Tag Archives: Wellcome Book Prize

Three Memoirs About Health I’ve Read Recently

Coming Undone Terri WhiteI didn’t read much in the way of medicine or health-related books during lockdown, but I have recently started thinking about books which will be eligible for the Wellcome Book Prize next year following its “pause” this year. The three books I have read so far are all powerful and memorable if far from cheerful in their chosen subject matter.

Coming Undone by Terri White is the author’s memoir of her addiction issues and subsequent mental breakdown. The book opens with an account of her admission to a psychiatric ward in a New York hospital. She then details the abuse she suffered during her childhood growing up in poverty in Derbyshire before embarking on a career as a magazine editor. She moved to New York in 2012 where her problems with substance abuse spiralled and her outwardly successful life eventually unravelled. It is difficult to review a book, particularly a memoir, on this subject without using the same old adjectives: raw, honest, brutal, painful. ‘Coming Undone’ is all of those things, but for all its rawness and honesty about White’s state of mind, there does seem to be a lot held back too, especially about her career and more recent relationships, although I expect that this is mostly due to the necessity of protecting those close to her as well as her own privacy and recovery.  Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Books

Not The Wellcome Prize: Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

Not The Wellcome Prize Shortlist
The Wellcome Book Prize celebrating fiction and non-fiction with a medical theme was “paused” this year and Rebecca has organised an alternative blog tour and public vote of books that would have been eligible. Rebecca, Laura, Paul, Annabel and I have selected a shortlist and you can vote for your favourite at this Twitter poll (see both tweets in the thread for all six books) which is open for a few more hours today. The six books we have chosen are:

Exhalation by Ted Chiang – a collection of sci-fi short stories about artificial intelligence and what it means to be human

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez – a non-fiction book exposing gender bias in the modern world

Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson – an essay collection about health, motherhood and grief

The Nocturnal Brain by Guy Leschziner – a non-fiction book about the neuroscience of sleep

The Remarkable Life of the Skin by Monty Lyman – a non-fiction-book about the history and science of skin

War Doctor by David Nott – a memoir by a trauma surgeon who has worked on the frontline of war zones and natural disasters

Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Books

Not The Wellcome Prize: The Body by Bill Bryson

Not the Wellcome Prize
The Wellcome Book Prize celebrating fiction and non-fiction with a medical theme was “paused” this year – a decision taken before the current pandemic, although even if it had gone ahead, it would have inevitably faced disruption anyway. Fortunately, Rebecca has organised an alternative Not the Wellcome Prize blog tour of books that would have been eligible had the prize taken place this year. Rebecca, Laura, Paul, Annabel and I will be selecting a shortlist over the weekend based on what we’ve managed to read between us and announcing a winner on 11th May based on our discussions and a Twitter poll. Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Books

Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar

Heart Sandeep JauharI am taking part in the Wellcome Book Prize blog tour today with a review of ‘Heart: A History’ by Sandeep Jauhar which is the final book I will be shadowing from this year’s shortlist. Jauhar is a cardiologist and director of the Heart Failure Program at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and his third book combines memoir, case studies and the history of cardiology. In the opening pages, he recounts his family history (both of his grandfathers died as a result of sudden cardiac events) and how his own CT angiogram revealed signs of early coronary artery disease. Jauhar’s obsession with this vital and remarkable organ is therefore a very personal one. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Books

Wellcome Book Prize: Mind on Fire and Murmur

Mind on Fire Arnold Thomas FanningI am approaching the end of shadowing this year’s Wellcome Book Prize, and I have followed two books which explore gender as the central theme (The Trauma Cleaner and Amateur) with two books primarily concerned with mental health. ‘Mind on Fire: A Memoir of Madness and Recovery’ by Arnold Thomas Fanning is a memoir which outlines his experience of bipolar disorder in the late 1990s. Having first suffered from depression at the age of 20 following the death of his mother, he had a breakdown in his late twenties while living in Dublin after quitting his job to concentrate on writing in 1997. He was hospitalised several times and also spent time homeless in London amid periods of mania. The narrative has been pieced together from his own fragmented memories, medical records and interviews with those who were involved at the time. The opening section is a frank stream of consciousness told in the second person while the rest of the narrative is told primarily in the present tense. Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Books

Wellcome Book Prize: Amateur and The Trauma Cleaner

Amateur Thomas Page McBeeGender is a notable theme on this year’s Wellcome Book Prize longlist and two of the books shortlisted this year (by the official judges and by the shadow panel) look at the lives and experiences of transgender individuals. ‘Amateur’ by Thomas Page McBee was also shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction last year and is an exploration of modern masculinity told through McBee’s training as the first trans man to fight in a charity boxing match at Madison Square Garden. From a childhood dominated by male violence in which he was abused by his stepfather from the age of four, McBee untangles the tricky relationship between masculinity and violence, questioning if aggression is an exclusively “toxic” male trait. Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Books

The Wellcome Book Prize 2019 Shortlist

Wellcome Book Prize 2019 Shortlist

The Wellcome Book Prize shortlist was announced earlier this week and the six titles are:

Murmur by Will Eaves
Mind on Fire by Arnold Thomas Fanning
Heart by Sandeep Jauhar
The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein
Amateur by Thomas Page McBee
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

From what we have read between us so far, the shadow panel has also come up with our own shortlist of seven titles (due to a tie on a couple), four of which overlap with the official shortlist:

