The Richard Jefferies Society and the White Horse Book Shop Literary Prize is awarded annually to the author of the publication considered by the judging panel to be the most outstanding nature writing published in a given calendar year. The winning work must reflect the heritage and spirit of Richard Jefferies’ countryside books.
The final short-list for 2020 publications was announced today, January 14 as:
- Orchard. A Year in England’s Eden by Benedict Macdonald and Nicholas Gates. [Collins]
- Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty. [Little Toller]
- The Consolation of Nature: Spring in the Time of Coronavirus byMichael McCarthy, Jeremy Mynott and Peter Marren. [Hodder]
- The Swallow: A Biography by Stephen Moss. [Square Peg]
- Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake. [Bodley Head]
- The Gospel of the Eels: A Father, a Son and the World’s Most Enigmatic Fish by Patrik Svensson. [Picador]
Named after Wiltshire’s celebrated and ground-breaking Victorian writer and naturalist, Richard Jefferies the Prize was first awarded in 2015. Last year attracted an unprecedented number of nominations reflecting the increasing number of books dedicated to the natural world.
The son of a farmer, Jefferies was born at Coate near Swindon – the family’s house is now the Richard Jefferies Museum. He worked as a journalist in Wiltshire and became a prolific and sensitive writer on nature, who stands in the tradition of writers concerned with man’s relationship to the natural world.
He also wrote children’s books (including the popular Bevis series), a philosophical and psychological autobiography titled The Story of My Heart, and one of the earliest science fiction books – the ‘post-apocalyptic’ novel After London.
The prize was created using a legacy to the Society from John Webb, one of its most active members, who died in 2014. The prize is now a memorial to him.
Previous winners are: Gods of the Morning by John Lister-Kaye (2015), The Wood for the Trees by Richard Fortey (2016) The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicolson (2017), Wilding by Isabella Tree (2018) and Rebirding by Benedict Macdonald (2019).
The judging panel will meet in early summer to agree and announce the overall winner of the £1000 prize.