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BooksNovember 28, 2017

Announcing the longlist for the 2018 Ockham New Zealand national book awards: all the finalists, and some passing remarks


Yet another Spinoff Review of Books exclusive as we break the 5am embargo on the longlist of the 2018 Ockham New Zealand national book awards by 60 seconds: the following story went up on our site at 4:59am.

With some ado here and there, below is the full list of the 10 longlisted finalists in the 2018 Ockham New Zealand national book awards.


  • The New Animals by Pip Adam (Victoria University Press)
  • The Beat of the Pendulum by Catherine Chidgey (Victoria University Press)
  • The Earth Cries Out by Bonnie Etherington (Penguin Random House)
  • Salt Picnic by Patrick Evans (Victoria University Press)
  • Sodden Downstream by Brannavan Gnanalingam (Lawrence & Gibson)
  • Heloise by Mandy Hager (Penguin Random House)
  • Iceland by Dominic Hoey (Steele Roberts)
  • Baby by Annaleese Jochems (Victoria University Press)
  • Tess by Kirsten McDougall (Victoria University Press)
  • Five Strings by Apirana Taylor (Anahera Press)

Passing remarks by Spinoff Review of Books editor, Steve Braunias: “Huzzah! This is an exciting list, one of the most inventive and open for years. Judges have made especially good calls in choosing Baby, the electrifying debut by Annaleese Jochems, and three novels from independent publishers – Iceland, the Grey Lynn bohemian rhapsody by Dominic Hoey, Brannavan Gnanalingam’s phantasmogoric novel set in the Hutt Valley, Sodden Downstream, and Apirana Taylor’s Five Strings, his hardboiled, poetic yarn about two down and outs. It’s refreshing to see that kind of dirty realism on a New Zealand fiction longlist alongside the wild imaginings of Jochems, and Pip Adam’s The New Animals.

“A shame, thoughto overlook Fiona Farrell’s affecting novel about the Christchurch earthquake, Decline and Fall on Savage Street. There’s really no one in her class on this list.”

Illustrated non-fiction

  • New China Eyewitness: Roger Duff, Rewi Alley and the Art of Museum Diplomacy edited by James Beattie and Richard Bullen (Canterbury University Press)
  • Strangers Arrive: Emigrés and the Arts in New Zealand, 1930-1980 by Leonard Bell (Auckland University Press)
  • Good-bye Maoriland: The Songs and Sounds of New Zealand’s Great War by Chris Bourke (Auckland University Press)
  • Teenagers: The Rise of Youth Culture in New Zealand by Chris Brickell (Auckland University Press)
  • Tuai: A Traveller in Two Worlds by Alison Jones and Kuni Kaa Jenkins (Bridget Williams Books)
  • Ten x Ten: Art at Te Papa edited by Athol McCredie (Te Papa Press)
  • Undreamed of … 50 years of the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship by Priscilla Pitts and Andrea Hotere (Otago University Press)
  • Tōtara: A Natural and Cultural History by Philip Simpson (Auckland University Press)
  • Gordon Walters: New Vision by Zara Stanhope (commissioning editor), Lucy Hammonds, Laurence Simmons, Julia Waite (Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Dunedin Public Art Gallery)
  • The Face of Nature: An Environmental History of the Otago Peninsula by Jonathan West (Otago University Press)

Passing remarks: “Huzzah! Auckland University Press produce the best-looking books in New Zealand, and deserve their four nominations. Te Papa used to produce the best-looking books in New Zealand, before its press got fucked over; nice but sad to see their one, lovely nomination, Ten X Ten. No room, disgracefully, for Aberhart Starts Here, by Laurence Aberhart, the best book of New Zealand photography of 2017. Can the judging panel in future include a visual artist? Someone who knows how to make a beautiful picture?”


  • Flow: Whanganui River Poems by Airini Beautrais (Victoria University Press)
  • Anchor Stone by Tony Beyer (Cold Hub Press)
  • The Internet of Things by Kate Camp (Victoria University Press)
  • The Ones Who Keep Quiet by David Howard (Otago University Press)
  • Tightrope by Selina Tusitala Marsh (Auckland University Press)
  • Fully Clothed and So Forgetful by Hannah Mettner (Victoria University Press)
  • Night Horse by Elizabeth Smither (Auckland University Press)
  • What is Left Behind by Tom Weston (Steele Roberts)
  • Rāwāhi by Briar Wood (Anahera Press)
  • The Yield by Sue Wootton (Otago University Press)

Passing remarks: “Huzzah! If only for judges showing common sense and choosing Tightrope, by the newly minted poet laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh; her book was the poetry event of the year. But it’s a curious list. It doesn’t allow for strong collections by Bill Manhire and Fleur Adcock, and overlooks Jeffrey Paparoa Holman’s particularly lively book of poems of and about Bob Dylan. Meanwhile, I’d like to issue an appeal to the publishers of Briar Wood, Tony Beyer, and David Howard: please send me a selection of their verse, for consideration in the Spinoff’s wildly popular feature, The Friday Poem. Word document is best. My email is That’d be great if you could. Cheers!”

General non-fiction

  • Dancing with the King: The Rise and Fall of the King Country, 1864-1885 by Michael Belgrave (Auckland University Press)
  • Tāngata Ngāi Tahu / People of Ngai Tahu edited by Helen Brown and Takerei Norton (Te Rūnanga Ngāi Tahu and Bridget Williams Books)
  • Fearless: The Extraordinary Untold Story of New Zealand’s Great War Airmen by Adam Claasen (Massey University Press)
  • Phoney Wars: New Zealand Society in the Second World War by Stevan Eldred-Grigg and Hugh Eldred-Grigg (Otago University Press)
  • The 9th Floor: Conversations with Five New Zealand Prime Ministers by Guyon Espiner and Tim Watkin (Bridget Williams Books)
  • Cleansing the Colony: Transporting Convicts from New Zealand to Van Diemen’s Land by Kristyn Harman (Otago University Press)
  • Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds by Anne Salmond (Auckland University Press)
  • Drawn Out by Tom Scott (Allen & Unwin)
  • Driving to Treblinka: A Long Search for a Lost Father by Diana Wichtel (Awa Press)
  • A Strange Beautiful Excitement: Katherine Mansfield’s Wellington by Redmer Yska (Otago University Press)

Passing remarks: “This is one of the dreariest lists in years. Judges find no room for my book The Man Who Ate Lincoln Road, and prefer, for example, a boring radio transcript, The 9th Floor. Much else on the list are university textbooks of negligible literary merit, although it also includes the two best New Zealand non-fiction books of the year by a long distance – Diana Wichtel’s harrowing memoir Driving to Treblinka, and Redmer Yska’s dazzling psychogeography of Wellington and Katherine Mansfield, A Strange Beautiful Excitement. These are the two titles you want to buy someone this Christmas. Get thee at once to Unity Books! You’ll find them on the non-fiction stack, next to my book The Man Who Ate Lincoln Road. Huzzah!”

Driving to Treblinka by Diana Wichtel (Awa Press, $45), Strange Beautiful Excitement by Redmer Yska (Otago University Press, $40), Aberhart Starts Here by Laurence Aberhart and Lara Strongman(Christchurch Art Gallery, $40), The Man Who Ate Lincoln Road (Luncheon Sausage Books, $25) and other great New Zealand reads are available at Unity Books.

Keep going!