Life, Death and Everything in Between: Favourite Medical Novels
Ahead of the shortlist announcement, the Wellcome Book Prize judges have selected their all-time favourite works of fiction in the field of medicine. From masterpieces such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Doctor Faustus, to recent classics such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, it’s a breadth of personal recommendations to suit any reader.
From Damian Barr, columnist and Wellcome Book Prize Judge 2016:
The Farewell Symphony Edmund White. This semi-autobiographical novel follows "A Boy's Own Story" and "The Beautiful Room is Empty" and charts first-hand the devastating advent of AIDS.
Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame describes a poor family in New Zealand unmade then remade by a daughter’s struggle with mental illness. Guaranteed to make you bawl.
The Plague by Albert Camus has been reprised to many times and never more than our apocalypse obsessed now but it remains the most compelling and disturbing
From Sathnam Sanghera, Times journalist and Wellcome Book Prize Judge 2016:
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry - Nariman Vakeel is a seventy-nine-year-old Parsi widower beset by Parkinson's disease and haunted by memories of the past… A brilliant novel from our finest living writers.
Joshua Ferris’s Man Booker-shortlisted To Rise Again at a Decent Hour is one of my favourite books of recent times. It gets rather bogged down at times in theology. But in dentist and atheist Paul O’Rourke, who finds himself being impersonated online, Ferris has created one of the funniest narrators in recent literary history.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - A must for anyone interested in mental illness
From Tessa Hadley, award-winning novelist and Wellcome Book Prize Judge 2016:
Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann - A superb novel about music and fascism: Mann was always fascinated by the relationships between illness and art.
Keats’ fragment of verse, written when his tuberculosis was far advanced, ‘This living hand, now warm and capable/ Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold…’
The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty - I’m cheating slightly – but it does begin with an eye operation, and then bereavement. Marvellously funny and sad.
From Joan Bakewell DBE, author, journalist and chair of Wellcome Book Prize judges:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
The Doctor’s Dilemma by George Bernard Shaw
The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky