Scoop: The 2017 Ockham national book awards longlist, as announced first and fastest by the Spinoff Review of Books

Announcing the longlist of the 2017 Ockham national book awards.

Right then. Last night we set the switch for 5:01am, to get in first and fastest with the 2017 Ockham national book awards longlist, embargoed till 5:00am. There are some stunning inclusions, mystifying omissions, and a leading publisher has already attacked the judges of one category as “fuckwits”.

But let’s get straight to it. Congrats to all who have made it onto the longlist; the shortlist is announced in March, and the grand final will be staged on May 16; for the meantime, glory is shared in the following categories.

FICTION (The Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize)

  • The Wish Child by Catherine Chidgey (Victoria University Press)
  • A Briefcase, Two Pies and a Penthouse by Brannavan Gnanalingam (Lawrence & Gibson)
  • My Mother and the Hungarians by Frankie McMillan (Canterbury University Press)
  • Love as a Stranger by Owen Marshall (Penguin Random House)
  • Tail of the Taniwha by Courtney Sina Meredith (Beatnik Publishing)
  • Billy Bird by Emma Neale (Penguin Random House)
  • Deleted Scenes for Lovers by Tracey Slaughter (Victoria University Press)
  • The Name on the Door is Not Mine by CK Stead (Allen & Unwin)
  • Dad Art by Damien Wilkins (Victoria University Press)
  • Strip by Sue Wootton (Makaro Press)

Spinoff Review of Books editor Steve Braunias said, “The judges have shown admirable daring by choosing a number of books from small, independent publishing houses, such as Makaro, Beatnik, and Lawrence & Gibson. I’ve never even heard of Frankie McMillan or his or her book.

“It’s an exciting list, maybe the most exciting in many years. Sue Wootton and Brannavan Gnanalingam are new or newish talents, and it’s great to see their works acknowledged. Old stagers CK Stead and Owen Marshall share the stage with the wildly inventive fictions of Tracey Slaughter.

“Three titles from Victoria University Press provides further confirmation they’re far and away the best publisher of local writing. Congrats to publisher Fergus Barrowman and his team.

“But there are disappointing omissions, in particular the two accomplished and popular novels by Fiona Kidman and Kelly Ana Morey. Were they too popular? Was art for art’s sake a consideration? This is neither the time or the place to thump that old tub about the merits of genre fiction. Literary awards are for literature, not romance shit and such. But some popular novels are just plain better than some literary novels. It’s just that you wouldn’t know it looking at these inhabitants of the academy.”

GENERAL NON- FICTION (Royal Society of New Zealand Award for General Non-Fiction)

  • Goneville: A memoir by Nick Bollinger (Awa Press)
  • This Model World: Travels to the Edge of Contemporary Art by Anthony Byrt (Auckland University Press)
  • My Father’s Island by Adam Dudding (Victoria University Press)
  • New Zealand’s Rivers: An environmental history by Catherine Knight (Canterbury University Press)
  • The Broken Decade: Prosperity, depression and recovery in New Zealand, 1928-39 by Malcolm McKinnon (Otago University Press)
  • The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000 by Vincent O’Malley (Bridget Williams Books)
  • The Big Smoke: New Zealand Cities, 1840-1920 by Ben Schrader (Bridget Williams Books)
  • The World, the Flesh and the Devil; The Life and Opinions of Samuel Marsden in England and the Antipodes, 1765-1838 by Andrew Sharp (Auckland University Press)
  • Being Chinese: A New Zealander’s Story by Helene Wong (Bridget Williams Books)
  • Can You Tolerate This? By Ashleigh Young (Victoria University Press)

Winner of the 2013 New Zealand Post non-fiction book of the year award, Steve Braunias, said this was the category with the best writing.

“Adam Dudding’s memoir is set to be the popular hit of Xmas, Ashleigh Young’s personal essays revealed her as the best writer of prose in New Zealand, and the studies by O’Malley, Schrader and McKinnon are the fruits of long, careful scholarship.

“Bridget Williams Books are to be commended in particular, with three of their books on the longlist. They’re an excellent publisher and seem on fire these days.

