OPTIMISM, 17TH CENTURY DANDIES AND POLITICAL AND ARTISTIC GENIUSES ALL MAKE THE BBC SAMUEL JOHNSON SHORTLIST
The list includes the astonishing story of the political genius and deeply flawed man who created Germany, but never ruled it; a shocking and eye-opening account of China that ensures that no one will ever be able to think of Mao Zedong’s rule in the same way again; a refreshing and incisive counter-blast to the doom-mongers, pessimists and fusspots; a compellingly vivid portrait of the dark and dangerous streets of Milan and Rome, frequented by an artist of violent tastes, whose paintings transformed art; a swaggering account of the hedonistic and dandyish Cavaliers of King Charles’ court; and finally a global history of the loyalist diaspora, the American losers in the Revolutionary War, whose dispersal and effect on the wider world was profound and enduring.
The BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2011 Shortlist
· Mao’s Great Famine by Frank Dikötter (Bloomsbury)
· Caravaggio by Andrew Graham Dixon (Allen Lane)
· Liberty’s Exiles by Maya Jasanoff (HarperPress)
· The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley (Fourth Estate)
· Bismarck: A Life by Jonathan Steinberg (Oxford University Press)
· Reprobates by John Stubbs (Viking)
“This year’s shortlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize is a tribute to the breadth and depth of non-fiction writing, a reflection of a remarkable publishing year in which more books have been considered for the prize than ever before. As chairman of the judges, I find myself feeling, even before we begin our final deliberations, that while one of these great books certainly deserves to win, five do not deserve to lose.”
Ben is joined on the panel by Prospect editor-at-large David Goodhart; journalist and author Sam Leith; prize-winning biographer Brenda Maddox; and best-selling historian, writer and broadcaster Amanda Vickery.
As part of Books on the BBC 2011, a special edition of BBC Two, The Culture Show featuring coverage of the shortlisted books will be broadcast on 7 July at 7pm.