Guest Award: The BBC FOUR Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction celebrates originality and diversity in contemporary non-fiction. Named in honour of the great critic, essayist, lexicographer, poet and biographer, the BBC FOUR Samuel Johnson Prize is the world’s richest prize for non-fiction, recognising works published in English in the UK, regardless of the nationality of the author.
The prize is worth £30,000 ( $60,000 AUD) prize to the winner.Last year it was won by, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: or The Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale (Bloomsbury).The 2009 shortlist will be published in a June and the winner a bit later on.
For Past Winners of Samuel Johnson go to Literary Awards UK
Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed -William Heinemann
Many of us take it as a given that the Great Depression resulted from a confluence of inexorable forces beyond any one person or government's control. This title explains how it was the decisions taken by a small number of central bankers that were the primary cause of the economic meltdown. More
Soul of the Age: The Life, Mind and World of William Shakespeare by Jonathan Bate - Viking
A tapestry of Elizabethan beliefs and obsessions, private passions and political intrigues. It leads you on a tour of the extraordinary, colorful and often violent world that shaped and informed Shakespeare's thinking. More
Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town by Mary Beard - Profile Books
The ruins of Pompeii, buried by an explosion of Vesuvius in 79 C.E., offer the best evidence we have of everyday life in the Roman empire. This remarkable book rises to the challenge of making engrossing sense of those remains. What kind of town was it? What can it actually tell us about life then - from sex to politics, food to religion, slavery to literacy? More
A Fork in the Road by Andre Brink by Harvill Secker
Andre Brink grew up in the deep interior of South Africa, as his magistrate father moved from one dusty dorp to the next. With searing honesty, he describes his conflicting experiences of growing up in a world where innocence was always surrounded by violence. From an early age he found in storytelling the means of reconciling the stark contrasts of his world - between religion and play-acting, between the breathless discovery of a girl called Maureen and the merciless beating of a black boy, between meeting with a dwarf who lived in a hole in the ground and an encounter with a magician who threatened to teach him what he hadn't bargained for. More
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain De Botton - Hamish Hamilton
We spend most of our waking lives at work - in occupations often chosen by our unthinking sixteen-year-old selves. And yet we rarely ask ourselves how we got there or what it might mean for us. Equally intrigued by work's pleasures and its pains, Alain de Botton here heads out into the under-charted worlds of the office, the factory, the fishing fleet and the logistics centre, ears and eyes open to the beauty, interest and sheer strangeness of the modern workplace. Along the way he tries to answer some of the most urgent questions we can ask about work: Why do we do it? What makes it pleasurable? More
Science: A Four Thousand Year History by Patricia Fara - Oxford University Press
Science: A Four Thousand Year History rewrites science's past. Instead of focussing on difficult experiments and abstract theories, Patricia Fara shows how science has always belonged to the practical world of war, politics, and business. Rather than glorifying scientists as idealized heroes, she tells true stories about real people - men (and some women) who needed to earn their living, who made mistakes, and who trampled down their rivals in their quest for success. More
Bad Science by Ben Goldacre - Fourth Estate
Full of spleen, this will be a hilarious, invigorating and informative journey through the world of Bad Science. How do we know if a treatment works, or if something causes cancer? Can the claims of homeopaths ever be as true - or as interesting as the improbable research into the placebo effect? Who created the MMR hoax? Do journalists understand science? Why do we seek scientific explanations for social, personal and political problems? Are alternative therapists and the pharmaceutical companies so really different, or do they just use the same old tricks to sell different types of pill? We are obsessed with our health. More
The Lost City of Z by David Grann- Simon and Schuster
Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett was the last of a breed of great British explorers who ventured into 'blank spots' on the map with little more than a machete, a compass and unwavering sense of purpose. In 1925, one of the few remaining blank spots in the world was in the Amazon. Fawcett believed the impenetrable jungle held a secret to a large, complex civilization like El Dorado, which he christened the 'City of Z'. When he and his son set out to find it, hoping to make one of the most important archeological discoveries in history, they warned that none should follow them in the event that they did not return. They vanished without a trace .. more
Leviathan by Philip Hoare - Fourth Estate
An extraordinary journey into the underwater world of the whale -- to tie in with a BBC film-length documentary hosted also by the author. Moby Dick is a book made mythic by its whale; but the reverse is also true. After Melville published his book in 1851, no one saw whales in quite the same way again. Melville created a modern myth out of an already legendary beast. But what is the true nature of the whale? Why does it fascinate us? All his life, Philip Hoare has been obsessed with these creatures, from the huge skeletons in London's Natural History Museum to adult encounters with the wild animals themselves. Whales haunt him, s they seem to elide with dark fantasies of sea-serpents and other antediluvian monsters that swim in our collective unconscious. More
The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes-HarperPress
Two scientific lives dominate the book: that of William Herschel, whose tireless dedication to the stars, assisted (and perhaps rivalled) by his comet-finding sister Caroline, changed forever the public conception of the solar system, the Milky Way galaxy and the meaning of the universe itself. Meanwhile Humphry Davy, a grammar-school boy from Cornwall, shocked the scientific community with his near-suicidal gas experiments, then went on to invent the miners' lamp, and to establish British chemistry as the leading professional science in Europe - but at the cost, perhaps, of his own heart. More
A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and their Remarkable Families by Michael Holroyd - Chatto & Windus
Henry Irving and Ellen Terry were the king and queen of the Victorian stage. In his first major biography for fifteen years, Michael Holroyd explores their public and private lives, showing how their artistic legacy and lines of inheritance came to influence the modern world.
