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2022 Baillie Gifford Prize Shortlist Announced

By Brodie Mckenzie, Grace Briggs-Jones and Emma Baigey



Since the 2022 Baillie Gifford Prize announcement is just around the corner, now is as good a time as any to take a closer look at its finalists. Works nominated are said to consistently reflect the very best in non-fiction written in the English language – this year being no exception. The winner of the prestigious award will be granted £50,000.


Authors of the 2022 list detail historic and contemporary stories, shedding essential light on areas wholeheartedly deserving of the platform they have been given. Chosen subject matter ranges from a dissection of the violence brought about by British empirical rule to a poignant account of unjust migration policy and its devastating effects. With such a vital selection of texts to choose from, the judges, chaired by Caroline Sanderson, Associate Editor of The Bookseller, have a tough decision to make.


Five of the six books which comprise the shortlist hail from Big Five publishers, two from HarperCollins alone, leaving only one independently published nominee in the running: Katherine Rundell’s Super Infinite, published by Faber & Faber. Likewise, only one male author has made it to the finalist pool, this year having the first ever female-authored majority shortlist in the prize’s long history. The winner is to be announced at an award ceremony in London’s Science Museum on Thursday 17 November.


Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire by Caroline Elkins


Elkins explores the creation of the British Empire across over two hundred years in this critique of the violence and racism that was integral to its growth. The book first lays out the reasons behind the ideological foundations of violence, before delving into how this became increasingly systematised. Elkins also draws attention to the destruction of evidence relating to the disturbing means by which it became the largest empire in human history. By doing so, she exposes the dark underbelly of imperialism and overturns what we think we know about the British Empire.


The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World by Jonathan Freedland


This unbelievable book tells the story of Rudolf Vrba, the first Jew to escape from Auschwitz in 1944 alongside his fellow inmate Fred Wetzler. Driven by his determination to expose the horrors of the Holocaust to the world and to warn European Jews of the danger they were in, Vrba memorised as much as he could about the camp before breaking free. As a result of his heroism, a report was drafted and sent to Roosevelt, Churchill and the Pope (amongst others), saving at least 200,000 lives.


My Fourth Time, We Drowned: Seeking Refuge on the World's Deadliest Migration Route by Sally Hayden


Winner of the Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2022, this essential book platforms the heart-breaking, first-hand testimonies of refugees against the backdrop of the 21st century migrant crisis. Hayden voices their stories of enslavement, trafficking, torture, murder, disease and sexual abuse, whilst also revealing the major part that the Western world had to play in these horrors. She shines a necessary spotlight on NGOs, the UN and the EU, all of which have neglected refugees and are in many ways responsible for the abuse they have faced.


The Restless Republic: Britain Without a Crown by Anna Keay


Keay explores the extraordinary decade that followed the execution of King Charles I, when the people became the sovereign force of the land. Following the lives of a handful of individuals who lived through this period, this book is story about the tumultuous decade where Britain was set on a new course. With a cast of banished Royalists, bewildered bystanders, dexterous Mandarins and trembling visionaries, Keay manages to breathe life into an experimental period in British history. It is also the story of what happens when a conservative nation tries its hand at revolution.


A Fortunate Woman: A Country Doctor’s Story by Polly Morland


Shining a light on the seismic changes in our society and how medicine is now practised, Morland’s book sheds a much-needed light on what it means to be a doctor in today’s complex and challenging world. Inspired by reading A Fortunate Man, this is the compelling true story of a female valley doctor whose relationship with her patients and the land come together to create a unique portrait of a 21st century family doctor. Both funny and moving, the book shows how this female doctor is a rarity in contemporary medicine as well as how the old doctor’s tales are threaded with her own life in a magical way.


Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell


Priest, MP, sea adventurer, scholar of law and (maybe?) the greatest love poet in the history of the English language - John Donne was incapable of being just one thing and thus lived a myriad of lives. Super-Infinite is the biography of this extraordinary life, chronicling Donne’s obsessions, his turbulent Elizabethan times and his blazing words. The book unveils a life well lived by a man with a remarkable mind who suffered from bouts of sadness, yet had the ability to express electrifying joy and love.

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