Judges’ comments on books here
The shortlist – from a longlist of 40 books by four panels of specialist judges (for fiction, poetry, illustrated non-fiction and general non-fiction) – includes both literary luminaries and first-time authors.
Rob Kidd, the convenor of judges for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction, says the finalists in this category refuse to be pinned down by genre.
“These novels are packed with life in an array of ordinary and extraordinary forms; they all swell with vitality. A Good Winter by Gigi Fenster is an unnerving and absorbing reading experience as the darkness gradually closes in. Bryan Walpert’s Entanglement is dazzlingly intelligent and ambitious in scope. Rebecca K Reilly’s Greta & Valdin is gloriously queer, hilarious and relatable, and Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka is poetic, intense, clever and richly imagined.”
The American writer, editor and literary critic John Freeman will assist the three New Zealand judges to select the fiction winner, who this year will take home a prize of $60,000.
Saradha Koirala, convenor of judges for the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry says the four category finalists have pushed their craft to new limits, giving us outstanding examples of how our literary voices have evolved.
“In a time of global instability, Aotearoa poets have reconnected to their sense of self, exploring identity and challenging our collective history. Tayi Tibble’s Rangikura pays tribute to millennial culture and uses the power of humour, sexuality and friendship to create a collection that encapsulates this generation of Aotearoa. In Sleeping with Stones, Serie Barford demonstrates her ability to use simple eloquence to write about complex matters. Anne Kennedy creates poems that are consistently engaged with issues of the anthropocene in The Sea Walks into a Wall, and the pristine imagery and fine ear for rhythm and beat means each of Joanna Preston’s poems in Tumble are a celebration of poetry,” says Ms Koirala.
The judges found the four finalist books in the Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction impossible to exclude in both their exemplary individual qualities as books, and the insight and depth they all bring to their varied and valuable content, says convenor of judges Chanel Clarke.
“Particularly outstanding this year are a number of well-researched yet not so well-known histories and herstories, beautifully delivered, that invite surprising new understandings of ourselves. Dressed: Fashionable Dress in Aotearoa New Zealand 1840 to 1910 by Claire Regnault is a beautiful and beguiling book that will seduce a wide audience. In NUKU: Stories of 100 Indigenous Women, Qiane Matata-Sipu gracefully presents her subjects in their own words and through her tremendous portrait photography. Shifting Grounds: Deep Histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland by Lucy Mackintosh is a fresh and timely study that weaves multiple narratives into a highly readable story and The Architect and the Artists: Hackshaw, McCahon, Dibble by Bridget Hackshaw is a thorough and beautifully produced triangulation of creative practice,” says Ms Clarke.
Nicholas Reid, convenor of judges for the General Non-Fiction Award says the category finalists stand out not only for their individual excellence in research, story-telling and deep insight, but also for their contribution to the ongoing narrative of what it means to be a New Zealander.
“Each work brings deep insight and beautiful writing to their subjects, which included three very different autobiographies and a work of remarkable historical scholarship. From the Centre: A Writer’s Life by Patricia Grace is a rare literary memoir, free of egotism; Dave Lowe’s The Alarmist: Fifty Years Measuring Climate Change has a rich texture of family and a clear awareness that members of the scientific community are not always in harmony; the prose in Charlotte Grimshaw’s The Mirror Book is exquisitely precise in its navigation of the complexity of the author’s family dynamics, and Vincent O’Malley helps readers to think critically as he presents balanced arguments about contested battles and other conflicts in Voices from the New Zealand Wars | He Reo nō ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa.
The shortlist (*represents debut authors)
Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction
- A Good Winter by Gigi Fenster (Text Publishing)
- Entanglement by Bryan Walpert (Mākaro Press)
- Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Te Herenga Waka University Press)*
- Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers)
Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry
- Rangikura by Tayi Tibble (Te Herenga Waka University Press)
- Sleeping with Stones by Serie Barford (Anahera Press)
- The Sea Walks into a Wall by Anne Kennedy (Auckland University Press)
- Tumble by Joanna Preston (Otago University Press)
Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction
- Dressed: Fashionable Dress in Aotearoa New Zealand 1840 to 1910 by Claire Regnault (Te Papa Press)
- NUKU: Stories of 100 Indigenous Women by Qiane Matata-Sipu (QIANE+co)*
- Shifting Grounds: Deep Histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland by Lucy Mackintosh (Bridget Williams Books)*
- The Architect and the Artists: Hackshaw, McCahon, Dibble by Bridget Hackshaw (Massey University Press)*
General Non-Fiction Award
- From the Centre: A Writer’s Life by Patricia Grace (Penguin, Penguin Random House)
- The Alarmist: Fifty Years Measuring Climate Change by Dave Lowe (Te Herenga Waka University Press)*
- The Mirror Book by Charlotte Grimshaw (Vintage, Penguin Random House)
- Voices from the New Zealand Wars | He Reo nō ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa by Vincent O’Malley (Bridget Williams Books)