Wellcome Book Prize 2019: Elif Shafak to chair 10th anniversary prize


The judging panel for the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize has been announced.

Award-winning author Elif Shafak has been announced as chair of judges for the Wellcome Book Prize 2019, which rewards exceptional works of literature that illuminate the many ways that health, medicine and illness touch our lives. 

Elif Shafak is joined on the panel by Kevin Fong, consultant anaesthetist at University College London Hospitals; Viv Groskop, writer, broadcaster and stand-up comedian; Jon Day, writer, critic, and academic; and Rick Edwards, broadcaster and author.

The judging panel will select a longlist of up to 12 books in February 2019, followed by a shortlist of six books in March 2019, with the winner announced at a ceremony at Wellcome Collection in spring 2019.

The Wellcome Book Prize 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of this prestigious award, which over the last decade has recognised an eclectic variety of titles from novels (Mend the Living, Maylis de Kerangal) to memoirs (The Iceberg, Marion Coutts) to popular science (It’s All in Your Head, Suzanne O’Sullivan). In 2019, the prize will celebrate this legacy and this extraordinary genre of books that add new meaning to life, death and everything in between.

The £30,000 prize is open to new fiction and non-fiction books published in the UK between 1 January and 31 December 2018.

Elif Shafak commented on behalf of the judging panel:

“I have long admired the unique ways in which the Wellcome Book Prize explores the complexity of what it means to be a human in a fast-changing world, and expands our understanding of medicine, health and illness through the universality of literature, both fiction and non-fiction. I feel deeply honoured to have been asked to chair the 10th anniversary of the prize in 2019, and I look forward to joining my distinguished fellow judges as we immerse ourselves within this year's submissions.”

Kirty Topiwala, publisher at Wellcome Collection and Wellcome Book Prize manager, said:

“We’re delighted with the tremendous line up of judges we have assembled for this special anniversary year. They bring an incredible range of insight and experience and I know they will choose some fantastic and surprising books!”

To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell was chosen as the winner of the Wellcome Book Prize 2018 from a shortlist of six books, which also included Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris, With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix, Mayhem: A memoir by Sigrid Rausing and The Vaccine Race by Meredith Wadman.

The prize has previously been awarded to Maylis de Kerangal (author) and Jessica Moore (translator) for Mend the Living (2017), Suzanne O’Sullivan for It’s All in Your Head (2016), Marion Coutts for The Iceberg (2015), Andrew Solomon for Far from the Tree (2014), Thomas Wright for Circulation (2012), Alice LaPlante for Turn of Mind (2011), Rebecca Skloot for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010) and Andrea Gillies for Keeper: Living with Nancy – a journey into Alzheimer’s (2009).

For all press, submission and administration enquiries, please contact Hannah McMillan at Midas Public Relations: hannah.mcmillan@midaspr.co.uk / 020 7361 7860


About the Wellcome Book Prize

Launched in 2009, the Wellcome Book Prize, worth £30,000, celebrates the best new books that engage with an aspect of medicine, health or illness, showcasing the breadth and depth of our encounters with medicine through exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction. 

About Wellcome Collection

Wellcome Collection is the free museum and library for the incurably curious. Inspired by the medical objects and curiosities collected by Henry Wellcome, it connects science, medicine, life and art. Through its exhibitions, live programming, and digital and publishing activity, it makes thought-provoking content which aims to challenge how we think and feel about health.

Wellcome Collection is part of Wellcome, a global charitable foundation that exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. Both politically and financially independent, it supports scientists and researchers, takes on big problems, fuels imaginations and sparks debate.

For information please contact Emily Philippou: e.philippou@wellcome.ac.uk | 020 7611 8726