Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 20, 2020

2020 ALS Gold Medal shortlist

The Australian Literature Society (ALS) Gold Medal is awarded annually for an outstanding literary work published in the preceding year. (There’s no money attached to the prize, but the medal is nice.)

Here are the shortlisted books for 2020.  Links on the titles are to Readings bookshop:

Element by Jordie Albiston (poetry)

Nganajungu Yagu by Charmaine Papertalk Green (poetry)

There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett, see my review

Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany, see my review

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood, see my review

I have to confess to being a bit disappointed by these choices.  It’s nice to see the poets there, but good as the shortlisted novels are, I wouldn’t call any of them particularly outstanding, and besides, I look to this prize to acknowledge some of the less-lauded authors of the year.  And if you browse through the 78 eligible novels from 2019 that I’ve reviewed you’ll see some outstanding novels by Carmel Bird, Katherine Johnson, Eliot Perlman, Lucy Treloar, Meg Mundell, Philip Salem, Andrea Goldsmith, Nigel Featherstone, Rohan Wilson and Simon Cleary. And they’re just the ones that I found really memorable, and that will, I think, have longevity, and I limited myself to ten.  And then there’s Gerald Murnane, of course…


The winner will be announced on Monday, 29 June during an online event featuring a talk by one of my favourite authors Anita Heiss. For more information on the prize, click here.


  1. Completely share your disappointment about this list. I rarely read poetry and thus don’t know the two poets, but gosh, how many excellent books/authors have missed out!


    • Yes, I’m the same about poetry. I loved what I read at university, and I’m very fond of modern Australian poetry that I can understand (Anne Elder, Bruce Dawe) but most of what I come across is incomprehensible. So without browsing in a bookshop *sigh* I don’t know if these are the sort of poets I would happily spend my money on. Though I’m not saying that ‘accessibility’ should be a criterion, I wouldn’t have understood a word of Four Quartets without help but having had that help I think it’s great. So I’m leaving the poets out of my disappointment.
      But I just don’t understand what the ALS criteria for ‘outstanding’ is…


  2. Very disappointing. Strange times indeed.


  3. I don’t know these books so can’t judge personally but I trust your judgement so if none of them are “outstanding” novels in your view, it makes me wonder how they came to their decision


    • Exactly. It’s discouraging for those other really good writers to get left off the shortlists time and again…I can’t help but think there’s some other agenda happening that I don’t know about.


  4. Yup.
    Feel the same way about the Miles Franklin longlist – only 3 or 4 books on the list that I was happy to see….


    • I don’t so much mind a longlist being a bit meh… but a shortlist is more disappointing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not sure the MF shortlist can be anything but disappointing. The Murname, the Yield & maybe the Birch (haven’t read it yet but plan to). 🤷🏼‍♀️But then what?


        • The MF goes through these phases… shifting between ‘innovative’ choices like including genre fiction so that they get some publicity for being ‘outrageous’, encouragement awards for emerging authors whose work is not ready for serious scrutiny, and other agendas which it is not PC to identify. But it is the only award that insists on telling Australian stories, so I try to be patient with them…

          Liked by 1 person

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