“But the list does have two startling omissions – the massively popular and affecting Things That Matter: Stories of Life & Death from an Intensive Care Specialist by David Galler, and Roger Shepherd’s memoir  In Love with these Times. Why the hell they didn’t make it is weird, baffling, dumb, unforgiveable. It’s hard to imagine worse judging but oh wait hang on let’s have a look at the next category.” 


  • Islands: A New Zealand Journey by Bruce Ansley & Jane Ussher (Penguin Random House)
  • A History of New Zealand Women by Barbara Brookes (Bridget Williams Books)
  • A Whakapapa of Tradition: One Hundred Years of Ngati Porou Carving 1830-1930 by Ngarino Ellis with Natalie Robertson (Auckland University Press)
  • 101 Works of Art by Ken Hall, Jenny Harper, Felicity Milburn, Nathan Pohio, Lara Strongman, Peter Vangioni (Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu)
  • Mansfield and Me: A Graphic Memoir by Sarah Laing (Victoria University Press)
  • New Zealand Wine; The Land, the Vines, the People by Warren Moran (Auckland University Press)
  • Futuna: Life of a Building by Gregory O’Brien (Victoria University Press)
  • A Beautiful Hesitation by Fiona Pardington (Victoria University Press)
  • Dark Matter by Ann Shelton (Auckland University Press)
  • Bloomsbury South: The Arts in Christchurch 1933-1953 by Peter Simpson (Auckland University Press)

Steve Braunias, publisher at Luncheon Sausage Books, said that upon careful consideration of the available evidence, he regarded the judges – historian and Curator Māori at the Alexander Turnbull Library Paul Diamond; Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Art Studies at the University of Auckland Linda Tyler; and Bronwyn Labrum, Head of New Zealand and Pacific Cultures at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa – as “fuckwits” for omitting his best-selling collaboration with photographer Peter Black, The Shops.

“However, I thoroughly applaud the inclusion of the excellent Bloomsbury by Peter Simpson, Sarah Laing’s singular Mansfield and Me, Greg O’Brien’s lovely Futuna book, and the latest stylish collaboration by Bruce Ansley and the legendary Jane Ussher. All four books deserve to remain on the shortlist and it’s likely one of these titles is going to be the grand winner.

“But yet another dreary book about wine? Jesus wept. And another perennial, a dainty, meaningless guide to some pictures that no one will look at or buy? Where’s The Māori Meeting House by Damian Skinner? Where’s Through the Eyes of a Miner, the ghost town photos by Jos Divis? Where’s Women of the Catlins by Diana Noonan and Cris Antona? Where’s Murdoch: The Political Cartoons of Sharon Murdoch?  Where’s the Lindauer book? Where’s my book? Pshaw!”


  • Back with the Human Condition by Nick Ascroft (Victoria University Press)
  • Fale Aitu/Spirit House by Tusiata Avia (Victoria University Press)
  • Hera Lindsay Bird by Hera Lindsay Bird (Victoria University Press)
  • In the Supplementary Garden: New and Selected Poems by Diana Bridge (Cold Hub Press)
  • Thought Horses by Rachel Bush (Victoria University Press)
  • As the Verb Tenses by Lynley Edmeades (Otago University Press)
  • Fits & Starts by Andrew Johnston (Victoria University Press)
  • This Paper Boat by Gregory Kan (Auckland University Press)
  • And So It Is by Vincent O’Sullivan (Victoria University Press)
  • Beside Herself by Chris Price (Auckland University Press)

Steve Braunias, poetry editor at the Spinoff Review of Books, said that although everyone talked about Hera Lindsay Bird, there were quality collections by Tusiata Avia, Andrew Johnston, Vincent O’Sullivan and Rachel Bush.

“It’s Hera’s award to lose sort of thing – she’d be a popular choice, but this is a strong field. Congrats are due to Cold Hub Press, and Otago University Press, who have gatecrashed the VUP/AUP monopoly.

“Where, though, is the new book of verse by Sam Hunt? And why no Alan Roddick? Does everything have to be so difficult and elliptical and university-educated up the fucking wazoo?

“One thing the list confirms is that it was a magnum year for poetry. I was fair inundated with terrific verse throughout 2016, and their work has given texture, beauty, laughs and much more to the country’s best literary journal, the Spinoff Review of Books.”

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