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The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2014 shortlist

The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2014 shortlist

Samuel Johnson Prize
roy jenkins
the iceberg
the empire of necessity
common people
h is for hawk
village of secrets

The six titles on the shortlist for the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, celebrating the best in non-fiction writing, are announced today, Thursday 9 October. 

The six titles in contention for the 2014 prize are:

  • John Campbell, Roy Jenkins, Jonathan Cape
  • Marion Coutts, The Iceberg: A Memoir, Atlantic   
  • Greg Grandin, The Empire of Necessity, Oneworld
  • Alison Light, Common People, Fig Tree
  • Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk, Jonathan Cape
  • Caroline Moorehead, Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France, Chatto & Windus          

The shortlist combines biography, memoir and history with subjects as diverse as hawks, family history and dying. It includes a biography of politician Roy Jenkins, a widow's searing and humane account of her husband's loss of speech and death, the story of a slave rebellion, an exploration of family through generations of obscurity and poverty, a woman’s story of training a goshawk, and the story of Jewish children hidden in Vichy France.

Claire Tomalin, chair of judges, comments:

‘We found it difficult to reach a shortlist as we had so many good books to choose from - we had some painful decisions to make. However, we all ended by feeling we had chosen the best shortlist possible.

‘Four books by women: two of them historical and two of them memoirs. Two books by men: a flawless biography and an extraordinarily enlightening study of slavery in the early nineteenth century.

‘We found a consistently high quality of writing - clarity, colour, enthusiasm, vigour – and authors who were intellectually and emotionally engaged with their subjects.

‘Each of these books could be the winner of the prize and we now face the almost impossible task of deciding on just one.’

The 2014 Shortlist has been chosen by judges author and historian Claire Tomalin (chair), accompanied by Alan Johnson MP, Financial Times Books Editor Lorien Kite, philosopher Ray Monk and historian Ruth Scurr.

The winner of the 2014 prize will be announced on Tuesday 4 November. Lucy Hughes-Hallett won last year’s prize for her book The Pike (4th Estate), which has since gone on to win the 2013 Costa Book Award for Biography.


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