Val McDermid to chair the Wellcome Book Prize 2017

The judges of the Wellcome Book Prize 2017 are announced today, Tuesday 6 September 2016, ahead of the closing date for submissions on Friday 9 September.

Celebrated Scottish crime writer Val McDermid has been announced as the Chair of the Wellcome Book Prize 2017 judging panel, which features leading figures from across the worlds of literature, academia, science and the media.

Val is joined on the panel by Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge; Gemma Cairney, BBC broadcaster and author; Tim Lewens, Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge; and Di Speirs, Books Editor for BBC Radio.

The judging panel will be looking for the best book of the year – fiction or non-fiction – that engages with the topics of health and medicine. The Prize aims to reach broad audiences, stimulating interest in and debate around medicine, health and illness through books and reading.

To recognise the breadth, depth and quality of the genre, the Prize will be introducing a longlist of 12 books for the first time, to be announced in January 2017. This will be followed by a shortlist of six books in March 2017, with the winner being announced at a ceremony at Wellcome Collection in April 2017.

Val McDermid commented on behalf of the judging panel:

“I am thrilled and honoured to chair the Wellcome Book Prize 2017, which over the past eight years has celebrated a wealth of extraordinary books that connect literature, health and medicine in a variety of wonderful ways. What also distinguishes this prize is its acknowledgement of the importance of a really good read, whether that comes in the form of fiction or non-fiction, and together with my distinguished fellow judges, I am looking forward to reading and discussing the submissions.”

Kirty Topiwala, Publisher at Wellcome Collection and Wellcome Book Prize manager, said:

“Chaired by the utterly brilliant Val McDermid, the judging panel for the Wellcome Book Prize 2017 brings together a broad spectrum of expertise that will no doubt lead to many lively discussions about this year’s submissions. It is such a dynamic time for publishing in the genre of health and medicine, and I can’t wait to see what our judging panel considers the best of these new books that explore what it truly means to be human.”

This will be the eighth year that the £30,000 prize is awarded, which is open to new fiction and non-fiction books published in the UK between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2016.

Closing date for submissions: UK publishers are invited to submit up to three books per imprint. Submissions must be received by 9 September 2016.

The Prize has previously been awarded to Andrea Gillies for Keeper: Living with Nancy (2009), Rebecca Skloot for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010), Alice LaPlante for Turn of Mind (2011), Thomas Wright for Circulation (2012), Andrew Solomon for Far from the Tree (2014), Marion Coutts for The Iceberg (2015) and Suzanne O’Sullivan, who was awarded the 2016 Wellcome Book Prize for her highly acclaimed study of psychosomatic illness, It’s All in Your Head (Chatto & Windus).

Shortlisted authors and winners can expect widespread media coverage and high-profile events. In 2016 authors featured heavily in online coverage, as well as in 26 national print outlets, including a Guardian Review cover story, and in several broadcast programmes, including BBC Radio 4’s Front Row. Shortlist and winner events were held at the Hay Festival, Wellcome Collection, 5×15 and Latitude Festival.


Val McDermid (Chair)

Val McDermid is a number-one bestseller whose novels have sold over 15 million copies and been translated into more than 30 languages. She has won many international awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger for crime novel of the year and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for mystery/thriller of the year. She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009 and was the recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for 2010. In 2011 she received the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Pioneer Award. She writes full-time and divides her time between Cheshire and Edinburgh.

Simon Baron-Cohen

Simon Baron-Cohen is Professor of Developmental Psychopathology and a fellow of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. He is also the Director of the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge and the author of Mindblindness, The Essential Difference, Prenatal Testosterone in Mind and Zero Degrees of Empathy. In 2016 he appeared in the BBC Two documentary Employable Me, revealing the remarkable strengths in people with autism and discussing how to promote inclusion. He has received awards from the British Psychological Society and the American Psychological Association, and received the Kanner–Asperger Medal from the German Society for Research into Autism. He is a fellow of the British Academy, a vice president of the National Autistic Society and the President-Elect of the International Society for Autism Research.

Gemma Cairney

Gemma Cairney is a BBC broadcaster, magpie and life enthusiast who has won Sony Awards for making documentaries on subjects such as young people in violent relationships. She presents the show The Surgery on BBC Radio 1 and also co-produced and presented the internet entertainment show The Fox Problem. Gemma has presented programmes and one-offs for BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra, 2, 3, 4, 4 Extra, 6Music and the BBC World Service. She is also the founder of the boutique production company Boom Shakalaka Productions. She likes to write, explore the planet, trek mountains and DJ garage classics. Her debut book, Open: A toolkit for how magic and messed up life can be, is due out in March 2017.

Tim Lewens

Tim Lewens is Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, where he is also Deputy Director of CRASSH – the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities – and a fellow of Clare College. His book The Meaning of Science was a Guardian book of the year in 2015, and he has written widely on topics at the intersection of philosophy, biology and medicine. His other recent books include The Biological Foundations of Bioethics and Cultural Evolution: Conceptual challenges, which were both published in 2015.

Di Speirs

Di Speirs is the Books Editor for BBC Radio, responsible for the work of the London Readings Unit and for Open Book and Bookclub on BBC Radio 4 and World Book Club on the BBC World Service. She has produced numerous editions of Book at Bedtime over two decades and produced the first ever Book of the Week in 1998. She has been instrumental in the BBC National Short Story Award since its inception, and was also Chair of the Orange Award for New Writers in 2010 and a nominator for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative (Literature) in 2011–13. She is a member of the Charleston Small Wonder Lifetime’s Excellence in Short Fiction Award panel.

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