Each year the festival makes an award Best Book of Ideas. The prize is awarded to the book published in 2011 which presents new, important and challenging ideas, which is rigorously argued, and which is engaging and accessible. The winner will be announced at the Bristol Festival of Ideas Prize Evening at St George’s Bristol on 21 May.
The shortlisted titles - with some reviews - for the 2012 award are:
Simon Baron-Cohen, Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty (Allen Lane): ‘Ground-breaking and important…This humane and immensely sympathetic book calls us to the task of reinterpreting aberrant human behaviour so that we might find ways of changing it for the better…The effect…is not to diminish the concept of human evil, but to demystify it.’ (Richard Holloway Literary Review) Listen to Simon speaking about the book at last year’s Festival of Ideas on SoundCloud.
Brian Christian, The Most Human Human: What Artificial Intelligence Teaches Us About Being Alive (Viking): ‘Lively, thought-stirring, entertaining … an invaluable sourcebook on computing in modern-day life … compelling insights.’ (John Gray New Statesman) Read Brian’s Ideas Notebook on the Festival of Ideas website.
Edward Glaeser Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Made us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier (Pan): ‘If separating ideas from implementation can leave you a little lightheaded, you’ll still walk away dazzled by the greatness of cities and fascinated by this writer’s nimble mind.’ (Diana Silver, New York Times)
Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (Allen Lane): ‘Profound … As Copernicus removed the Earth from the centre of the universe and Darwin knocked humans off their biological perch, Mr. Kahneman has shown that we are not the paragons of reason we assume ourselves to be.’ (The Economist )
Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes (Allen Lane): ‘Pinker’s scholarship is astounding… flawless… masterful.’ (Joanna Bourke The Times)
Michael Symmons Roberts and Paul Farley, Edgelands (Cape): ‘eye-opening and hugely enjoyable book … overall this is an original, surprising and rather wonderful addition to our literature of place.’ Sunday Telegraph