The Wellcome Prize 2015: Books for the Incurably Curious

Farhana Gani

Bill Bryson announces the Wellcome Book Prize 2015 shortlist. The Prize celebrates books tackling the subject of medicine. This year’s shortlist features two fiction and four non-fiction books.

The Wellcome Book Prize aims to excite public interest and encourage conversation around the topics of medicine, health and illness. Chaired by the poster boy of accessible science writing himself, Bill Bryson, the judges narrowed the initial list of 60 books down to six. These books find a way to make health and medicine accessible, through both fact and fiction; identifying personal relations to medicine and illness and adding overall to what it means to be human. The subjects these books grapple with might include birth and beginnings, illness and loss, pain, memory, and identity.

The six shortlisted books capture a diverse range of subjects and perspectives, from brain surgeons to historic trailblazers, anxiety sufferers to survivors of loss; each portraying different encounters with medical science: 

The Iceberg by Marion Coutts 

Marion Coutts The Iceberg

An exploration of the impact of death in real time, a sustained act of looking that only ends when life does. It gives an account of a small family unit under assault, and the inventiveness by which they tried to stay together.
 

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

Do no harm by Henry Marsh

An astonishingly candid insight into the life and work of a modern neurosurgeon – its triumphs and disasters.
 

Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss

Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss

 A profound and provocative book about family and a radically modern novel with a 19th-century setting. It is a gripping story told with rare precision and tenderness.
 

The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being by Alice Robert

The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being by Alice Roberts

The presenter of BBC’s The Incredible Human Journey takes a surprising tour around the human body, explaining how we function and how we might evolve.
 

My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel

My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel
A riveting, revelatory and moving account of one man’s battle with anxiety, and a history of the efforts to understand the condition by scientists, philosophers, artists, and writers, from Freud to Hippocrates and from Samuel Johnson to Charles Darwin.
 

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
A story of sisters, suicide and how to carry on with hope when grief loads the heart.

Head of Public Programmes at Wellcome Collection Ken Arnold said: “This year’s list proves again what a vibrant, surprising and moving slice of contemporary literature Wellcome Collection’s concern with medicine and health can reveal. Here are six wonderful books of both fact and fiction that offer powerful insights into the body and the mind, the practices of medicine, as well as the impact of death and suicide. I wait with bated breath to see which one will win our prize.”

 

The Judges

The Wellcome Book Prize Judges

To select the shortlist bestselling author Bill Bryson, the Chair of Judges, was joined by Uta Frith DBE, the Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development at UCL; bestselling author Mark Haddon; BBC presenter Razia Iqbal; and barrister and broadcaster Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.

Previous winners of the Wellcome Book Prize have been Andrew Solomon for Far From the Tree: Parents, children and the search for identity in 2014, Thomas Wright for Circulation in 2012, Alice LaPlante for Turn of Mind in 2011, Rebecca Skloot for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in 2010, and Andrea Gillies for Keeper: Living with Nancy – A Journey into Alzheimer’s in 2009.

The winner of the 2015 prize will be announced on 29 April 2015