Posted by: Lisa Hill | January 31, 2019

2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlist

Yes, it’s time to go shopping again, the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlist has been announced.


  • The Man Who Would Not See by Rajorshi Chakraborti (Penguin Random House), already on my wishlist
  • The Life of De’Ath by Majella Cullinane (Steele Roberts Aotearoa), now on my wishlist
  • The New Ships, by Kate Duignan (Victoria University Press).  I have this one, loved it, see my review. 
  • Caroline’s Bikini by Kirsty Gunn (Faber Fiction) (winner of the Most Unappealing Title award? Apparently a book about *yawn* writing a book.  But let’s not be hasty: see The Guardian review.)
  • Mazarine, by Charlotte Grimshaw (Penguin Random House)  In two minds about this one, Goodreads reviewers who I trust are ambivalent about it. Stuff NZ reviewed it here.
  • The Cage by Lloyd Jones (Penguin Random House), see my review
  • The Ice Shelf by Anne Kennedy & illustrated by Ant Sang (Victoria University Press) (Badged as an eco-comedy but appears to be *another* book about writing a book.  Fellow award contender Charlotte Grimshaw’s review at The Spinoff is scathing.  Like a recent spiteful hatchet job that I read in The Australian this may say more about reviewer than the book.  I am almost tempted to see for myself but I am so over books about writing a book, I may wait till/if it turns up at the library.)
  • This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman, (Vintage, Penguin Random House), on my TBR
  • The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke, by Tina Makereti (Vintage, Penguin Random House), see my review
  • All This by Chance by Vincent O’Sullivan (Victoria University Press), already on order from Fishpond

And how is it that of 10 titles, I’ve read one and already had three on my TBR plus one on order and another already on my wishlist? Because I follow Alys on the Blog and (less slavishly) the Booksellers NZ blog reviews.



  • Edgeland and Other Poems by David Eggleton (Otago University Press)
  • The Farewell Tourist by Alison Glenny (Otago University Press)
  • Are Friends Electric? by Helen Heath (Victoria University Press)
  • All of Us by Adrienne Jansen and Carina Gallegos (Landing Press)
  • There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime by Erik Kennedy (Victoria University Press)
  • The Facts by Therese Lloyd (Victoria University Press)
  • Winter Eyes by Harry Ricketts (Victoria University Press)
  • Walking to Jutland Street by Michael Steven (Otago University Press)
  • Poūkahangatus by Tayi Tibble (Victoria University Press)
  • Aspiring Daybook: The Diary of Elsie Winslow by Annabel Wilson (Submarine, Mākaro Press)

I am just a little disappointed by the Non-Fiction longlists, though they’re probably beaut books.  it’s just that The Spouse and I are visiting NZ for the first time this year for the Auckland LitFest, and (as usual before I travel)  I would like to read up a bit on NZ history and culture before I go.  But there’s nothing here in these lists that jumps out and says ‘read me and it will enhance your journey’.  Any suggestions?


  • Fight for the Forests: The Pivotal Campaigns that Saved New Zealand’s Native Forests by Paul Bensemann (Potton & Burton)
  • Galleries of Maoriland: Artists, Collectors and the Māori World, 1880-1910 by Roger Blackley (Auckland University Press)
  • The New Zealand Horse by Deborah Coddington and Jane Ussher (Massey University Press)
  • Wanted: The Search for the Modernist Murals of E. Mervyn Taylor edited by Bronwyn Holloway-Smith (Massey University Press)
  • Tatau: A History of Sāmoan Tattooing by Sean Mallon and Sébastian Galliot (Te Papa Press)
  • Mataatua Wharenui: Te Whare i Hoki Mai by Hirini Mead, Layne Harvey, Pouroto Ngaropo and Te Onehou Phillis (Huia Publishers)
  • Birdstories: A History of the Birds of New Zealand by Geoff Norman (Potton & Burton)
  • Whatever it Takes: Pacific Films and John O’Shea 1948-2000 by John Reid (Victoria University Press)
  • Down the Bay: A Natural and Cultural History of Abel Tasman National Park by Philip Simpson (Potton & Burton)
  • Hillary’s Antarctica: Adventure, Exploration and Establishing Scott Base by Nigel Watson and Jane Ussher (Allen & Unwin)


  • Filming the Colonial Past: The New Zealand Wars on Screen by Annabel Cooper (Otago University Press)
  • Song for Rosaleen by Pip Desmond (Massey University Press)
  • Hudson & Halls: The Food of Love by Joanne Drayton (Otago University Press)
  • Memory Pieces by Maurice Gee (Victoria University Press)
  • The Heart of Jesús Valentino by Emma Gilkison (Awa Press)
  • We Can Make a Life by Chessie Henry (Victoria University Press)
  • Swim: A Year of Swimming Outdoors in New Zealand by Annette Lees (Potton & Burton)
  • The Vulgar Wasp: The Story of a Ruthless Invader and Ingenious Predator by Phil Lester (Victoria University Press)
  • With Them Through Hell: New Zealand Medical Services in the First World War by Anna Rogers (Massey University Press)
  • Dear Oliver: Uncovering a Pākehā History by Peter Wells (Massey University Press)


  1. I did my duty and read the Guardian review. I reckon Caroline’s Bikini might get Most Unappealing Subject as well as Most Unappealing Title. But what’s the connection with NZ?


    • I don’t know, I don’t know what their rules are. To be fair, I know I’ve only read one of these books but I’ve bought a lot of them (and others that I *have* read) on the strength of Aly’s reviews so I’m prepared to give the judges credit for having come up with a pretty good longlist. And other long and shortlists often include outliers that aren’t to everyone’s taste, so, well, I’ll wait and see if any of my other trusty reviewers take a look at it.
      The Grimshaw is more difficult. I’ve read two of hers: hated the first one and refused to finish it for my bookgroup, and liked the second one. So I’m hoping my library comes up trumps with that one.
      But what is this fad for writing books about writing books?


      • My theory is that it is to do with post-modernism as taught in all the best creative writing courses. The author, who is supposed to be dead, asserts his/her aliveness by inserting themself (what a horrible construction!) into the text.


        • Well, I don’t mind PoMo if it’s clever and it’s well done. But if it’s narcissism by another name, I’m not interested.


  2. […] new novel The Cage as soon as it was released so I was pleased when it was nominated for the Ockham’s New Zealand Literary Awards.  I have other appealing nominees on my TBR too but I wanted to read this one first of all.  But […]


  3. […] longlisted for the 2019 Ockhams and my explorations at Wikipedia tell me that her intention with her last five books has been to […]


Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: