A motorbike drives over a low lying causeway on the Pacific island of Tuvalu which is at risk from rising sea levels. Melissa Zhang’s proposal is for ‘Trailblazers’, a climate-focused business book telling the stories of seven women leaders tackling decarbonisation
Melissa Zhang’s proposal is for ‘Trailblazers’, a climate-focused business book telling the stories of seven women leaders tackling decarbonisation © Mario Tama/Getty

Finalists for the 2021 Bracken Bower Prize tackle cyber crime, the future of higher education and the stories of seven changemakers fighting to arrest climate change, in their proposals for new business books.

The £15,000 prize, first awarded in 2014 and supported by the Financial Times and McKinsey, goes to the best business book proposal by an author aged under 35, and has become a powerful launchpad for many younger writers seeking publication.

This year’s finalists are:

Manuel Hepfer for The Cybersecurity Wake-Up Call

Ines Lee and Eileen Tipoe for Failing the Class

Melissa Zhang for Trailblazers

Hepfer is a research analyst at ISTARI Global and a research affiliate at Oxford university’s Saïd Business School. Lee and Tipoe are, respectively, a junior research fellow in economics at Homerton College, University of Cambridge, and a senior lecturer in economics at Queen Mary University of London. Zhang is an MBA/MPA student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Harvard Kennedy School.

A panel of expert judges selected the three proposals from a shortlist of entries, drawn from the range of titles submitted for this year’s prize. Long-serving panellist Jorma Ollila, former chair of Royal Dutch Shell and Nokia, described this year’s list as one of the best he had reviewed.

The judges are looking for a proposal that provides a compelling and enjoyable insight into future trends in business, economics, finance or management. You can read excerpts from the 2021 finalists’ proposals here. The winner will be announced on December 1 at an online event, where the 2021 FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award will also be presented.

The other judges this year are: Stephanie Frerich, executive editor at publisher Simon & Schuster; Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School; and Andrew Leon Hanna, who won the prize in 2018 and has recently signed an agreement with Cambridge University Press to publish a book based on his proposal, 25 Million Sparks, about the rise of entrepreneurs in refugee camps and cities.

All the finalists will be invited to a virtual masterclass with representatives from the publishing industry, who will advise them on how to bring their business ideas to the bookshelves.

Last year’s winner was Stephen Boyle with his timely proposal New Money, about how central bank digital currencies could reshape the economy. Jonathan Hillman won the 2019 Bracken Bower Prize with his proposal, entitled The Sinolarity, for a book about the battle between the US and China for control over the next generation of technology, recently published as The Digital Silk Road.

Other winners and finalists have also had proposals taken up by publishers.
Saadia Zahidi, the inaugural winner of the Bracken Bower Prize, saw Fifty Million Rising, a book based on her winning proposal, make the long list of the 2018 FT/McKinsey book award. Meltdown, by Chris Clearfield and András Tilcsik, who won the Bracken Bower Prize in 2015, received Canada’s National Business Book Award in 2019.

The Bracken Bower Prize is named after Brendan Bracken, former chair of the FT, and Marvin Bower, former managing director of McKinsey.

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