Bill Bryson, the American who came to international fame with his witty view of life in Britain, was last night named a finalist for the UK's most valuable award for non-fiction, the £30,000 Samuel Johnson prize.
Bryson was nominated for A Short History of Nearly Everything, in which he attempts to understand a multitude of events from the Big Bang to the rise of civilisation.
But the author, who worked for The Independent before writing the bestseller Notes from a Small Island, faces stiff competition from five other works.
Anne Applebaum, a Washington-based journalist, has been shortlisted for Gulag: A History of the Soviet camps. Jonathan Bate, a research professor at Warwick University, is in the running for John Clare: A Biography, the first comprehensive work on the 19th-century poet. Next is Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by the Australian writer Anna Funder, which tells stories of characters in the former East Germany. The fourth is The Zanzibar Chest: A Memoir of Love and War by the journalist Aidan Hartley,in which he weaves together his family's history. The final candidate is the novelist and classicist Tom Holland for Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, the story of the Roman republic at its peak 2,000 years ago.
The winner will be announced on 15 June on BBC4.
SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE SHORTLIST
Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything
Jonathan Bate, John Clare: A Biography
Tom Holland, Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic
Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History
Anna Funder, Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall
Aidan Hartley, The Zanzibar Chest: A Memoir of Love and War
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- Berlin Wall
- Bestsellers (books)
- East Germany
- Nonfiction Literature
- University Of Warwick