Samuel Johnson Prize

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The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction
Samuel Johnson Prize.png
The 2012 logo of the prize along with its motto
"All the best stories are true"
Awarded for Excellence in non-fiction writing
Country United Kingdom
Reward £25,000
First awarded 1999
Currently held by Neurotribes by Steve Silberman
Official website

The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction is an annual British prize for the best non-fiction writing in the English language. It was founded in 1999 following the demise of the NCR Book Award and based on an anonymous donation. The prize is named after the English 18th-century littérateur Samuel Johnson. With its motto "All the best stories are true", 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.[1]

From its inception until 2008 the award was fully named The BBC FOUR Samuel Johnson Prize and managed by BBC Four. In 2009 it was renamed as BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction[2] and managed by BBC Two. The new name reflected the BBC's commitment to broadcasting coverage of the Prize on BBC 2, The Culture Show.[2] Prior to the name change in 2009, the monetary prize amount was GB£30,000 for the winner, and each finalist received £2500. After 2009 the monetary prize was £20,000 for the winner, and each finalist received £1000.[2] In February 2012, the steering committee for the prize announced that a new sponsor had been found for the prize, an anonymous philanthropist, and that the prize was to be raised to £25,000.[3] In 2015, funding for the prize was arranged by the Blavatnik Family foundation, while the organisers seek new sponsors from 2016 onwards.[4]

The prize is considered to be among the most prestigious, in the non-fiction category in the UK.[1][5]


The winner announced on 2 November as Steve Silberman's Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently.[6]

The longlist for the 2015 prize was announced on the 22 September[7] and the shortlist was announced 11 October.[8]



The winner was announced on 4 November 2014 as Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk, a lyrical depiction of the relationship between human, wild bird of prey, and enduring emotional loss.[9]

The longlist was announced on 1 September 2014.[10] The shortlist was announced on 8 October 2014.[11]



The winner was Lucy Hughes-Hallett's The Pike, a biography of Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio.[12]

The longlist, which was announced on 6 September 2013, featured 18 books. The Guardian reported that this year, judges showed a preference for history and biography, at the expense of works in science.[13] On 30 September, judges announced the shortlist.[14]



The winner was Wade Davis for Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest[15]

The longlist was announced 17 September 2012,[16] the shortlist was announced 5 October.[17] The winner was announced 12 November. The monetary prize for 2012 was £20,000 for the winner.[15]



The winner was Frank Dikötter for Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958–1962.[18]

The shortlist was announced 14 June 2011.[19] The monetary prize for 2011 was £20,000 for the winner.[19]



The winner was Barbara Demick for Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

The longlist was announced 22 April 2010.[20] The shortlist was announced 26 May.[21]



The winner was Philip Hoare for Leviathan or, The Whale

The longlist was announced 14 May 2009.[22] The shortlist was announced in late May. The judges announced the winner of the prize at an awards event at King's Place, London on 30 June. The monetary prize for 2009 was £20,000 for the winner, and each finalist receives £1000.[2]



The winner was Kate Summerscale for The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or the Murder at Road Hill House


  • Tim Butcher, Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart
  • Mark Cocker, Crow Country
  • Orlando Figes, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia
  • Patrick French, The World Is What It Is: The Authorised Biography of VS Naipaul
  • Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century


The winner was Rajiv Chandrasekaran for Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone



The winner was James S. Shapiro for 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare



The winner was Jonathan Coe for Like A Fiery Elephant: The Story of B. S. Johnson (about B. S. Johnson)



The winner was Anna Funder for Stasiland – True Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall



The winner was T. J. Binyon for Pushkin: A Biography (about Alexander Pushkin)



The winner was Margaret MacMillan for Peacemakers: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War



The winner was Michael Burleigh for The Third Reich: A New History



The winner was David Cairns for Berlioz: Volume 2 (about Hector Berlioz)



The winner was Antony Beevor for Stalingrad


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b About the prize, Samuel Johnson Prize official website. "The UK's most Prestigious non-fiction award".
  2. ^ a b c d The 2009 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, 17 April 2009
  3. ^ "The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction announces a new sponsor". 17 February 2012. 
  4. ^ "Samuel Johnson seeks a new sponsor". London Evening Standard. May 27, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Science dominates Samuel Johnson prize longlist", The Guardian, 14 May 2009. "..the UK's most prestigious non-fiction award.."
  6. ^ "'Gripping' autism book wins Samuel Johnson prize". BBC News Online. 2 November 2015. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  7. ^ "Contentious Ted Hughes book makes Samuel Johnson Prize longlist". BBC News Online. 22 September 2015. Retrieved 22 September 2015. 
  8. ^ "The 2015 Shortlist". The Samuel Johnson Prize. 11 October 2015. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 
  9. ^ Clark, Nick. "Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction: Helen Macdonald wins with 'H is for Hawk'". The Independent. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  10. ^ Alison Flood (1 September 2014). "Samuel Johnson prize 2014 longlist spotlights memoirs". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  11. ^ Alison Flood (8 October 2014). "Samuel Johnson prize 2014 shortlist: two memoirs are among the ‘uplifting’ and ‘compelling’ finalists". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  12. ^ Mark Brown (4 November 2013). "Biography of Italian fascist wins Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 November 2013. 
  13. ^ Liz Bury (6 September 2013). "Samuel Johnson prize longlist: history comes first as judges take the long view". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  14. ^ Charlotte Higgins (30 September 2013). "Samuel Johnson prize 2013 shortlist – in pictures". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Alison Flood (12 November 2012). "Into the Silence author Wade Davis wins Samuel Johnson award". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  16. ^ Alison Flood (17 September 2012). "Rushdie memoir heads Samuel Johnson prize longlist". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  17. ^ Alison Flood (5 October 2012). "Six books to 'change our view of the world' on shortlist for non-fiction prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  18. ^ Flood, Alison (6 July 2011). "Samuel Johnson prize won by 'hugely important' study of Mao". The Guardian. 
  19. ^ a b "2011 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize For Non-fiction Shortlist announced", 14 June 2011.
  22. ^ 2009 Longlist

External links[edit]