The BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2009 shortlist was announced a couple of weeks ago. There were 166 entries in total. Nineteen titles were longlisted including two books by leading Cambridge academics: Pompeii by Mary Beard (Profile Books) and Science: A Four Thousand Year History by Patricia Fara (Oxford University Press) – THE LIBRARY HAS THE LATTER TITLE.
The six shortlisted titles are:
Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed (William Heinemann) Offering a timely and arresting reminder of the enormous impact that the decisions of central bankers can have, of their fallibility, and of the terrible human consequences that can result when they are wrong.
Bad Science by Ben Goldacre (Fourth Estate) Ben Goldacre dismantles the dodgy science behind some of the great drug trials, court cases and missed opportunities of our time.
The Lost City of Z by David Grann (Simon and Schuster) David Grann ventures into the hazardous world of the Amazon to retrace the footsteps of Colonel Fawcett and his followers, in a bracing attempt to solve one of the greatest mysteries.
Leviathan by Phillip Hoare (Fourth Estate) Travelling around the globe in search of the whale, Philip Hoare sheds light on our perennial fascination with the strange creatures of the sea, whose nature remains tantalizingly undiscovered.
The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes (HarperPress) Holmes shows how great ideas and experiments are born out of lonely passion, how scientific discoveries (and errors) are made, and how religious faith and scientific truth collide.
Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality by Manjit Kumar (Icon Books) For most people, quantum theory is a byword 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.
Now in its eleventh year the prize is worth £20,000 to the winner. The judges will announce the winner of the prize on 30 June, covered by a special edition of The Culture Show on BBC Two at 11.20pm on that night.
Here are the previous winners of the Samuel Johnson prize (titles held by the library are indicated):
- 1999 – Stalingrad by Antony Beevor (Penguin) *IN THE LIBRARY*
- 2000 – Berlioz: Servitude and Greatness by David Cairns (The Penguin Press) *IN THE LIBRARY*
- 2001 – The Third Reich: A New History by Michael Burleigh (Macmillan) *IN THE LIBRARY*
- 2002 – Peacemakers: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 by Margaret Macmillan (John Murray)
- 2003 – Pushkin: A biography by T.J. Binyon (HarperCollins)
- 2004 – Stasiland by Anna Funder (Granta)
- 2005 – Like a Fiery Elephant by Jonathan Coe (Picador)
- 2006 – 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro (Faber & Faber) *IN THE LIBRARY*
- 2007 – Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran (Bloomsbury)
- 2008 – The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale (Bloomsbury)
The Guardian on the original longlist (14 May 2009): Science dominates Samuel Johnson prize longlist
The Guardian on the shortlist (21 May 2009): Big names edged out in science-heavy Samuel Johnson prize shortlist
The Daily Telegraph on the shortlist (28 May 2009): Samuel Johnson Prize: the shortlist
Reviews of Books is good for finding book reviews from major online media sites.