Independent publishers take up more than half of the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist with Canongate, Oneworld, CB Editions and the Text Publishing company all vying for the £30,000 award along with two titles from Penguin Random House.
The “astonishing” six-strong shortlist showcases explorations of gender, identity, mental health and mortality with two works of fiction, and four non-fiction titles, whittled down from the longlist of 12.
Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation (Jonathan Cape), about a privileged New York woman’s decision to enter a drug-induced coma to sleep away her emotions, is one of the two novels in the running for the 2019 prize. It sits alongside Will Eaves’ Alan Turing-inspired novel Murmur (CB Editions), shortlisted two years after CB’s founder Charles Boyle wound down its publishing operations.
The two debuts on the list come from Amateur: A reckoning with gender, identity and masculinity (Canongate) by Thomas Page McBee, the first transgender man to box at Madison Square Garden, alongside Australian indie, the Text Publishing Company, is nominated for The Trauma Cleaner: One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster (The Text Publishing Company) by Sarah Krasnostein, explores the life of Sandra Pankhurst.
The fourth indie offering comes from cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar's book, Heart: A history (Oneworld), which draws on both his professional expertise and his personal medical history.
Finally Arnold Thomas Fanning’s Mind on Fire: A memoir of madness (Penguin Ireland) completes the list, offering an insight into the playwright’s experience of mania and depression.
Chaired by author Elif Shafak, the six titles in contention for the £30,000 prize “explore our complex relationships with gender, identity, mental health and mortality”, organisers said.
She said: “The judging panel is very excited and proud to present this astonishing collection of titles, ranging from the darkly comic to the searingly honest. While the books selected are strikingly unique in their subject matter and style, the rich variety of writing also shares much in common: each is raw and brave and inspirational, deepening our understanding of what it truly means to be human through the transformative power of storytelling.”
The winner will be revealed at an evening ceremony on 1st May at the Wellcome Collection in central London.