Samuel Johnson prize shortlist announced

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The Independent Culture

Casino betting strategies, perilous romances in authoritarian North Korea and secret meetings in the corner office at Lehman Brothers are among the tales short listed in this year's BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction.

In announcing the shortlist, chairman of the judges, Evan Davis, the economist and presenter of the Today Programme, Davis said: "We did have a number of arguments in our deliberations, but we've settled on an extraordinarily eclectic selection of books which defies simplistic categorisation. There is something for everyone, whether it be maths or fishing. Perhaps the only common feature of these books is the passion and sheer enthusiasm of the authors for their subjects."

Alex Bellos's Adventures in Numberland instructs readers on how to turn the odds in your favour in a casino. Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick, weaves together the stories of adversity in North Korea, including two lovers who dated secretly for a decade and feared to criticise the regime to each other.

Luke Jennings's Blood Knots is a memoir of teaching himself the art of angling from library books as a child in the 1960's. Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big To Fail is the definitive account of how the world's financiers and politicians ultimately failed to save the world from a financial crisis they played no small part in precipitating.

A Gambling Man by Jenny Uglow seeks to explain how in 1660 it was the calculated risk of the newly restored Charles II that built the Britain we now live in. Lastly, in Catching Fire: How Cooking made us Human, the British primatologist Richard Wrangham argues that it was learning to cook that led to the transformation of our ape-like ancestors into homo erectus.

The winner will be announced on 1 July.

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