Praised and popular books nominated for 2024 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards     


Bestselling and critically acclaimed works of fiction, illuminating poetry collections, absorbing memoirs, and books that explore our whenua, flora and fauna feature alongside those that celebrate our culinary and artistic heroes and heroines in the 2024 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlists announced today.

Twelve of the 44 longlisted books are by first-time authors, and they are published by a record number of 20 individual publishing houses across the motu.

New Zealand Book Awards Trust Te Ohu Tiaki i Te Rau Hiringa chair Nicola Legat says this year’s longlist, selected from 171 entries, is a testament to the creativity and research skills of their authors, and to the willingness of publishers to take risks and back their writers.

“It’s a thrill to read this longlist and see both the high number of first-time writers, represented in every category, and the spread across a very wide group of publishers. A powerful and impressive list studded with books that entertain readers and offer important insights into our world has been put before our judges for consideration,” she says.

The 2024 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlisted titles are:

*Represents debut authors.

Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction

A Better Place by Stephen Daisley (Text Publishing)

Audition by Pip Adam (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

Backwaters by Emma Ling Sidnam (Text Publishing)*

Bird Life by Anna Smaill (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

Lioness by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Pet by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

Ruin and Other Stories by Emma Hislop (Kāi Tahu) (Te Herenga Waka University Press)*

Signs of Life by Amy Head (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

Turncoat by Tīhema Baker (Raukawa te Au ki te Tonga, Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai, Ngāti Toa Rangatira) (Lawrence & Gibson)


Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry

At the Point of Seeing by Megan Kitching (Otago University Press)*

Big Fat Brown Bitch by Tusiata Avia (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

Biter by Claudia Jardine (Auckland University Press)

Calamities! by Jane Arthur (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

Chinese Fish by Grace Yee (Giramondo Publishing)*

Root Leaf Flower Fruit by Bill Nelson (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

Say I Do This: Poems 2018–2022 by C. K. Stead (Auckland University Press)

Talia by Isla Huia (Te Āti Haunui a-Pāpārangi, Uenuku) (Dead Bird Books)*

The Artist by Ruby Solly (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

When I Reach for Your Pulse by Rushi Vyas (Otago University Press)

Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction

Don Binney: Flight Path by Gregory O’Brien (Auckland University Press)

Flora: Celebrating our Botanical World edited by Carlos Lehnebach, Claire Regnault, Rebecca Rice, Isaac Te Awa (Kāti Māmoe, Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Ngā Puhi) and Rachel Yates (Te Papa Press)

Fungi of Aotearoa: A Curious Forager’s Field Guide by Liv Sisson (Penguin, Penguin Random House)*

Marilynn Webb: Folded in the Hills by Lauren Gutsell, Lucy Hammonds and Bridget Reweti (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi) (Dunedin Public Art Gallery)

Ngā Kaihanga Uku: Māori Clay Artists by Baye Riddell (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-a-Ruataupare) (Te Papa Press)*

Our Land in Colour: A History of Aotearoa New Zealand 1860-1960 by Brendan Graham with Jock Phillips (HarperCollins NZ)

Pacific Arts Aotearoa edited by Lana Lopesi (Penguin, Penguin Random House)

Rugby League in New Zealand: A People’s History by Ryan Bodman (Bridget Williams Books)*

Sure to Rise: The Edmonds Story by Peter Alsop, Kate Parsonson and Richard Wolfe (Canterbury University Press)

Through Shaded Glass: Women and Photography in Aotearoa New Zealand 1860-1960 by Lissa Mitchell (Te Papa Press)*


General Non-Fiction Award

An Indigenous Ocean: Pacific Essays by Damon Salesa (Bridget Williams Books)

Blood and Dirt: Prison Labour and the Making of New Zealand by Jared Davidson (Bridget Williams Books)

Commune: Chasing a Utopian Dream in Aotearoa by Olive Jones (Potton & Burton)*

End Times by Rebecca Priestley (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

Laughing at the Dark: A Memoir by Barbara Else (Penguin, Penguin Random House)

