Samuel Johnson non-fiction prize nominees announced

Feathers by Thor Hanson A history of feathers competes with books on Putin, Everest and economics for this year's prize

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A book about Russian leader Vladimir Putin, a history of feathers and the memoirs of Salman Rushdie are all nominated for this year's Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.

Masha Gessen's The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin is one of 14 books in the running for the £20,000 prize.

Rushdie's latest book is named Joseph Anton, the pseudonym he used following a fatwa being issued against him.

The winner is decided on 12 November.

The story of Putin's rise from a low-level KGB operative to leader of the world's largest country features alongside Wade Davis' account of early attempts to climb Everest during the Great War.

Bbiologist Thor Hanson details a sweeping natural history of feathers, which have been used to fly, protect, attract, and adorn throughout the world.

Also nominated are Ray Monk's biography of one of the scientists behind the atomic bomb, J Robert Oppenheimer, and Craig Brown's One on One, featuring tales of chance encounters between celebrities as varied as Barry Humphries and Salvador Dali.

The prize aims to highlight original, diverse and thought-provoking books which bring non-fiction subjects to a wide audience.

It covers areas from current affairs to sport, history, travel and the arts.

This year's judges are chaired by MP David Willetts, who is the Minister for Universities and Science.

"This has been a bumper year for non-fiction, and as judges we've enjoyed encountering new places and faces as well as enjoying classic stories being told afresh," said Willetts.

"The longlist reflects the diverse range of high quality non-fiction available for readers to enjoy, and we hope they will be inspired to pick up some of these titles and be entertained by the true stories they tell."

Also on the judging panel are the Guardian's non-fiction editor Paul Laity, editor of Prospect magazine Bronwen Maddox, writer and biographer Patrick French and philosopher, poet, novelist and cultural critic Professor Raymond Tallis.

Last year, Mao's Great Famine by Frank Dikotter took the title.

Other previous winners include James Shapiro's 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare and The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale, which won in 2008.

Here is this year's longlist in full:

  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo
  • One on One, by Craig Brown
  • Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest, by Wade Davis
  • The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, by Masha Gessen
  • Feathers, by Thor Hansen
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
  • The Old Ways, by Robert MacFarlane
  • Inside the Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, by Ray Monk
  • Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius, by Sylvia Nasar
  • Winter King, by Thomas Penn
  • The Better Angels of our Nature, by Steven Pinker
  • The Spanish Holocaust, by Paul Preston
  • Strindberg A Life, by Sue Prideaux
  • Joseph Anton, by Salman Rushdie

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