In the shortlist line-up, bestselling novelists feature alongside debut authors and academics and, for the first time ever, a bestselling thriller novelist has been shortlisted for the prize. Together, these books make up the most readable and accessible Wellcome Trust shortlist to date, with something for every literary taste.
The shortlist includes a Peter James page-turning thriller, literary masterpieces by Rose Tremain and Mohammed Hanif, expository non-fiction by Wall Street trader turned neuroscientist John Coates, Nick Coleman's touching memoir of personal illness and a historical biography by Thomas Wright.
The full list, which includes three novels and three works of non-fiction, is as follows:
John Coates, 'The Hour Between Dog and Wolf'
Nick Coleman, 'The Train in the Night'
Mohammed Hanif, 'Our Lady of Alice Bhatti'
Peter James, 'Perfect People'
Rose Tremain, 'Merivel: A Man of his Time'
Thomas Wright, 'Circulation'
Mark Lawson, Chair of the judging panel, comments: "Very few literary prizes are open to both fiction and non-fiction and to all genres within those categories, so I am particularly pleased that the six books we have shortlisted cover such a wide range: biography, argument, memoir, thriller and literary fiction.
"The historical spread is also large - from the 17th century to the 21st. These are books which will give enjoyment and education and provoke thought."
Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, adds: "One of the key aims of this prize is to reach out to audiences who are not normally engaged with medical science, so I'm delighted to see that this shortlist lends itself to such a wide readership."
This varied shortlist explores a range of themes, from illness and the science of risk-taking to the morality of genetic engineering and modern biology.
Last year, a work of fiction won the prize for the first time with Alice LaPlante's 'Turn of Mind'. The winner of the 2009 prize was 'Keeper' by Andrea Gillies, and 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' by Rebecca Skloot won the 2010 award.
The winner of the 2012 Wellcome Trust Book prize will be announced at an awards reception at Wellcome Collection, London, on 7 November 2012.