Ngātokimatawhaorua: The Biography of a Waka by Jeff Evans (Massey University Press)

Ora: Healing Ourselves – Indigenous Knowledge, Healing and Wellbeing edited by Leonie Pihama (Te Ātiawa, Ngā Māhanga ā Tairi, Waikato) and Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou, Tūhourangi) (Huia Publishers)

Snorkelling the Abyss: One Woman, Striving to Survive, Fighting for Survivors by Jan Jordan (The Cuba Press)

Soundings: Diving for Stories in the Beckoning Sea by Kennedy Warne (Massey University Press)

Takahē: Bird of Dreams by Alison Ballance (Potton & Burton)

The Drinking Game by Guyon Espiner (Allen & Unwin)

The Financial Colonisation of Aotearoa by Catherine Comyn (Ngāti Ranginui) (Economic and Social Research Aotearoa)*

The Forgotten Prophet: Tāmati Te Ito and His Kaingārara Movement by Jeffrey Sissons (Bridget Williams Books)

There’s a Cure for This: A Memoir by Emma Espiner (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Porou) (Penguin, Penguin Random House)*

This year the General Non-Fiction judges have again taken advantage of their discretion to increase their longlist to 14 titles, an invitation introduced for the first time in 2023 to reflect the greater number of entries and range of genre in this category.

The 2024 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards shortlist of 16 titles (four books in each category) will be announced on 6 March. The winners, including the four Mātātuhi Foundation Best First Book Awards recipients, will be announced at a public ceremony on 15 May during the 2024 Auckland Writers Festival.

The winner of the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction will receive $65,000 in 2024 and each of the other main category winners will receive $12,000. Each of The Mātātuhi Foundation Best First Book winners (for fiction, poetry, general non-fiction and illustrated non-fiction) will be awarded $3,000.

The Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction will be judged by reading advocate and former bookseller Juliet Blyth (convenor); writer, reviewer and literary festival curator Kiran Dass; and fiction writer Anthony Lapwood (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Whakaue, Pākehā). 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 poet, critic and editor Erik Kennedy (convenor); poet and performance writer Tru Paraha (Ngāti Hineāmaru, Te Kahu o Torongare ki Waiomio, Ngāti Te Tarawa); and author, editor and university lecturer Dougal McNeill.

The General Non-Fiction Award will be judged by journalist and academic Jim Tully ONZM (convenor), writer, editor, broadcaster and literary festival curator Kerry Sunderland; and academic, researcher and author Rebecca Kiddle (Ngāti Porou, Ngā Puhi).

The Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction will be judged by former radio broadcaster and book reviewer Lynn Freeman (convenor); arts advocate and former festival director Marianne Hargreaves; and artist, curator and writer Ane Tonga.

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

To find out more about the longlisted titles go to



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 (The Mātātuhi Foundation Best First Book Awards) 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, Renée Rowland, Laura Caygill, Suzy Maddox 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 ninth 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.

Acorn Foundation is a community foundation based in the Western Bay of Plenty, which celebrated its 20th birthday in 2023. Acorn encourages people to establish an endowment fund to support the local community forever. Donations are pooled and invested, and the investment income is used to make annual donations to local charities, in accordance with the donors’ wishes, while the capital remains intact. Acorn has now distributed over $16.5 million to causes important to their donors. Community foundations are the fastest growing form of philanthropy worldwide, and there are now 17 located across this country, with more than 85% of New Zealanders able to access a local foundation. The Prize for Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards has been provided through the generosity of one of Acorn’s donors, the late Jann Medlicott, and will be awarded to the top fiction work each year, in perpetuity.

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.

The Mātātuhi Foundation was established by the Auckland Writers Festival to support the growth and development of New Zealand’s literary landscape. To achieve this goal, the Foundation holds a biannual grants round; inviting submissions from projects that support and promote the work of New Zealand writers and/or materially increase the levels of engagement and appreciation for New Zealand literature among New Zealand readers

For 24 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 over 200 of the world’s best writers and thinkers from Aotearoa and overseas. This year’s Festival takes place from 14 – 19 May 2024.


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