Penguin Random House (PRH) has published half the titles on the female-dominated Wellcome Book Prize shortlist, with the book finalists all linked by their complex relationship with mortality.
Granta publisher Sigrid Rausing’s memoir Mayhem (Hamish Hamilton, PRH), written after the death of her sister-in-law Eva Rausing in 201 on the subject of the family impact of addiction, is in the running, along with fellow PRH titles The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris (Allen Lane), about the grisly world of Victorian surgery and The Vaccine Race by Meredith Wadman (Doubleday), which delves into the game-changing story of the rubella vaccine breakthrough that has since protected hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s debut Stay With Me (Canongate), which offers an insight into fertility, family and the devastating effects of sickle-cell disease in 1980s Nigeria, is the only novel to have made the shortlist. The final two in the running for the £30,000 literary prize are With the End in Mind (William Collins), in which author Kathryn Mannix persuades readers to approach death not with trepidation but with openness, clarity and understanding, and To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell (Granta Books), which investigates and questions the “transhumanism” movement of using technology to extend life and push the human body beyond its current limitations.
Edmund de Waal, chair of the judges, said: “The demand of judging the Wellcome Book Prize is to find books that have to be read, books to press into people’s hands, books that start debates or deepen them, that move us profoundly, surprise and delight and perplex us, that bring the worlds of medicine and health into urgent public conversation: books that show us what it is to be human. These are six powerful books to read and share.”
Kirty Topiwala, publisher at Wellcome Collection and Wellcome Book Prize manager, added: “Year on year this genre continues to excel. These six exceptional books brilliantly demonstrate the variety, style and power of contemporary writing engaged with health and the human experience.”
The winner will be revealed at an evening ceremony on Monday 30th April at Wellcome Collection.