NZ Booklovers Awards 2023 Shortlist Announced

The NZ Booklovers Awards 2023 shortlist, announced today, features a mixture of well-known writers and debut authors.

Books by Fiona Sussman, James Norcliffe, Paddy Richardson, Simon Wilson, Jane Ussher and John Walsh, and Rangi Matamua and Miriama Kamo are among the diverse titles nominated for the NZ Booklovers Awards, along with exciting new writers and outstanding debut books.

With four categories now on offer, six books are shortlisted in the new Junior Fiction category; seven are shortlisted in the Children’s Picture Book section; eight are in the Lifestyle category, and due to this year’s superb quality, nine books shortlisted in the Adult Fiction category.

NZ Booklovers Director Karen McMillan says the awards, now in their fifth year, received a record-breaking 136 entries, and they are consistently the highest standard the judges had seen.

‘This year, the standard of books entered was of the highest calibre across the board. It was a true pleasure to read so many outstanding books, but the challenge was whittling the entries down to those shortlisted. A tough task with much deliberation by our judges,’ Karen McMillan says. ‘Our fiction award celebrates the best in storytelling, a book that is well-written but where the story is key. Our lifestyle award celebrates non-fiction books that can enrich our daily lives. For our children’s book awards, we looked for picture books and junior fiction books that engage young readers and foster a love of books. We are thrilled to see the excellent books that New Zealand authors have created. These are superb books that Kiwi families will read and treasure. Thank you to our fabulous sponsors for supporting the NZ Booklovers Awards so that we can celebrate these wonderful New Zealand writers.’

The NZ Booklovers Awards 2023 shortlisted titles are:

NZ Booklovers Award for Best Adult Fiction Book 2023, sponsored by Lighthouse PR

A Message for Nasty by Roderick Fry (Awa Press)

Barefoot by R.V. Bayley (Eden St Press)

By the Green of the Spring by Paddy Richardson (Quentin Wilson Publishing)

Harbouring by Jenny Pattrick (Penguin Random House NZ)

Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant by Cristina Sanders (The Cuba Press)

The Darkest Sin by D.V. Bishop (Macmillan Publishers)

The Doctor’s Wife by Fiona Sussman (Bateman Books)

The Frog Prince by James Norcliffe (Penguin Random House NZ)

The Slow Roll by Simon Lendrum (Upstart Press)

NZ Booklovers Award for Best Lifestyle Book 2023, sponsored by Benefitz

Grow: Wāhine finding connection through food by Sophie Merkins (Beatnik Publishing)

HomeGround: The story of a building that changes lives by Simon Wilson, photographs Mark Smith (Massey University Press)

Kai: Food stories and recipes from my family table by Christall Lowe (Bateman Books)

New Zealand Gardens to Visit by Juliet Nicholas & Rosemary Barraclough (Penguin Random House NZ)

Robin White: Something is Happening Here by Sarah Farrar, Jill Trevelyan and Nina Tonga (Te Papa Press and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki)

Rooms: Portraits of Remarkable New Zealand Interiors by Jane Ussher and John Walsh (Massey University Press)

The Deep South by Andris Apse (Penguin Random House NZ)

The Homemade Table by Nicola Galloway (Potton & Burton)

NZ Booklovers Award for Best Junior Fiction Book 2023, sponsored by The Kiwi Kids’ Bookstore

Amorangi and Millie’s Trip through Time by Lauren Keenan (Huia Publishers)

Kidnap At Mystery Island by Carol Garden (Scholastic NZ)

Little Tales of Hedgehog and Goat by Paula Green, illustrations by Kimberly Andrews (Penguin Random House NZ)

Masher by Fifi Colston (Penguin Random House NZ)

Sylvia and the Birds by Johanna Emeny and Sarah Laing (Massey University Press)
The Ghost House by Bill Nagelkerke (Ahoy! an imprint of The Cuba Press)

NZ Booklovers Award for Best Children’s Picture Book 2023, sponsored by Duckling Publishing

Crane Guy by Sally Sutton, illustrations by Sarah Wilkins (Penguin Random House NZ)

