Andrew Ross Sorkin has been shortlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction for his first book, charting the financial crisis.
The US writer's best-seller is up against five other works, including an account on North Korea and a maths made simple book by Alex Bellos.
A look at the life of King Charles II and Luke Jennings' coming of age and fishing book are also in the running.
The winner will receive a cheque for £20,000 at a London ceremony on 1 July.
This year's shortlist is completed by Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham, in which he argues cooking civilised early man.
Sorkin, 32, has written for the New York Times since 1995 and had more than 70 articles published by the time he graduated from high school.
The award-winning business reporter looks at how the financial crisis swept around the world in his book.
Evan Davis, presenter of BBC Radio 4's Today programme and chairman of the judges, said the shortlist was "an extraordinarily eclectic selection of books".
He added: "There is something for everyone, whether it be maths or fishing.
"Perhaps the only common feature of these books is the passion and sheer enthusiasm of the authors for their subjects."