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Taylor shortlist reflects global outlook

In announcing this morning’s finalists for the 2013 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction, juror and past winner Richard Gwyn praised this year’s submissions for having an international scope. Calling the trend “an enormous step forward” and “a sign of growth” for Canadian non-fiction, Gwyn said that about one fifth of the 129 titles submitted for the prize were books written by Canadians that focused on global topics.

That all-encompassing approach is reflected in two of the five titles shortlisted for the $25,000 prize: Ross King’s Da Vinci biography Leonardo and The Last Supper (published by Doubleday Canada imprint Bond Street Books) and Andrew Preston’s Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy (Knopf Canada), a critique of U.S. foreign policy.

The other finalists are a trio of biographies more parochial in scope: Sandra Djwa’s Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page (McGill-Queen’s University Press), which tells the life story of the late Canadian poet; Tim Cook’s Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King, and Canada’s World Wars (Allen Lane Canada), a dual biography of Canada’s wartime prime ministers; Carol Bishop-Gwyn’s The Pursuit of Perfection: A Life of Celia Franca (Cormorant Books), about the controversial founder of the National Ballet of Canada.

The latter was written by Richard Gwyn’s wife. According to fellow jurors Joseph Kertes and Susanne Boyce, Gwyn recused himself from discussing the book.

The shortlist was whittled down from a longlist of 15 titles announced in December. The winner will be revealed March 4 following what prize founder Noreen Taylor promises will be a whirlwind media tour for the finalists.

Notably, none of this year’s Taylor Prize finalists were nominated for the $40,000 B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-fiction.