How My Koro Became a Star by Brianne Te Paa (Huia Publishers)

Kororā and the Sushi Shop by Linda Jane Keegan (Scholastic NZ)

Matariki Around The World by Rangi Matamua and Miriama Kamo, illustrations by Isobel Te Aho-White (Scholastic NZ)
My Mum is Queen of the Road by Jennifer Beck (Huia Publishers)
Roo and Vladimir by Minky Stapleton (Scholastic NZ)

The Lighthouse Princess by Susan Wardell, illustrations by Rose Northey (Penguin Random House NZ)

The winner in each category will be announced on 30 March 2023, and each winner will receive $500 from NZ Booklovers.

The Best Adult Fiction Book Award is judged by author, reviewer and judge of the Ngaio Marsh Awards Stephanie Jones, publishing professional Rachel White, and NZ Booklovers Director and author Karen McMillan.

The Best Lifestyle Book Award is judged by journalist and author Andrea Molloy, former magazine editor and lifestyle journalist Peta Stavelli, and publisher, home renovator and foodie Iain McKenzie.

The Best Junior Fiction Book and Children’s Picture Book Award are judged by creative writing teacher, assessor, mentor and reviewer P.J. Richardson, writer and former editor Heidi North, and early childhood kaiako and journalist Rebekah Lyell.

About NZ Booklovers is an online home for people who are passionate about books. Working alongside publishers, NZ Booklovers showcases both New Zealand and international titles. It provides reviews, author interviews, book news and competitions.

Director Karen McMillan heads up a talented team of contributors and reviewers, fellow readers and writers who are passionate about books and believe literature inspires and enhances people’s lives. The NZ Booklovers Awards are the brainchild of Karen McMillan to support the local publishing community and New Zealand authors.

Judges’ comments:


A Message for Nasty by Roderick Fry: ‘An eye-opening, gripping novel that packs an even bigger emotional punch when you learn the story is based on the author’s grandparents. It brings vividly to life the occupation of the Japanese in Hong Kong during WWII, especially for young women, and the extraordinary story of a husband and father willing to go to any lengths to rescue his family. The author captures the broad horror of the war, the helplessness of the civilians and their desperate struggle to survive against the odds.’

Barefoot by R.V Bayley: ‘This is a gem of a novel, a story of love and loss. Set in Wellington just before WWII, a young couple meets and falls in love, then are separated by the demands of war. Adelaide hangs her hope on the letters that John sends from the front. John, meanwhile, is in Egypt with the troops living a totally different life. This book captures the upheaval of being separated by war and the terrible damage it wreaks both emotionally and physically. It is a gentle and poignantly told story, which will resonate with many people who had family members who experienced this.’

 By the Green of the Spring by Paddy Richardson: ‘Paddy Richardson is now one of New Zealand’s most accomplished fiction writers. The glorious, devastating By the Green of the Spring rates with her best work. It’s possible that some readers will know little about the history of Somes Island. Richardson’s exploration of this dark moment in New Zealand’s history connects with her 2014 novel Swimming in the Dark, which also considers (sensitively and inventively) aspects of the German experience in relation to Aotearoa. The skill set Richardson forged in her earlier psychological thrillers – her ability to play with tension and suspense while creating emotionally rounded, complex, and believable characters – carries over beautifully into her historical fiction, which seems to elevate the form entirely; no one emulsifies historical fact and imagination better, and she knows how much to show to make the reader’s heart ache but holds enough back, so the novel ends on a note of hope and possibility.’

Harbouring by Jenny Pattrick: ‘This historical novel is a magnificent piece of storytelling that seamlessly brings history and fiction together.  Opening in 1839, Martha and Huw escape a grinding life of poverty in Wales to start a new life in Wellington, New Zealand, but they struggle in this burgeoning society. Hineroa, a young Māori wahine whose life is dominated by oppression, faces different struggles. The story takes unexpected turns before a connection between the main protagonists begins to emerge. Harbouring is an immersive read with suspense and energy that brings our nation’s history to life.’

Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant by Cristina Sanders: ‘A refreshing and compelling story based on a real-life event, but with the unique bonus of telling it from a woman’s perspective. Mrs Jewell is the sole female survivor out of a group of 15 shipwrecked in 1866 on the Auckland Islands when their sailing ship is sunk in a storm. Much gold goes down with the ship, some of which is intended to start life anew for some miners and their families who were on board. Aside from the struggle to stay alive on the freezing island, the desperate desire to find gold brings tension and conflict within the group. This is a remarkable story which is difficult to put down.’

The Darkest Sin by D.V. Bishop: ‘This is the enthralling follow-up to City of Vengeance, which won the NZ Booklovers Fiction Award in 2022. Once again, D.V. Bishop creates a captivating story set in 1500s Florence, with detective-protagonist Cesare Aldo investigating a report of intruders at a convent. The author skilfully brings the dangerous streets of this Renaissance city to life, so much so that the reader feels they are walking the streets alongside Aldo. And what a protagonist! Human, vulnerable but principled. Aldo is on the way to becoming one of the most beloved flawed heroes in the crime thriller canon, like Rebus and Bosch.’

The Doctor’s Wife by Fiona Sussman: ‘When Stan’s wife is diagnosed with a brain tumour, their good friend, Dr Austin Lamb, steps in to help. But things turn dark when Lamb’s wife is found dead at the bottom of a cliff. With elements of dark humour, suspense and a few plot twists and turns, this story appeals on many levels. Great characters, an exploration of human frailty, friendships and loyalty, and the suburban setting make it feel like it could very well be happening in your backyard.  Fiona Sussman is a previous winner of the NZ Booklovers Fiction Award, and this is another superb novel to join her list.’

The Frog Prince by James Norcliffe: ‘A thoroughly engrossing, clever reinterpretation of the Brothers Grimm, balanced beautifully with a present-day suspense story reminiscent of some of the early provocations and explorations of Ian McEwan. A vague sense of menace builds over the course of The Frog Prince, leading to a brilliant and satisfying pay-off. Norcliffe seems to be a history buff. The novel is studded with little nods to WWI history and poetry, even as he infuses the contemporary story with wit and rolls out a cast of well-drawn, idiosyncratic supporting characters.’

The Slow Roll by Simon Lendrum: ‘Intricately composed and with a tone that tightropes between dry and a little melancholic, thanks to the protagonist’s, a quasi-PI named O’Malley, battle with bad memories and existential sorrow. Lendrum dexterously weaves an engrossing narrative with timely sparks of social commentary like the “stupid, stubborn logic” behind Auckland’s sprawl. While the influence of the likes of Michael Connelly and James Lee Burke is evident – a couple of their protagonists are even name-checked – Lendrum forges a story, and a hero, all his own. The O’Malley/Claire dynamic is irresistible, and the intense, high-stakes third act, coming not long after superb car-chase and knife-fight set pieces, shows Lendrum’s remarkable range.’


Grow: Wāhine finding connection through food by Sophie Merkins: ‘Sophie Merkins takes the reader on a journey across Aotearoa, meeting inspiring women who find meaning through food in this glorious hardback book, with stunning matt photography. A book that will resonate with many people, and it showcases many extraordinary women who grow, nourish and connect as part of their lives. Merkins has done a superb job capturing their individual stories, and the photography is beautiful. Grow is a book to treasure and will inspire future generations of wāhine in their endeavours.’

HomeGround: The story of a building that changes lives by Simon Wilson, photographs by Mark Smith: ‘HomeGround is the story of a 20-year collaboration by a group of focused and persistent visionaries to complete Auckland City Mission’s extraordinary new building. It is fitting that the book is also a collaborative effort, steered to its excellent conclusion by eminent Auckland journalist Simon Wilson. It may have initially been conceived as a book about architecture, but HomeGround tells such a story of vision, passion, aroha and courage that it is also one of hope and change. This wonderful book is sure to have broad appeal, and hopefully, it will enrol others to join the chorus and carry the vision of Auckland City Mission forward.’

