Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick has won the 2010 Samuel Johnson Prize. An account of an Orwellian society, the book ‘weaves together the stories of adversity, resilience and survival of six ordinary people living in Chongin, North Korea’.
Evan Davies, chair of the judges and presented of BBC Radio 4’s Today, announced the winner, saying “It is the personal detail in Nothing to Envy that makes it both gripping and moving. Nowhere will you find a better account of real life in North Korea, a society that is all too easily comically typecast by massive parades of co-ordinated flag-wavers. I think we knew this book had something when we found ourselves reading it out loud to spouses and partners. And it is a real testament to Demick’s writing, that a book on such a grim topic can be so hard to put down.”
The judging panel consisted of Evan Davies; Jan Dalley (Financial Times journalist); Daniel Finkelstein (Executive Editor of the Times); Roger Highfield (editor of New Scientist); and Stella Tillyard (author and historian).
The shortlist was:
- Alex’s Adventures in Numberland by Alex Bellos (Bloomsbury)
- Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (Granta)
- Blood Knots by Luke Jennings (Atlantic Books)
- Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin (Penguin, Allen Lane)
- A Gambling Man* by Jenny Uglow (Faber and Faber)
- Catching Fire: How Cooking made us Human by Richard Wrangham (Profile Books)
* Good to see Amazon has a good grasp of history: A Gambling Man (Charles II and the Restoration) listed as “#1 in Books > History > Britain & Ireland > Queen Anne, Georgian, Victorian 1701-1901”.