The shortlisted titles are:
- Sherard Cowper-Coles – Cables from Kabul (HarperPress)
- Duncan Fallowell – How to Disappear (Ditto Press)
- Roger Garfitt – The Horseman’s Word (Jonathan Cape)
- Mirabel Osler – The Rain Tree (Bloomsbury)
- Brian Sewell – Outsider: Almost Always, Never Quite (Quartet)
The PEN/Ackerley prize was established in memory of Joe Randolph Ackerley (1896-1967), an author and long-time literary editor of The Listener magazine. The Prize is awarded annually to a literary autobiography of outstanding merit, written by an author of British nationality and published in the UK in the previous year. The 2011 winner was Michael Frayn.
The PEN/Ackerley prize is judged by author and biographer Peter Parker (chair), author and artist Colin Spencer, author Georgina Hammick and historian and biographer Richard Davenport-Hines.
Peter Parker, Chair of the Judges, said:
Forty books were called in by the judges this year, and the sheer range of these titles produced an unusually long longlist. We nevertheless whittled this down to five books which had very little in common apart from the high quality of their writing. They took us into five very different lives and to many different countries, demonstrating once again that in a difficult publishing climate autobiography continues to thrive and throw up all kinds of surprises.
The winner will be announced at the English PEN summer party for members on Wednesday, 18 July.