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Nuclear weaponry, feathers, Everest and fatwa: Longlist announced for Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2012

Nuclear weaponry, feathers, Everest and fatwa: Longlist announced for Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2012

The longlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2012 has been announced today, Tuesday 18 September, the birthday of Samuel Johnson. The 14 titles on this year’s longlist take readers around the world to countries including India, Russia and Spain, and span subjects as diverse as economics, feathers and nuclear power.  The winner of the prize, the UK’s leading non-fiction prize, will receive £20,000.

The longlist includes a unique account of early attempts to climb Mount Everest in the context of the Great War; the memoirs of Salman Rushdie; the story of Putin’s rise from a low-level KGB operative to leader of the world’s largest country; a biography of one of the scientists who developed the atomic bomb; a history of feathers; and the tales of encounters between HRH Princess Margaret and Francis Bacon, and Barry Humphries and Salvador Dalí. The list confirms the prize’s reputation for highlighting original, diverse and thought-provoking books which bring fascinating non-fiction subjects to a wide audience.

The Rt Hon David Willetts MP, chair of the judges, said:

‘This has been a bumper year for non-fiction, and as judges we’ve enjoyed encountering new places and faces as well as enjoying classic stories being told afresh. The longlist reflects the diverse range of high quality non-fiction available for readers to enjoy, and we hope they will be inspired to pick up some of these titles and be entertained by the true stories they tell.’

The 14 titles on this year’s longlist are:

  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo (Portobello Books)
  • One on One, by Craig Brown (Fourth Estate)
  • Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest, by Wade Davis (The Bodley Head)
  • The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, by Masha Gessen (Granta Books)
  • Feathers, by Thor Hansen (Basic Books)
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman (Allen Lane)
  • The Old Ways, by Robert MacFarlane (Hamish Hamilton) Inside the Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, by Ray Monk (Jonathan Cape)
  • Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genuis, by Sylvia Nasar (Fourth Estate)
  • Winter King, by Thomas Penn (Allen Lane)
  • The Better Angels of our Nature, by Steven Pinker (Allen Lane)
  • The Spanish Holocaust, by Paul Preston (HarperPress)
  • Strindberg A Life, by Sue Prideaux (Yale University Press)
  • Joseph Anton, by Salman Rushdie (Jonathan Cape)

The longlist has been chosen by the Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science (chair of judges); writer and biographer Patrick French; Paul Laity, non-fiction editor, The Guardian; Bronwen Maddox, editor, Prospect magazine; and philosopher, poet, novelist and cultural critic Professor Raymond Tallis.

The winner of last year’s prize was Mao’s Great Famine by Frank Dikötter (Bloomsbury Publishing). The winner of the 2012 prize will be announced on 12 November.


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