Robyn Doolittle, Ziya Tong among 5 writers shortlisted for $30K RBC Taylor Prize for nonfiction

The $30,000 prize recognizes the best in Canadian literary nonfiction. The winner will be revealed on March 2, 2020. 

2020 will be the final year for the prize

Robyn Doolittle (left) and Ziya Tong are on the shortlist for the 2020 RBC Taylor Prize. (Galit Rodan, Noel Fox)

Robyn Doolittle's Had It Coming, a book about how police handle sexual assault cases, and Ziya Tong's The Reality Bubblean exploration of what society ignores, are among the titles shortlisted for the 2020 RBC Taylor Prize. 

The $30,000 prize recognizes the best in Canadian literary nonfiction.

The full shortlist is:

The jury, comprised of 2019 Booker Prize co-winner Margaret Atwood, British professor Coral Ann Howells and American translator Peter Theroux, selected the 12-book longlist and five-book shortlist from 155 submitted titles.

Atwood revealed the shortlisted books at a press conference in Toronto.

Noreen Taylor, founder of the RBC Taylor Prize, at the press conference revealing the 2020 finalists on Jan. 8, 2020. (CBC)

It was announced in November that 2020 will be the last year for the prize, which has been given out since 2000.

Founder Noreen Taylor explained in a press release that "it became clear last year that we had achieved every goal."

Taylor created the prize in memory of her husband, Charles Taylor, a journalist and author of the books Six Journeys and Radical Tories. He died in 1997.

The winner will be revealed on March 2, 2020. 

The winner receives $30,000 and four finalists each receive $5,000.

The prize winner will select an emerging writer to receive the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writer Award. The prize is given to an up-and-coming Canadian writer, who will receive $10,000 and be mentored by the RBC Taylor Prize recipient. 

Last year's winner was Kate Harris for her travel memoir Lands of Lost Borders.

Other past winners include Carol Shields for Jane AustenCharles Foran for Mordecai: The Life & TimesAndrew Westoll for The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, Thomas King for The Inconvenient IndianRosemary Sullivan for Stalin's Daughter and Tanya Talaga for Seven Fallen Feathers.

Keep reading to learn more about the shortlisted books and authors.

Bush Runner by Mark Bourrie

Bush Runner is a nonfiction book by Mark Bourrie. (Douglas & McIntyre, Biblioasis)

Bush Runner is the story of explorer and Hudson Bay Company founder Pierre-Esprit Radisson. Radisson's life is remarkable: he was kidnapped by Mohawk warriors, witnessed London's great plague and great fire, survived a shipwreck, was marooned with pirates and proved to be a shrewd adventurer, trader and businessperson. 

Bourrie is a historian, journalist and university lecturer who has written several books about history. His other books include The Killing Game, a book about ISIS, Fighting Words, about Canadian war reporting, and The Fog of War, about media censorship during the Second World War.

Had It Coming by Robyn Doolittle

Had It Coming is a nonfiction book by Robyn Doolittle. (Galit Rodan, Allen Lane)

Based on the years Globe and Mail reporter Robyn Doolittle spent examining how police mishandle sexual assault cases, Had It Coming is an in-depth look at how attitudes around sexual harassment and assault are changing in the #MeToo era. Doolittle's investigative series Unfounded looked into sexual assault allegations using data gathered from over 870 police forces across the country and found that many cases were deemed "baseless" and not properly investigated.

Doolittle's previous book, Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, was published in 2014.

Highway of Tears by Jessica McDiarmid

An orange book cover featuring an artistic illustration of a stylized eye.
Highway of Tears is a book by Jessica McDiarmid. (Doubleday Canada, Wendy Perry)

The Highway of Tears is an isolated stretch of highway in northwestern British Columbia where many Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been murdered. In Highway of Tears, journalist Jessica McDiarmid investigates some of the tragedies that have taken place along this road and explores the larger societal and cultural issues that have led to this crisis.

McDiarmid is a journalist who has also worked for Journalists for Human Rights. Highway of Tears is her first book.

The Reality Bubble by Ziya Tong

The Reality Bubble is a nonfiction book by Ziya Tong. (Penguin Random House Canada, CBC)

In The Reality Bubblescience journalist Ziya Tong reminds readers that the human eye pales in comparison to what animals with infrared, ultraviolet and 360-degree vision can see. She looks into 10 of humanity's biggest blind spots, including where our food and energy comes from and where our waste goes. 

Ziya Tong is the vice chair of WWF Canada and is best known as the longtime co-host of the Discovery Channel's Daily Planet, which she anchored for a decade from 2008-2018. The Reality Bubble is her first book.

The Mosquito by Timothy C. Winegard

The Mosquito is a nonfiction book by Timothy C. Winegard. (Rylie E. Vavra, Allen Lane)

If you had to choose humanity's greatest natural predator, would you pick sharks? Maybe lions, or bears — or even other humans? According to Timothy Winegard, it's actually that winged terror — the mosquito. In his new book, The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator, he argues that the mosquito — and the diseases it carries — has played a remarkable role in shaping our own development, from the birth of the gin and tonic, to the fall of the Roman Empire.

Winegard is a professor of history and political science at Colorado Mesa University. He has written four books covering a variety of topics, including military history, Indigenous studies and now, mosquitoes.