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: June 1, 2019 – August 15, 2019
Longlists Announced: December 2019
Shortlists Announced: January 2020
Awards Ceremony: March 2020


2019 Finalists

Featured Honoree: Ben Goldfarb, 2019 Winner

Eager by Ben Goldfarb

Ben Goldfarb

Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, Ben Goldfarb (Chelsea Green)
Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound

Judges: Arianne Shahvisi, Jeff VanderMeer, Christie Wilcox

From the judges’ citation: “Sometimes the best thing humans can do for the environment is hand it over to another species. While it is widely known that beavers dam waterways, often in ways that frustrate human plans, it is rarely acknowledged that these nocturnal rodents can radically transform vast swathes of land, boosting biodiversity, recharging aquifers, purifying water, reducing pollution, and protecting against erosion and wildfires. Vast in scope but beautifully specific in detail, Eager: The Surprising, Secret Lives of Beavers and Why They Matter is an important environmental saga with clear implications for modern-day ecological policy. This true natural history portrays the inequities of settler impact on North America on a broad scale through a particular creature and ecosystem—revealing that we once lived in a much different world, and that we will struggle to reclaim that world without interspecies cooperation. While maintaining a strong central storyline, Goldfarb offers eye-opening, fascinating vignettes about these industrious engineering rodents and the people whose lives are devoted to reintroducing, protecting, and championing them. At times tragic and at times hopeful, Eager is a charming, surprising, and compelling lesson in the intricacies of ecosystems, and the limits of human hubris.”




Submissions for the 2020 awards cycle were accepted from June 1, 2019 – August 15, 2019. Please note that book submissions were not considered unless officially submitted via the online form AND received at the PEN America New York office with the corresponding Declaration of Eligibility.

Who is Eligible
  • Eligible:

Submissions for the 2020 awards cycle will be accepted from June 1, 2020 – August 15, 2020.

    • Eligible titles must have been published by trade publishers between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019.
    • 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 Literary Award, with the exception of the PEN Open Book Award. Please note that the PEN/Faulkner is not considered a PEN America Literary Award.

NOT Eligible:

    • Self-published books
    • Anthologies
How to Submit
  • PEN America 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. 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 here.
  • 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, galley, or bound manuscript to the below address during the open submission period.

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

Once the submitted book is received and reviewed for eligibility, [email protected] requests a copy to be shipped to the judges. 

*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.