Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Longlist Breaks All Records


 Highly personal memoir, probing political treatise and gut-punching poetry collections sit alongside trailblazing fiction and books exploring our whenua, moana, artists and entertainers in the longlists for the 2023 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Today’s longlist announcement is the largest and widest ranging in the recent history of the awards, with a record number of 44 poetry, prose, general and illustrated non-fiction titles.


The increase from 40 longlisted titles in previous years is due to the General Non-Fiction judges accepting an invitation from the New Zealand Book Awards Trust Te Ohu Tiaki i Te Rau Hiringa to select up to 14 titles, rather than the standard 10 in their category. The General Non-Fiction shortlist will still be four, in line with the other categories.

Trust chair Nicola Legat says that the discretionary increase reflects the volume of submissions for the General Non-Fiction award, the number and range of which well exceeds the other three categories.

“This gives the judges more opportunity to honour more books, and more types of books. This category longlist certainly reflects the terrific depth and breadth of non-fiction publishing in New Zealand and is a credit to its authors and publishers.”

There were 191 award entries this year – more than ever before, and an increase of 20 percent compared to 2022. Almost a third (14) of longlistees are first-time authors – an increase from 10 debutants on the 40-strong list last year. With 19 publishers represented across all categories, the longlist’s wide distribution is a reflection of Aotearoa’s vibrant literary industry.

“The New Zealand Book Awards Trust was thrilled by the record number of entries to the awards this year. It’s very heartening to see the longlist shared among so many publishing houses, both big and small,” says Nicola Legat. “When you consider that many of these books were produced and went to print during the stressful Covid restrictions of late 2021, it’s even more of an achievement. We congratulate all concerned.”


The 2023 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlisted titles are:

*represents debut authors.

Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction

Better the Blood by Michael Bennett (Simon & Schuster)

Chevalier & Gawayn: The Ballad of the Dreamer by Phillip Mann (Quentin Wilson Publishing)

Down from Upland by Murdoch Stephens (Lawrence & Gibson)

Home Theatre by Anthony Lapwood (Te Herenga Waka University Press)*

How to Loiter in a Turf War by Coco Solid (Penguin, Penguin Random House)*

Kāwai: For Such a Time as This by Monty Soutar (Bateman Books)

Mary’s Boy, Jean-Jacques and other stories by Vincent O’Sullivan (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

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

The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

The Fish by Lloyd Jones (Penguin, Penguin Random House)


Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry

Always Italicise: How to Write While Colonised by Alice Te Punga Somerville (Auckland University Press)

Echidna by Essa May Ranapiri (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

Meat Lovers by Rebecca Hawkes (Auckland University Press)*

Night School by Michael Steven (Otago University Press)

People Person by Joanna Cho (Te Herenga Waka University Press)*

Sedition by Anahera Maire Gildea (Taraheke | Bush Lawyer)*

Super Model Minority by Chris Tse (Auckland University Press)

Surrender by Michaela Keeble (Taraheke | Bush Lawyer)*

The Pistils by Janet Charman (Otago University Press)

We’re All Made of Lightning by Khadro Mohamed (We Are Babies Press, Tender Press)*


Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction

I am Autistic by Chanelle Moriah (Allen & Unwin)*

Jumping Sundays: The Rise and Fall of the Counterculture in Aotearoa New Zealand by Nick Bollinger (Auckland University Press)

Kai: Food Stories and Recipes from my Family Table by Christall Lowe (Bateman Books)*

Nature Boy: The Photography of Olaf Petersen edited by Catherine Hammond and Shaun Higgins (Auckland University Press)

Paradise Camp by Yuki Kihara, edited by Natalie King (Thames & Hudson Australia)

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

Secrets of the Sea: The Story of New Zealand’s Native Sea Creatures by Robert Vennell (HarperCollins)

Tāngata Ngāi Tahu | People of Ngāi Tahu Volume Two edited by Helen Brown and Michael J Stevens (Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Bridget Williams Books)

Te Motunui Epa by Rachel Buchanan (Bridget Williams Books)

Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art edited by Nigel Borell (Penguin Random House New Zealand in association with Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki)


General Non-Fiction Award

A Fire in the Belly of Hineāmaru: A Collection of Narratives about Te Tai Tokerau Tūpuna by Melinda Webber and Te Kapua O’Connor (Auckland University Press)

