Gilbert is shortlisted for her latest book The Signature of All Things (Bloomsbury), a novel about botanical explorers in the 19th century, the only work of fiction on the shortlist. Meanwhile PRH UK imprint The Bodley Head has two shortlisted titles: Wounded: From Battlefield to Blighty by Emily Mayhew, described as a “homage to the courage and determination of the men and women who cared for – and saved the lives of – the hundreds of thousands of British soldiers who were wounded at the Western Front”; and Inconvenient People by Sarah Wise, a book which “brilliantly exposes the phenomenon of false allegations of lunacy (and the dark motives behind them) in the Victorian period”.
Also nominated are Creation: The Origin of Life by Adam Rutherford (Viking), an account of the synthetic biology revolution; Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks (Picador), an investigation into the phenomenon; and Far From the Tree: A Dozen Kinds of Love by Andrew Solomon (Chatto & Windus), a book about how parents relate to children.
Andrew Motion, chair of the judges, announced the shortlist this morning (25th February) at London’s Wellcome Trust Gibbs Building, where he was joined by Ken Arnold, head of public programmes at Wellcome Collection. Motion said: “The Wellcome Book Prize highlights the importance of literature in connecting medicine, life and art. We have produced a shortlist that covers an exciting range of subjects and genres - six excellent books that in their different ways all tell us new and often surprising things about the human condition.”
The Wellcome Book Prize was re-launched in November to celebrate its fifth anniversary, and will award £30,000 (up from £25,000 in previous years) to the best fiction or non-fiction book from 2013 which leads on a medical theme. The prize has been revamped for its fifth year, with a new strapline of “books for the incurably curious”. Ken Arnold, head of public programmes at the Wellcome Collection, said at today's shortlist ceremony that when the prize first started it was perhaps seen as something niche, but “now we are trying to expand our remit and get more and more publishers involved”. He added: “This is bolder, broader and on a journey to making it more and more general and more and more relevant."
Also judging in 2014 are author Lisa Appignanesi, journalist Hadley Freeman, scientist and TV presenter Michael Mosley, and novelist and head of spoken word at the Southbank Centre James Runcie.
The 2014 prize will be presented at a ceremony at Wellcome Collection on April 29th.
Previous winners of the prize are 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.