Frank Dikotter's 'Mao's Great Famine' Wins Samuel Johnson Prize

07/07/2011 12:14 pm ET | Updated Sep 06, 2011

LONDON — A book chronicling a Chinese tragedy under Mao has won Britain's richest nonfiction book award, the Samuel Johnson Prize.

Frank Dikotter's "Mao's Great Famine" won the 20,000 pound ($32,000) award at a ceremony in London on Wednesday.

The book, described by judges as an "epic record of human folly," beat out five others – including Jonathan Steinberg's "Bismarck: A Life" and Andrew Graham Dixon's "Caravaggio."

The prize recognizes English-language books in the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts.

Ben Macintyre, chair of the judges, said Dikotter's "meticulous account of a brutal manmade calamity is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the history of the 20th century."