Youth, Diversity and Vitality Reflected in Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Longlist

Books that explore issues of identity, domestic life, war, food, our natural world and our people are among the 40 works of poetry, prose and non-fiction longlisted for the 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards announced today.
The works, selected from 179 entries, range from intimate to global in scale and traverse cultural, historic, artistic and imagined landscapes.

There are 13 first-time authors among the longlistees, a testament to the vibrancy of our country’s literature says New Zealand Book Awards trustee Jenna Todd.

“There is such vitality in this year’s longlist, demonstrated by a diverse group, and including young and first-time authors. Half of this year’s Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction longlistees are debut novelists, which is extraordinary. They sit alongside some of our greatest living writers.

“There’s a year’s worth of reading here for those seeking considered perspectives on our modern zeitgeist, for readers wanting to be wowed by the beauty of art and nature, or for those wanting to escape into imagined realities.

“With writing and publishing of this calibre, it’s no surprise that New Zealand’s book boom continues.”

Revenue from sales of New Zealand-published adult books captured by Nielsen BookScan in 2020 was up 12.5 percent on the year before, despite the challenges of the pandemic. Submissions to the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards have increased by 16 percent over the last two years.

The Awards also attracted a new sponsor this year. Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand has secured naming rights to the Illustrated Non-Fiction category for the next five years.

Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand chair Juliet Blyth says the association – which celebrates its centenary this year – is beyond delighted to support the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, and the authors and illustrators who contribute so much to our cultural life. “Booksellers around the country hold these awards in high esteem, and the impact the awards have on sales of New Zealand books is immediate.

“Throughout 2020, booksellers around the country enjoyed the support of many New Zealanders reading more and buying locally. We wanted to demonstrate our appreciation, on behalf of our members, by giving back to the industry, the writers, the illustrators and the publishers who have created so many wonderful stories for booksellers to put on their shelves,” says Ms Blyth.

The 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlisted works are:

Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction

Nothing to See by Pip Adam (Victoria University Press)

Bug Week by Airini Beautrais (Victoria University Press)

Remote Sympathy by Catherine Chidgey (Victoria University Press)

Sprigs by Brannavan Gnanalingam (Lawrence & Gibson)

Victory Park by Rachel Kerr (Mākaro Press)

The Swimmers by Chloe Lane (Victoria University Press)

Fake Baby by Amy McDaid (Penguin, Penguin Random House)

2000ft Above Worry Level by Eamonn Marra (Victoria University Press)

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason (Fourth Estate, HarperCollins)

Toto Among the Murderers by Sally J. Morgan (John Murray Press, Hachette)


Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry

The Savage Coloniser Book by Tusiata Avia (Victoria University Press)

Funkhaus by Hinemoana Baker (Victoria University Press)

Far-Flung by Rhian Gallagher (Auckland University Press)

National Anthem by Mohamed Hassan (Dead Bird Books)

Wow by Bill Manhire (Victoria University Press)

Goddess Muscle by Karlo Mila (Huia Publishers)

Pins by Natalie Morrison (Victoria University Press)

This is Your Real Name by Elizabeth Morton (Otago University Press)

I Am a Human Being by Jackson Nieuwland (Compound Press)

Magnolia by Nina Mingya Powles (Seraph Press)


Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction

Marti Friedlander: Portraits of the Artists by Leonard Bell (Auckland University Press)

Hiakai: Modern Māori Cuisine by Monique Fiso (Godwit, Penguin Random House)

An Exquisite Legacy: The Life and Work of New Zealand Naturalist G.V. Hudson by George Gibbs (Potton & Burton)

Observations of a Rural Nurse by Sara McIntyre (Massey University Press)

Shining Land: Looking for Robin Hyde by Paula Morris and Haru Sameshima (Massey University Press)

Off the Beaten Track: Hunting Tales from the New Zealand Back Country by Dave Shaw (Bateman Books)

Colin McCahon: Is this the Promised Land? Vol. 2 1960-1987 by Peter Simpson (Auckland University Press)

Nature — Stilled by Jane Ussher (Te Papa Press)

Karl Maughan edited by Hannah Valentine and Gabriella Stead (Auckland University Press and Gow Langsford Gallery)

Endless Sea: Stories Told Through the Taonga of the New Zealand Maritime Museum Hui te Ananui a Tangaroa by Frances Walsh and Jane Ussher (Massey University Press)


