Ideas around science, medicine and health, lives and deaths, histories and futures

The Wellcome Book Prize 2018 longlist is announced.

The 2018 Wellcome Book Prize longlist has been announced, celebrating the many ways in which literature can illuminate the breadth and depth of our relationship with health, medicine and illness.

The longlist of twelve titles was selected by a judging panel chaired by artist and writer Edmund de Waal OBE with Dr Hannah Critchlow, Bryony Gordon, Sumit Paul-Choudhury and Sophie Ratcliffe.

Featuring popular science, memoir, lyrical meditation and medical history, the 2018 longlist is:

  • Stay With Me (Canongate Books) by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ (Nigeria) Fiction
  • The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s quest to transform the grisly world of Victorian medicine (Allen Lane, Penguin Press) by Lindsey Fitzharris (USA) Non-fiction
  • In Pursuit of Memory: The fight against Alzheimer’s (John Murray) by Joseph Jebelli (UK) Non- fiction
  • Plot 29: A memoir (4th Estate, HarperCollins) by Allan Jenkins (UK) Non-fiction
  • The White Book (Portobello Books, Granta) by Han Kang (South Korea) translated by Deborah Smith (UK) Fiction
  • With the End in Mind: Dying, death and wisdom in an age of denial (William Collins, HarperCollins UK) by Kathryn Mannix (UK) Non-fiction. Read our exclusive extract.
  • MidwinterBreak (Jonathan Cape) by Bernard MacLaverty (Ireland) Fiction
  • To Be a Machine: Adventures among cyborgs, utopians, hackers, and the futurists solving the modest problem of death (Granta Books) by Mark O’Connell (Ireland) Non-fiction
  • I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen brushes with death (Tinder Press, Headline Publishing Group) by Maggie O’Farrell(UK/Ireland) Non-fiction
  • Mayhem: A memoir (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Books) by Sigrid Rausing (UK/Sweden) Non- fiction
  • Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst (The Bodley Head, Vintage) by Robert Sapolsky (USA) Non-fiction
  • The Vaccine Race: How scientists used human cells to combat killer viruses (Doubleday, Transworld) by Meredith Wadman (USA/Canada) Non-fiction

This year’s longlist features three poignant novels about the different stages of love, life, birth and death. These cover the grief of losing a newborn sister through a stunning contemplation of the colour white (The White Book), the deterioration of a relationship, seen through the eyes of an ageing alcoholic (Midwinter Break), and fertility, family and sickle-cell anaemia (Stay With Me).


The three memoirs in contention offer a powerful insight into the impact of addiction on a family (Mayhem), the long-lasting effects of trauma and the therapeutic benefits of gardening (Plot 29) and one individual’s near-death experiences in a tenaciously powerful account of what it means to be alive (I Am, I Am, I Am).

Death and mortality are also explored through a touching and unparalleled look into the life of palliative care workers (With the End in Mind) and a very human story about the race against the clock to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease (In Pursuit of Memory).

From the science of our cells to the science of our minds, the longlist reveals the epic and controversial story of the creation of some of the world’s most important vaccines (The Vaccine Race) and an eye-opening exploration of the science of human behaviour (Behave).

Looking to both the history and the future of medical science, the list includes the story of Joseph Lister’s transformation of Victorian surgery (The Butchering Art) and a cutting-edge tour of transhumanism and radical life extension (To Be a Machine).

Five debut books appear on this year’s longlist: Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, The Butchering Art by Dr Lindsey Fitzharris, In Pursuit of Memory by Joseph Jebelli, To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell and With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix.

Edmund de Waal commented on behalf of the judging panel:

“The Wellcome Book Prize is unique in its reach across genres, and so the range of books that we have considered has been exhilarating in its extent and ambition. This is a remarkable time for readers, with a great flourishing of writing on ideas around science, medicine and health, lives and deaths, histories and futures. After passionate discussions we have arrived at our longlist for the Wellcome Book Prize 2018 and are proud to be part of this process of bringing to a wider public these 12 tremendous books that have moved, intrigued and inspired us. All of them bring something new to our understanding of what it is to be human.”

The shortlist for the prize will be announced on Tuesday 20 March, with the winner revealed at an evening ceremony on Monday 30 April at Wellcome Collection. We hope to run some extracts / Q+As in due course. See also our coverage from previous years.

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber