Historian, novelist, and essayist Ronald Wright is the award-winning author of ten books of fiction and nonfiction published in 16 languages and more than 40 countries. Much of his work explores the relationships between past and present, peoples and power, other cultures and our own.
A Short History of Progress, in which he examines humankind’s increasingly precarious “experiment” with civilization, was the best-selling book in the 50-year history of the prestigious CBC Massey Lecture Series, winning the Libris Award for Nonfiction Book of the Year. Martin Scorsese’s Surviving Progress, a documentary film based on the book and produced by Cinémaginaire, Mark Achbar, and other members of The Corporation team, premiered in fall 2011 (see News).
Wright’s first novel, A Scientific Romance, a nightmare future of our making, won Britain’s David Higham Prize for Fiction and was chosen a book of the year by the New York Times, the Sunday Times, the Mail on Sunday, and the Globe & Mail. His other bestsellers include Time Among the Maya and Stolen Continents, a history of the Americas since Columbus which won the Gordon Montador Award and was chosen a book of the year by the Independent and the Sunday Times.
Wright contributes criticism to the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other publications. He has also written and presented documentaries for radio and television on both sides of the Atlantic. His 2008 history, What Is America?, was a No.1 bestseller and finalist for the B.C. Book Prize.
Born in England to Canadian and British parents, Wright read archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge University and has been awarded two honorary doctorates. He spent many years in Mexico and South America, Africa, and the South Seas, travelling for his books, taking part in anthropological research, and recording indigenous music. While in Peru he also wrote Lonely Planet’s first Quechua (Inca) phrasebook.
Wright lives on Canada’s West Coast. His latest novel, The Gold Eaters, is published by Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Canada and Riverhead/Penguin USA in fall 2015. Three of his earlier works are also newly available in Penguin Modern Classics, with introductions by Jan Morris, Alberto Manguel, and Pico Iyer, as well as new afterwords by the author.
“Ronald Wright is an historical philosopher with a profound understanding of other cultures.” –Jan Morris
“I am an old admirer of Ronald Wright’s work. He writes brilliantly and with a very uncommon level of empathy and sensitivity…No one is better at showing how the past infuses, and, in most cases, continues to blight the present.” –Larry McMurtry