 Kai: Food stories and recipes from my family table by Christall Lowe: ‘From the moody, jewel-like colours of the cover to the beautiful photographs of the recipes, and the recipes themselves, this is a cookbook certain to become a national treasure.  Many recipes will be familiar to the reader; they are part of our cultural identity, and we can identify with the anecdotes of life around the family table which accompany them. But one of the most striking things about this stellar book is the fact that the award-winning photographer author is also the stylist and recipe developer. Christall Lowe is a star, and Kai is a tribute to her abundance of talent.’

New Zealand Gardens to Visit by Juliet Nicholas & Rosemary Barraclough: ‘Photographer Juliet Nicholas and writer Rosemary Barraclough have collaborated on this stunning book that celebrates the best gardens that are open to visitors from around Aotearoa. The book is arranged regionally, from the top to the tip, so planning can be easily achieved for each area. This is a must-have book for anyone who enjoys gardens, with broad appeal for many Kiwi families. The photography is extraordinarily beautiful, and the accompanying text perfectly complements and enhances the photography. New Zealand Gardens to Visit will feed your soul, with more than 50 different gardens to fall in love with.’

Robin White: Something is Happening Here by Sarah Farrar, Jill Trevelyan and Nina Tonga: ‘This book celebrates one of our most important artists and is the first book devoted to her visionary art in 40 years.  Although its publication coincided with the exhibition of the same title, this book is compelling in its own right.  Each chronological section relates to a phase in White’s art and life.  Featuring more than 150 of her inspiring artworks from early drawings to recent collaborations, this book showcases Robin’s impressive 50-year career.  This beautiful hardback art book demonstrates the power of art to honour the community, acknowledge history and address current social issues.

Rooms: Portraits of Remarkable New Zealand Interiors by Jane Ussher and John Walsh: ‘Words like opulent, lavish and luxurious come easily when describing the superb interior architecture photographer Jane Ussher has brought to us through the pages of some of our best-loved magazines. In this extraordinary book, surely a magnum opus celebrating her extraordinary career, the accolades normally reserved for her interiors belong to the book. Rarely is a book so well executed, so exquisitely detailed, that it becomes an instant favourite. From the exotic endplates to the velvet bookmarks, this is a benchmark book which sets new standards for publishers to aspire to.’

The Deep South by Andris Apse:  ‘Highly esteemed New Zealand landscape photographer Andris Apse’s The Deep South combines breathtaking images with his thoughts and observations, and with writing from Laurence Fearnley, Keri Hulme and Dr Hinemoa Elder. Superbly composed with lush photography and writing which prompts the reader to pause, consider, and reflect, The Deep South is a book to give both to others and yourself to treasure. It celebrates the wilds of the South Island to Antarctica.’

 The Homemade Table by Nicola Galloway: ‘The Homemade Table is more than a cookbook; it features everyday essentials, including bread, dairy products, ferments and preserves.  Nicola’s focus on seasonal produce will inspire you to create delicious and nourishing meals, and she shares her step-by-step guide to homemade preserves, sourdough and culture.  Nicola’s love of food resonates on every page and is accompanied by stunning photography. In the wake of the recent pandemic and a drive towards self-sufficiency, this is a delightful book you will return to time after time.’


Amorangi and Millie’s Trip through Time by Lauren Keenan: ‘An engaging tale about Māori siblings Amorangi and Millie, who must venture back through time to save their mum. A brilliant page-turner that weaves mystery with Aotearoa New Zealand history, including colonisation’s dark results, attitudes towards Māori and land acquisition and Parihaka, all pitched perfectly to make for a fun and riveting reading.’

Kidnap At Mystery Island by Carol Garden: ‘Set in a time after the great global Environment Revolution of 2072, readers enter a high-tech world of eco criminals, artificial islands, global warming, rising seas, and patrolling coastal rangers. With a richly imagined world and strong characters that break the mould, this exciting, action-packed novel will grip readers from the very first page.’

Little Tales of Hedgehog and Goat by Paula Green: ‘Goat dreams of a best friend when she hears a strange sound coming from a ball. It’s Hedgehog. So begins an unexpected friendship and an illustrated story brimming with adventure and wisdom. Whimsical illustrations by Kimberly Andrews add to the charm of this gentle novel about friendship and finding the magic in every day.’

