MiLAN and The Wellcome Book Prize

The Wellcome Book Prize is an annual award, open to new works of fiction or non-fiction. To be eligible for entry, a book should have a central theme that engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness. This can cover many genres of writing – including crime, romance, popular science, sci fi and history.

We are a book group that meet once a month to discuss the titles longlisted for the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize. We welcome both medical professionals and students as well as general public and people with an interest in medicine and illness. 

For more information please email milancollective@gmail.com to request to join our book group mailing list.

March 13th 2019, 6pm: Will Eaves, Murmur

April 10th 2019, 6pm: Tara Westover, Educated

May 8th 2019, 6pm: Jessie Greengrass, Sight

June 12th 2019, 6pm:  Arnold Thomas Fanning, Mind on Fire - A memoir of madness and recovery

July 10th 2019, 6pm: Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation

August 14th 2019, 6pm: Thomas Page McBee, Amateur - A true story about what makes a man

September 11th 2019, 6pm: Jean Hannah Edelstein, This Really Isn’t About You

October 9th 2019, 6pm: Matthew Sperling, Astroturf

November 13th 2019, 6pm: Sandeep Jauhar, Heart - A history

December 11th 2019, 6pm: Akwaeke Emezi, Freshwater

January 8th 2020, 6pm: Sarah Krasnostein, The Trauma Cleaner - One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster

February 12th 2020, 6pm: Thomas Abraham, Polio - The odyssey of eradication


The next book group will take place on...

 WEDNESDAY 9th October 2019
Venue: Mason & Rye (Fenwick’s Food Hall) (6pm-8pm)

The book we have chosen to read and discuss this month is...

Astroturf
by Matthew Sperling

A brilliantly funny and touching story about masculinity, identity, sock-puppets and steroids from an extremely promising new talent.

Good things can happen when you do bad things.

At 30, Ned is in a rut. His girlfriend has dumped him, his job is boring and he lives in a dismal bedsit. While others around him climb the property ladder and get ahead, he seems destined to remain one of life’s plodders.

Encouraged by a friend to try using steroids to bulk up his frame, Ned is pleased to discover a new vitality within himself. Physical changes are only the beginning: his mental state is clearer, he feels more confident and, most thrillingly of all, friends and lovers alike seem compelled by this new improved Ned.

Using his knowledge of the murky yet surprising online world of steroids, Ned begins to build a business and discovers that his talents can take him further than he ever thought possible. But when his new life is threatened, he finds himself doing things he never would have dared to do before.

And it all seems to be going fine…


I loved Matthew Sperling’s sly, subversive novel, a wickedly funny tale of how to come out on top in a fake news world.
— Olivia Laing

Previously read by MiLAN's book group:

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Wed 11th September 2019
This Really Isn’t About You by Jean Hannah Edelstein

A disarmingly tender, funny and honest memoir of grief, illness and finding your way in life.

When Jean Hannah Edelstein’s world overturned she was forced to confront some of the big questions in life: how do we cope with grief? How does living change when we realise we’re not invincible? Does knowing our likely fate make it harder or easier to face the future? How do you motivate yourself to go on your OkCupid date when you’re struggling with your own mortality?


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Wed 14th August 2019
Amateur by Thomas Page McBee

An exploration of modern masculinity by the first transgender man to box at Madison Square Garden.

In this groundbreaking new book, Thomas Page McBee, a trans man, trains to fight in a charity match at Madison Square Garden while struggling to untangle the vexed relationship between masculinity and violence.


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Wed 10th July 2019
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature.


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Wed 12th June 2019
Mind on Fire by Arnold Thomas Fanning

A searing, immersive account of profound mental illness – and recovery.

Arnold Thomas Fanning had his first experience of depression during adolescence, following the death of his mother. In his 20s, he was overcome by mania and delusions. Thus began a terrible period in which he was often suicidal, increasingly disconnected from family and friends, sometimes in trouble with the law, and homeless for a winter in London.


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Wed 8th May 2019
Sight by Jessie Greengrass

In Jessie Greengrass’s superb debut novel, our unnamed narrator recounts her progress to motherhood, while remembering the death of her own mother ten years before, and the childhood summers she spent with her psychoanalyst grandmother.


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Wed 10th April 2019
Educated by Tara Westover

This incredible and moving memoir, which has garnered huge international attention and plaudits, is about the power of education – and the determination of one young woman to fight for her right to be ‘educated’.


