Schoolboy, 16, longlisted for major non-fiction book prize

A 16-year-old has become the youngest person to be longlisted for a £50,000 book prize.

Diary Of A Young Naturalist begins in spring and “chronicles the turning” of Dara McAnulty’s world.

The autistic teenager, from Northern Ireland, wrote “vivid, evocative and moving diary entries about his connection to wildlife and the way he sees the world”.

The book charts his encounters with wildlife and nature which act as an antidote to his struggles with everyday life and his problems with social integration.

He is the youngest person to have been longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction.

McAnulty is up against bestselling authors such as Kate Summerscale, for The Haunting Of Alma Fielding: A True Ghost Story, about “supernatural events in a suburban home”.

Other books on the 13-strong longlist include a biography of Lucian Freud, a social and musical history of The Beatles, and a history of the understanding of the brain.

Diary Of A Young Naturalist, which evolved from a blog McAnulty began at the age of 12, won him the Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing this week.

Martha Kearney, chairwoman of the judges, said: “Despite the joys of Zoom, we have managed to agree on 13 exceptional books which reflect the creative power of 21st century non-fiction, from new writers to accomplished authors, spanning war, art, science, history, ghosts and The Beatles.”

Last year’s winner was Hallie Rubenhold, for The Five: The Untold Lives Of The Women Killed By Jack The Ripper, which in paperback went on to become a number one bestseller.

This year’s winner will be announced in November.

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