The debates and discussions as to the country's best books are about to begin again with today's announcement of the longlist for the 2020 Ockham NZ Book Awards.
Forty books have made the list from more than 170 initial entries which judges have spent hours poring over. The result is the most varied list of recent years, with established authors competing against first-time writers in all four categories. They are the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, the Peter and Mary Biggs Award for Poetry, Illustrated Non-fiction and General Non-fiction.
In total 11 new writers made the long list, three in the fiction category which the NZ Book Awards Trust spokesperson Paula Morris describes as unusual.
It means rock star Shayne Carter's memoir Dead People I Have Known rubs shoulders in general non-fiction with Vincent O'Malley's The New Zealand Wars | Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa while the fiction prize sees well-known authors like Owen Marshall and Elizabeth Knox up against newcomers Ruby Porter and Sharon Lam.
"Overall, though, there's huge variation in the writers nominated from the generations they come from to the kinds of books they are writing and the subject matter they're dealing with," says Morris.
While there has been comment that the fiction list is often overly focused on literary fiction, the 2020 one includes books from the more commercial end of the genre. Morris says that's reflected in the range of publishers represented but, despite the variety of books on all four lists, she's under no illusion that everyone will be happy.
"They'll always be debates about what didn't make the longlist and that will continue when the shortlist is announced," she says. "Favourites will be left out."
Morris says she doesn't envy judges in the non-fiction categories having to pick books which traverse our cultural, historic, artistic and political landscapes.
"There are so many good ones, I could have my entire Christmas list for the year sorted."
She points to a strong poetry category, which includes Canvas columnist Ashleigh Young, as a sign of the continuing and growing strength in local poetry.
The shortlist will be announced on Wednesday, March 4 while the winners, including the four MitoQ best first book awards, are announced on Tuesday, May 12 during the 2020 Auckland Writers Festival.
The 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlisted titles are:
Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize:
The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox (Victoria University Press)
Lonely Asian Woman by Sharon Lam (Lawrence & Gibson)
Necessary Secrets by Greg McGee (Upstart Press)
Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press)
Moonlight Sonata by Eileen Merriman (Black Swan, Penguin Random House)
Pearly Gates by Owen Marshall (Vintage, Penguin Random House)
Attraction by Ruby Porter (Text Publishing)
A Mistake by Carl Shuker (Victoria University Press)
Loving Sylvie by Elizabeth Smither (Allen & Unwin)
Halibut on the Moon by David Vann (Text Publishing)
Mary and Peter Biggs Awards for Poetry:
Craven by Jane Arthur (Victoria University Press)
Listening In by Lynley Edmeades (Otago University Press)
Back Before You Know by Murray Edmond (Compound Press)
Under Glass by Gregory Kan (Auckland University Press)
Moth Hour by Anne Kennedy (Auckland University Press)
Ransack by Essa-May Ranapiri (Victoria University Press)
How to Live by Helen Rickerby (Auckland University Press)
Lay Studies by Steven Toussaint (Victoria University Press)
Because a Woman's Heart is Like a Needle at the Bottom of the Ocean by Sugar Magnolia Wilson
(Auckland University Press)
How I Get Ready by Ashleigh Young (Victoria University Press)
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 (Te Papa Press)
Protest Tautohetohe: Objects of Resistance, Persistence and Defiance edited by Stephanie Gordon, Matariki Williams, Puawai Cairns (Te Papa Press)
Frances Hodgkins: European Journeys edited by Catherine Hammond and Mary Kisler (Auckland University Press and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki)
Funny As: The Story of New Zealand Comedy by Paul Horan and Philip Matthews (Auckland University Press)
The New Photography: New Zealand's First-generation Contemporary Photographers edited by Athol McCredie (Te Papa Press)
We Are Here: An Atlas of Aotearoa by Chris McDowall and Tim Denee (Massey University Press)
Louise Henderson: From Life edited by Felicity Milburn, Lara Strongman, Julia Waite (Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū)
McCahon Country by Justin Paton (Penguin Random House)
Colin McCahon: There is Only One Direction, Vol. 1 1919-1959 by Peter Simpson (Auckland University Press)
The Meaning of Trees: The History and Use of New Zealand's Native Plants by Robert Vennell (HarperCollins)
General Non-Fiction Award:
Women Mean Business: Colonial Businesswomen in New Zealand by Catherine Bishop (Otago University Press)
Dead People I Have Known by Shayne Carter (Victoria University Press)
Dead Letters: Censorship and Subversion in New Zealand 1914-1920 by Jared Davidson (Otago University Press)
Shirley Smith: An Examined Life by Sarah Gaitanos (Victoria University Press)
Wild Honey: Reading New Zealand Women's Poetry by Paula Green (Massey University Press)
Finding Frances Hodgkins by Mary Kisler (Massey University Press)
Towards the Mountain: A Story of Grief and Hope Forty Years on from Erebus by Sarah Myles (Allen & Unwin)
The New Zealand Wars | Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa by Vincent O'Malley (Bridget Williams Books)
Fifteen Million Years in Antarctica by Rebecca Priestley (Victoria University Press)
Whale Oil: One Man's Fight to Save His Reputation, then His Life by Margie Thomson (Potton & Burton)