2008 Royal Society Prizes for Science Books
You might think Monday’s a quiet night when nothing much happens, but this evening I had invitations from Coldplay for their special gig at Brixton Academy and from the Royal Society for their Science Book Prize awards ceremony. Apologies to Chris Martin but there was only ever going to be one winner.
The Royal Society prize is probably the most prestigious in science writing (this year it was sponsored by the Beecroft Trust). It comes in two categories: there’s a general nonfiction award and a junior prize for books aimed at the under 14s. Up until now this has always been a nonfiction prize too, but I figure maybe, just maybe, Johnny Mackintosh will be considered next year for what I’d call its “science in fiction” content.
I chatted to Jon Tickle, ex of Big Brother and now of Brainiac Science Abuse fame, who was absolutely brilliant. Ditto Iain Stewart, like Jon, one of the judges who forgave me for mistaking him for Ian Stewart, one of the shortlisted authors. When I looked closely they both seemed to have two eyes.
The general prize was won by Mark Lynas with his Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. As the Earth warms a degree at a time, Mark describes the effect each will have on the planet and all our lives. I haven’t read the book, but I’m sure it’s a great contribution to the climate change area and from what I’ve heard it’s absolutely not one of those hysterical “end of the world” prophecies. Apparently Lynas believes it’s neither too late nor too difficult to prevent possible future disaster. The only nominee I spoke with was Stuart Clark whose The Sun Kings didn’t quite make it over the line first, but who seemed a great bloke and certainly won the best-dressed author award on the night. His book tells an incredible story and has jumped to the top of my “to read” list.
The junior prize was won by The Big Book of Science Things To Make and Do by Rebecca Gilpin and Leonie Pratt. This was actually chosen by around 1200 kids from various organizations so I’m sure is a very worthy winner. My only disappointment was that this meant the winner’s speech didn’t answer the age-old conundrum of Why is Snot Green? which was one of the other books short-listed. For kids who want to know more about science, Planet Science is a great starting point and Nature is also doing a round up of best children’s books later in the year. Watch this space.
Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society and the main voice in the microphone, may not have sung Yellow, but you don’t get cakes at the Brixton Academy. These were totally delicious and must have put my own astronaut training programme back something rotten.