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 the PEN America award seal, please write to [email protected].


Current Cycle: 2020

Honoring books published in 2019.

Submissions for the 2021 cycle open June 1, 2020.

JUDGES: Diane Ackerman, Rivka Galchen, Priyamvada Natarajan

2020 Finalists

Conscience: The Origins of Moral Intuition, Patricia S. Churchland (W. W. Norton & Company)
HudsonIndieBound 

On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galapagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden, Elizabeth Hennessy (Yale University Press)
Hudson | IndieBound 

The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption, Dahr Jamail (New Press)
HudsonIndieBound

Losing Earth: A Recent History, Nathaniel Rich (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
HudsonIndieBound

2020 PEN E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award Finalists

Featured Winner: Frans de Waal

Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves, Frans de Waal (W. W. Norton & Company)
Hudson | IndieBound

JUDGES: Diane Ackerman, Rivka Galchen, and Priyamvada Natarajan

From the judges’ citation: “It’s a great pleasure to award this year’s PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award to preeminent primatologist, Frans de Waal, for his keenly observed, insightful, and wonderfully told exploration of the inner lives of animals, which highlights the bounty we share (and don’t share) with other species—both emotionally and psychologically. His lifelong study of primates, in the wild and in zoos, has led him to insights that are scientifically rigorous and not anthropomorphic, yet easy to understand in profoundly human terms. His elegantly written memoir, Mama’s Last Hug, is a book that reminds us that while our homo sapien life may seem very different from that of other animals, we inhabit a kingdom of neighbors.”

Frans de Waal, Mama’s Last Hug

Eligibility and Submission Guidelines

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