The Wellcome Book Prize Shortlist, 2018

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:

Wellcome Book Prize 2018 shortlist

I’ve read two of the six shortlisted titles, Stay With Me and With the End In Mindand am currently reading To Be A MachineAs 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?



14 thoughts on “The Wellcome Book Prize Shortlist, 2018

  1. That reminds me – Anne Charnock’s novel Dreams Before the Start of Time is (apparently excellent) spec-fic about pregnancy and birth, in a way that I think the Wellcome Prize is perfectly positioned to pick up on. Curious.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t heard of that one, but I’m keen to read Red Clocks, which would be eligible for next year’s prize. (So many of these feminist/reproductive freedom-themed dystopians!) It’s always hard to know what was nominated — publishers can put forward up to three of their titles that fell within the previous calendar year.

      Liked by 1 person

        • That’s entirely possible. I wonder if the impetus sometimes comes from the authors themselves. The prize comes with a lot of clout and a lot of money, so it’s worth trying for! It may explain why some only vaguely relevant books get nominated, as Laura and I have noted.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, perhaps it is the publishers – and I guess there are already a lot of SF prizes, though fewer for speculative fiction. It’s a shame, as I think there’s a lot of spec fic and SF that would be really interesting to directly consider alongside the kind of non-fiction titles that tend to get attention from Wellcome, e.g. To Be A Machine.

            Dreams Before The Start of Time sounds good, though, as Rebecca says, there seems to be a LOT of speculative stuff on reproduction recently! Helen Sedgwick’s The Growing Season also comes to mind.


  2. Half of the shortlist is as I expected, and half is pretty surprising. I’m very disappointed Maggie O’Farrell didn’t make it through. I’m glad I have a headstart, having already read two of the books — still on my Kindle from NetGalley to refer back to — so it’s just four to get hold of and read in just under six weeks, which sounds manageable. I’ll post some quick thoughts of my own later today.

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  3. Pingback: Quick Reactions to the Wellcome Book Prize Shortlist – Bookish Beck

  4. I’d love for some spec fiction to be included – The End We Start From by Megan Hunter, might just have enough about motherhood to qualify? Looking forward to getting into these books, but I’ve seen such mixed reviews for the Rausing, and am disappointed Maggie O’Farrell isn’t there. Just about to start The Butchering Art.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: Reading round-up, April into May 2018 | Laura Tisdall

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