Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent is among the dozen books longlisted for the £30,000 Wellcome Book Prize.
The historical fiction published by Serpent’s Tail and set in Victorian London and Essex of the 1890s was also crowned Waterstones Book of the Year in December.
Perry goes up against three authors who have been previously shortlisted for the prize - Adam Rutherford, Siddhartha Mukherjee and Sarah Moss.
Rutherford has been longlisted for A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), Mukherjee for The Gene (The Bodley Head) and Moss for The Tidal Zone (Granta Books).
The prize celebrates exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction that engage with the topics of health and medicine and the many ways they touch our lives.
Also competing on the 12-strong-longlist, the first time one has been released by prize organisers, are in non-fiction: How to Survive a Plague by David France (Picador, Pan Macmillan), Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari (Harvill Secker) debut When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (The Bodley Head), Cure by Jo Marchant (Canongate) and debut I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong (The Bodley Head).
In fiction, the books also up for the prize are: Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal (MacLehose Press), translated by Jessica Moore, The Golden Age by Joan London (Europa Editions) and Miss Jane by Brad Watson (Picador).
Crime author Val McDermid chairs the judging panel for the award. She said: “The challenge of judging the Wellcome Book Prize is that we have all had to read outside our own areas of expertise. That makes demands both of the judges and of the books. This longlist is evidence of the breadth, humanity and creativity at work in the submissions for the prize, and we commend each of these 12 books for your reading pleasure.”
Kirty Topiwala, publisher at Wellcome Collection and Wellcome Book Prize Manager, added: “We were deluged with submissions for the prize this year and so are delighted to be reintroducing a longlist for the 2017 Wellcome Book Prize and celebrating even more of these superb books. This is an extremely strong longlist, characterised by the trademark eclecticism of the prize – each of these books grapples uniquely and eloquently with complex, moving and profoundly human subjects.”
The shortlist will be announced at a press conference on Tuesday 14th March at London Book Fair, with the winner revealed at an evening ceremony on Monday 24th April at Wellcome Collection.