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2012 Wellcome Trust Book Prize longlist announced

5 September 2012

The longlist for the £25 000 Wellcome Trust Book Prize was announced yesterday, bringing together a varied range of fiction and non-fiction on the theme of health, illness and medicine.

From music to madness and anatomy to genetic engineering, this eclectic mix of books reflects the extraordinary number of ways in which authors can explore medicine to make it both engaging and accessible.

The longlist includes five novels and nine works of non-fiction. The full list is as follows:

  • John Coates, 'The Hour Between Dog and Wolf' (Fourth Estate)
  • Joshua Cody, '[Sic]' (Bloomsbury)
  • Nick Coleman, 'The Train in the Night' (Jonathan Cape)
  • Mohammed Hanif, 'Our Lady of Alice Bhatti' (Jonathan Cape)
  • Peter James, 'Perfect People' (Macmillan)
  • Harry Karlinsky, 'The Evolution of Inanimate Objects' (The Friday Project)
  • Darian Leader, 'What is Madness?' (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Ken Macleod, 'Intrusion' (Orbit)
  • Professor Peter Piot, 'No Time to Lose' (W.W. Norton & Company)
  • Michael Shermer, 'The Believing Brain' (Constable & Robinson)
  • Tim Spector, 'Identically Different' (Wiedenfeld & Nicolson)
  • Rose Tremain, 'Merivel: A Man of his Time' (Chatto & Windus)
  • Thomas Wright, 'Circulation' (Chatto & Windus)
  • Paul Zak, 'The Moral Molecule' (Transworld)

Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, adds: "This is an excellent and extremely diverse selection of books, reflecting the creative ways in which authors use medicine in fiction and non-fiction. These books challenge and entertain the reader in equal measures, but crucially make us reflect on the impact that medicine has on our lives. It will no doubt be a difficult task for our judges to pick one winner out of such a strong list."

Scientific research, human behaviour and genetics are just some of the themes within this year's longlist, which was selected by a panel of judges chaired by Mark Lawson. Many of the books stimulate interesting debates: what would happen in a world where we could eradicate genetic defects, do our beliefs match reality, and could the key to moral behaviour lie within a single molecule?

Biographies and memoirs also feature in the longlist, ranging from personal experiences of illness to profiles of inspiring individuals such as Peter Piot and William Harvey, who have contributed to scientific progress through their extraordinary work. The list also includes a factitious biography that blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction by retelling Darwinian family history.

Human behaviour is another central theme in the longlist. The books' topics include a study of madness, economic behaviour and its impact on the global economy, the blurring of nature versus nurture in genetics, a theory on how we form beliefs, and a revolutionary theory of moral behaviour.

Last year, a work of fiction won the prize for the first time - Alice LaPlante's 'Turn of Mind' - and several novels are in the running for the 2012 Prize. Revealing an enduring interest in health and medicine across all literary genres, the longlist includes science fiction, a Peter James thriller, a love story and a work of historical fiction.

The shortlist will be announced on 11 October, and the winner of this prestigious prize will be announced at an awards reception at Wellcome Collection, London, on 7 November 2012.

To find out more about The Wellcome Trust Book Prize, please visit the Book Prize website.


Lorraine McGee
Four Colman Getty
+44 (0)20 3023 9926

Craig Brierley
The Wellcome Trust
+44 (0)20 7611 8888

Notes to editors

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust's breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.

The judges may be available for interview and can be contacted through Four Colman Getty.

The Wellcome Trust Book Prize is an annual prize of £25 000 that celebrates medicine in literature. The prize is open to books published in the UK over the period of one year, including works of fiction or non-fiction. Books published in English translation are eligible.


Mark Lawson
Mark Lawson is a journalist, broadcaster and author. He presents BBC Radio 4's arts magazine programme, 'Front Row', is a columnist for the 'Guardian' and is also the theatre critic of 'The Tablet'.

Mark studied English at University College London and has been a freelance contributor to numerous publications since 1984. In the mid-90s he presented 'The Late Show' on BBC2 and also presented 'The Late Review'. Since 2006, he has hosted a number of in-depth, one-to-one interviews for BBC Four, entitled 'Mark Lawson Talks to'.

Mark has published four works of fiction: 'Bloody Margaret', 'Idlewild', 'Going Out Live' and 'Enough is Enough'. He has written several radio plays for the BBC including 'The Third Soldier Holds His Thighs' and 'The Man Who Had 10,000 Women'. He has also written episodes of the television version of the BBC sitcom 'Absolute Power' and a television play, 'The Vision Thing'.

He has twice been voted TV critic of the Year and has won numerous awards for arts journalism.

Dr Brooke Magnanti
Brooke Magnanti is a research scientist, blogger and author. Brooke received a BSc from Florida State University in 1996, where she studied in the Anthropology and Mathematics departments. She later studied for a Master's in genetic epidemiology at the University of Sheffield in England and earned a PhD in the Forensic Pathology department there. She has worked in forensic science, epidemiology, chemoinformatics and cancer research.

Brooke is the author of the bestselling 'Belle de Jour' series of books, which were adapted into the hit ITV show 'Secret Diary of a Call Girl'. She was formerly a columnist for the 'Sunday Telegraph' and 'Erotic Review', as well as contributing pieces to the 'Guardian', 'Big Issue', and 'Town'. Her latest book, 'The Sex Myth', has just been published.

Henry Thomas Marsh
Henry Thomas Marsh is a leading British neurosurgeon. He is now the senior consultant neurosurgeon at the Atkinson Morley Wing at St George's Hospital, one of the country's largest specialist brain surgery units.

He specialises in operating on the brain under local anaesthetic and was the subject of a major BBC documentary 'Your Life in Their Hands', which won the Royal Television Society Gold Medal. He has been working with neurosurgeons in the former Soviet Union, mainly in Ukraine with mentee neurosurgeon Igor Petrovich, since 1992; his work there was the subject of the BBC Storyville film 'The English Surgeon'.

Sue Matthias
Sue Matthias was appointed editor of the 'Financial Times Weekend Magazine' in June 2010. She launched the new-look version of the magazine, which was nominated for Supplement of the Year in the British Press Awards 2011. Sue was previously assistant editor of the 'Independent on Sunday'. Some of her other roles include deputy editor of the 'New Statesman' and acting editor of the 'Guardian Weekend Magazine'. She is a member of the Advisory Board of Women in Journalism and the Editorial Advisory Board of the British Journalism Review.

Ruth Padel
Ruth is a poet, writer and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Zoological Society of London. Her awards include first prize in the UK National Poetry Competition, the Cholmondeley Award from The Society of Authors, an Arts Council of England Writers' Award, and a British Council Darwin Now Research Award for her novel, 'Where the Serpent Lives'.

She has published eight poetry collections, a novel, and eight works of non-fiction, including several much-loved books on reading poetry. She is a well-known radio broadcaster and recently presented 'Poetry Workshop', a landmark BBC 4 series of programmes on writing poems. She is also the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin.

Wellcome Trust, Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, UK T:+44 (0)20 7611 8888