Six years after winning the RBC Taylor Prize, Globe and Mail feature writer Ian Brown is once again a finalist for one of the country's most prestigious non-fiction awards.
Mr. Brown's sometimes melancholic, often humorous exploration of aging, Sixty: The Beginning of the End, or the End of the Beginning, is one of five books shortlisted for the $25,000 award, it was announced on Wednesday. The book, a diary of his 60th year, was described by the jury as "smart, witty" and "both engaging and moving."
He previously won the prize in 2010, then called the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, for his memoir The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Search for His Disabled Son.
The other finalists include Toronto novelist Camilla Gibb, who is nominated for her "exquisitely taut" first memoir, This Is Happy, which recounts her unusual childhood, struggles with depression and the collapse of her marriage, which occurred when she was pregnant with her first child. (Coincidentally, it was after reading The Boy in the Moon that Gibb began writing her own memoir.)
Former CBC correspondent David Halton is nominated for Dispatches from the Front: Matthew Halton, Canada's Voice at War, a "loving but honest account" of the life, work and legacy of his father, who covered the Second World War for the CBC and the Toronto Star, while another broadcaster, Wab Kinew, is nominated for his first memoir, The Reason You Walk, which the jury praised as "brutally honest, original, funny, uncomfortable, and compelling."
Finally, noted biographer Rosemary Sullivan is shortlisted for Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva. The book, which the jury says combines "exacting research with brilliant storytelling," won the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Award for Non-Fiction in October.
The short list was chosen by a jury consisting of Stephen J. Toope, director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, television executive Susanne Boyce and Joseph Kertes, the former dean of creative and performing arts at Humber College. (Kertes replaced Steven Galloway, the chair of the University of British Columbia's creative writing program, who stepped down from the jury for "personal reasons" after he was suspended from the school in November after still-under-investigation "serious allegations" were levelled against him.)
In total, the jury considered 121 books submitted by publishers from across Canada. "I'm a big fiction reader, so to actually be confronted, if I may put it that way, with so many books, and to find the incredible diversity of subject matter … was, for me, actually a little bit of a revelation," said Toope. "There are other books that could have been on this list of five finalists and, frankly, were very close to being on this list."
The winner of the RBC Taylor Prize, which last year was awarded to Plum Johnson for her memoir They Left Us Everything, will be announced on March 7.