J.B. MacKinnon and David Stouck named as RBC Taylor Prize finalists

This year’s crop of contenders for the annual RBC Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction (known for much of its 13-year history as the Charles Taylor Prize) is especially strong, according to the prize’s founder, Noreen Taylor. At today’s announcement of the five finalists for the $25,000 honour, Taylor declared that “the depth and breadth of Canadian literary non-fiction writing has matured to such a degree” that we’re now witnessing “a coming of age” in the genre.

If that’s true, then Vancouver is more than pulling its weight. On the shortlist revealed in Toronto this morning are two local writers: J.B. MacKinnon, for The Once and Future World: Nature as It Was, as It Is, as It Could Be (Random House Canada); and David Stouck, for Arthur Erickson: An Architect’s Life (Douglas & McIntyre).

In its comments on the selections, the three-person jury praised MacKinnon’s book as “a completely original meditation on the status of our natural world and its future”, displaying “beautifully lyrical prose” and “impeccable research”. It also noted that Stouck’s work “demonstrates the empathy and rigour of a truly fine biographer” who has evoked “a complicated man with more tragic flaws than a Greek drama”.

Joining Mackinnon and Stouck on the list are Ottawa’s Charlotte Gray, for The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master, and the Trial That Shocked a Country (HarperCollins); Guelph’s Thomas King, for The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Doubleday Canada); and Globe and Mail correspondent Graeme Smith, for The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan (Alfred A. Knopf Canada).

The winner, to be announced on March 10, will have the privilege of picking and mentoring the recipient of the newly instituted RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Award, a $10,000 purse recognizing “a promising Canadian author of non-fiction”.

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