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Wed 13th March 2019
Murmur by Will Eaves

Taking its cue from the arrest and legally enforced chemical castration of the mathematician Alan Turing, Murmur is the account of a man who responds to intolerable physical and mental stress with love, honour and a rigorous, unsentimental curiosity about the ways in which we perceive ourselves and the world.


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Wed 13th February 2019
With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix

In this unprecedented book, palliative medicine pioneer Dr Kathryn Mannix explores the biggest taboo in our society and the only certainty we all share: death. A tender and insightful book that will revolutionise the way we discuss and approach the end-of-life process.


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Wed 9th January 2019
Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty

An intense exploration of love and uncertainty when a long-married couple take a midwinter break in Amsterdam.

A retired couple, Gerry and Stella Gilmore, take a holiday – to refresh the senses, to see the sights and to generally take stock of what remains of their lives. But amongst the wintry streets and icy canals we see their relationship fracturing beneath the surface. And when memories re-emerge of a troubled time in their native Ireland, things begin to fall apart. As their midwinter break comes to an end, we understand how far apart they are – and can only watch as they struggle to save themselves.


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Wed 12th December 2018
The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris

 The spellbinding story of a visionary British surgeon who changed medicine for ever. In ‘The Butchering Art’, historian Lindsey Fitzharris recreates a critical turning-point in the history of medicine, when Joseph Lister transformed surgery from a brutal, harrowing practice to the safe, vaunted profession we know today.


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Wed 14th November 2018
I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

A Sunday Times no 1. bestseller, this is a memoir with a difference – the unputdownable story of an extraordinary woman’s life in near-death experiences. Insightful, inspirational, intelligent, it’s a book to be read at a sitting, a story you finish newly conscious of life’s fragility, determined to make every heartbeat count.


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Wed 10th October 2018
Behave by Robert Sapolsky

A groundbreaking synthesis of the entire science of human behaviour by “one of the best scientist-writers of our time” (Oliver Sacks).

Why do we do what we do? ‘Behave’ is at once a dazzling tour and a majestic synthesis of the whole science of human behaviour. Brought to life through simple language, engaging stories and irreverent wit, it offers the fullest picture yet of the origins of tribalism and xenophobia, hierarchy and competition, morality and free will, war and peace.


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Wed 12th September 2018
The White Book by Han Kang (trans. Deborah Smith)

A stunning meditation on the colour white – about light, about death and about ritual.

From the author of ‘The Vegetarian’ and ‘Human Acts’ comes a book like no other. ‘The White Book’ is a meditation on colour, beginning with a list of white things. It is a book about mourning, rebirth and the tenacity of the human spirit. It is a stunning investigation of the fragility, beauty and strangeness of life.


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Wed 8th August 2018
Mayhem by Sigrid Rausing

A searing memoir about the impact of addiction on a family.

In the summer of 2012 a woman named Eva was found dead from a drug overdose in a London townhouse. Now, writing with singular clarity and restraint, writer and publisher Sigrid Rausing tries to make sense of what happened.


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Wed 11th June 2018
The Vaccine Race by Meredith Wadman

The epic and controversial story of the major scientific breakthrough that led to the creation of some of the world’s most important vaccines.


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Wed 13th June 2018
Plot 29 by Allan Jenkins

 A beautifully written, haunting memoir, ‘Plot 29’ is a mystery story and a meditation on nature and nurture. It’s also a celebration of the joy to be found in sharing food and flowers with people you love.


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Wed 9th May 2018
To Be a Machine by Mark O'Connell

To Be a Machine paints a vivid portrait of an international movement driven by strange and frequently disturbing ideas and practices, but whose obsession with transcending human limitations can be seen as a kind of cultural microcosm, a radical intensification of our broader faith in the power of technology as an engine of human progress.


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Wed 11th April 2018
Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

This Nigerian debut is the heart-breaking tale of what wanting a child can do to a person, a marriage and a family; a powerful and vivid story of what it means to love not wisely but too well.


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Wed 14th March 2018
In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer's by Joseph Jebelli

A fascinating and very human story of the Alzheimer’s epidemic that affects millions of people around the world – and the race against the clock to find a cure.


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Wed 21st February 2018
I Contain Multitudes by Ed Long

In ‘I Contain Multitudes’, Ed Yong opens our eyes and invites us to marvel at ourselves and other animals in a new light, less as individuals and more as thriving ecosystems.


