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Samuel Johnson Prize shortlist announced

5th October 2012

The shortlist for the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction has been unveiled, with six titles including a biography of playwright August Strindberg and a study of the Spanish Inquisition in contention for the GBP 20,000 prize.

Now in its 14th year, the prize aims to highlight diverse and thought-provoking works, covering areas from sport, history, travel, current affairs and the arts.

This year's team of judges, led by universities minister David Willetts, have overlooked Salman Rushdie's longlisted fatwa memoir, Joseph Anton, and Ray Monk's The Life of J Robert Oppenheimer.

Katherine Boo is selected for her first book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, a study of a Mumbai slum, along with Sue Prideaux for her biography of August Strindberg.

Wade Davis is nominated for Into the Silence, about George Mallory's attempt to climb Everest, alongside Paul Preston's The Spanish Holocaust.

A search for Britain's ancient roads, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane, and Steven Pinker's history of violence, The Better Angels of our Nature, complete the shortlist.

Judges including writer Patrick French, Guardian critic Paul Laity and Prospect magazine's Bronwen Maddox praised the six titles as 'magisterial' books which have 'the ability to change our view of the world'.

'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,' David Willetts said.

The winner will be announced on November 12th.

Previous winners of the prize include Antony Beevor's Stalingrad, in its inaugural year, and Frank Dikotter's Mao's Great Famine.

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