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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Wellcome Trust Book Prize

So this evening is an exciting one for the literary world and my Twitter feed is buzzing with anticipation of the Booker Prize announcement later this evening. I will of course be keeping an eye on the outcome - for what it's worth, my money's on Swimming Home by Deborah Levy - but tonight I want to highlight another literary prize that interests me more and doesn't get anywhere near the same recognition.

The Wellcome Trust Book prize "celebrates the best of medicine in literature". It looks at releases that put an interesting spin on a medical topic, be it through fiction or through non-fiction. Now you may be put off by this prospect and suspect that the shortlist might be full of dusty, dry, science-heavy offerings, but happily this is not the case. After a long day at work in the hospital the last thing I want to do is curl up on the sofa with a glorified textbook! However, I do enjoy reading books where the author has managed to present a medical topic in an inventive way with a depth that goes beyond just science. I also love seeing how authors can make such topics accessible and fascinating to readers who have no medical background. I have recently read and loved last year's winner, Turn Of Mind, so when the 2012 shortlist was announced a couple of days ago I was very interested to see what the judges picked.

Shortlist 2012

Our Lady Of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif
I would like to read this story of Alice Bhatti, a nurse who is not only an ex-convict but also a Christian woman in love with a Muslim man living in chaotic Afghanistan. It sounds like it's full of drama and covers some quite weighty issues.
Perfect People by Peter James
The only one of the shortlist that is already sitting on my TBR pile, this is a thriller about the sinister world of eugenics, and one couple's experience when they attend an unorthodox clinic who claims to be able to help them have a baby without a hereditary disease.
Merivel: A Man Of His Time by Rose Tremain
I know Rose Tremain already has a loyal fanbase who loved the first installment of this series about Robert Merivel, king's physician in the 17th century. I'll probably give this one a miss, though, as I'm not a big fan of historical fiction and haven't read Restoration.
The Hour Between Dog And Wolf by John Coates
I have to admit to knowing little to nothing about economics, so this might be a good place to start learning. John Coates is an ex-trader turned neuroscientist and has written this account about the role that biology and hormones play in the financial market. We like to think that investment bankers work in a logical and systematic way, but ultimately they are at the mercy of adrenaline and testosterone and have the same stress reactions as the rest of us. I won't be rushing out to buy a copy of this but may well end up reading it at a later date.
The Train In The Night by Nick Coleman
A memoir of music journalist Nick Coleman's experiences of sudden onset deafness and tinnitus. This has had excellent reviews and is certainly one I'd like to pick up.
Circulation by Thomas Wright
A biography of William Harvey, the 17th-century scientist who caused controversy and contradicted the firmly-held ideas of the time to come up with his theory of how blood circulates around the body. This is one that really interests me. One of my all-time favourite works of fiction is An Instance Of The Fingerpost by Iain Pears, and that book covers some similar themes.

So there you have it - what do you make of the shortlist? Are you tempted to try any of these? I will be reading Perfect People soon and also have a couple of titles from the longlist that I am disappointed didn't get through (Intrusion by Ken Macleod and The Evolution Of Inanimate Objects by Harry Karlinsky). The winner will be announced on 7th November 2012.


  1. I like the new blog format Marie. I have to say I'd never heard of the Wellcome Trust prize but it does sound interesting.
    I see Peter James is on the list and I can't comment as I haven't read any of his books although the subject matter of this one doesn't really appeal. I do fancy the Thomas Wright one though. I'm currently reading RN Morris's 'Summon up the Blood' which is set in 1914 London and has as it's method of murder exsanguination which happily I'd never heard of until I read this book. But as you're not a fan of historical fiction it might not appeal.

    1. Thanks Sarah! Yes, I have been having a bit of a play around with the layout. I haven't read any Peter James either but I have a couple of the Roy Grace series on the TBR if I enjoy Perfect People. When it comes to historical fiction I tend to enjoy historical crime the most, or certainly anything with a touch of the macabre, so I will definitely look out for your review of Summon Up The Blood!

  2. Dear Marie,
    I am a silent reader of your blog... i don't usually comment because i feel like is disturbing :D ,but now i do it.Thanks for the list and this is another kind of books and i look forward to read...because until now i am a fan of classics and crime or mystery.... the european ones and specially the scandinavian...
    So thanks a lot again and keep doing the grate job so you can present to us other kind of books..so we can vary our book list!
    Thanks! Greetings from Norway!

    1. Thank you for the comment - please don't stay silent, I love when people comment with their thoughts! I really like Scandinavian crime novels too so would love to hear what your favourites are.

  3. I didn't know about this prize, but sounds good. Rose Tremain's book really interests me

    1. Did you enjoy 'Restoration' then, Michael? Since I posted this, several people have recommended Tremain's books to me so maybe I will give them a go after all.

  4. Yes, the prize is new to me too, and has such an interesting slant. I loved Tremain's RESTORATION and have read it a couple times, so I'll probably read the follow-up. But there are other interesting titles here I haven't heard of, thanks for this post.

    1. It is a nice idea for a prize, isn't it - the longlist was full of interesting titles too, may be worth having a look!

  5. Hi! I'm relatively new to this prize, but I've been following it since they released the long-list a while back. It's nice to see someone else who's following it (so, I decided to follow your blog in case you read some of the books).

    So far, all I've read is one of the long-listed books The Believing Brain, by Michael Shermer. It wasn't bad, though I had a few issues with it. I'm going to read The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, and Our Lady of Alice Bhatti this month. The only other short-listed book available in the US right now is the Wright book, but I'm not going to get to it this month since my library hasn't acquired it yet.

    1. Thanks for following Rachel. I'm reading Perfect People at the moment which is OK so far, although some of the writing is making me cringe a little. I don't have my hands on a copy of any of the others but hope to pick some of them up over the next few months. I've started following your blog too so will keep an eye out for any reviews you post.