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LA Times Reporter Beats Sorkin in BBC Samuel Johnson Book Prize

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Source: Random House via Bloomberg

The cover jacket of "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea." The riveting account of a young couple living in a repressive country, it is the latest book by Barbara Demick.

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Source: Random House via Bloomberg

The cover jacket of "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea." The riveting account of a young couple living in a repressive country, it is the latest book by Barbara Demick. Close

The cover jacket of "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea." The riveting account of a young couple living... Read More

Photographer: Jinna Park/Random House via Bloomberg

Author Barbara Demick. Her book "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea" describes the romance of a young couple and their struggle to stay alive. Close

Author Barbara Demick. Her book "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea" describes the romance of a young... Read More

Source: Allen Lane via Bloomberg

Author Andrew Ross Sorkin is the writer of ``Too Big to Fail'' Close

Author Andrew Ross Sorkin is the writer of ``Too Big to Fail''

Source: Viking via Bloomberg

The cover jacket of the book ``Too Big to Fail.'' Close

The cover jacket of the book ``Too Big to Fail.''

Barbara Demick’s “Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea” won the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize, defeating Andrew Ross Sorkin’s “Too Big to Fail” and four other finalists for the annual U.K. nonfiction award, worth 20,000 pounds ($30,000).

Demick, a foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, was honored in a ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects for her account of six ordinary North Koreans who struggle to survive inside the hermetic land of Kim Jong Il.

The contest organizers praised “Nothing to Envy” (Granta/Spiegel & Grau) for creating what they called an unforgettable look at a country where even “Gone With the Wind” is considered dangerous literature.

“It is the personal detail in ‘Nothing to Envy’ that makes it both gripping and moving,” said the chairman of the judging panel, economist and Radio 4 presenter Evan Davis, in an e-mailed statement.

“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.”

Each runner-up, including Sorkin for “Too Big to Fail” (Allen Lane/Viking), receives 1,000 pounds. The other finalists were “Alex’s Adventures in Numberland” by Alex Bellos (Bloomsbury); “Blood Knots” by Luke Jennings (Atlantic); “A Gambling Man” by Jenny Uglow (Faber); and “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human” by Richard Wrangham (Profile/Basic).

First granted in 1999, the Samuel Johnson Prize is billed as the U.K.’s richest award for the genre and is sponsored by the British Broadcasting Corp.

To contact the reporter on the story: James Pressley in Brussels at jpressley@bloomberg.net.

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