 Masher by Fifi Colston: ‘Freddie just wants to create, but when ashes from his neighbour’s deceased bull terrier get in his papier-mache mix, his art project goes to a whole other level. The young boy suddenly has art to make and a mystery to solve with the help of his unpredictable canine creation, Masher. Freddie’s voice shines throughout this warm, funny story about companionship, friends, enemies and the choices we make.’

Sylvia and the Birds by Johanna Emeny and Sarah Laing: ‘Based on the life of Sylvia Durrant, Sylvia and the Birds is a wonderfully diverse blend of biography, description and explanation of the birdlife of Aotearoa and practical ways in which our native birds can be helped and protected. The variety of the text using graphics, photographs, quizzes and activities encourages interaction and self-learning. Sylvia Durrant’s life, with the many challenges she has faced as both a child and an adult, is honestly portrayed, giving young readers the opportunity to learn and reflect on our social history. This beautifully illustrated and the presented book is a must for family bookshelves.’

The Ghost House by Bill Nagelkerke: ‘Twelve-year-old David’s life has changed dramatically. His family has relocated to Christchurch, and, as well as that; he has had to endure a life-threatening illness which has left him unable to be involved in the activities he loves. His exploration of the Red Zone, near his home, and his discovery of an ancient and damaged villa and the older woman who lives there create a way forward for recovery and understanding. This is a poignant and tender story about a child confronting tough challenges and moving towards healing and self-awareness.’


Crane Guy by Sally Sutton: ‘A tongue-twisting extravaganza paired with gorgeous, rich art, Crane Guy is a great picture book that deserves a place on any bookshelf of caregivers who want to expand and engage young readers in the delight of words.’

How My Koro Became A Star by Brianne Te Paa: ‘A young boy learns the customs about Matariki from his grandfather. Together the pair watch the stars, prepare food and learn about Te Waka o Rangi. Just before Matariki the next year, the boy’s koro dies, and it becomes his mission to pass on his knowledge. This is a touching story about Aroha and family, and a true taonga about the significance and importance of traditions.’

Kororā and the Sushi Shop by Linda Jane Keegan: ‘Inspired by true events, this is a sweet story about two adventurous Kororā who take up residence in a Wellington sushi shop. With a snappy rhyme scheme, plenty of adventures to be had and adorable art, this is sure to become a read-aloud favourite.’

Matariki Around The World by Rangi Matamua and Miriama Kamo: ‘Matariki describes, explores and celebrates Matariki, the significance of the star cluster and the associated stories of Aotearoa, with each star individually presented and its importance explained. The book also moves to other countries where this star cluster has been observed with the various names given and the many narratives which have sprung up. The stories are engaging, and the illustrations are delicately coloured and detailed, creating a sense of mystery. A beautifully written and presented book which children and adults will treasure.’

My Mum is Queen of the Road by Jennifer Beck: Ari’s mum is no ordinary queen with a crown and a throne and corgis, but Queen of the Road – ‘she looks after the traffic. When my mum holds up her red sign, all the traffic has to stop.’ Quirky, warm-hearted and with gentle humour, this delightful picture book celebrates mums and the jobs they do and the pride their families feel for them.’

Roo and Vladimir by Minky Stapleton: ‘Roo is goofy, clumsy and all he wants is a friend. But the other dogs are afraid of him. It takes a big storm and a washed-out bridge for Roo to prove his worth, but eventually, he becomes a much-loved town hero. A tale of unlikely friendships and finding your place in the world, this is a sweet picture book packed with quirky characters and big personalities.’

The Lighthouse Princess by Susan Wardell: ‘In this vibrant and contemporary fairytale, The Lighthouse Princess takes care of the light that keeps ships at sea safe, catches fish off the balcony and swims with penguins and seals. One day a boy in a boat needs rescuing, but this isn’t some cliché; this book celebrates independence and friendship. Magical illustrations round out this perfect package.’

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