PEN America Literary Awards PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

The PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award celebrates writing that exemplifies literary excellence on the subject of the physical or biological sciences and communicates complex scientific concepts to a lay audience. The winner receives a cash award of $10,000.

All winners and finalists for this award are eligible to receive PEN America’s official winner or finalist seal. If you are a publisher of a shortlisted or winning book for this award and are interested in obtaining PEN’s award seal, please write to [email protected].

Current Cycle: 2019

Honoring books published in 2018.

Submissions: June-August 2018
Judges Announced: December 2018
Longlists Announced: December 2018
Shortlists Announced: January 2019
Awards Ceremony: February 2019

2019 Finalists

Featured Honoree: Lindsey Fitzharris, 2018 Winner

The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris

Lindsey Fitzharris

The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris (Scientific America/Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Scientific American Ι Indiebound Ι Amazon

Judges: Carl Hart, Deanna Fei, Luke Dittrich

From the judges’ citation: “When Joseph Lister began his career as a surgeon in Victorian England, colleagues wore aprons caked with old blood and rarely washed their knives between procedures. Infections ran rampant, and hospitals were often just way stations to the morgue. In The Butchering Art, Lindsey Fitzharris provides a clear-eyed view over Lister’s shoulder, and lets us watch as he progresses toward the revolutionary idea that invisible germs could be lethal, and that killing those germs might save countless lives. Fitzharris is a brilliant narrator of visceral operating-room scenes, but her account of the medical community’s prolonged and contentious resistance to Lister is just as compelling. This important and compulsively readable book is a reminder that scientific advances face strong headwinds, and that even the best ideas need fierce champions.”



Previous Winners

2011  Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (Scribner)

2012  James Gleick, The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (Pantheon)

2013  Leonard Mlodinow, Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior(Pantheon)

2014  Dr. Carl Hart, High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society (Harper)

2015  Joshua Horwitz, War of the Whales: A True Story (Simon & Schuster)

2016  Lauren Redniss, Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, and Future (Random House)

2017 Luke Dittrich, Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets (Random House)




Submissions for the next awards cycle will be accepted from June 1, 2019 – August 1, 2019.

Who is Eligible
  • Eligible:

    • Eligible titles must have been published between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018.
    • Authors of the work must be permanent U.S. residents or American citizens.
    • If you submit a book for this award, you may not submit it for any additional PEN America awards. Please note that the PEN/Faulkner is not considered a PEN America award.

    NOT Eligible:

    • Self-published books
    • Anthologies
How to Submit
  • PEN will only accept submissions from publishers, editors or literary agents. Authors may not submit their own book for this award.  
  • Please download the Declaration of Eligibility here. Complete all fields and have a company executive sign in order to confirm the book’s eligibility. If eligible, please upload this form along with the rest of your application. If the book does not meet all of the listed eligibility requirements, the book will not be considered for this award.
  • Each submission is $85*. If you would like to pay by check, please enter CHECK in the coupon code field at checkout. Checks should be made out to PEN America. Please note that submission fees are not refundable.
  • Mail one copy of the candidate’s book to the address below. Please note that we also accept galleys and bound manuscripts.

PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
PEN America
588 Broadway, Suite 303
New York, NY 10012

*Submission fees may be waived for publishers whose annual net sales are less than $2 million. In order to have your dues waived, please have a company official write a letter on company letterhead stating that your press’ annual net sales are less than $2 million. Please send this letter as an attachment (.doc or .pdf) to [email protected]. Once received, you will be provided with a coupon code to use at check-out in order to have your submission fees waived. One fee waiver may be used for all 2019 PEN Awards; you do not need to submit a separate fee waiver for each award.

Once the submitted book is received and reviewed for eligibility by PEN, you will be contacted by [email protected] by the end of the year and asked to ship one copy of the book to each of our three awards judges. Please add [email protected] to your safe sender list.