A History of New Zealand in 100 Objects by Jock Phillips (Penguin, Penguin Random House)

Democracy in Aotearoa New Zealand: A Survival Guide by Geoffrey Palmer and Gwen Palmer Steeds (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

Downfall: The Destruction of Charles Mackay by Paul Diamond (Massey University Press)

Empire City: Wellington Becomes the Capital of New Zealand by John E Martin (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

Every Sign of Life: On Family Ground by Nicholas Lyon Gresson (Quentin Wilson Publishing)

Gaylene’s Take: Her Life in New Zealand Film by Gaylene Preston (Te Herenga Waka University Press)*

Grand: Becoming my Mother’s Daughter by Noelle McCarthy (Penguin, Penguin Random House)*

Lāuga: Understanding Samoan Oratory by Sadat Muaiava (Te Papa Press)*

So Far, For Now: On Journeys, Widowhood and Stories that are Never Over by Fiona Kidman (Vintage, Penguin Random House)

The English Text of the Treaty of Waitangi by Ned Fletcher (Bridget Williams Books)*

The Road to Gondwana: In Search of the Lost Supercontinent by Bill Morris (Exisle Publishing)*

Thief, Convict, Pirate, Wife: The Many Histories of Charlotte Badger by Jennifer Ashton (Auckland University Press)

You Probably Think This Song is About You by Kate Camp (Te Herenga Waka University Press)


The 2023 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards shortlist of 16 titles will be announced on 8 March. The winners, including four Best First Book Awards recipients, will be announced at a public ceremony on 17 May during the 2023 Auckland Writers Festival.

The winner of the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction will receive $64,000 in 2023 and each of the other main category prizes will earn their winners $12,000 (up from $10,000 in recent years). Each of the Best First Book winners, for fiction, poetry, general non-fiction and illustrated non-fiction, will be awarded $3000 (up from $2500).

The Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction will be judged by bestselling author, critic and creative writing teacher Stephanie Johnson (convenor); editor and literature assessor John Huria (Ngāi Tahu, Muaūpoko, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Ngāti Rangi); and Rotorua bookseller Jemma Morrison. They will be joined in deciding the ultimate winner from their shortlist of four by an international judge.

Judging the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry will be Dunedin poet, author and creative writing tutor Diane Brown (convenor); poet and kaiako Serie Barford; and Wellington poet and Grimshaw-Sargeson Fellow Gregory Kan.

The Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction will be judged by award-winning writer, historian and archivist Jared Davidson (convenor); writer and curator Dr Anna-Marie White (Te Ātiawa); and veteran television producer Taualeo’o Stephen Stehlin MNZM.

The General Non-Fiction Award will be judged by writer and award-winning columnist Anna Rawhiti-Connell (convenor); prize-winning author, academic and researcher Alison Jones; and historian Professor Te Maire Tau (Ūpoko of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, a hapu of Ngāi Tahu).

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, Jann Medlicott and the Acorn Foundation, Mary and Peter Biggs CNZM, Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand and the Auckland Writers Festival.

To find out more about the longlisted titles go to https://www.nzbookawards.nz/new-zealand-book-awards/2023-awards/longlist/



To download longlisted book covers: https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/lx0scfjv8vrydkvbue5xo/h?dl=0&rlkey=qgbakqb9r4u4qdpj771usjczs

To download social media visuals:  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/pepl2c2vte76y4n/AACPwY5sW8pIO3lCCY8zbIuja?dl=0

For interview opportunities, and further information please contact: Penny Hartill, director, hPR 021 721 424, penny@hartillpr.co.nz

#theockhams  facebook.com/NewZealandBookAwards     twitter.com/theockhams



Editor’s Notes:


In order to support the generosity of the funders associated with these awards, please use the full and correct names for each category prize, as shown in the copy above and below, and for the overall awards.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are the country’s premier literary honours for books written by New Zealanders. First established in 1968 as the Wattie Book Awards (later the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards), they have also been known as the Montana New Zealand Book Awards and the New Zealand Post Book Awards. Awards are given for Fiction (the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction), Poetry (the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry) Illustrated Non-Fiction (the Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction) and General Non-Fiction. There are also four Best First Book Awards for first-time authors and, at the judges’ discretion, Te Mūrau o te Tuhi, a Māori Language Award. The awards are governed by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust Te Ohu Tiaki i Te Rau Hiringa (a registered charity). Current members of the Trust are Nicola Legat, Rachael King, Richard Pamatatau, Garth Biggs, Jenna Todd, Laura Caygill, Claire Murdoch and Melinda Szymanik. The Trust also governs the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day.