Murmur by Will Eaves
This Really Isn’t About You by Jean Hannah Edelstein
Sight by Jessie Greengrass
Heart by Sandeep Jauhar
The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein
Amateur by Thomas Page McBee
Educated by Tara Westover

Continue reading

15 Comments

Filed under Books

Educated by Tara Westover

Educated Tara WestoverI had heard of ‘Educated’ before it was longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize but hadn’t considered Tara Westover’s widely acclaimed memoir of her childhood growing up in a Mormon fundamentalist family in rural Idaho as a possible contender. Although not immediately obvious from the title or basic premise of the book, there are numerous connections to the main thematic criteria of the prize related to health. Isolated from mainstream society by radical survivalist parents, Westover and her six older siblings didn’t attend school and the family never saw doctors – even serious incidents like car accidents and third degree burns were treated at home with her mother’s herbal tinctures rather than at hospital. She didn’t receive a birth certificate until she was nine years old and spent most of her time working at her father’s junkyard, later studying independently at home.  Continue reading

13 Comments

Filed under Books

The Wellcome Book Prize Longlist 2019

Wellcome Book Prize Longlist 2019
The 12 books longlisted for this year’s Wellcome Book Prize are:

Amateur by Thomas Page McBee
Astroturf by Matthew Sperling
Educated by Tara Westover
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar
Mind on Fire by Arnold Thomas Fanning
Murmur by Will Eaves
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Polio: The Odyssey of Eradication by Thomas Abraham
Sight by Jessie Greengrass
The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein
This Really Isn’t About You by Jean Hannah Edelstein

Among the five fiction and seven non-fiction titles, the judges have noted that gender, identity and mental health have emerged as prominent themes this year. I will be shadowing the shortlist of six books which will be announced on 19th March with fellow book bloggers Rebecca, Annabel, Paul and Laura and we will also be covering the longlist between us over the next few weeks. Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Books

The Wellcome Book Prize 2019: Predictions

Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the longlist for the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize will be announced on Tuesday. The £30,000 prize is awarded to a work of fiction or non-fiction which engages with some aspect of healthcare or medicine published in the UK last year. It has become my favourite book award in the last couple of years and once again, I will be shadowing the shortlist of six books to be announced in March with Rebecca, Paul, Laura and Annabel and between us, we will also be covering the longlist of twelve books too.

Little Edward CareyI imagine that the majority of the books submitted for consideration are non-fiction titles (they usually dominate the shortlists at any rate) but there are a fair number of novels which could also be in the running, even though the thematic criteria is more subjective. An obvious contender among fiction titles is Sight by Jessie Greengrass about a woman who is pregnant with her second child and undertakes research into the history of psychoanalysis and X-rays. I have also read Little by Edward Carey which is a fictionalised account of the early life of Madame Tussaud who made wax models of body parts in Paris in the late 18th century before living in London. Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under Books

My Books of the Year 2018

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.

To Be A Machine Mark O’Connell

The Secret Barrister Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken

Strangers Drowning Larissa Macfarquhar

With the End in Mind Kathryn Mannix

 

 

 

 

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

16 Comments

Filed under Books

The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris

The Butchering Art Lindsey FitzharrisMy 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

6 Comments

Filed under Books

The Vaccine Race by Meredith Wadman

The Vaccine Race Meredith Wadman‘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

11 Comments

Filed under Books

With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix

With the End in Mind Kathryn Mannix‘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…).
Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under Books

To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell

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:Wellcome Book Prize 2018 shortlist

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

14 Comments

Filed under Books

The Wellcome Book Prize Longlist 2018

Wellcome Book Prize 2018 LonglistThis 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

7 Comments

Filed under Books

How to Survive a Plague by David France

How to Survive a Plague David FranceI 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.
Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Books

The Wellcome Book Prize Longlist 2017

Wellcome Book Prize 2017 Longlist

The Wellcome Book Prize is awarded to a fiction or non-fiction book about health or medicine. Since its launch in 2009, there has been a shortlist of six books but this year, there is a longlist of twelve books for the very first time. The nominated books which were announced today are:

Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Books

It’s All in Your Head by Suzanne O’Sullivan

It's All In Your Head Suzanne O'SullivanWinner of the Wellcome Book Prize last month, ‘It’s All in Your Head: Stories from the Frontline of Psychosomatic Illness’ by Suzanne O’Sullivan is a collection of case studies about patients who have been diagnosed with psychosomatic disorders. Based on her clinical experience as a consultant neurologist, O’Sullivan recounts the stories of some of her patients whose medically unexplained illnesses are thought to be “physical symptoms that mask emotional distress”. Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under Books

Far From The Tree by Andrew Solomon

Far From the Tree Andrew Solomon Disability Identity Wellcome PrizeWinner of the Wellcome Book Prize in 2014, ‘Far From the Tree: Parents, children and the search for identity’ is Andrew Solomon’s account of “ordinary people making courageous choices”. It is a densely written and detailed study which examines the links between identity and disability and the challenges faced by those perceived to be “different”. Divided into ten main topics, the first six (deaf, dwarfs, Down’s Syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability) focus on “horizontal” categories typically classified as illnesses, while the other four (prodigies, rape, crime, transgender) are “vertical” identities which are assumed to be socially constructed. Continue reading

15 Comments

Filed under Books