Joan Bakewell announces strong Wellcome Prize shortlist, featuring books on autism and addiction

Two novels, two memoirs and two non-fiction studies make the Wellcome Book Prize 2016 shortlist
Two novels, two memoirs and two non-fiction studies make the Wellcome Book Prize 2016 shortlist Credit: Thomas S.G. Farnetti

Books exploring autism, psychosomatic illness and addiction compete for the 2016 Wellcome Book Prize, which celebrates "the best new books that engage with any aspect of medicine, health or illness", in a shortlist announced today.

Steve Silberman, author of Neurotribes Credit: Keith Karraker

In the running for the £30,000 prize is Steve Silberman, who won the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize for Neurotribes, an epic history of autism. Silberman is joined on the shortlist by It's All In Your Head by consultant neurologist Suzanne O'Sullivan, described by Louise Carpenter in the Telegraph as "an important study of psychosomatic illness, which shows it to be a serious disease of modern society: misunderstood, misdiagnosed and surrounded by fear".

Amy Liptrot, author of The Outrun Credit: Lisa Swarna Khanna

Two memoirs make the shortlist: The Outrun by Amy Liptrot, about the author's struggle with alcoholism and recovery on the island of Orkney, and Cathy Rentzenbrink's The Last Act of Love, about the aftermath of a tragic accident which left her teenage brother in a coma for eight years. Also nominated are two novels, Alex Pheby's Playthings, based on a true case of schizophrenia at the end of the nineteenth century, and Signs for Lost Children by Sarah Moss, which tells the story of a pioneering female doctor. 

Suzanne O'Sullivan, author of It's All In Your Head Credit: Jonathan Greet

The shortlist was announced by Chair of the Judges Baroness Joan Bakewell, whose comments on anorexia caused controversy over the weekend. The veteran broadcaster  is joined on the judging panel by cancer biology professor and children's science writer Frances Balkwill and writers Damian Barr, Tessa Hadley and Sathnam Sanghera. Bakewell said: “The shortlist reflects what has moved and inspired us most about books that deal with intimate and often complex matters of the human body and human experience. Each one has found its way not just onto the shortlist, but into our hearts.” Last year's prize was awarded to Marion Coutts for her memoir The Iceberg, and the winner will be announced at a ceremony on Monday 25 April.

Judges Tessa Hadley, Sathnam Sanghera, Joan Bakewell (chair), Damian Barr and Frances Balkwill with the shortlisted books Credit: Ben Gilbert

The Wellcome Book Prize 2016 Shortlist

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot (Canongate)

Signs for Lost Children by Sarah Moss (Granta)

It’s All In Your Head by Suzanne O’Sullivan (Chatto & Windus)

Playthings by Alex Pheby (Galley Beggar Press)

The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink (Picador)

Neurotribes by Steve Silberman (Allen & Unwin)