The RBC Taylor Prize 2017 Shortlist Announced

Jury Names the Five Best in Literary Non-Fiction

TORONTO, Jan. 11, 2017 /CNW/ - During a standing-room-only press conference at the Omni King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto, Juror Colin McAdam announced five finalists for the sixteenth awarding of the RBC Taylor Prize, selected from their previously announced twelve-title longlist. In all, the jury, composed of John English, Ann MacMillan, and Colin McAdam, read and evaluated 101 books written by Canadian authors and submitted by 29 Canadian and international publishers.

The shortlist and jury citations for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize are:

By Chance Alone: A Remarkable True Story of Courage and Survival at Auschwitz by Max Eisen (Toronto, ON), published by HarperCollins Canada. 

Of the book, the jury wrote: "On a spring morning in 1944 after his family's Passover Seder, fifteen-year-old Max Eisen and his family were thrust upon an inescapable path to Auschwitz. Nearly all of his family died, but courage and chance allowed Max to survive and write this remarkable memoir. By Chance Alone is depressing, and induces the incredulity and anger one expects from a memoir of the Holocaust. Yet the book possesses unique power that comes from its candour, its lack of pretension, its spare prose, and the author's sharp memory. One surprise is Eisen's description of how hard it was for him to endure the years after the war under Communist rule before he finally found his home in Toronto. A compelling book, By Chance Alone recalls in direct and measured language how one young man confronted horrible atrocities and personal grief. It reminds us how fragile the world we know is, and how terrifying its breakup can be."

Pumpkinflowers: An Israeli Soldier's Story by Matti Friedman (Jerusalem), published by Signal / McClelland & Stewart. 

Of the book, the jury wrote: "The most refreshing thing about Pumpkinflowers is that, unlike so many books about the Middle East, it is not a polemic. Matti Friedman succeeds in painting an intimate and honest picture of the lives of Israeli soldiers serving in a camp on the Lebanese border. Using the microcosm of this tiny outpost, the author exposes the agony of ordinary soldiers trapped in a conflict they do not understand—an ordeal that he himself shares when he's posted to this very exposed spot. His keen eye for detail, masterly writing style, and his balanced, journalistic approach provide a gripping account of a moment in history that would otherwise have been forgotten."

Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of Water Lilies by Ross King (Oxford, England), published by Bond Street Books. 

Of the book, the jury wrote: "Claude Monet's Water Lilies in the Orangerie des Tuileries rank among the greatest masterpieces of world art. Their creation came late in Monet's life when cataracts marred his sight, death struck his wife and son, and war raged close to his lily ponds at Giverny. Ross King brilliantly captures the furies of Monet and the enormous challenges he overcame in painting the twenty-two panels of lilies that surround L'Orangerie. An exceptional art historian, King grasps the political tempests of wartime France and his portrait of Monet's close friend, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, will be essential reading for all who want to understand the intersection of politics, nationalism, and culture in France during the First World War. In this elegantly written and superbly researched book, Ross King illuminates Water Lilies and Monet as no one has before."

Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World by Marc Raboy (Montreal, QC), published by Oxford University Press. 

Of the book, the jury wrote: "'The world was getting smaller.' This is what Marc Raboy observes of Marconi's first wireless transmission across the English Channel. Whether it made the world small, or infinitely more complex, Marconi's role in the invention of wireless communication has arguably shaped human culture as powerfully as the wheel, the word, and fire. With impressive archival research, and a broad understanding of history, Marc Raboy has given life to the man who gave us the ability to talk across oceans, and who is ultimately responsible for this networked world of distant intimacies and Twitter revolutions. Marconi defied most labels and boundaries—an Italian, an Irish Englishman, a liberal Fascist, and an inventor who borrowed from others. Marc Raboy presents all aspects of Marconi's life in this thorough and revealing biography, and he has given flesh to the ghost who drifts through every phone, radio, TV, and yearning computer. This is not only an indispensable reference for students of communication; it is a landmark in understanding how our world has been shaped by our tools."

