It's the biggest night on New Zealand's literary calendar - and this year, because of level three lockdown and restrictions on social gatherings, organisers have had to be creative about how to hold the annual Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Their solution means many more will get the chance to see which authors and books win top awards including the country's most lucrative writing prize, the $55,000 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction.

The ceremony will be hosted by The Hits presenter and te reo Māori advocate Stacey Morrison, who has hosted the awards for the past two years.


It's the same night originally set down for the evening, which usually heralds the official start to the much-loved Auckland Writers Festival. Nicola Legat, New Zealand Book Awards Trust chair, says Covid-19 has interfered with the annual celebration of the finalist authors and publishers in an event that's greatly anticipated and enjoyed by hundreds.

"But as the old adage goes, 'the show must go on', and we hope that by making our announcements 'virtual' we will reach an audience of thousands on the evening of 12 May."

Working with the AWF team and production company Lotech, a slick, tight virtual ceremony begins at 6pm with the announcement of the MitoQ Best First Book award winners. It will then continue after a short break, at 7pm, with formalities and the reveal of winners of the four main subject categories.

They are:

Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction:

Auē by Becky Manawatu
Pearly Gates by Owen Marshall
A Mistake by Carl Shuker
Halibut on the Moon by David Vann

Aue by Becky Manawatu. Photo / Supplied
Aue by Becky Manawatu. Photo / Supplied
Pearly Gates by Owen Marshall. Photo / Supplied
Pearly Gates by Owen Marshall. Photo / Supplied
A Mistake by Carl Shuker. Photo / Supplied
A Mistake by Carl Shuker. Photo / Supplied
Halibut on the Moon by David Vann. Photo / Supplied
Halibut on the Moon by David Vann. Photo / Supplied

Mary and Peter Biggs Awards for Poetry:

Moth Hour by Anne Kennedy
How to Live by Helen Rickerby
Lay Studies by Steven Toussaint
How I Get Ready by Ashleigh Young

Illustrated Non-Fiction Award:


Crafting Aotearoa: A Cultural History of Making in New Zealand and the Wider Moana Oceania edited by Karl Chitham, Kolokesa U Māhina-Tuai, Damian Skinner
Protest Tautohetohe: Objects of Resistance, Persistence and Defiance edited by Stephanie Gibson, Matariki Williams, Puawai Cairns
We Are Here: An Atlas of Aotearoa by Chris McDowall and Tim Denee
McCahon Country by Justin Paton

General Non-Fiction Award:

Dead People I Have Known by Shayne Carter
Shirley Smith: An Examined Life by Sarah Gaitanos
Wild Honey: Reading New Zealand Women's Poetry by Paula Green
Towards the Mountain: A Story of Grief and Hope Forty Years on from Erebus by Sarah Myles