Science books long-listed for Winton Prize

By SciBooks 16/06/2014

The Royal Society of London’s annual book prize long list usually features a collection worth adding to your reading list.

This is one of science writing’s most prestigious prizes and the author of the winning book picks up £25,000


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The 12 books on the longlist for the Winton Prize include:

Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler by Philip Ball

(The Bodley Head)

The judges said: “An incredibly interesting look at the politics of science and the decisions all scientists have to make.”

Seven Elements That Have Changed The World: Iron, Carbon, Gold, Silver, Uranium, Titanium, Silicon by John Browne

(Weidenfeld & Nicolson – an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group)

The judges said: “An inspired look at seven very special elements which are essential to the modern world. It’s a captivating read.”

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson

(Princeton University Press)

The judges said: “Full of lots of new messages, Carlson makes you stop and think about the practicalities of science, industry and invention.”

What a Wonderful World: One Man’s Attempt to Explain the Big Stuff by Marcus Chown

(Faber & Faber)

The judges said: “Chown is a terrific science writer. His book is a tour de force that covers an incredible range of topics.”

Dice World: Science and Life in a Random Universe by Brian Clegg

(Icon Books)

The judges said: “A fantastic look at the importance of randomness, full of interesting and philosophical ideas while still remaining open and accessible.”

The Compatibility Gene by Daniel M Davis

(Allen Lane, Penguin Press)

The judges said: “Davis wins you over from the start with touch points you can relate to and engaging descriptions. Dedication and a life spent in pursuit of his subject are evident on every page.”

My Brief History by Stephen Hawking


The judges said: “Hawking writes incredibly poetically, conjuring evocative images in your mind. My Brief History takes you on a journey of adversities and shows you what has made Hawking one of the most respected theoretical physicists in the world today.”

The Perfect Theory by Pedro G. Ferreira

(Little, Brown Book Group)

The judges said: “Very lucidly written, Ferreira succeeds in a explaining some very tricky concepts. A treasure trove of information.”

The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine’s Deepest Mystery, by George Johnson

(The Bodley Head)

The judges said: “A scrupulously researched, well written book that makes excellent use of case studies.”

Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live by Marlene Luk

(W.W. Norton)

The judges said: “Paleofantasy presents an interesting thesis that feels fresh in a very accessible way. The book represents an argument against the accepted wisdom of our time.”

Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World by Mark Miodownik

(Viking – an imprint of Penguin Books)

The judges said: “A contemporary, sideways look at everyday stuff. Miodownik writes with a passionate ability to explain each subject. It’s packed full of excellent stories and is the only science book out there where the author gets stabbed on the London Underground!”

Gulp: Adventures of the Alimentary Canel by Mary Roach


The judges said: “An entertaining and disarming read which delves into a usually unspeakable topic with great humour and great insight.”

Professor Nicky Clayton FRS, Chair of the judges, said:

“Choosing just 12 books from the over 160 that were submitted for this year’s Prize was a very difficult task. There really is a plethora of good science writing out there at the moment. I think this shows how science is ever increasingly becoming part of our culture. In the end though, we did have to agree on 12 and we’re delighted with those we’ve selected. Each one takes you on an informative but perhaps more importantly, engaging, journey of the science. Some are woven with humour and passionate personal stories; others are able to illuminate incredibly complex topics. All are marvellously written and full of the wonder of science.”

The shortlist will be announced on 19th September 2014.

Judges include: Professor Nicola Clayton FRS (Chair), Professor of Comparative Cognition at the University of Cambridge and Scientist in Residence at Rambert (formerly Rambert Dance Company); Dr Nathalie Vriend, Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge; Emma Read, Head of Factual and Features at ITN Productions; Michael Frayn, playwright and novelist, best known as the author of the farce Noises Off and the dramas Copenhagen and Democracy; Lone Frank, former neuroscientist, journalist and author of My Beautiful Genome, shortlisted for the 2012 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.