Ockham Residential is Auckland’s most thoughtful developer. Through creating elegant and enduring buildings that are well-loved by those who make them home, Ockham hopes to enhance Auckland – and to contribute to its many communities. Founded in 2009 by Mark Todd and Benjamin Preston, Ockham supports a number of organisations in arts, science and education. These include the Ockham Collective, their creative and educational charity, the acclaimed BWB Texts series, the People’s Choice Award in New Zealand Geographic’s Photographer of the Year Award, and Ponsonby’s Objectspace gallery. But its principal sponsorship of the New Zealand Book Awards, a relationship now in its eighth year, is perhaps Ockham’s most visible contribution. Says Mark Todd: “Our communities would be drab, grey and much poorer places without art, without words, without science – without critical thought. That’s why our partnership with the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards means the world to us.”

Creative New Zealand has been a sustaining partner of New Zealand’s book awards for decades. The national arts development agency of the New Zealand government encourages, promotes and supports the arts in New Zealand for the benefit of all New Zealanders through funding, capability building, an international programme, and advocacy. Creative New Zealand provides a wide range of support to New Zealand literature, including funding for writers and publishers, residencies, literary festivals and awards, and supports organisations which work to increase the readership and sales of New Zealand literature at home and internationally.

The Acorn Foundation is a community foundation based in the Western Bay of Plenty, which encourages people to leave a gift in their wills and/or their lifetimes to support their local community forever. Donations are pooled and invested, and the investment income is used to make donations to local charities, in accordance with the donors’ wishes. The capital remains intact. Since it was established in 2003, Acorn has distributed over $13 million. Donors may choose which organisations are to benefit each year, or they may decide to leave it to the trustees’ discretion. Community foundations are the fastest growing form of philanthropy worldwide, and there are now 17 throughout New Zealand, with more in the early stages. The Prize for Fiction has been provided through the generosity of one of the Foundation’s donors, Jann Medlicott, and will be awarded to the top fiction work each year, in perpetuity. Its base figure of $50,000 in 2016 is adjusted each year, to reflect wage inflation.

Mary and Peter Biggs CNZM are long-time arts advocates and patrons – particularly of literature, theatre and music.  They have funded the Biggs Family Prize in Poetry at Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters since 2006, along with the Alex Scobie Research Prize in Classical Studies.  They have been consistent supporters of the International Festival the of the Arts, the Auckland Writers Festival, Wellington’s Circa Theatre, the New Zealand Arts Foundation, Featherston Booktown, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Featherston Sculpture Trust and the Wairarapa’s Kokomai Arts Festival.  Peter was Chair of Creative New Zealand from 1999 to 2006.  He led the Cultural Philanthropy Taskforce in 2010 and the New Zealand Professional Orchestra Sector Review in 2012.  Peter is Chief Executive of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.  He was appointed a Companion of New Zealand Order of Merit for arts governance and philanthropy in 2013.  Mary is the Operations Manager for Featherston Booktown Karukatea.  She has driven the Festival’s success and growth, and it is now regarded as one of the leading cultural events in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Founded in 1921, Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand is the membership association for bookshops in New Zealand. This national not-for-profit trade organisation works to help independently owned and chain bookstores to grow and succeed. Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand provides education, information, business products, and services; creates relevant programmes; and engages in public policy and industry advocacy. The association is governed by a volunteer board of booksellers.

For 23 years, the Auckland Writers Festival | Waituhi o Tāmaki has been a champion of thought leadership, literary engagement and community building. It is New Zealand’s premier celebration of books and ideas, with a record annual attendance of 83,000. The Festival offers a six-day programme of discussions, conversations, readings, debates and performances – including free and family events – with around 200 of the world’s best writers and thinkers from Aotearoa and abroad. This year’s Festival takes place from 16 – 21 May 2023.

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