By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer
When you think about British literature, the first book that probably pops up in your head is Harry Potter. Can you imagine it now? Ron Weasley soaring over the castle, Hermione Granger reading Hogwarts: A History, and let’s not forget the funky English accents we can’t help but copy! Anyways, there’s more to the United Kingdom than just wizards, witches, and house elves.
Instead of honoring fictional tales, the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction focuses on… well.. non-fiction. The true stories written about history, politics, science, and other world affairs! The competition, which is named after ye olde English author from the 1700s, Samuel Johnson, is open to authors of any nationality whose work is published in the UK and in the English language. These talented authors are all competing for a hefty cash prize of 25,000 euros. That’s roughly 34,000 American dollars!
Now, what do bumblebees, cemeteries, and politician Margaret Thatcher have in common? That may seem like a pretty odd list, but all are topics written about by this year’s Samuel Johnson nominees! “Each of the authors approaches their subject in a very different way,” said one of the prize judges, James McConnachie. “The list is extremely diverse, but all the books are written in a way that communicates the writer’s passion about their subject to the reader. And they’re all creative – they innovate and excel.”
Let’s start with the black-and-yellow buzzing critters. Dave Goulson’s A Sting In The Tale takes readers into the busy life of bees, and how society has forced the striped stingers to pollinate tomatoes. See, the wild animals are expert pollinators and are much cheaper to control. However, the author explains how the process affects the environment, as well as the dropping insect population. Goulson was born in 1965, and by the time he attended college in 1984, the short-haired bumblebee was nearly extinct! After that shocking news, he founded the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
So, who is Margaret Thatcher? Well, she’s actually the only woman to have held the position of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom! Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume One: Not for Turning, written by Charles Moore, introduces readers to the grueling struggles she faced as a female politician, and briefly explores her personal life. While it may seem like anyone could write a biography with the right facts, Moore is being honored for his thorough and fair storytelling.
How about some history on cemeteries?! We’re just in time for Halloween! In Empires of the Dead, David Crane tells the heart-warming story of Red Cross worker Fabian Ware. In 1914, during the First World War that threatened the entire globe, Ware worked the French front line and was horrified by the way dead bodies were ignored. Completely determined to help family members find their loved ones, he founded the Graves Registration Commission and inspired the public to create cemeteries dedicated to war veterans. That way, the soldiers could be put to rest and respected.
I’m torn between giving the prize to all of them! The final winner, though, of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, will be announced on November 4.