivating exploration of the cell, and highlights how cellular research has revolutionized medicine, enabling the treatment of life-altering diseases including Alzheimer’s and AIDS,” he states.
“The cell is the foundational unit of life. Its discovery reshaped our understanding of our bodies and brains as never before. This revolutionized medical practice in the past and, centuries on, holds ever-greater clinical promise for the future,” note the judges’ comments.
“Mukherjee provides the definitive account of this remarkable cellular story, authoritative yet at the same time personal. He has that rarest of scientific gifts â€“ the ability to pull back the magical curtain of complexities to reveal, like cells themselves, the foundations
“Given the wealth of options on offer, getting to a longlist was never going to be easy. And indeed, our judging discussions were intense and rigorous – and also enjoyable and highly stimulating,” Studemann says.
“I’m delighted that the resulting longlist spans a wide range of subjects and genres – from history and science to technology and geopolitics along with a flash of swashbuckling adventure. The books on the longlist share an ability to communicate lucidly and engage with readers in an intelligent and relevant way,” he added.
As part of the celebrations marking the prize’s 25th anniversary, besides the winning author receiving Â£50,000, the other shortlisted authors will receive Â£5,000 (up from Â£1,000), bringing the total prize value up to Â£75,000, according to a press release.
The longlist of 13 books were chosen by this year’s judging panel: Literary Editor of Financial Times, Frederick Studemann (chair); award-winning author Andrea Wulf, theatre critic for The Guardian Arifa Akbar, the writer and historian Ruth Scurr, journalist and critic Tanjil Rashid and Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Arts Andrew Haldane.
Their selection was made from 265 books published between 1 November 2022 and 31 October 2023.
The six books shortlisted for this year’s prize will be announced on October 8 at a live event at England’s annual Cheltenham Literature Festival, and the winner will be awarded on Nov 16 at a ceremony at the Science Museum in London.
Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human (The Bodley Head, Vintage, Penguin Random House UK.