Announcing the NOT the Wellcome Prize and Blog Tour

Soon after I heard that the Wellcome Book Prize would be on hiatus this year, I had the idea to host a “Not the Wellcome Prize” blog tour to showcase some of the best health-themed literature published in 2019. I was finalizing the participants and schedule just before as well as during the coronavirus crisis, which has reinforced the importance of celebrating books that disseminate crucial information about medicine and/or tell stories about how health affects our daily lives. I got the go-ahead for this unofficial tour from the Wellcome Trust’s Simon Chaplin (Director of Culture & Society) and Jeremy Farrar (overall Director).

Starting on Monday and running for the next two weeks (weekdays only), the tour will be featuring 19 books across 10 blogs. One of the unique things about the Wellcome Prize is that both fiction and nonfiction are eligible, so we’ve tried to represent a real variety here: on the longlist we have everything from autobiographical essays to science fiction, including a graphic novel and a couple of works in translation.

Based on the blog tour reviews and the Prize’s aims*, the shadow panel (Annabel of Annabookbel, Clare of A Little Blog of Books, Laura of Dr. Laura Tisdall, Paul of Halfman, Halfbook and I) will choose a shortlist of six titles, to be announced on the 4th of May. We will then vote to choose a winner, with the results of a Twitter poll serving as one additional vote (be sure to have your say!). The overall winner of the Not the Wellcome Prize will be announced on the 11th of May.

I hope you’ll follow along with the reviews and voting. I would like to express my deep thanks to all the blog tour participants, especially the shadow panel for helping with ideas and planning – plus Annabel designed the graphics.

*Here is how the website describes the Prize’s purpose: “At some point, medicine touches all our lives. Books that find stories in those brushes with medicine are ones that add new meaning 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. In keeping with its vision and goals, the Wellcome Book Prize aims to excite public interest and encourage debate around these topics.”

 


Below I’ve appended our preliminary list of eligible books that were considered but didn’t quite make the cut to be featured on the tour, noting major themes and positive blog review coverage I’ve come across. (The official Prize excludes poetry entries, but we were more flexible.)

Nonfiction:

  • When Death Takes Something from You Give It Back by Naja Marie Aidt (memoir of child’s sudden death)

Bookish Beck review

  • The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes (biography of 19th-century gynecologist)
  • Let Me Not Be Mad by A.K. Benjamin (neuropsychologist’s memoir)
  • The Story of Sex: From Apes to Robots by Philippe Brenot (medical history/graphic novel, in translation)
  • The Prison Doctor by Amanda Brown (doctor’s memoir)
  • The Undying by Anne Boyer (essays – cancer)

Bookish Beck review

  • Breaking & Mending by Joanna Cannon (doctor’s memoir)

Never Imitate review

  • How to Treat People by Molly Case (nurse’s memoir)
  • Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty (popular science – death)

Bookish Beck review

  • Happening by Annie Ernaux (memoir, in translation – abortion)

Bookish Beck review

  • I Remain in Darkness by Annie Ernaux (memoir, in translation – mother’s dementia)

Bookish Beck review

  • Out of Our Minds by Felipe Fernández-Armesto (popular science – evolutionary biology)
  • The Heartland by Nathan Filer (medical history/memoir – schizophrenia)
  • Childless Voices by Lorna Gibb (cultural history – infertility, etc.)

A life in books review

Bookish Beck review

  • Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb (memoir/self-help – therapy)

Books Are My Favourite and Best review

Doing Dewey review

  • Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene (memoir – child’s sudden death)

Rebecca’s Goodreads review

  • A Short History of Falling by Joe Hammond (memoir – disability, dying)

Bookish Beck review

  • All Things Consoled by Elizabeth Hay (memoir – geriatrics, dementia)

A life in books review

Bookish Beck review

  • Hard Pushed by Leah Hazard (midwife’s memoir)

Bookish Beck review

Never Imitate review

  • Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon by Rahul Jandial (memoir/self-help)
  • Twas the Nightshift before Christmas by Adam Kay (doctor’s memoir)

Bookish Beck review

  • Why Can’t We Sleep? by Darian Leader (popular science – insomnia)
  • Incandescent: We Need to Talk about Light by Anna Levin (light’s effects on health and body rhythms)

Halfman, Halfbook review

  • A Puff of Smoke by Sarah Lippett (memoir – growing up with rare disease)
  • Hormonal by Eleanor Morgan (popular science – women’s health)
  • Critical by Matt Morgan (ICU doctor’s memoir)
  • A Short History of Medicine by Steve Parker (medical history, illustrated)
  • Notes to Self by Emilie Pine (essays – infertility, rape, etc.)

746 Books review

Bookish Beck review

  • That Good Night by Sunita Puri (doctor’s memoir – palliative care)
  • An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives by Matt Richtel (popular science)
  • The Gendered Brain by Gina Ripon (popular science – neuroscience, gender)
  • The Five by Hallie Rubenhold (alcoholism, sex work)

A Little Blog of Books review

Doing Dewey review

  • When I Had a Little Sister by Catherine Simpson (memoir – mental health, suicide)

Bookish Beck review

  • Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life by Darcey Steinke (memoir, female anatomy)
  • Skeleton Keys: The Secret Life of Bone by Brian Switek (popular science – anatomy)
  • Out of the Woods by Luke Turner (memoir – masculinity, bisexuality)

Halfman, Halfbook review

  • The Making of You by Katharina Vestre (popular science, in translation – embryology)

