June 30, 2009 / 6:56 PM / 10 years ago

"Leviathan" whale tale wins UK non-fiction prize

LONDON (Reuters) - Philip Hoare’s “Leviathan, or The Whale,” about the author’s obsession with whales and the “Moby-Dick” story, won the 2009 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction on Tuesday.

Hoare beat five other shortlisted writers tackling themes from economic crisis to sloppy science reporting to win the 20,000 pound ($33,000) prize at an awards ceremony on London. In Leviathan, Hoare seeks to explain his life-long obsession with the whale, which sprang from a childhood fascination with gigantic models at London’s Natural History Museum and continued with encounters with the animals themselves.

“What made Leviathan stand out in a shortlist of wonderful reads was Philip Hoare’s lifelong passion for his subject and his skill in making his readers share it,” said U.S. journalist Jacob Weisberg, chair of the judging panel.

“His prose is dream-like and rises to the condition of literature.”

Leviathan was published by Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins, which is part of News Corp. The Samuel Johnson Prize is supported by the BBC.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White

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