The PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award celebrates writing that exemplifies literary excellence on the subject of physical and biological sciences. The winner receives a cash award of $10,000 and will be honored at the PEN Literary Awards.
The PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award was founded by scientist and author Dr. Edward O. Wilson, activist and actor Harrison Ford, and the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. The award is also supported by James and Cathy Stone. The inaugural award was conferred in 2011.
Examples of published works that exemplify the quality of writing the award is designed to acknowledge include Rachel Carlson’s Silent Spring (1962), Dr. James Watson’s The Double Helix (1969), Lewis Thomas’s The Lives of a Cell (1978), and Douglas Hofstadter’s Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (1979).
2019 Longlist Finalists
What is Real? Adam Becker (Basic Books)
The World in a Grain, Vince Beiser (Riverhead)
Timefulness, Marcia Bjornerud (Princeton University Press)
The Poison Squad, Deborah Blum (Penguin Press)
The Beginning of Everything, Andrea Buchanan (Pegasus Books)
Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, Ben Goldfarb (Chelsea Green)
The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life, David Quammen (Simon & Schuster)
Seaweed Chronicles, Susan Hand Shetterly (Algonquin Books)
Blue Dreams: The Science and the Story of the Drugs that Changed Our Minds, Lauren Slater (Little, Brown and Company)
She Has Her Mother’s Laugh, Carl Zimmer (Dutton Books)
The finalists for all book awards will be announced in January 2019. The winners will be celebrated at the 2019 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on February 26 at the NYU Skirball Center in NYC.
This year’s PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award judges are Arianne Shahvisi, Jeff VanderMeer and Christie Wilcox.
Arianne Shahvisi is a Kurdish-British academic philosopher based at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School. She completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge on the philosophy of cosmology. Her current research focuses on race, gender, and migration. Shahvisi edits the science section of literary magazine The Offing, which seeks out and supports work by those marginalized in literary spaces, and serves as an editorial board member for Kohl: A Journal for Body and Gender Research. She has written commentary for the New Statesman, Jacobin, and The Conversation.
Jeff VanderMeer has been called “the weird Thoreau” by The New Yorker for his engagement with ecological issues in novels such as the Arthur C. Clarke Award-finalist Borne and the NYT best-selling Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance). VanderMeer’s fiction has won the Shirley Jackson Award and the Nebula Award, among others, and been translated into 35 languages. His nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and TheWashington Post. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.
Christie Wilcox, Ph.D. is an award-winning science writer and the author of Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry, named one of Smithsonian Magazine‘s Best Books about Science 2016 and Amazon’s Best Books of 2016. Her bylines include The Washington Post, National Geographic, Popular Science, and Discover. She currently lives on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and edits for the YouTube channel SciShow.