Mr Diamond's frank detailing of his life with cancer of the tongue, C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too, is one of five books shortlisted for the 1999 Samuel Johnson Prize. The winner will receive pounds 30,000.
Last night Mr Diamond, partner of the writer Nigella Lawson, was said to be delighted. "He is very pleased. What is particularly comforting is the quality of the shortlist," said Ms Lawson. "It seems clear that John has been shortlisted because of the quality of the book rather than as a pity vote. I am extremely pleased as well, because I think it is a very good book."
The winner will be announced on 14 June, days before Mr Diamond finishes a course of chemotherapy for the cancer, which has been diagnosed as inoperable. Ms Lawson said she hoped he would be well enough to attend the reception.
The broadcaster James Naughtie, chairman of the panel of judges which includes Cherie Booth, said: "The judges consider this to be a wonderful crop of shortlisted books, all of them addressing their readers directly and all of them marked by the originality which the prize wants to celebrate. We think this is an outstanding final list."
The shortlist is: Stalingrad by Anthony Beevor (Penguin); C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too by John Diamond (Vermilion); Coleridge: Darker Visions by Richard Holmes (HarperCollins); Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris by Ian Kershaw (Allen Lane); The Wealth And Poverty Of Nations by David Landes (Little, Brown); Pilate: The Biography Of An Invented Man by Ann Wroe (Cape).