Ockham Residential

Book Awards Celebrate 50th Anniversary with Stellar Finalist Line-up

Announced today, the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalists join a literary hall of fame that dates back to 1968 and features New Zealand’s most famous and distinguished writers.

The finalist books were selected by four panels of three specialist judges and were drawn from 40 longlisted titles selected out of more than 150 entries.

New Zealand Book Awards Trust chair Nicola Legat says this year’s shortlist demonstrates the diversity, depth and skill of New Zealand writers.

“These books reflect who we are as people and how we are developing as a nation, demonstrating that the writer’s role is as important now as it was half a century ago. Like many of the books nominated in previous years’ awards, the cream of this year’s crop are destined to become classics.”

In the contest for the $50,000 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, University of Canterbury Professor of English Patrick Evans’ novel Salt Picnic vies with debut writer Annaleese Jochems’ Baby, Wellington lawyer Brannavan Gnanalingam’s Sodden Downstream, and novelist and creative writing teacher Pip Adam’s The New Animals. “We have selected four novels that directly confront and ask questions of both the world and the reader,” says the category judging convenor Jenna Todd. “These authors are pushing at the edges of what is possible in fiction in a style that’s both engaging and brave.”

The finalists in the Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction category are renowned historian and anthropologist Dame Anne Salmond for Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds; journalist Diana Wichtel for her debut book Driving to Treblinka: A Long Search for a Lost Father; Massey University Professor of History Michael Belgrave for Dancing with the King: The Rise and Fall of the King Country 1864-1885, and cartoonist Tom Scott for his memoir Drawn Out.

General Non-Fiction category convenor Ella Henry says there was a high degree of unanimity among the judges about these four books. “One book made me laugh, one made me cry, one reminded me of New Zealand’s complex history, and the other gave me great hope about the future of our nation.”

Matariki Williams, convenor of the Illustrated Non-Fiction Award category judging panel, says that evocative language interwoven with a remarkable range of imagery gave the category’s finalists a lasting impact. They are: Tuai: A Traveller in Two Worlds by Alison Jones and Kuni Kaa Jenkins; Tōtara: A Natural and Cultural History by Philip Simpson; Gordon Walters: New Vision by Zara Stanhope (commissioning editor), Lucy Hammonds, Laurence Simmons and Julia Waite, and The Face of Nature: An Environmental History of the Otago Peninsula by Jonathan West.

“These books, each of which was multi-layered in approach and execution, showcased the rich social, cultural, material and environmental history that has shaped Aotearoa. They were not just beautiful to look at but they were also all a joy to read,” says Ms Williams.

Collections by four acclaimed established poets comprise this year’s Poetry Award shortlist. They are Anchor Stone by Tony Beyer, Night Horse by Elizabeth Smither, Rāwāhi by Briar Wood, and The Yield by Sue Wootton.

Poetry category convenor Robert Sullivan says it was an excellent year for poetry. These shortlisted books are thoughtful, luminous, both precisely and generously descriptive of emotion and intellect, delighting in the dance of language. These lyrical poets channel fine depths to lift up poems as lights,” says Mr Sullivan.

The 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalist titles are:


Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize:

  • The New Animals by Pip Adam (Victoria University Press)
  • Salt Picnic by Patrick Evans (Victoria University Press)
  • Sodden Downstream by Brannavan Gnanalingam (Lawrence & Gibson)
  • Baby by Annaleese Jochems (Victoria University Press)


Poetry Award:

  • Anchor Stone by Tony Beyer (Cold Hub Press)
  • Night Horse by Elizabeth Smither (Auckland University Press)
  • Rāwāhi by Briar Wood (Anahera Press)
  • The Yield by Sue Wootton (Otago University Press)


Illustrated Non-Fiction Award:

  • Tuai: A Traveller in Two Worlds by Alison Jones and Kuni Kaa Jenkins (Bridget Williams Books)
  • Tōtara: A Natural and Cultural History by Philip Simpson (Auckland University Press)
  • Gordon Walters: New Vision by Zara Stanhope (commissioning editor), Lucy Hammonds, Laurence Simmons, Julia Waite (Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Dunedin Public Art Gallery)
  • The Face of Nature: An Environmental History of the Otago Peninsula by Jonathan West (Otago University Press)


Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non Fiction:

  • Dancing with the King: The Rise and Fall of the King Country, 1864-1885 by Michael Belgrave (Auckland University Press)
  • Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds by Anne Salmond (Auckland University Press)
  • Drawn Out: A Seriously Funny Memoir by Tom Scott (Allen & Unwin NZ)
  • Driving to Treblinka: A Long Search for a Lost Father by Diana Wichtel (Awa Press)


The winners will be announced at a ceremony on May 15 2018, held as the first public event of the Auckland Writers Festival.

Find out more about the shortlisted titles here.

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