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Last Updated: Friday, 19 March, 2004, 06:29 GMT
McEnroe biography vies for prize
John McEnroe
A book on John McEnroe by Tim Adams is among the contenders
Biographies of John McEnroe, Baroness Thatcher and George Orwell have been named on the longlist for the BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.

A total of 23 books have made the list for the award, which is worth 30,000.

Tim Adams' book On Being John McEnroe, John Campbell's second volume about Margaret Thatcher and DJ Taylor's Orwell: The Life are among them.

And surprise Christmas best-seller Eats, Shoots and Leaves, about punctuation, is in the running.

Travel writer Bill Bryson is also in contention for his reference book The Short History of Nearly Everything.

Every book on this longlist is a work of real character and interest
Michael Wood
Judges chairman

The longlist was chosen from 120 entries, which will then be whittled down to a shortlist to be announced on 4 May.

Judges chairman Michael Wood said the contenders epitomised "the best of UK non-fiction today".

They ranged from "grand sweep history to first-rate political and literary biography, and from left-of-field travelogues to some terrific and unexpected oddities", he said.

"It's not often you can say this of a literary prize, but every book on this longlist is a work of real character and interest."

Other books on the longlist are Simon Sebag Montefiore's Stalin: The Court of War, Bryan McGee's Clouds of Glory: A Hoxton Childhood and Tom Holland's Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic.

Last year's winner was Oxford don TJ Binyon for his biography of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

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