John Vaillant has won the £50,000 2023 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-fiction for his book Fire Weather.
The annual prize, formerly known as the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction, has been awarded since 1998 and is the pre-eminent nonfiction book prize in Britain. It is open to writers of any nationality.
The winner was announced on November 16.
In Fire Weather, Vaillant tells the story of the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire against the wider historical backdrop of the relationship between climate change and the oil industry.
“Fire Weather brings together a series of harrowing human stories with science and geo-economics, in an extraordinary and elegantly rendered account of a terrifying climate disaster that engulfed a community and industry, underscoring our toxic relationship with fossil fuels,” jury chair Frederick Studemann said in a press release. “Moving back and forth in time, across subjects, and from the particular to the global, this meticulously researched, thrillingly told book forces readers to engage with one of the most urgent issues of our time.”
The winner and six-book shortlist were selected by a jury composed of Financial Times literary editor Frederick Studemann, historian and author Andrea Wulf, Guardian theatre critic Arifa Akbar, writer and historian Ruth Scurr, journalist and critic Tanjil Rashid, and Andrew Haldane, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts.