Shortlist for the 2017 Wellcome Book Prize announced
How to Survive a Plague, Mend the Living and The Gene are among the works competing for the prize
An annual award that is open to new works of both fiction and non-fiction, the Wellcome Book Prize is a celebration of texts that engage effectively with themes of medicine, health or illness and their connection to the everyday. The longlist of the 2017 Wellcome Book prize was announced in January, with five fiction and seven non-fiction titles originally in the running. Following an announcement at the London Book Fair, the shortlist for this year's awards has been revealed, with six titles in competition for the £30,000 prize.
Since the inaugural prize in 2009, a range of genres have been shortlisted for their communication of the central themes including romance, crime, sci fi and historical novels. Chosen by a judging panel consisting of Simon Baron-Cohen, Gemma Cairney, Tim Lewens and Di Speirs, chaired by Scottish crime author Val McDermid, the 2017 shortlist remains in keeping with this wide spectrum, with a variety of topics, ideas and stories told through genres like historical fiction and scientific writing.
The shortlist is made up of works from authors from the UK, USA and France, with previous winners including Suzanne O'Sullivan, Marion Coutts and Andrew Solomon. The overall winner of the 2017 prize will be announced on Mon 24 Apr at an evening reception at Wellcome Collection.
Introducing the shortlist, Val McDermid said 'These books have been challenging and engaging, affecting us in ways we didn't expect. Every one of these books can be read by anyone, whether scientist or not. If you're a human being, you'll find something in these books that will change you.'
The full 2017 Wellcome Book Prize shortlist:
How to Survive a Plague by David France (USA)
From the creator of the documentary of the same time, How to Survive a Plague is the moving account of the successful battle against the AIDS epidemic by grassroots activists who fought for treatment for themselves, their loved ones and the wider public.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (USA)
The moving memoir of neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi's life and battle with stage-4 metastatic lung cancer. Published posthumously, the book explores his experiences with illness as both a doctor and a patient.
Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal (France) trans. Jessica Moore
A story of a young man who is left brain dead following an accident. As Simon's heart continues beating, the novel explores the possibilities of organ donation, from the viewpoint of those that come into contact with his heart, from the head of the organ donation unit to the harvesting surgeon.
The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss (UK)
When his child is suddenly diagnosed with a condition that cannot be fully explained, narrator Adam's life changes, with a sense of doom hanging like a cloud over the family. The novel centres around the NHS, exploring themes of love, illness, fear and recovery.
The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee (USA)
A fascinating history of genetic discovery and debate, in which Mukherjee includes elements of his own family history to frame his ideas. The book investigates and questions the future of humanity when the ability to write the human genome becomes a real world possibility.
I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong (UK)
An entertaining interrogation of revolutionary biology that forces us to take a closer look at the microbes that surround us. Yong traces the history of the microbial world, using stories of discovery and recent findings to explain the importance of bacteria and archaea to life itself.
The Wellcome Book Prize winner is announced on Mon 24 Apr.