Bookish Beck review

  • Transcendence: How Humans Evolved through Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time by Gaia Vince (popular science – human evolution)
  • The Knife’s Edge by Stephen Westaby (surgeon’s memoir)

 

Fiction:

  • Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (literary fiction – mental illness, bisexuality)

A life in books review

Bookish Beck review

Lonesome Reader review

  • Recursion by Blake Crouch (science fiction – memory)
  • Expectation by Anna Hope (women’s fiction – infertility, cancer)

A life in books review

  • Stillicide by Cynan Jones (speculative fiction – water crisis)

Dr Laura Tisdall review

Halfman, Halfbook review

  • Things in Jars by Jess Kidd (historical fiction – Victorian medicine)

Bookish Beck review

  • Patience by Toby Litt (disability)

A Little Blog of Books review

  • The Migration by Helen Marshall (speculative fiction – immune disorder)
  • The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan (historical fiction – medical experimentation)

A life in books review

A Little Blog of Books review

  • Night Theatre by Vikram Paralkar (magic realism – surgeon to the dead)

Bookish Beck review

  • The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry (historical mystery – Victorian medicine)
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (doctor narrator, diabetes)

A life in books review

Bookish Beck review

  • Body Tourists by Jane Rogers (science fiction – body rental technology)

A life in books review

Dr Laura Tisdall review

  • Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky (science fiction – evolutionary biology)

Dr Laura Tisdall review

  • Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas (eating disorders)

A life in books review

Shiny New Books review

  • Wanderers by Chuck Wendig (science fiction – sleepwalking disorder)

 

Poetry:

  • O Positive by Joe Dunthorne (death, therapy)

Annabookbel review

  • The Carrying by Ada Limon (ageing parents, infertility)

26 responses

  1. We’re all a bit stuck without our libraries, aren’t we? It’s not that I have nothing to read – far from it – but recommendations like these will have to pass me by for the moment. Can’t buy everything!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It feels strange to not be following along with an official Wellcome Book Prize shortlist this year — which I would certainly be relying on my public library for. As it happens, since I couldn’t guarantee any review copies I asked the blog tour participants to repost reviews they’d already written or commit to reading books they already had on hand. That turns out to have been a canny decision. Let’s hope that lockdown is over not too long after our winner is announced. Perhaps it or some of the shortlisted books will appeal.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great idea, Rebecca, and many thanks for all your links to my reviews. Of those, I was particuarly struck by Starling Days which explored depression and its fallout so sensitively. Looking forward to following your blog tour.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome! Between this mega-longlist and the longlist that will be featured on the blog tour, we’ve got 75 health-themed titles. I was surprised to see how many relevant ones you’d reviewed (mostly fiction, which is always a bit trickier to find). Organizing a blog tour was harder work than I expected, but I’ve enjoyed it and have been so grateful for blogger support.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hooray! Brilliant introductory post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’m excited. I hope we’ll get lots of people engaging over the next few weeks.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds like a great blog tour – I’ve only been to the Wellcome Trust once, but would love to go back when we’re finally out of lockdown!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! The Wellcome Library and museum collections are great. I’ve been a few times now for the Prize ceremony and I always enjoy seeing the large items on exhibit and the kinds of books they stock. The shop and cafe are also well worth a visit.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The exhibits are great, I need to make a mental note to visit again:)

        Liked by 1 person

    2. The last time I was there it was a neat one on magic tricks and illusions.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thrilled to be a part of this and looking forward to the ‘judges’ decision 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad to have you on board!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for all your work organising this! Looking forward to deciding on our shortlist 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It should be a fun and lively discussion 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a brilliant idea. I’m going to be very interested in seeing your thoughts on War Doctor. I was tempted by it the week before the UK lockdown but had too much shopping to add yet more weight. Now of course I regret not getting it.
    Dear Life by Rachel Clarke isn’t on your list – I thought it was a superb book. Did it miss out because it wasn’t published in a particular period of time?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I reviewed War Doctor for Shiny New Books last year, but they’ve had major technical issues with the site recently and their archive of reviews is going to have to be gradually reconstructed from scratch. Jackie of Never Imitate also reviewed it and has kindly agreed to repost her review of that plus one other book.

      The Wellcome Prize always recognizes books published in the previous calendar year, so our longlist is made up solely of 2019 releases. Dear Life is my book of 2020 so far, and a strong contender for next year if the Prize runs again.

      Like

      1. I hadn’t heard about the problems at SNB. What a pain… good to hearRachel Clarke will contention next year

        Like

      2. Rebecca – I can’t find my file of War Doctor – if you still have it, I’ll repost immediately if you email it to me.

        Like

  8. I must now get my review of The Memory Police written – it was such an interesting book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear it! I’m thinking it’s shortlist material.

      Like

  9. This is such a great idea! And I bet all these authors are thanking you. Have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I do hope the authors and publishers will appreciate a little boost.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. […] delighted to be taking part in both the blog tour and the judging panel for Not the Wellcome Prize this year, which has been so brilliantly organised by Rebecca Foster of Bookish Beck. As the […]

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  11. […] To find out how the winner of the Not the Wellcome Prize 2020 will be decided, read Rebecca’s post here. […]

    Like

  12. […] Enjoyed this? I’m pleased to see it featured on the #NotTheWellcomePrize blog tour. You can learn more about the tour and see the other titles on Bookish Beck’s blog. […]

    Like

  13. […] across elsewhere, and noted any other awards these books have won or been nominated for. (And see this post for a reminder of the other 56 books we considered this year through our […]

    Like

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