The longlist has been revealed for the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize, with six debuts in line for the contest’s 10th anniversary award as memoirs dominate the non-fiction titles.
There are five novels and seven non-fiction titles competing for the £30,000 prize, which celebrates the ways health, medicine and illness touch people’s lives. The 12 books were selected by a judging panel chaired by author Elif Shafak, with Kevin Fong, Viv Groskop, Jon Day and Rick Edwards. Authors from the UK, USA, India, Australia, Nigeria and Ireland are in contention.
Of five fiction titles on the list, three are by debut novelists, including Jessie Greengrass, who considers motherhood in her Women’s Prize shortlisted novel Sight (John Murray Press), and Matthew Sperling’s examination of toxic masculinity, Astroturf (riverrun, Quercus).
Memoirs dominate the seven non-fiction titles on the list, including Thomas Page McBee recalling his journey to become the first transgender man to box at Madison Square Garden in Amateur, and Tara Westover’s account of her survivalist upbringing, Educated.
Six independent publishers appear on the list - Canongate, CB Editions, Faber & Faber, Oneworld, Hurst Publishers and The Text Publishing Company.
Shafak said: “In a world that remains sadly divided into echo chambers and mental ghettoes, this prize is unique in its ability to connect various disciplines: medicine, health, literature, art and science. Reading and discussing at length all the books on our list has been fascinating from the very start. We now have a wonderful longlist, of which we are all very proud. Although it sure won’t be easy to choose the shortlist, and then, finally, the winner, I am thrilled about and truly grateful for this fascinating journey through stories, ideas, ground-breaking research and revolutionary knowledge.”
The shortlist for the prize will be announced on 19th March, with the winner revealed at a ceremony on 1st May at Wellcome Collection. Last year's winer was To Be a Machine by Mark O'Connell (Granta).
This year’s longlist in full:
Amateur: A true story about what makes a man by Thomas Page McBee (Canongate Books)
Astroturf by Matthew Sperling (riverrun, Quercus)
Educated by Tara Westover (Windmill Books/Cornerstone)
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (Faber & Faber)
Heart: A history by Sandeep Jauhar (Oneworld)
Mind on Fire: A memoir of madness and recovery by Arnold Thomas Fanning (Penguin Ireland)
Murmur by Will Eaves (CB Editions)
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (Jonathan Cape)
Polio: The odyssey of eradication by Thomas Abraham (Hurst Publishers)
Sight by Jessie Greengrass (John Murray Press)
The Trauma Cleaner: One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster by Sarah Krasnostein (The Text Publishing Company)
This Really Isn’t About You by Jean Hannah Edelstein (Picador)