Wellcome Shortlist Announced
14th March 2017
The shortlist for the 2017 Wellcome Book Prize has been announced and includes four works of non-fiction including Paul Kalanithi's posthumously published memoir, and two novels, of which Mend the Living is the first time translated fiction has appeared on the shortlist. The judging panel praised both the extraordinary variety of writing and the diversity of subjects, from questions of humanity and mortality to the microscopic components of our body. Chair of judges Val McDermid said: "The shortlist spans our origins, our deaths and much that lies between, from activism to acts of human kindness."
The full 2017 Wellcome Book Prize shortlist is:
The two fiction contenders on the 2017 shortlist – The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss and Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal – both celebrate and interrogate the intricacies of modern-day healthcare systems.
Moss explores a family’s experience of navigating the NHS as they come to terms with their child’s unexplained medical condition, and de Kerangal tells the 24-hour story of a heart transplant, from fatal crash to life-saving operation. Mend the Living is the first text in translation to be shortlisted for the prize, and de Kerangal is the first French author to be shortlisted.
This year’s four non-fiction titles shine a light on the human stories behind scientific developments and medical care, as well as opening a door to extraordinary new worlds.
Paul Kalanithi’s life-affirming memoir When Breath Becomes Air chronicles his transformation from medical student to neurosurgeon, patient and father before his sad death while working on this book. It is the first posthumously published title to be in contention for the Wellcome Book Prize.
How to Survive a Plague by David France is the powerful story of the 1980s AIDS epidemic and the bravery of the activists, many facing their own life-or-death struggles, who campaigned for scientific research to help develop accessible, effective treatment.
Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Gene highlights the relevance of genetics within everyday life and interrogates concerns with our growing ability to alter the human genome. Woven within this narrative is an intimate story of Mukherjee’s own family and its recurring pattern of mental illness.
I Contain Multitudes, Ed Yong’s debut book, provides a page-turning exploration of the body’s 40 trillion microbes, and how our microscopic companions not only sculpt our organs, protect us from diseases and guide our behaviour, but also hold the key to understanding all life on Earth.
There are two previously shortlisted authors in the running for this year’s prize: Siddhartha Mukherjee (The Emperor of All Maladies, 2011) and Sarah Moss, who is recognised for the third consecutive year (Bodies of Light, 2015; Signs for Lost Children, 2016).
The winner will be announced at an evening ceremony on Monday 24 April at Wellcome Collection.
Maylis de Kerangal; Jessica Moore