Memoirs from Maggie O'Farrell, Sigrid Rausing and Allan Jenkins have been longlisted for the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize alongside popular science, lyrical meditation and medical history titles.
The prize, which celebrates the many ways in which literature can illuminate the breadth and depth of our relationship with health, medicine and illness, consists of 12 titles selected by a judging panel chaired by artist and writer Edmund de Waal OBE with Dr Hannah Critchlow, Bryony Gordon, Sumit Paul-Choudhury and Sophie Ratcliffe.
Rausing's Mayhem: A memoir (Hamish Hamilton), which explores the impact of addiction on a family, is to tussle with O'Farrell's I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen brushes with death (Tinder Press, Headline Publishing Group), a "tenaciously powerful" account of what it means to be alive also shortlisted for The British Book Awards' Non-Fiction Narrative Book of the Year, and Jenkins' Plot 29: A memoir (4th Estate, HarperCollins), about the long-lasting effects of trauma and the therapeutic benefits of gardening.
The only fiction titles longlisted for the prize are Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀'s Bailey's Prize-shortlisted and Dylan Thomas Prize longlisted Stay With Me (Canongate Books), the latest book from Man Booker International winner Han Kang, The White Book (Portobello, translated by Deborah Smith), and Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty (Jonathan Cape), which covers the deterioration of a relationship, seen through the eyes of an ageing alcoholic.
Death and mortality are explored through a "touching and unparalleled" look into the life of palliative care workers in With the End in Mind: Dying, death and wisdom in an age of denial by Kathryn Mannix (William Collins, HarperCollins), and a "very human story" about the race against the clock to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease In Pursuit of Memory: The fight against Alzheimer’s by Joseph Jebelli (John Murray).
The longlist also features The Vaccine Race: How scientists used human cells to combat killer viruses by Meredith Wadman (Doubleday, Transworld), which tells the "epic and controversial" story of the creation of some of the world’s most important vaccines, and an "eye-opening" exploration of the science of human behaviour, Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst by Robert Sapolsky (The Bodley Head, Vintage).
Rounding out the longlist are The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s quest to transform the grisly world of Victorian medicine by Lindsey Fitzharristhe (Allen Lane, Penguin Press), story of Joseph Lister’s transformation of Victorian surgery; and To Be a Machine: Adventures among cyborgs, utopians, hackers, and the futurists solving the modest problem of death by Mark O’Connell (Granta Books), a cutting-edge tour of transhumanism and radical life extension.
De Waal said the range of books that the judges have considered has been "exhilarating in its extent and ambition".
"This is a remarkable time for readers, with a great flourishing of writing on ideas around science, medicine and health, lives and deaths, histories and futures", he said. "After passionate discussions we have arrived at our longlist for the Wellcome Book Prize 2018 and are proud to be part of this process of bringing to a wider public these 12 tremendous books that have moved, intrigued and inspired us. All of them bring something new to our understanding of what it is to be human.”
The shortlist for the prize will be announced on Tuesday 20th March, with the winner revealed at an evening ceremony on Monday 30th April at Wellcome Collection.