When it comes to literary awards, our award for best non-fiction short-list of the year goes to the £50,000 Baillie Gifford Prize. Here they are:
1) William Feaver’s The Lives of Lucian Freud, the first of two volumes chronicling the brilliant art and general debauchery of a twentieth-century master (above). “Indulgent and highly enjoyable,” says the Financial Times.
2) The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack The Ripper, by Hallie Rubenhold. A triumph of historical detection, Rubenhold renders human five victims of gruesome murders heretofore known merely as prostitutes (three weren’t). “Hard-edged and heartbreaking,” says the Washington Post.
3) Laura Cumming’s On Chapel Sands: My mother and other missing persons. Laura Cumming, an author and art critic, investigates the mysteries surrounding her mother’s disappearance as a child in 1929. “A moving, many-sided human story of great depth and tenderness,” says The Sunday Times. “A modern masterpiece,” says The Guardian.
4) Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of Isis, by Azadeh Moaveni. This is the story of thirteen women, some working-class drifters, others medical trainees and daughters of diplomats, who joined and, in most cases, escaped life in the Islamic State. “A journalistic tour de force that lays bare the inner lives, motivations, and aspirations of [its] subjects,” says Publisher’s Weekly.
5) Furious Houses: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, by Casey Cep. An insightful portrait of the newly famous American author as she leaves Manhattan to cover a vigilante trial in her native Alabama. “Remarkable, thoroughly researched,” says The New York Review of Books.
6) Julia Lovell’s Maoism: A Global History. This one also made the shortlist of the Cundill Prize for history. It follows the influence of the revolutionary Chinese leader from Indonesia to Cambodia to South America and, with especially interesting results, to Europe, where Sarte was enamored, and the U.S., where Mao was “groovy.” “Fascinating and well-worth reading,” says The LSE Review of Books.