A gritty memoir of a young soldier's time in Afghanistan, a volume delving into the life of Sir John A. Macdonald from 1867 to 1891 and an exploration of tree-planting culture are among the 11 books long-listed for the Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction.

Organizers unveiled their first-ever long list on Monday, crediting the jurors of the previous, 10th anniversary edition of the $25,000 prize for noting the significant increase in strong titles being submitted for consideration.

"The jury informed us that there were so many additional titles so close to being named to the short list that we realized it was time to issue a long list," prize founder Noreen Taylor said in a statement.

"As I look at the long-listed titles, it is clear that it was the right decision. Our jury has sorted through the 115 submissions and selected a long list that is diverse in subject and treatment. Having already read a number of these books, I know that the jury has lived up to our mandate."

The books in the running for the 2012 prize are:

  • Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter, by Carmen Aguirre.
  • Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest, by Wade Davis.
  • The Patrol: Seven Days in the Life of a Canadian Soldier in Afghanistan, by Ryan Flavelle.
  • Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe, by Charlotte Gill.
  • Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times Volume Two: 1867 - 1891, by Richard Gwyn.
  • The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit, by J. J. Lee.
  • Facing the Hunter: Reflections on a Misunderstood Way of Life, by David Adams Richards.
  • Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live, by Ray Robertson.
  • Afflictions and Departures: Essays, by Madeline Sonik.
  • The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A Canadian Story of Resilience and Recovery, by Andrew Westoll.
  • Bad Animals: A Father's Accidental Education in Autism, by Joel Yanofsky.

The jury — comprising journalist and author Stevie Cameron, editor and consultant Susan Renouf and Allan M. Brandt, dean of Harvard University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences — will whittle the books down to a short list that will be revealed Jan. 10.


Nation Maker, Richard Gwyn's follow-up to John A: The Man Who Made Us, explores the life of Sir John A. Macdonald after Confederation. (Random House)

The finalists will be celebrated and a winner announced at an event in Toronto on March 5.

The Charles Taylor Prize was established in memory of the writer and former Globe and Mail correspondent. It celebrates the Canadian author of a book that "demonstrates a superb command of the English language, an elegance of style and a subtlety of thought and perception."

Past winners have included Gwyn, whose book John A: The Man Who Made Us: The Life and Times of John A. Macdonald was the 2008 winner, Carol Shields, J.B. MacKinnon, Ian Brown and Charles Foran.