Wellcome Book Prize Announces Its 10th Anniversary Longlist

In News by Porter Anderson

Almost evenly divided between fiction and nonfiction—and with half its selections published by independent houses—the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize longlist features issues of gender, identity, mental health.

Image: Wellcome Book Prize, Steven Pocock

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘To Connect Various Disciplines’
The five novels and seven nonfiction books being announced today (February 5) to the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize longlist include six debut works.

The Wellcome Collection is London’s museum and library based on medical objects and curiosities gathered by the pharmaceutical entrepreneur Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936). Part of the larger Wellcome foundation for scientific and health research, the program’s award focuses on selecting “exceptional works of literature that illuminate the many ways that health, medicine and illness touch our lives.”

The twelve titles on the longlist comprise work by authors from the UK, the USA, India, Australia, Nigeria, and Ireland. Half of the selections are published by independent houses: Canongate, CB Editions, Faber & Faber, Oneworld, Hurst Publishers, and Text Publishing.

A shortlist is expected on March 19 with a winner announcement on the evening of May 1 at the Wellcome Collection in Euston Road, London. The prize carries a purse of £30,000 (US$39,027), and the program is stressing the longlist’s themes this year of gender, identity, mental health, and modern medicine.

Wellcome Book Prize 2019 Longlist


  • Astroturf,  Riverrun, Quercus, by Matthew Sperling –  UK
  • Freshwater,  Faber & Faber, by Akwaeke Emezi –  Nigeria
  • Murmur,  CB Editions, by Will Eaves –  UK
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Jonathan Cape,  by Ottessa Moshfegh –  USA
  • Sight,  John Murray Press, by Jessie Greengrass –  UK


  • Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man, Cagate Books, by Thomas Page McBee – USA
  • Educated,  Windmill Books/Cornerstone, by Tara Westover – USA,
  • Heart: A History,  Oneworld, by Sandeep Jauhar – India and USA
  • Mind on Fire: A Memoir of Madness and Recovery, Penguin Ireland,  by Arnold Thomas Fanning –  Ireland
  • Polio: The Odyssey of Eradication, Hurst Publishers,  by Thomas Abraham –  UK
  • The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay and Disaster, Text Publishing,  by Sarah Krasnostein –  Australia and USA
  • This Really Isn’t About You,  Picador, by Jean Hannah Edelstein –  UK and USA
Three Debuts in Fiction, Three in Nonfiction

Jurors for the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize are, from left, Jon Day, Viv Groskop, Elif Shafak, Kevin Fong, and Rick Edwards

This year’s jury has been chaired by author Elif Shafak, with Kevin Fong, Viv Groskop, Jon Day, and Rick Edwards.

In a prepared statement about the longlist, Shafak is quoted, saying, “In a world that remains sadly divided into echo chambers and mental ghettos, this prize is unique in its ability to connect various disciplines: medicine, health, literature, art, and science.

“Reading and discussing at length all the books on our list has been fascinating from the very start. We now have a wonderful longlist, of which we are all very proud.”

Three of the five works of fiction are debuts—Greengrass’ Sight, which was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction; Emezi’s Freshwater; and Sperling’s Astroturf.

The three nonfiction debut works are Fanning’s Mind on Fire; Westover’s Educated; and Sarah Krasnostein’s The Trauma Cleaner.

You can follow news of the Wellcome Prize at hashtag #WBP2019.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Wellcome Prize is here, and more on publishing and book awards is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.