An epic story spanning a century of European cultural change, A Strange Eventful History finds space for the intimate moments of daily existence as well as the bewitching fantasies played out by its subjects. Michael Holroyd has created an unforgettable drama and a vivid world that will engage and enchant his readers more
Darwin's Island by Steve Jones - Little, Brown
The Origin of Species is the most famous book in science but its stature tends to obscure the genius of Charles Darwin's other works. The Beagle voyage, too, occupied only five of the fifty years of his busy career. His Galapagos visit lasted just five weeks and on his return he never left Britain again. Darwin spent forty years working on the plants, animals and people of his native land and wrote six million words, in nineteen books and innumerable letters, on topics as different as dogs, barnacles, insect-eating plants, orchids, earthworms, apes and human emotion. Together, they laid the foundations of modern biology. More
Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality - Manjit Kumar - Icon BooksFor most people, quantum theory is a by word for mysterious, impenetrable science. And yet for many years it was equally baffling for scientists themselves. Manjit Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly-written history of this fundamental scientific revolution, and the ferocious, divisive debate at its heart. For 60 years most physicists believed that quantum theory denied the very existence of reality itself. Yet Kumar shows how the golden age of physics ignited the greatest intellectual debate of the twentieth century. While "Quantum" sets ...more
The Man Who Invented History by Justin Marozzi - John Murray
Herodotus is known as the Father of History, but he was much more than that. He was also the world's first travel writer, a pioneering geographer, anthropologist, explorer, moralist, tireless investigative reporter and enlightened multiculturalist before the word existed. He was at once learned professor and tabloid journalist, with an unfailing eye for fabulous material to inform and amuse, to titillate, horrify and entertain. In his masterpiece the Histories, tall stories of dog-headed men, gold-digging ants and flying snakes jostle for space within a mesmerising narrative of the Persian Wars, more
Hester: the Remarkable Life of Dr Johnson’s ‘Dear Mistress’ by Ian McIntyre - Constable
Hester Salusbury was a child prodigy. Later, as Hester Thrale, her wit, learning and vivacity would attract the greats of the day, Joshua Reynolds, Fanny Burney, Boswell, David Garrick and Edmund Burke to the household at Streatham Park. She published to great popularity and acclaim on Johnson, irritating the hell out of Boswell, and remains one of our most perceptive sources. One of our first female historians, a feminist without knowing it, she also broke new ground in politics and business. When her husband died, rumours flew that she'd wed Johnson. Instead, she ran off with.. more
A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland - Granta
After a noisy upbringing as one of six children, and adulthood as a vocal feminist and mother, Sara Maitland began to crave silence. Over the past five years, she has spent periods of silence in the Sinai desert, the Australian bush, and a remote cottage on the Isle of Skye. Her memoir of these experiences is interwoven with the history of silence through fairy-tale and myth, Western and Eastern religious traditions, the Enlightenment and psychoanalysis, up to the ambivalence towards silence in contemporary society. Maitland has built a hermitage on an isolated moor in Galloway, and the book culminates powerfully with her experiences of silence in this new home. "A Book of Silence" is .. more
Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History by Adam Nicolson - HarperPressThe story of Sissinghurst an estate in the Weald of Kent, is told here for the first time from the very beginning. Adam Nicolson, who now lives there, has uncovered remarkable new findings about its history as a medieval manor and great sixteenth-century house, from the days of its decline as an eighteenth-century prison to a flourishing Victorian farm and on to the creation, by his grandparents Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, of a garden in a weed-strewn wreck. More
The Wisdom of Whores by Elizabeth Pisani - Granta
Elizabeth Pisani has spent ten years working as a scientist in the bloated AIDS industry. In "The Wisdom of Whores", she unfolds a universe of brothels and bureaucracies, of bickering junkies and squabbling charities, of men who sell sex and men who would rather prohibit it. Illustrating solid science with ribald tales from the frontlines of sex and drugs, "The Wisdom of Whores" explains how we could shut down HIV everywhere except sub-Saharan Africa. We could do it with a few, simple steps. We could do it with less money than we already have. But we won't. This book shows how politics, ideology and money - lots of money, ten billion dollars a year - have bulldozed through scientific evidence and common sense.The consequences of our global hypocrisy are more
