John Lorinc's Dream States wins $60K prize for best Canadian public policy book

Dream States by John Lorinc has won the $60,000 Balsillie Prize for Public Policy. The award honours nonfiction that contributes to Canadian policy.

Dream States examines the future of urban planning and smart cities

Dream States is a book by John Lorinc. (Coach House)

Dream States by John Lorinc has won the Balsillie Prize for Public Policy, an award presented by Writers' Trust Canada.

The $60,000 Balsillie Prize for Public Policy honours nonfiction that contributes to Canadian policy.

In Dream States, Lorinc explores the future of urban planning and smart cities. As the tech industry that supplies smart-city software and hardware is now worth hundreds of billions a year, Lorinc raises important questions about surveillance, automation and public participation. 

Dream States reflects on the larger narrative around smart cities — one that is often defined by utopian ideologies and technological fantasy.

"[Lorinc] argues that the pursuit of utopia must not be naively extracted from the political, socio-economic, spatial, physical, cultural layers that compose a city." The jury said in a statement. "Rather, drawing upon cases from around the world, he offers a framework for thinking about the future of urban living.

"Lorinc compels readers to consider the future of cities not only in the post-pandemic period, but also amid an accelerating and worsening climate crisis." 

Lorinc is a journalist and editor from Toronto. He reports on urban affairs, politics, business and technology.

His writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Walrus, Maclean's and Spacing, where he is senior editor.

The other four finalists were How the World Really Work by Vaclav Smil, The Last Doctor by Jean Marmoreo and Johanna Schneller,  Canadian Policing by Kent Roach and Reconciling Truths by Kim Stanton. 

Each of the remaining finalists will receive $5,000.

The prize is funded by businessman and philanthropist Jim Balsillie, as part of his $3 million donation to Writers' Trust to support Canadian literature. It's the largest award of its kind for Canadian public policy titles.

He also funded the $60,000 Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, renamed in 2021 after Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, two of the founders of Writers' Trust of Canada.

The Writers' Trust of Canada is an organization that supports Canadian writers through literary awards, fellowships, financial grants, mentorships and more. 

It also gives out seven prizes in recognition of the year's best in fiction, nonfiction and short story, as well as mid-career and lifetime achievement awards. 

The Balsillie Prize for Public Policy was established last year in 2021. The inaugural winner was Innovation in Real Places by Dan Breznit. 

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