Wellcome Book Prize Announces 2018 Longlist

Wellcome Book Prize Announces 2018 Longlist

The Wellcome Book Prize recently announced their longlist of the 12 books you see below. We have been featuring a number of their books over the last week or so and will continue to cover the complete list.

Click here for more information about the list.

The winner will be announced on the 30th of April.

Stay With Me, by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures–Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant. Which, finally, she does–but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s quest to transform the grisly world of Victorian medicine, by Lindsey Fitzharris

The gripping story of how Joseph Lister’s antiseptic method changed medicine forever. In The Butchering Art, the historian Lindsey Fitzharris reveals the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery on the eve of profound transformation. She conjures up early operating theaters―no place for the squeamish―and surgeons, working before anesthesia, who were lauded for their speed and brute strength. These medical pioneers knew that the aftermath of surgery was often more dangerous than their patients’ afflictions, and they were baffled by the persistent infections that kept mortality rates stubbornly high. At a time when surgery couldn’t have been more hazardous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: a young, melancholy Quaker surgeon named Joseph Lister, who would solve the deadly riddle and change the course of history. Fitzharris dramatically recounts Lister’s discoveries in gripping detail, culminating in his audacious claim that germs were the source of all infection―and could be countered by antiseptics. Focusing on the tumultuous period from 1850 to 1875, she introduces us to Lister and his contemporaries―some of them brilliant, some outright criminal―and takes us through the grimy medical schools and dreary hospitals where they learned their art, the deadhouses where they studied anatomy, and the graveyards they occasionally ransacked for cadavers. Eerie and illuminating, The Butchering Art celebrates the triumph of a visionary surgeon whose quest to unite science and medicine delivered us into the modern world.

In Pursuit of Memory: The fight against Alzheimer’s, by Joseph Jebelli

Alzheimer’s is the great global epidemic of our time, affecting millions worldwide — there are more than 5 million people diagnosed in the US alone. And as our population ages, scientists are working against the clock to find a cure. Neuroscientist Joseph Jebelli is among them. His beloved grandfather had Alzheimer’s and now he’s written the book he needed then — a very human history of this frightening disease. But In Pursuit of Memory is also a thrilling scientific detective story that takes you behind the headlines. Jebelli’s quest takes us from nineteenth-century Germany and post-war England, to the jungles of Papua New Guinea and the technological proving grounds of Japan; through America, India, China, Iceland, Sweden, and Colombia. Its heroes are scientists from around the world — many of whom he’s worked with — and the brave patients and families who have changed the way that researchers think about the disease. This compelling insider’s account shows vividly why Jebelli feels so hopeful about a cure, but also why our best defense in the meantime is to understand the disease. In Pursuit of Memory is a clever, moving, eye-opening guide to the threat one in three of us faces now.

Plot 29: A memoir, by Allan Jenkins

A beautifully written, haunting memoir, ‘Plot 29’ is a mystery story and a meditation on nature and nurture. It’s also a celebration of the joy to be found in sharing food and flowers with people you love. As young boys in 1960s Plymouth, Allan Jenkins and his brother, Christopher, were rescued from their care home and fostered by an elderly couple. There, the brothers started to grow flowers in their riverside cottage. They found a new life with their new mum and dad. As Allan grew older, his foster parents were never quite able to provide the family he and his brother needed, but the solace he found in tending a small London allotment echoed the childhood moments when he grew nasturtiums from seed. Over the course of a year, Allan digs deeper into his past, seeking to learn more about his absent parents. Examining the truths and untruths that he’d been told, he discovers the secrets to why the two boys were in care. What emerges is a vivid portrait of the violence and neglect that lay at the heart of his family.

The White Book, by Han Kang translated by Deborah Smith

A stunning meditation on the colour white – about light, about death and about ritual. From the author of ‘The Vegetarian’ and ‘Human Acts’ comes a book like no other. ‘The White Book’ is a meditation on colour, beginning with a list of white things. It is a book about mourning, rebirth and the tenacity of the human spirit. It is a stunning investigation of the fragility, beauty and strangeness of life.


With the End in Mind: Dying, death and wisdom in an age of denial, by Kathryn Mannix

In this unprecedented book, palliative medicine pioneer Dr Kathryn Mannix explores the biggest taboo in our society and the only certainty we all share: death. A tender and insightful book that will revolutionise the way we discuss and approach the end-of-life process. Told through beautifully crafted stories taken from three decades of clinical practice, this book answers the most intimate questions about the process of dying with touching honesty and humanity. Mannix makes a compelling case for the therapeutic power of approaching death not with trepidation but with openness, clarity and understanding. ‘With the End in Mind’ is a book for us all: the grieving, the ill and the healthy. Open these pages and you will find stories about people who are like you, and like people you know and love. You will meet Holly, who danced her last day away; Eric, the retired head teacher who, even with motor neurone disease, gets things done; loving, tender-hearted Nelly and Joe, each living a lonely lie to save their beloved from distress; and Sylvie, 19, dying of leukaemia, sewing a cushion for her mum to hug by the fire after she has died. These are just four of the book’s 30-odd stories of normal humans, dying normal human deaths. They show how the dying embrace living not because they are unusual or brave, but because that’s what humans do. By turns touching, tragic, at times funny and always wise, they offer us illumination, models for action, and hope. Read this book and you’ll be better prepared for life as well as death.

Midwinter Break: A Novel, by Bernard MacLaverty

An intense exploration of love and uncertainty when a long-married couple take a midwinter break in Amsterdam. A retired couple, Gerry and Stella Gilmore, take a holiday – to refresh the senses, to see the sights and to generally take stock of what remains of their lives. But amongst the wintry streets and icy canals we see their relationship fracturing beneath the surface. And when memories re-emerge of a troubled time in their native Ireland, things begin to fall apart. As their midwinter break comes to an end, we understand how far apart they are – and can only watch as they struggle to save themselves.