The House of Wittgenstein by Alexander Waugh - Bloomsbury
The Wittgenstein family was one of the richest, most talented and most eccentric in European history. Karl Wittgenstein, who ran away from home as a wayward and rebellious youth, returned to his native Vienna to make a fortune in the iron and steel industries. He bought factories and paintings and palaces, but the domineering and overbearing influence he exerted over his eight children resulted in a generation of siblings fraught by inner antagonisms and nervous tension. Three of his sons committed suicide; Paul, the fourth, became a world-famous concert pianist (using only his left hand), while Ludwig, the youngest, is now regarded more
For Past Winners of Samuel Johnson go to Literary Awards UK
Jacob Weisberg (Chair) is chairman and editor-in-chief of the Slate Group, a unit of the Washington Post Company devoted to developing Web-based publications. Weisberg joined Slate shortly after its founding in 1996 as chief political correspondent. Before joining Slate, Weisberg wrote about politics for magazines including the New Republic, Newsweek, New York Magazine, Vanity Fair and the New York Times Magazine. Jacob is the author of several books, including The Bush Tragedy, which was a New York Times bestseller in 2008, and the Bushisms series. With former Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, he co-wrote In an Uncertain World, which was published in 2003. His first book, In Defense of Government, was published in 1996.
Dr Mark Lythgoe is Director of the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging at University College London, where he develops novel imaging techniques for investigating brain and cardiac function. He is also Director of the Cheltenham Science Festival, one of the world’s largest science festivals. In the last 15 years Mark has combined science and art to engage with the public, explore new boundaries and increase interaction between these fields. He has produced many sci/art projects and collaborated with a wide variety of artist to create works from sculpture to film. Mark has presented several documentary programmes for television and radio including Channel 4 and BBC Radio 4. Mark sits on the Board of directors and trustees for Arts Catalyst, which aims to involve artists, scientists and the wider public in a discourse about science in society. Mark has also been on several judging panels such as the Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year and the Aventis Prize for Science Books.
Tim Marlow is a writer, broadcaster, art historian and Director of Exhibitions at White Cube in London. In 1993 he founded Tate: The Art Magazine. From 1991 to 1998 he presented Radio 4's arts programme Kaleidoscope, for which he won a Sony Award, and for the last five years has been a regular presenter on the BBC World Service. Tim is the author of various books including monographs of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin and the Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele as well as a survey of great artists published by Faber. He has presented over 100 arts documentaries on British Television for FIVE, Sky Arts and the BBC. He has written extensively on art and culture in the British press including the Times, Guardian, Independent on Sunday and Arena, Art Monthly and Blueprint. He is visiting lecturer at Winchester School of Art and an examiner on the Sculpture MA and former Creative Director of Sculpture at Goodwood and is a board member of the ICA.
Munira Mirza is director of arts, culture and the creative industries for the Mayor of London. Munira writes and broadcasts about race, culture and identity, including appearances on BBC 2's Newsnight, BBC Radio 4's Today Programme and in the Guardian and Daily Mail. In 2005 she presented the BBC Radio 4 series, The Business of Race. She is co-author of The Policy Exchange report Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the Paradox of Multiculturalism and has edited a collection of essays for Policy Exchange entitled Culture Vultures: Is UK arts policy damaging the arts? She has been a Council Member on the UK Committee of the European Cultural Foundation and is a founding member of the Manifesto Club.
Sarah Sands is editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest magazine. Before joining RD in May 2008, Sarah worked at the Evening Standard initially as editor of the Londoner's Diary, before taking further posts as features editor and associate editor. She joined The Daily Telegraph in 1996 as deputy editor, later assuming responsibility for the Saturday edition. She was appointed as the first female editor of The Sunday Telegraph in June 2005. In April 2006 she was appointed consultant editor on the Daily Mail. In February 2009 it was announced that she would be taking up the role of deputy editor on The Evening Standard. Sarah has written two novels, her first was Playing the Game and her second, Hothouse, was published during the summer of 2005.