Shortlist for 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize announced

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The shortlist for the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, the UK’s leading non-fiction prize, has been announced today, Friday 5 October.

The six titles on this year’s shortlist take readers high up Everest and deep into a Mumbai slum; into the world of a great dramatist and on an exploration of ancient paths; give an insight into the darkest moments of civil war Spain and the violence of humankind.  

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

‘The titles on this year’s shortlist have all impressed the judges with their originality and high quality of writing. Each of them communicates complex themes, and in a way that is both enlightening and entertaining.

‘These are significant books which have the ability to change our view of the world and which we believe will make a lasting contribution to their genres. Their broad range of subject matter reflects the diversity of English-language non-fiction, and has the potential to inspire readers of all interests.’

The six titles on this year’s shortlist are:

•              Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum, by Katherine Boo (Portobello Books)

•              Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest, by Wade Davis (The Bodley Head)

•              The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton)

•              The Better Angels of our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity, by Steven Pinker (Allen Lane)

•              The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain, by Paul Preston (HarperPress)

•              Strindberg: A Life, by Sue Prideaux (Yale University Press)

The shortlist confirms the prize’s reputation for highlighting original, diverse and thought-provoking books which bring fascinating non-fiction subjects to a wide audience. The winner of the prize, which will be announced on 12 November, will receive £20,000.

The shortlist 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 books editor, The Guardian; Bronwen Maddox, editor, Prospect magazine; and philosopher, poet, physician and cultural critic Professor Raymond Tallis.

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