It could be read as a who's who of New Zealand literature; instead it's the long list for the country's most prestigious book awards.

Organisers says this year's Ockham NZ Book Awards' long list, announced today, is "laden with literary luminaries" with each of the four main categories featuring previous winners and nominees. It is in marked contrast to last year's selection, which saw emerging writers and those experimenting with form and structure favoured by judges.

Ten books are longlisted in each of the four awards categories - fiction, general non-fiction, illustrated non-fiction and poetry – with the shortlist to be announced on March 6 and the winners at the first event of the Auckland Writers Festival in May.

The Acorn Foundation Fiction category, accompanied by a $53,000 prize, includes the latest works by Charlotte Grimshaw, Kirsty Gunn, Lloyd Jones, Anne Kennedy, Fiona Kidman, Maurice Gee and Vincent O'Sullivan.

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All are previous NZ book award winners but they face tough competition from fellow first-time nominees, Rajorshi Chakraborti, Majella Cullinane, Kate Duignan and Tina Makereti whose books have been favourably reviewed.

Of Makereti's The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke, Herald book reviewer David Hill wrote, "Tina Makereti's characters move among places and people where mundane blends with marvellous; colloquial with lyrical; violent with self-sacrificial ... Makereti is able to take a moment and examine its reality, even as she turns it into something symbolic and transcending ..."

Kiran Dass described Kate Duignan's The New Ships as a "very satisfying first novel" and went on to say, "Settings and characters are fully realised, rich in sensory and physical detail. Duignan brilliantly captures, for example, boardroom behaviour in the legal world."

Writing in the NZ Listener, reviewer Catherine Robertson summed up The Man Who Would Not See, Rajorshi Chakraborti's fifth novel, as "… an absorbing, gripping read that is ultimately about the importance of family and the emotional labour required to create deep, honest connections."

Photographer Jane Ussher receives two nominations in the Illustrated Non-fiction category, one for The New Zealand Horse by Deborah Coddington and the other for her work on Nigel Watson's Hillary's Antarctica: Adventure, Exploration and Establishing Scott Base.

NZ Book Awards Trust chairwoman Nicola Legat says the awards, which started in 1968 as the Wattie Book Awards, signal an encouraging situation for the country's literature with a large number of entries received from a mix of established and emerging writers.

The 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlisted titles are:

Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize:
The Man Who Would Not See by Rajorshi Chakraborti
The Life of De'Ath by Majella Cullinane
The New Ships by Kate Duignan
Mazarine by Charlotte Grimshaw
Caroline's Bikini by Kirsty Gunn
The Cage by Lloyd Jones
The Ice Shelf by Anne Kennedy
This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman
The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke by Tina Makereti
All This by Chance by Vincent O'Sullivan

The covers of the Royal Society Te Aparangi Award General Non-fiction books long listed for this year's Ockham NZ Book Awards.
The covers of the Royal Society Te Aparangi Award General Non-fiction books long listed for this year's Ockham NZ Book Awards.

The Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction:

Filming the Colonial Past: The New Zealand Wars on Screen

by Annabel Cooper

Song for Rosaleen

by Pip Desmond

Hudson & Halls: The Food of Love

by Joanne Drayton

Memory Pieces

by Maurice Gee

The Heart of Jesús Valentino: A Mother's Story

by Emma Gilkison

We Can Make a Life

by Chessie Henry

Swim: A Year of Swimming Outdoors in New Zealand

by Annette Lees

The Vulgar Wasp: The Story of a Ruthless Invader and Ingenious Predator

by Phil Lester

With Them Through Hell: New Zealand Medical Services in the First World War

by Anna Rogers

Dear Oliver: Uncovering a Pākehā History

by Peter Wells

The covers of the Illustrated Non-Fiction long listed books at the Ockham NZ Book Awards.
The covers of the Illustrated Non-Fiction long listed books at the Ockham NZ Book Awards.

Illustrated Non-Fiction Award:

Fight for the Forests: The Pivotal Campaigns that Saved New Zealand's Native Forests

by Paul Bensemann

Galleries of Maoriland: Artists, Collectors and the Māori World, 1880-1910

by Roger Blackley

The New Zealand Horse

by Deborah Coddington and photographs by Jane Ussher

Mataatua Wharenui: Te Whare i Hoki Mai

by Layne Harvey, Hirini Mead, Pouroto Ngaropo and Te Onehou Phillis

Wanted: The Search for the Modernist Murals of E. Mervyn Taylor

edited by Bronwyn Holloway-Smith

Tatau: A History of Sāmoan Tattooing

by Sean Mallon with Sébastien Galliot

Birdstories: A History of the Birds of New Zealand

by Geoff Norman

Whatever it Takes: Pacific Films and John O'Shea 1948-2000

by John Reid

Down the Bay: A natural and cultural history of Abel Tasman National Park

by Philip Simpson

Hillary's Antarctica: Adventure, Exploration and Establishing Scott Base

by Nigel Watson, photographs by Jane Ussher

Poetry Award:

Edgeland and other Poems

by David Eggleton

The Farewell Tourist

by Alison Glenny

Are Friends Electric?

by Helen Heath

All of Us

by Adrienne Jansen and Carina Gallegos

There's No Place Like the Internet in Springtime

by Erik Kennedy

The Facts

by Therese Lloyd

Winter Eyes

by Harry Ricketts

Walking to Jutland Street

by Michael Steven

Poūkahangatus

by Tayi Tibble

Aspiring Daybook: The Diary of Elsie Winslow

by Annabel Wilson