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NCR Book Award

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The NCR Book Award for Non-Fiction, established in 1987 and sponsored by NCR Corporation, was for a time the UK's major award for non-fiction.[1] Closing in 1997 after a period of decline and scandal, it is best remembered as the forerunner of the Samuel Johnson Prize.


The award was founded at a time when there were no major non-fiction awards in Britain comparable to the highly successful Booker Prize for fiction.[2] It was part of a new "golden age" of non-fiction that started in the 1980s, according to Antony Beevor.[2] In the early 1990s, NCR was acquired by AT&T and the award became rudderless and dated; one critic said the "NCR spoke volumes of the Thatcherised values of contemporary English culture – a winner-takes-all triumphalism, a boastful indifference to good writing, a corresponding obsession with design and presentation".[1] In 1997, the award experienced an existential scandal when it was revealed the judges had used "professional readers", summaries and book reviews instead of reading all of the entries.[1][3][4] In response, one of the previous winners, Peter Hennessy, approached Penguin with the idea for a new award, and an anonymous benefactor was found who funded the establishment of the Samuel Johnson Prize (1999).[2] Facing bad publicity and a tarnished reputation, the NCR Award closed out with A People's Tragedy in 1997.[1]


Source 1988–1995:[5]


  1. ^ a b c d Robert McCrum (16 June 2001). "A life of the Samuel Johnson Prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Antony Beevor (29 June 2008). "The BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize". The Telegraph. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  3. ^ a b David Harrison (18 May 1997). "From the Observer archive, 18 May 1997: Literary prize judges admit failure to read all the books". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  4. ^ David Lister (3 April 1999). "What Does It Take To Win A Literary Prize?: 250 Book Prizes - and still counting". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  5. ^ "The 1996 NCR Book Award for Non-Fiction Shortlist Announced" (Press release). 22 April 1996. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  6. ^ "Eric Lomax (Obit)". The Telegraph. 9 October 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2018.