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Anne Applebaum to chair judges of The 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction

Anne Applebaum to chair judges of The 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction

Anne Applebaum
Emma Duncan
Sumit Paul-Choudhury
Rana Mitter
Tessa Ross

Chinese history and politics, climate change, and film and TV are among the specialisms of this year’s judges for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, the UK’s leading non-fiction prize.


Leading this year’s panel will be Pulitzer prize-winning historian and journalist Anne Applebaum, supported by Associate Editor at The Economist Emma Duncan, New Scientist Editor Sumit Paul-Choudhury, Oxford University’s Professor Rana Mitter and former Controller of Film and Drama and head of Film 4 Tessa Ross.


Chair of judges Anne Applebaum comments: “I'm delighted to be part of a prize with such an excellent track record in picking and promoting brilliant books, and to chair such a distinguished panel. Given its breadth, depth and variety of experience, I'm looking forward to many good arguments over the next few months."   


The winner of the 2014 prize was H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (Jonathan Cape), the first memoir to win the prize in its 16-year history. 2014 Chair of judges Claire Tomalin described Helen’s book as “an extraordinary book that displayed an originality and a poetic power”. Critics called it “a talon-sharp memoir” (Mail on Sunday) and “a dazzling piece of work” (Financial Times).


First the hardback and then the paperback soared to number 1 in the UK bestseller lists and top 10 in the US. Currently 210,165 copies of the book have been sold in the UK, and the book remains in the top 10 non-fiction paperback bestsellers. In January this year the book was named the 2014 Costa Book of the Year, and it’s also set to hit the big screen with the news this month that film rights have been acquired by actress Lena Headey, star of television series “Game of Thrones”.  On 30 May fans will be able to hear Helen speak at Hay Festival in the second Samuel Johnson Prize lecture.


This week also sees the opening of submissions for the prize. The submission dates for this year’s prize have changed to accommodate the timelines and deadlines of the publishing calendar. Eligible books will have been published between 1 November 2014 and 31 October 2015. Publishers may enter up to three non-fiction books per imprint before the submissions deadline of 24 June 2015. More information about submitting books can be found on .


The longlist will be announced in September and the shortlist will be announced in October (dates tbc). The winner of the 2015 prize will be announced on Monday 2nd November.


This year’s winner announcement and dinner will be with the generous support of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, whose principal is the US philanthropist Len Blavatnik.


Anne Applebaum (Chair) is a historian, journalist and a columnist for the Washington Post and Slate. A former deputy editor of the Spectator magazine, and a former member of the editorial board of the Washington Post, she now runs the Transitions Forum at the Legatum Institute in London. She has published in the New York Review of Books, the New Yorker and the New Republic, among many other publications, and in 2012-2013 held the Phillipe Roman chair in History and International Affairs at the London School of Economics. Her book, Gulag: A History, won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction and the Duff-Cooper Prize. Her most recent book, Iron Curtain, won the 2013 Cundill Prize for historical literature and the Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature. Both books were nominated for the National Book Award in the US.  She is a graduate of Yale and the LSE.


Emma Duncan is Associate Editor of The Economist, writing about public policy, having previously held the posts of Deputy Editor, Britain Editor, Asia Editor and chief reporter, writer and editor on climate change. She is the author of Breaking the Curfew (Michael Joseph), a book on politics, culture and society in Pakistan. She appears regularly on television and radio, and has written for publications including The Times, The Evening Standard, The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and Vogue. She is a non-executive director of Lancashire Holdings, a trustee of the George Orwell Trust and a member of the Task Force on Shale Gas. She has a degree in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford University.  


Sumit Paul-Choudhury is Editor of New Scientist, the world's most popular science weekly. He trained as a physicist at Imperial College before becoming a journalist based in London and New York, spending fifteen years covering finance and technology before returning to science in 2008. As well as reporting and editing for a wide range of titles, he has been a reviewer for publications ranging from New Musical Express to Literary Review. In 2012 he co-founded Arc, an acclaimed quarterly dedicated to literary explorations of the future. He is writing a book about optimism and a play about artificial intelligence.


Professor Rana Mitter is Director of the University China Centre at the University of Oxford, where he is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China. He is the author of several books, including the award-winning A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World (Oxford, 2004). His most recent book China’s War with Japan, 1937-45: The Struggle for Survival (Penguin, 2013) won the 2014 RUSI/Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature, was named as a 2013 Book of the Year in the Financial Times and the Economist and was named a 2014 Choice Outstanding Academic Title.  He is a regular presenter of the arts and ideas programme Free Thinking on BBC Radio 3 and his reviews and essays have appeared in newspapers around the world.   


Tessa Ross was Controller of Film and Drama and head of Film 4, responsible for developing and financing films including The Last King of Scotland, Slumdog Millionaire, Hunger, This is England, The Iron Lady, Shame and Twelve Years a Slave. During her earlier stewardship of Channel 4 Drama, Ross successfully innovated the strategy that cemented a reputation based on risk and innovation, commissioning programmes such as Shameless and White Teeth. Before joining Channel 4, Tessa helped launch the BBC's Independent Commissioning Group. Tessa was appointed CBE in the New Year 2010 Honours List and received a Bafta in 2013 for Outstanding British Contribution to Film. She was briefly Chief Executive of the National Theatre, where she continues to work as a consultant.



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