Five Canadian authors are in contention for the prestigious Charles Taylor Prize – a $25,000 award for literary non-fiction. Whether their works explore other lives and other times or encourage political discourse, they all invite getting lost in a good read.

The Pursuit of Perfection: A Life of Celia Franca by Carol Bishop-Gwyn

Whether you’re a dance fan or not, you will be captivated by the force of nature that was Celia Franca. Brought from England to act as founder for the National Ballet of Canada, her drive to succeed made her ruthless. The book is described by the Charles Taylor Prize jury as a “complex story of an artist both driven and tyrannical, both sensitive and unreasonable, but someone able, with little help and in what was little more than a cultural backwater, to found a ballet company which was to become one of the best in the world, the National Ballet of Canada.”

Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King and Canada’s World Wars by Tim Cook

Our country continues to be fascinated with these areas of history, and this finalist explores the wartime leadership of prime ministers Robert Borden and William Lyon Mackenzie King. The Charles Taylor Prize jury says Cook (who previously won the prize for Shock Troops) “portrays these two men as they really were, men moderately able to lead Canada through a dark time and, despite their numerous shortcomings (particularly Mackenzie King’s), able to survive politically. Cook’s great achievement is his capturing of Canada as it grapples with its identity.”


Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page by Sandra Djwa

More than a decade of research went into this compelling portrait of one of Canada’s most respected modern poets and artists. In their citation, the Charles Taylor Prize jury says, “Using the tools of the scholar – letters, notes, diaries, manuscripts, texts and interviews – Djwa fashions a compelling and necessary biography. She does the important job of leaving us with the big, rich life story, which gives an extra dimension to the art of a great writer.”

Leonardo and The Last Supper by Ross King (Woodstock, England)

The most recent in King’s studies of medieval Italian masters, this explores The Last Supper, possibly the most famous painting in the world after da Vinci’s own Mona Lisa. In its citation, the Charles Taylor Prize jury says, “It is the painting that raised da Vinci from the status of a highly promising but exasperatingly unproductive painter to the rank of the greatest artistic genius of all time. Leonardo and The Last Supper is a masterly exercise in the art of popular biography.”

Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion by Andrew Preston

Preston gives a detailed and deeply researched look at the influence of religion on U.S. foreign policy, from colonial times through the Obama administration. According to the Charles Taylor Prize jury, by showing “the centrality of religion in American life is by no means unique to fundamentalists and neo-conservatives, this important work has such chapter titles as ‘High Priests of the Cold War’ and ‘A JudeoChristian Foreign Policy,’ which convey Preston’s originality and, indeed, his bravery.”

2013 marks the 12th awarding of The Charles Taylor Prize for Non-Fiction, which commemorates the life and work of the late Charles Taylor, one of Canada’s foremost essayists and a prominent member of the Canadian literary community.

The winner of this year’s $25,000 prize will be announced on Monday, March 4.


Win a set of the books shortlisted for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.

Approx. value $130 (books) or $70 (Kobo downloads).

The winner can choose books or Kobo downloads of the short-listed titles.