General Non-Fiction Award

The Mirror Steamed Over: Love and Pop in London, 1962 by Anthony Byrt (Auckland University Press)

Crossing the Lines: The Story of Three Homosexual New Zealand Soldiers in World War II by Brent Coutts (Otago University Press)

Not in Narrow Seas: The Economic History of Aotearoa New Zealand by Brian Easton (Victoria University Press)

Bus Stops on the Moon: Red Mole Days 1974-1980 by Martin Edmond (Otago University Press)

Specimen: Personal Essays by Madison Hamill (Victoria University Press)

This Pākehā Life: An Unsettled Memoir by Alison Jones (Bridget Williams Books)

Te Hāhi Mihinare |The Māori Anglican Church by Hirini Kaa (Bridget Williams Books)

The Dark is Light Enough: Ralph Hotere a Biographical Portrait by Vincent O’Sullivan (Penguin, Penguin Random House)

You Have A Lot to Lose: A Memoir 1956-1986 by C.K. Stead (Auckland University Press)

Towards Compostela: Walking the Camino de Santiago by Catharina van Bohemen (The Cuba Press).


The 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards shortlist of 16 titles will be announced on 3 March 2021. The winners, including the four MitoQ Best First Book awards, will be announced at a public ceremony on 12 May during the 2021 Auckland Writers Festival.

To find out more about the longlisted titles go to

The Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction, which offers $57,000 to the winner in 2021, will be judged by writer and reviewer Kiran Dass; books editor and award-winning feature writer Paul Little; and writer Claire Finlayson, former Programme Director of the Dunedin Writers & Readers Festival. They will be joined by an international judge, whose identity will be revealed in March 2021, to decide the ultimate winner from their shortlist of four.


Finalists and the ultimate winner in the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry will be selected by writer, poet, academic and 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalist Briar Wood (Te Hikutu ki Hokianga, Ngāpuhi Nui); teacher and award-winning poet and novelist Anne Kennedy; and professor of English at the University of Otago Jacob Edmond.

The Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction will be judged by Dale Cousens (Ngāruahine) of the National Library of New Zealand; bookseller and former publisher Brian Phillips; and writer, multi-award-winning graphic designer and magazine art director Jenny Nicholls.


The General Non-Fiction Award will be judged by editor and associate professor of English at the University of Waikato Sarah Shieff; filmmaker and lecturer in Māori history at Victoria University Wellington Arini Loader (Ngāti Raukawa, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Whakaue); and Dunedin bookseller Michael Yeomans.


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, MitoQ, Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand and the Auckland Writers Festival.

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 list of finalists above, and 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 awards for first-time authors (The MitoQ 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 (a registered charity). Current members of the Trust are Nicola Legat, Karen Ferns, Paula Morris, Jenna Todd, Anne Morgan, Melanee Winder, Melinda Szymanik and Richard Pamatatau. 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 ardent 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 their principal sponsorship of the New Zealand Book Awards, a relationship now in its seventh year, is perhaps their 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 $$8.6 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, Latin and Greek. They have been consistent supporters of the International Festival of the Arts, the Auckland Writers Festival, Wellington’s Circa Theatre, the New Zealand Arts Foundation, Featherston Booktown, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura (formerly the New Zealand Book Council), the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Featherston Sculpture Trust and the Kokomai Arts Festival in the Wairarapa. 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 was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for arts governance and philanthropy in 2013.

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.

MitoQ is one of New Zealand’s newest global success stories. Founded on breakthrough cellular research undertaken at the University of Otago, MitoQ® is the only product to directly target the mitochondria, which are responsible for producing the body’s energy. Over 400 reviews and studies have to date been published on the positive benefits of MitoQ® to health and athletic performance. MitoQ’s success has placed the company in the exciting position of being able to put back into its communities through sponsorship, particularly in the arts, which it sees as essential to the wellbeing of society. The company is delighted to support the enrichment of New Zealand literature through the MitoQ Best First Book awards.

The Auckland Writers Festival | Waituhi o Tāmaki is the largest literary event in New Zealand and the largest presenter of Aotearoa literature in the world. Established in 1999, this annual festival hosts more than 200 writers for six days of discussion, conversation, reading, debate, performance, schools, family and free events ranging across fiction, non-fiction, poetry, music, theatre, culture, art and more. Audience attendance in 2019 exceeded 83,000. 11-16 May 2021.

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