The shortlist for the Wellcome Book Prize is out! The winner will be announced on the 30th April, and here are the six shortlisted titles:
I’ve read two of the six shortlisted titles, Stay With Me and With the End In Mind, and am currently reading To Be A Machine. As part of the shadow panel for the Wellcome Book Prize this year, I’ll be aiming to read the whole shortlist.
My predictions were surprisingly accurate (given my dismal record) – I guessed three out of six of the longlisted titles, Fitzharris, Wadman and O’Connell. The balance between novels, history, memoir, ‘proper science’ and ‘what it is to be human’ is much as I thought it would be.
I’m surprised to see Ayòbámi Adébáyò’s Stay With Me on the shortlist – I thought it was tremendously moving, but the medical theme is barely there. Similarly, I didn’t expect Sigrid Rausing’s Mayhem to make it to the shortlist, having heard very little about it, but I’m keen to find out more.
I’m very disappointed not to see Maggie O’Farrell’s wonderful memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am on the shortlist, and equally disappointed to see Kathryn Mannix’s With the End In Mind, which made me very uncomfortable. But I’m thrilled to see that the two books that I was most interested in reading next have made it to the shortlist – Mark O’Connell’s To Be A Machine and Meredith Wadman’s The Vaccine Race. And, even though I try to keep work separate from this blog, I’m grudgingly getting used to the idea of reading Lindsay Fitzharris’s The Butchering Art,which I suspect will teach me a lot about popular history and storytelling.
A final thought: this isn’t a criticism of this year’s longlist or shortlist, but I wonder why the prize seems to highlight so little speculative fiction or science fiction? It’s just occurred to me that this might be another interesting angle with which to consider ‘our relationship with health, medicine and illness’.
What are your thoughts on the Wellcome Prize shortlist?