Biographies ranging from Shakespeare, Da Vinci and Churchill to a homeless criminal and a medieval mercenary are up for a non-fiction book award.
Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World is about William Shakespeare
The 20-strong longlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize has been revealed.
It includes Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World, about Shakespeare, and Charles Nicholl's look at Da Vinci.
They contrast with Stuart: A Life Backwards, about "thief, hostage taker, psycho and sociopath street raconteur" Stuart Shorter, by Alexander Masters.
Masters met Shorter while working at a homeless centre in 1998 and spent three years researching his life for the book.
Churchill features in David Reynolds' In Command of History, which examines how the war leader rewrote history.
The story of 14th Century professional soldier Sir John Hawkwood is told in Hawkwood by Frances Stonor Saunders.
Biographies of artist Henri Matisse, author BS Johnson and actress Mary Robinson are also on the list.
The shortlist for the £30,000 award will be revealed on 12 May, with the winner named on 14 June.
Chair of judges Sue MacGregor said: "The exciting thing about non-fiction is how all-embracing a category it is, and how fluid.
"The spread is wide - the final choice will be the really hard task."
Last year, debut author Anna Funder won for Stasiland: Stories From Behind the Berlin Wall, about the hardships endured by people from the former East Germany.