Annal: 2007 Costa Book Award for Biography

Results of the Costa Book Award in the year 2007.

Book:Young Stalin

Young Stalin

Simon Sebag Montefiore

Stalin remains one of the creators of our world—like Hitler, the personification of evil. Yet Stalin hid his past and remains mysterious. This enthralling biography that reads like a thriller finally unveils the secret but extraordinary journey of the Georgian cobbler’s son who became the Red Tsar. What forms such a merciless psychopath and consummate politician? Was he illegitimate? Did he owe everything to his mother—was she whore or saint? Was he a Tsarist agent or Lenin’s chief gangster? Was he to blame for his wife’s premature death? If he really missed the 1917 Revolution, how did he emerge so powerful?

Based on astonishing new evidence, Young Stalin is a history of the Russian Revolution, a pre-history of the USSR—and a fascinatingly intimate biography: this is how Stalin became Stalin.

Book:Agent Zigzag

Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman: Lover, Traitor, Hero, Spy

Ben Macintyre

One December night in 1942, a Nazi parachutist landed in a Cambridgeshire field. His mission: to sabotage the British war effort. His name was Eddie Chapman, but he would shortly become MI5’s Agent Zigzag. Dashing and louche, courageous and unpredictable, the traitor was a patriot inside, and the villain a hero. The problem for Chapman, his many lovers and his spymasters was knowing who he was. Ben Macintyre weaves together diaries, letters, photographs, memories and top-secret MI5 files to create the exhilarating account of Britain’s most sensational double agent.

Book:Fatty Batter

Fatty Batter: How cricket saved my life (then ruined it)

Michael Simkins

Michael Simkins is in desperate need of some quiet coaching. In middle-age he still believes, despite what everyone tells him, that the England middle order might usefully benefit from his hard-earned skills. He’s also a man who thinks it is OK to get your wife to spend the whole of your wedding anniversary operating a scoreboard in what she describes as ‘a meaningless encounter between pathetic no-hopers’. Even when scattering his own mother’s ashes his thoughts stray to another urn.

This is the hilarious story of one man’s lifelong obsession with cricket. From his earliest awkward days as a fat boy growing up in a Brighton sweetshop to his years running a team of dysfunctional inadequates still chasing the sweet spot, cricket has offered a shelter from life’s irksome realities and a place in which to quietly dream. That place is a peculiarly English arcadia of occasional wondrous beauty, forests of comforting statistics and the endless life-affirming rituals of defeat, humiliation and disappointment—the perfect net practice for life.

Book:Rudolf Nureyev

Rudolf Nureyev: The Life

Julie Kavanagh

Ballet’s first pop icon, Rudolf Nureyev revolutionised an old art form, bringing a new young audience to opera houses, and sparking Rudimania across the globe. This definitive biography, nine years in the making, draws for the first time on private papers, diaries and home-movie footage, and includes reminiscences from scores of colleagues and friends, the closest of whom had hitherto refused to co-operate with any writer. Julie Kavanagh, herself a former dancer, examines with authority Nureyev’s legacy as a choreographer and director (an inspirational Diaghilev figure to young proteges like Sylvie Guillem), and her memories of the star’s greatest years create a sense of the exultation and heart-bursting impact of watching Nureyev on stage.

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