This Is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, Prison, and Other Complications by Diane Schoemperlen (Kingston, ON), published by HarperCollins Canada.

Of the book, the jury wrote: "Diane Schoemperlen's skilful, conversational writing takes the reader on a harrowing journey through hope and happiness to heartbreak. The brutally honest way she describes her love affair with a prisoner serving time for second degree murder is remarkable. In understated but compelling prose she apportions blame for the failed relationship equally, chronicling her own faults as well as those of her lover. This compelling tale of ill-fated love, told with humour as well as humility is also a powerful indictment of the prison system in Canada."

Noreen Taylor, founder of the Prize and chair of the Charles Taylor Foundation spoke at the event and made these comments: "Considering the quality of their longlist, I know that our amazing jurors had very difficult decisions to make. We have said that our job at the RBC Taylor Prize is to shine a light on the quality that is Canadian Non-Fiction. While the goal is good, I have to say that these books shine brightly all on their own. Congratulations to all five finalists—and their publishers, who bring these books to the reading public."

Also in attendance was Vijay Parmar, president of RBC PH&N Investment Counsel, who added: "On behalf of RBC Wealth Management, I would like to congratulate the five finalists on their achievements. This year's shortlist exemplifies literary excellence and reflects the impressive talent of Canadian authors. We are honoured to be the Presenting Sponsor of the RBC Taylor Prize to help showcase the contributions of Canadian writers to the Non-Fiction landscape."

Public events already confirmed for the finalists include a free 90-minute Round Table Discussion in the Atrium of the Toronto Reference Library in downtown Toronto on Thursday, March 2nd, presented by the Toronto Public Library and Harbourfront Centre's International Festival of Authors; and the Ben McNally/The Globe and Mail Authors Brunch on Sunday, March 5th at 10:00 a.m. at the Omni King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto (for tickets, please contact Ben McNally Books at (416) 361-0032 or visit

On Monday, March 6th the finalists will be celebrated and the sixteenth winner announced at the annual RBC Taylor Prize gala luncheon at the Omni King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto. The winner will receive a $25,000 cash prize and a crystal trophy; the remaining four finalists will each receive $2,000

About The RBC Taylor Prize

Established biennially in 1998 by the trustees of the Charles Taylor Foundation, 2017 marks the sixteenth awarding of the RBC Taylor Prize, which commemorates Charles Taylor's pursuit of excellence in the field of literary non-fiction. Awarded to the author whose book best combines a superb command of the English language, an elegance of style, and a subtlety of thought and perception, the Prize consists of $25,000 for the winner and $2,000 for each of the remaining finalists, as well as promotional support to help all of the nominated books to stand out in the media, bookstores, and libraries. All authors are presented with a custom leather bound version of their shortlisted book at the awards ceremony.

Sharing a commitment to emerging Canadian talent, The Charles Taylor Foundation and RBC will also grant the fourth annual RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Award. Shortly after the announcement of the 2017 Prize, its winner will name their choice of emerging author to receive this $10,000 award.

The trustees of the Charles Taylor Foundation are: Michael Bradley, Vijay Parmar, David Staines, Edward Taylor, Nadina Taylor, and Noreen Taylor.

The presenting sponsor of the RBC Taylor Prize is RBC Wealth Management. Its media sponsors are The Globe and Mail, CNW Group, The Huffington Post CanadaMaclean's magazine, and Quill & Quire magazine; its in-kind sponsors are Ben McNally Books, Event Source, IFOA, The Omni King Edward Hotel, and the Toronto Public Library Board.

To download high-resolution images of the finalists and their book covers please go to: 

To download high-resolution images of the trustees, jurors, and longlisted authors, please go to:

For general information about the Prize please go to: Follow the RBC Taylor Prize on Twitter at Like the RBC Taylor Prize on Facebook at

SOURCE RBC Taylor Prize

For further information: Media contact: Stephen Weir & Associates, Stephen Weir: 416.489.5868 | cell: 416.801.3101 |

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