Page last updated at 23:02 GMT, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 00:02 UK

Nureyev biography vies for prize

Rudolf Nureyev
Julie Kavanagh paints Rudolph Nureyev as one of the first pop icons

Biographies of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev and artist Pablo Picasso have been nominated for BBC Four's Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.

Julie Kavanagh's story of the rise of "Rudimania" and the third volume of John Richardson's life of Picasso are two of the 20 titles on the longlist.

They are joined by memoirs of life in Stalinist Russia and JG Ballard's recollections of his childhood.

The eventual winner receives 30,000 - the UK's biggest prize for non-fiction.

The shortlist will be announced on 15 May, followed by the final awards ceremony on 15 July.

Rosie Boycott, who chaired the judging panel, said the books on the longlist encompassed "everything that is exciting, innovative and brilliant about non-fiction in Britain today".

"The sheer scope and range of the books is extraordinary," she continued. "All life is here."

The list also includes The World Is What It Is: The Authorised Biography of VS Naipaul by Patrick French.

Belfast book

French was given unprecedented access to the private papers of the Nobel Prize winning author while writing his book.

Former Downing Street chief of staff Jonathan Powell is also in the running for his first-hand account of Tony Blair's attempts to broker peace in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 by Lisa Appignanesi charts how extreme states of mind have been understood over the last 200 years.

Julian Barnes' Nothing To Be Frightened Of - a musing on life, death and religion - was inspired by a near-death experience when the author fell down a three-storey staircase.

And Finding Moonshine: A Mathematician's Journey through Symmetry sees Marcus du Sautoy trying to find ways to share the excitement of mathematics with a broader audience.

US journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran won the prize last year for Imperial Life In The Emerald City, an account of his time in Baghdad's Green Zone.


  • Mad, Bad and Sad - Lisa Appignanesi
  • Nothing To Be Frightened Of - Julian Barnes
  • Miracles of Life - JG Ballard
  • Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart - Tim Butcher
  • Crow Country - Mark Cocker
  • Finding Moonshine: A Mathematician's Journey Through Symmetry - Marcus du Sautoy
  • The World Is What It Is: The Authorised Biography of VS Naipaul - Patrick French
  • The Whisperers - Orlando Figes
  • Rudolf Nureyev: The Life - Julie Kavanagh
  • Austerity Britain 1945-1951 - David Kynaston
  • Mrs Woolf and the Servants - Alison Light
  • Cold Cream: My Early Life and Other Mistakes - Ferdinand Mount
  • Watching the Door - Kevin Myers
  • Confessions of an Eco Sinner - Fred Pearce
  • Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland - Jonathan Powell
  • The Discovery of France - Graham Robb
  • A Life of Picasso: Triumphant Years, 1917-1932 volume 3 - John Richardson
  • The Rest is Noise - Alex Ross
  • The Suspicions of Mr Whicher - Kate Summerscale
  • The Brother Gardeners - Andrea Wulf

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