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Wed 10th January 2018
How to Survive a Plague by David France

‘How to Survive a Plague’ is the riveting, powerful and profoundly moving story of the AIDS epidemic and the grassroots movement of activists, many of them facing their own life-or-death struggles, who grabbed the reins of scientific research to help develop the drugs that turned HIV from a mostly fatal infection into a manageable disease. 


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Wed 13th December 2017
The Golden Age by Joan London

Set in a convalescent hospital for children with polio, ‘The Golden Age’ is a radiant novel that tells a deeply moving story about illness and recovery, about learning to navigate the unfamiliar, about embracing music, poetry, death and, most importantly, life. 


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Wed 8th November 2017
A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford

A dazzling tour of the latest genetic discoveries that are blurring the boundaries between science and history. In this captivating journey through the expanding landscape of genetics, Adam Rutherford reveals what our genes now tell us about history, and what history tells us about our genes. From Neanderthals to murder, from redheads to race, dead kings to plague, evolution to epigenetics, this is a demystifying and illuminating new portrait of who we are and how we came to be.


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Wed 11th October 2017
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890's, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way. They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome.  They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart.


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Wed 13th September 2017
Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

‘Homo Deus’ explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the 21st century – from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.


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Wed 9th August 2017
Miss Jane: a novel by Brad Watson

Inspired by the life of Watson’s own great-aunt, this is the story of Miss Jane Chisolm, a woman whose life was shaped and limited by a congenital anomaly that was little-understood in her lifetime. It is a beautiful story of quiet dignity in hard, unromantic times.


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Wed 12th July 2017
Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant

A ground-breaking look at the new science behind the mind’s surprising ability to heal the body, with advice and tips on how we can all use the latest research to improve our health and our lives. Award-winning science writer Jo Marchant travels the world [...] asking how the brain can heal the body and how we can all make changes to keep ourselves healthier.


Mon 12th June 2017
The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss

Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is also working on a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. He is a good man and he is happy. But one day, he receives a call from his daughter’s school to inform him that, for no apparent reason, 15-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing. In that moment, he is plunged into a world of waiting, agonising, not knowing.

 


Wed 10th May 2017
The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

‘The Gene’ is an epic, moving history of a scientific idea coming to life. But woven through it, like a red line, is also an intimate history – the story of Mukherjee’s own family and its recurring pattern of mental illness, reminding us that genetics is vitally relevant to everyday lives. 


Wed 12th April 2017
Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal

Just before dawn on a freezing winter’s morning, three young men head out to the sea and go surfing. But on the drive home, their van suddenly veers off the road and one of them, Simon Limbeau, is propelled through the windscreen. At the hospital, Simon’s devastated parents are told that while he is brain-dead and on life support, his heart is still beating perfectly and could be recovered for use in a transplant. They are faced with an agonising choice.


Wed 8th March 2017
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

At the age of 36, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

‘When Breath Becomes Air’ chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.


Wed 8th February 2017
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. Born a poor black tobacco farmer, her cancer cells - taken without her knowledge - became a multimillion-dollar industry and one of the most important tools in medicine. Yet Henrietta's family did not learn of her 'immortality' until more than twenty years after her death, with devastating consequences.
 


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Wed 11th January 2017
Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Dr. Jennifer White, a brilliant former surgeon in the early grips of Alzheimer's, is suspected of murdering her best friend, Amanda.  As Jennifer searches her own mind for fractured clues to Amanda's death, a portrait emerges of a complex relationship between two uncompromising, unsentimental, lifelong friends who were at times each other's most formidable adversaries.


Wed 14th December 2016
Circulation by Thomas Wright

William Harvey’s theory of circulation was as controversial in its day as Copernicus’ idea that the earth revolved around the sun. Unleashing intellectual anarchy, derailing established ideas, & gaining currency far beyond the walls of the College of Physicians, Harvey’s revolutionary theory went on to permeate the culture and language of 17th century England.
 


Wed 9th November 2016
Far From The Tree by Andrew Solomon

Sometimes your child - the most familiar person of all - is radically different from you. The saying goes that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. But what happens when it does? Drawing on interviews with over three hundred families, Andrew Solomon documents ordinary people making courageous choices.
 


Wed 12th October 2016
The Iceberg by Marion Coutts

In 2008 the art critic Tom Lubbock was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The tumour was located in the area controlling speech and language, and would eventually rob him of the ability to speak. This book is an account of a family unit, man, woman, young child, under assault, and how the three of them fought to keep it intact.