Shortlist revealed for 10th anniversary of the Wellcome Book Prize.
The shortlist for the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize is announced today, Tuesday 19 March, celebrating the best new books that illuminate the many ways that health, medicine and illness touch our lives.
- Amateur: A reckoning with gender, identity and masculinity (Canongate Books) by Thomas Page McBee (USA) Non-fiction
- Heart: A history (Oneworld) by Sandeep Jauhar (India/USA) Non-fiction
- Mind on Fire: A memoir of madness and recovery (Penguin Ireland) by Arnold Thomas Fanning (Ireland) Non-fiction
- Murmur (CB Editions) by Will Eaves (UK) Fiction
- My Year of Rest and Relaxation (Jonathan Cape) by Ottessa Moshfegh (USA) Fiction
- The Trauma Cleaner: One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster (The Text Publishing Company) by Sarah Krasnostein (Australia/USA) Non-fiction
Chaired by the award-winning author Elif Shafak, the judging panel have selected a wonderfully eclectic shortlist that showcases the breadth and depth of this exceptional genre.
The six titles in contention for the £30,000 prize explore our complex relationships with gender, identity, mental health and mortality.
Elif Shafak commented on behalf of the judging panel:
“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 two novels on this year’s list look at the connection between the body and mind, identity and gender. Inspired by the life of Alan Turing, Murmur by Will Eaves fictionalises the devastating period before the mathematician’s suicide in an extraordinary contemplation on consciousness, science and the future. Ottessa Moshfegh’s savagely comic My Year of Rest and Relaxation chronicles a privileged New York woman’s decision to enter a drug-induced coma to sleep away her emotions.
Gender is also integral to two of this year’s shortlisted non-fiction books. Amateur by Thomas Page McBee, the first transgender man to box at Madison Square Garden, provides an unflinching exploration into the limitations of conventional masculinity and the vexed relationship between men and violence. Sarah Krasnostein’s compelling biography The Trauma Cleaner, uncovers the complex life of Sandra Pankhurst – husband, father, drag queen, sex worker, wife – and how her journey through childhood abuse, trauma and transphobic hostility has led her to bring order and care to both the living and the dead.
The final two titles on the list explore mental health and mortality. Arnold Thomas Fanning’s beautifully written memoir, Mind on Fire, is a harrowing insight into the consciousness of someone living with mania, psychosis and severe depression, and has visited hellish regions of the mind and survived to tell the tale. In Heart: A history, cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar draws on both his professional expertise and his personal medical history to give an unparalleled insight into this extraordinary organ, and the importance of facing our own mortality.
The shortlisted authors are from the UK, USA, India, Australia and Ireland, and include two debuts Arnold Thomas Fanning (Mind on Fire) and Sarah Krasnostein (The Trauma Cleaner). Four independent publishers appear on the list: Canongate, CB Editions, Oneworld and The Text Publishing Company.
The winner will be revealed at an evening ceremony on Wednesday 1 May at Wellcome Collection.
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