To Be a Machine: Adventures among cyborgs, utopians, hackers, and the futurists solving the modest problem of death, by Mark O’Connell

Transhumanism is a movement pushing the limits of our bodies—our capabilities, intelligence, and lifespans—in the hopes that, through technology, we can become something better than ourselves. It has found support among Silicon Valley billionaires and some of the world’s biggest businesses. In To Be a Machine, journalist Mark O’Connell explores the staggering possibilities and moral quandaries that present themselves when you of think of your body as a device. He visits the world’s foremost cryonics facility to witness how some have chosen to forestall death.  He discovers an underground collective of biohackers, implanting electronics under their skin to enhance their senses. He meets a team of scientists urgently investigating how to protect mankind from artificial superintelligence. Where is our obsession with technology leading us? What does the rise of AI mean not just for our offices and homes, but for our humanity? Could the technologies we create to help us eventually bring us to harm?  Addressing these questions, O’Connell presents a profound, provocative, often laugh-out-loud-funny look at an influential movement. In investigating what it means to be a machine, he offers a surprising meditation on what it means to be human.

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen brushes with death, by Maggie O’Farrell

A Sunday Times no 1. bestseller, this is a memoir with a difference – the unputdownable story of an extraordinary woman’s life in near-death experiences. Insightful, inspirational, intelligent, it’s a book to be read at a sitting, a story you finish newly conscious of life’s fragility, determined to make every heartbeat count. A childhood illness she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. A terrifying encounter on a remote path. A mismanaged labour in an understaffed hospital. Shocking, electric, unforgettable, Costa Novel Award winner Maggie O’Farrell’s memoir is a book to make you question yourself. What would you do if your life was in danger, and what would you stand to lose?

Mayhem: A memoir, by Sigrid Rausing

A searing memoir about the impact of addiction on a family. In the summer of 2012 a woman named Eva was found dead from a drug overdose in a London townhouse. Now, writing with singular clarity and restraint, writer and publisher Sigrid Rausing tries to make sense of what happened. ‘Mayhem’ is a deeply personal memoir, and an attempt to understand the deadly and elusive syndrome of addiction. Rausing’s anthropological training informs the writing – the book is as sceptical and incisive as it is lyrical. She raises questions, and resists easy answers, drawing us into a deceptively simple structure. Addiction is a family disease, and Rausing gradually reveals its subtle dysfunctions, until we come to understand the text, the quest itself, as a sign of the author’s almost invisible entanglement in the disease. The mystery that unravels is that of Rausing’s own journey – the story of addiction from the point of view of a family member. It is a story that almost by definition has no resolution – the causation and course of the disease are rarely discovered. Rausing ends her book with a meditation on an art show in New York, entitled ‘Unfinished’ – an apt end to a book that is both a work of art and an investigation.

Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst, by Robert Sapolsky

From the celebrated neurobiologist and primatologist, a landmark, genre-defining examination of human behavior, both good and bad, and an answer to the question: Why do we do the things we do? Sapolsky’s storytelling concept is delightful but it also has a powerful intrinsic logic: he starts by looking at the factors that bear on a person’s reaction in the precise moment a behavior occurs, and then hops back in time from there, in stages, ultimately ending up at the deep history of our species and its evolutionary legacy. And so the first category of explanation is the neurobiological one. A behavior occurs–whether an example of humans at our best, worst, or somewhere in between. What went on in a person’s brain a second before the behavior happened? Then Sapolsky pulls out to a slightly larger field of vision, a little earlier in time: What sight, sound, or smell caused the nervous system to produce that behavior? And then, what hormones acted hours to days earlier to change how responsive that individual is to the stimuli that triggered the nervous system? By now he has increased our field of vision so that we are thinking about neurobiology and the sensory world of our environment and endocrinology in trying to explain what happened. Sapolsky keeps going: How was that behavior influenced by structural changes in the nervous system over the preceding months, by that person’s adolescence, childhood, fetal life, and then back to his or her genetic makeup? Finally, he expands the view to encompass factors larger than one individual. How did culture shape that individual’s group, what ecological factors millennia old formed that culture? And on and on, back to evolutionary factors millions of years old. The result is one of the most dazzling tours d’horizon of the science of human behavior ever attempted, a majestic synthesis that harvests cutting-edge research across a range of disciplines to provide a subtle and nuanced perspective on why we ultimately do the things we do…for good and for ill. Sapolsky builds on this understanding to wrestle with some of our deepest and thorniest questions relating to tribalism and xenophobia, hierarchy and competition, morality and free will, and war and peace. Wise, humane, often very funny, Behave is a towering achievement, powerfully humanizing, and downright heroic in its own right.

The Vaccine Race: How scientists used human cells to combat killer viruses, by Meredith Wadman

The epic and controversial story of the major scientific breakthrough that led to the creation of some of the world’s most important vaccines. Until the late 1960s, tens of thousands of children suffered crippling birth defects if their mothers had been exposed to rubella, popularly known as German measles, while pregnant. There was no vaccine and little understanding of how the disease devastated fetuses. In June 1962, a young biologist in Philadelphia produced the first safe, clean cells that made possible the mass production of vaccines against many common childhood diseases. Two years later, in the midst of a German measles epidemic, his colleague developed the vaccine that would go on to effectively wipe out rubella in many countries. This vaccine and others made with those cells have since protected hundreds of millions of people worldwide, the vast majority of them preschool children. Meredith Wadman’s account of this great leap forward in medicine is a fascinating and revelatory read.