British authors dominate 'Booker Prize of science writing' shortlist


British authors are dominating the shortlist for a prestigious literary award described as "the Booker Prize of science writing".

A total of four British writers have been named on a shortlist of six, who will be in the running for The Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2016.

Andrea Wulf is one of the shortlisted authors
Andrea Wulf is one of the shortlisted authors (Matt Dunham/AP)

The annual prize, worth £25,000, is now in its 29th year and celebrates popular science books from around the world which are aimed at a non-specialist readership.

Past winners include Stephen Hawking, Jared Diamond and Bill Bryson.

University of Sheffield professor Tim Birkhead has been short-listed for his book The Most Perfect Thing, which looks at the science behind birds' eggs.

Tim Birkhead has been shortlisted
Tim Birkhead, shown in 2012 with the skull of a giant extinct eagle, has been shortlisted (Ian Spooner)

Science journalist Jo Marchant has been chosen for her work Cure, looking at the unexpected ways in which the mind can influence healing in the body.

Andrea Wulf's The Invention Of Nature looks at the life of Alexander von Humboldt, and Oliver Morton's The Planet Remade delves into scientific responses to climate change.

They will be competing with two US authors, Thomas Levenson with his book The Hunt For Vulcan and Pulitzer Prize-winner Siddhartha Mukherjee for his best-seller The Gene.

Siddhartha Mukherjee
Siddhartha Mukherjee (Deborah Feingold)

This year Bryson will step in as the chairman of judges, with others on the judging panel including science fiction author Alastair Reynolds, theoretical physicist Dr Clare Burrage, and ornithologist and science blogger GrrlScientist.

Bryson, who won in 2004 for A Short History Of Nearly Everything, said: "These books show science writing at its best: lyrical, vivid and thrilling."

He added: "Few ideas are more exasperatingly wide of the mark than the belief that science is somehow a thing apart, something that happens in laboratories and classrooms but otherwise doesn't much intersect with our daily lives.

Bill Bryson will chair the judging panel
Bill Bryson will chair the judging panel (Sam Bryson)

"So it really cannot be stressed too often: science isn't separate from our daily lives. It is our daily lives. It explains who we are, how we got here and where we are going. It is innately enchanting."

Previously called The Royal Society Winton Prize For Science Books, the award has gained a reputation as "the Booker Prize of science writing".

Professor Brian Cox will host an awards ceremony on September 19, where the winner will receive £25,000. The other shortlisted authors will receive £2,500.

Professor Brian Cox will host the ceremony
Professor Brian Cox will host the ceremony (Anthony Devlin/PA)