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2008 BBC Samuel Johnson Award for Nonfiction

abstract:Each year the BBC sponsors the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction recognizing excellence in nonfiction writing. BookBuffet editor Paula Shackleton attended the discussion and provides audio excerpts with the five out of six shortlisted authors whose books vary in subject matter from the history of the Congo, to life in the Soviet during Stalin, to the biography of V.S. Naipaul, to an encapsulated view on the vitality of twentieth century classical music and its connections to popular culture, and finally to the first murder case in Victorian history that sparked an entirely new genre in literature and crime fighting—the detective novel and the professional crime detective. Meet Tim Butcher, Mark Cocker, Orlando Figues, Patrick French, Alex Ross and Kate Summerscale.


July 13, 2008
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Samuel Johnson Prize. Sponsored by BBC Four, it celebrates diverse and thought-provoking writing in non-fiction. The prize covers current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts. The competition is open to authors of any nationality whose work is published in the UK in English.

The books and authors chosen for the shortlist, announced on 15 May 2008, are profiled in a one-hour special programme.

The judges will announce the winner of the Prize at an awards ceremony in the Ballroom at the South Bank Centre, London on 15 July 2008. The winner receives £30,000, and each of the five shortlisted authors takes home £1,000.

The BBC FOUR Samuel Johnson Prize for Non Fiction Shortlist 2008

  • Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart by Tim Butcher (Vintage)
  • Crow Country by Mark Cocker (Jonathan Cape)
  • The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia by Orlando Figes (Allen Lane)
  • The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul by Patrick French (Picador)
  • The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross (Fourth Estate)
  • The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: Or the Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale (Bloomsbury)


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