Academic work wins Guardian first book prize

Alexandra Harris with the jacket for her book Academic Alexandra Harris beat four other authors to the £10,000 prize

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A study of English writers of the 1930s and 1940s has won a prestigious award for first-time authors.

Alexandra Harris's Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper beat four other works to this year's Guardian First Book award.

Its author, a University of Liverpool lecturer, was praised by the judges for her "comprehensive and coherent" book.

Harris - whose work was published by Thames & Hudson - wins £10,000.

Previous winners include Zadie Smith, Jonathan Safran Foer and Petina Gappah, who won last year for her short story collection An Elegy for Easterly.

Actress Diana Quick, journalist Ekow Eshun and the novelist and poet Adam Foulds were among this year's judges.

Foulds said Harris's book told "a compelling story about 20th Century English art and its preoccupation with place and particularity".

"Alexandra Harris's ground-breaking book is a reminder of how important higher education is to literature," said the Guardian's literary editor, Claire Armitstead.

"I'm excited that the judges decided to make what one of them described as 'counterintuitive decision' in choosing this book as the winner."

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