Politics and poetry, war and remembrance, Romans and bees
At a time when non-fiction is outselling fiction*, the judges are delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2013 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, the UK’s leading non-fiction book prize.
The shortlist includes the story of the building of the great First World War cemeteries, a history of the first Afghan War, an account of the importance of bees, the tale of a journey by camper van to discover the meaning of Roman Britain, and biographies of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and poet Gabriele D’Annunzio.
Martin Rees, chair of the judges, said:
“On the shortlist are six titles: they are very different, but each has enlightened and entertained the judges. The authors have conveyed specialised (and in some cases unfamiliar) subjects in a refreshing and readable way, revealing new perspectives. These finely written, highly accessible and stimulating books all deserve a wide readership.”
The six titles on this year’s shortlist are:
The shortlist was chosen by Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal (chair of judges); classicist, Mary Beard; Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti; historian, Peter Hennessy; and writer and non-fiction reviewer, James McConnachie.
The shortlisted authors will appear in events at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival on Sunday 6 October, chaired by Guardian Literary Editor Claire Armitstead, and at the Southbank Centre on Sunday 3 November, chaired by Tom Sutcliffe.
This year’s winner will be announced on 4 November at the prize annual dinner at RIBA. The winner of the prize, the UK’s leading non-fiction prize, will receive £20,000.
The BBC Culture Show will broadcast pieces about the six shortlisted books on 30 October, at 10.00pm on BBC 2. BBC Radio 4’s World at One will broadcast a series of interviews with the shortlisted authors in the lead-up to the winner announcement.
The winner of last year’s prize was Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest, by Wade Davis, published by The Bodley Head.
*The Bookseller bestseller charts, 20 September 2013