This year’s Wellcome Book Prize longlist has been announced today. The twelve books are:
Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris
In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s by Joseph Jebelli
Plot 29: A Memoir by Allan Jenkins
The White Book by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith)
With the End in Mind: Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial by Kathryn Mannix
Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty
To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death by Mark O’Connell
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death by Maggie O’Farrell
Mayhem: A Memoir by Sigrid Rausing
Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert Sapolsky
The Vaccine Race: How Scientists Used Human Cells to Combat Killer Viruses by Meredith Wadman
Now in its tenth year, the £30,000 Wellcome Book Prize is awarded to a fiction or non-fiction book about health or medicine. This year’s longlist is weighted more towards non-fiction and I’m very pleased to see ‘I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death’ by Maggie O’Farrell on there – a brilliant memoir which was one of my favourite books of 2017. I would happily read any of the books on this longlist but the two titles I am particularly interested in are ‘The Butchering Art’ which sounds like a fascinating (and gory) medical history book and ‘Behave’ which is an 800-page study of the science of human behaviour recommended by Henry Marsh as “the best scientific book written for non-specialists that I have ever read”.
While I sometimes write predictions posts for other major book awards if I have the time, I often struggle to think of fiction titles which are eligible for the Wellcome Book Prize as the thematic criteria can be less tangible compared to non-fiction books. However, I am pleased to see ‘Stay With Me’ by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ on the list which is about a Nigerian couple’s marriage and experiences with childlessness, bereavement and sickle cell disease. Han Kang and Deborah Smith’s nomination for ‘The White Book’ follows last year’s winner Mend the Living, which was the first translated fiction book to win. The third fiction title is ‘Midwinter Break’ by Bernard MacLaverty which is about a retired couple who take a trip to Amsterdam where memories of the past re-emerge.
This year, I will be joining Rebecca at Bookish Beck and hopefully a few other book bloggers for an unofficial shadow panel of the prize. We will be reading the shortlisted books which will be announced on Tuesday 20th March (depending on which ones are in the final six, I may read a few more from the longlist too). It means that unfortunately I won’t have time to read the full Man Booker International Prize longlist this year which is also announced next month, but I am looking forward to getting stuck in to the Wellcome Book Prize books over the next few weeks.
Have you read any of the longlisted books? Which ones do you recommend?