Nick Lane’s Life Ascending has won the annual Royal Society Book Prize, beating the other shortlisted titles to a £10,000 reward. His book is eloquent and elegant, guiding the reader through the authors’ chosen top ten great inventions of evolution.
Lane joins a list of accomplished authors, including Steve Jones, Steven Rose and Bill Bryson in winning the prize.
His book was released 2009, a year in which we celebrated two big Darwin anniversaries, and was timely in this sense. From complex cells to consciousness, movement to sex, the book is a genuine page turner, which contains reams of information described in an accessible, warm voice.
“Writing is my way to understand the world. I tried to get across the boundary between what we know and what we don’t know,” Lane explained. “It’s a thrilling tapestry that writing can take you across – you can ask any question you want, but there’s responsibility that goes with that.”
Maggie Philbin, Chair of the Judges said: “Life Ascending is a beautifully written and elegantly structured book that was a favourite with all of the judges. Nick Lane hasn’t been afraid to challenge us with some tough science, explaining it in such a way that we feel like scientists ourselves, unfolding the mysteries of life.
Sadly however the prestigious book prize, which has run for more than 20 years may be in its last year due to problems with raising the necessary funds necessary.
Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, said: “Science is an integral part of our culture and it is immensely important that the joy, wonder and excitement of scientific discovery is effectively communicated to all. The Royal Society Prize for Science Books has celebrated the very best science writing since 1988 and helped to encourage engagement with science from audiences young and old in the UK and internationally. The Royal Society greatly values the Prizes, however, in these tough economic times we have to secure a sponsor to ensure the Prizes can continue in future years.”
“A lot of my heroes have won in the past. When you receive a prize like this it does inspire you,” Lane said. “I hope the funding materializes.”
Read the Great Beyond review here: Ruth’s Reviews: Life Ascending
and Lewis Wolpert reviewed Life Ascending when it was published in 2009. Read his review here: Great inventions of life