Is it possible not to have a good year for books? Thankfully, I don’t think this has happened to me yet, so here is a list of the books I enjoyed the most in 2018.
I have read more non-fiction than ever this year, partly due to shadowing the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist in March and April which I hope to do again in 2019. To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell won the official prize and was also our shadow panel winner – it’s a fun, informative and pretty terrifying book about transhumanism. , Yet while transhumanists are trying to avoid death at all costs, With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix explores the practical side of dying and what a “good” death can look like from her work as a palliative care consultant and this was a stand-out title for me this year. Another book I would happily press into the hands of everyone I meet is The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken which is an eye-opening account of the inner workings of the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom. And Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar is a book I am still thinking about regularly months after I finished it mostly because the stories of extreme do-gooders are actually more unsettling than uplifting in many cases. Continue reading
My final Wellcome Book Prize shortlist post is also part of the final day of the blog tour showcasing each book before the winner is announced tomorrow. ‘The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine’ by Lindsey Fitzharris is one of the titles I was particularly interested in reading when the longlist was announced in February. Although Lister is the main biographical subject of the book, ‘The Butchering Art’ also works as a more general narrative non-fiction account of the history of surgery in the mid 19th century. Continue reading
‘The Vaccine Race: How Scientists Used Human Cells to Combat Killer Diseases’ by Meredith Wadman is an account of the history, science and ethics of vaccine development in the United States. It primarily concerns the career of American anatomy professor Leonard Hayflick and his quest to find and mass produce the safest human cells for use in vaccines at a time when viruses such as polio and rubella were far more prevalent than they are today. Continue reading
‘With the End in Mind: Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial’ by Dr Kathryn Mannix is a collection of anonymised patient case studies (or “stories” as Mannix calls them) drawn from her thirty years of experience as a palliative care clinician and consultant. It has been shortlisted for this year’s Wellcome Book Prize which I am shadowing with fellow book bloggers Rebecca, Laura, Annabel and Paul and is notably similar to one of the previous winners It’s All In Your Head by Suzanne O’Sullivan in that it seeks to demystify one of the most misunderstood aspects of medicine. In this case, it is death – the event that we will all one day meet (unless the transhumanists Mark O’Connell wrote about in To Be a Machine have their way…).
Over the next few weeks, I will be shadowing the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist with fellow book bloggers Rebecca, Laura, Annabel and Paul. The £30,000 prize is awarded to a book about any aspect of health, medicine or illness and this year’s six shortlisted titles are:
I read and reviewed the only fiction title Stay With Me last year which leaves the five non-fiction titles to read over the next few weeks. First up is ‘To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death’ by Mark O’Connell which was also shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction last year. While most of the books on the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist deal with illness, ‘To Be a Machine’ is more about what it is to be human or “post-human” in which O’Connell, a freelance journalist, explores the transhumanist movement which is “predicated on the conviction that we can and should use technology to control the future evolution of our species” (p.2) and advocates “nothing less than a total emancipation from biology itself” (p.6). In other words, transhumanists want to eliminate ageing as a cause of death. Continue reading
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 Continue reading
I am very pleased to be taking part in the official Wellcome Book Prize blog tour this week to champion ‘How to Survive a Plague’ by David France which is one of six titles shortlisted for this year’s prize awarded to a book on the subject of healthcare or medicine. It follows France’s 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary film of the same name and is a remarkable account of the activists and scientists who campaigned for awareness and funding towards fighting the AIDS epidemic in the United States.