The shortlist for the New Zealand Ockham Book Awards: you read it here first.
The clock has struck 12.01am, the exact minute that the embargo on the shortlist of the national book awards can be lifted – and here’s your old pals from the Spinoff, at the ready, first with the news.
The winner of best novel will receive $50,000 as winner of the new Acorn Foundation Literary Award. The four shortlisted authors are:
Patrick Evans, The Back of His Head (Victoria University Press)
Patricia Grace, Chappy (Penguin Random House)
Stephen Daisley, Coming Rain (Text Publishing)
David Coventry, The Invisible Mile (Victoria University Press)
No Anna Smaill, no Greg McGee, no Hamish Clayton, who only made it as far as the longlist. On the face of things the winner will be either Evans or Grace, both senior, accomplished writers – ie, old. Coventry is more or less a complete nobody and the Spinoff Review of Books has never even heard of Stephen Daisley until this very minute.
But all awards are a lottery, and the winners of any of the categories could just as easily be a naïf as some wise old owl.
Here are the four titles shorlisted for best book of non-fiction, featuring three such owls:
Maurice Gee: Life and Work, Rachel Barrowman (Victoria University Press)
The Villa at the Edge of the Empire: One Hundred Ways to Read a City, Fiona Farrell (Penguin Random House)
Māori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood, Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House)
Lost and Gone Away, Lynn Jenner (Auckland University Press).
No, we’d never heard of Lynn Jenner, either, or three of the four poets shortlisted for the best book of poetry:
Chris Tse, How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (Auckland University Press)
Tim Upperton, for the wonderfully titled The Night We Ate the Baby (Haunui Press)
Roger Horrocks, Song of the Ghost in the Machine (Victoria University Press)
Veteran ranter David Eggleton, The Conch Trumpet (Otago University Press)
Pictures! Something to look at! The four titles shortlisted for best book of illustrated non-fiction are:
Te Ara Puoro: A Journey into the World of Māori Music, Richard Nunns (Potton and Burton)
New Zealand Photography Collected, Athol McCredie (Te Papa Press)
Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History, Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney, Aroha Harris (Bridget Williams Books)
Real Modern: Everyday New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s, Bronwyn Labrum (Te Papa Press).
Back in November, when the longlist was announced, The Spinoff predicted the four winners. All of our nominations have made the shortlist and we stand by our predictions. They were: The Back of his Head by Patrick Evans for fiction, Maurice Gee: Life and Work by Rachel Barrowman for non-fiction, and Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History for illustrated non-fiction. Actually we didn’t predict the winner of the poetry award because we wouldn’t have a clue. That hasn’t changed, either.
Anyway! The winners will be announced at a ceremony on May 10, held as the opening night event of the Auckland Writers Festival.
The ceremony marks almost the 50th anniversary of the national book awards. They were first held in 1968, but no award was held last year. After NZ Post dropped out as sponsor, no one could be arsed. It’s thanks to the splendid efforts of the New Zealand Book Awards Trust that a new sponsor, Ockham Residential Limited, has stepped forward to back the literary event of the year.
The Spinoff will be there – front row, then under the table – to live blog the whole thing.
The Spinoff Review of Books is brought to you by Unity Books.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.