As a judge for this year’s New Zealand Post Book Awards, I obviously have my own views about the 16 finalists – i.e. they’re all great and you should go read each and every one of them this minute. Listener reviewers weren’t always so kind. But hey, we’re a broad church here - even if some of us are in the squire’s pew while others are down with the estate workers and might very well find themselves out of a job in the morning. (By the way, there are still churches that have squire’s pews: I grew up attending one in England, where the squire was my dad’s boss. So you’ll have to forgive me the fanciful analogy.)
The Listener either reviewed or wrote about all except one of this year’s award finalists – which is surely a good sign of something.
Here is what we had to say (with shortlisted titles in alphabetical order, lest anyone attempts to read something into it).
The Forrests by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury Circus) was not only accompanied by a review and author interview, but also by a month-long discussion as a Listener Book Club choice (scroll down through the section and you will find the relevant bits).
In the Absence of Heroes by Anthony McCarten (Vintage) was reviewed.
The Intentions Book by Gigi Fenster (VUP) was reviewed (and look out for an interview with Fenster in next week’s magazine).
The Lifeguard: Poems 2008-2013 by Ian Wedde (AUP) was accompanied by an interview.
A Man Runs into a Woman by Sarah Jane Barnett (Hue & Cry Press) we didn’t write about, but to rectify the matter we have an interview with Barnett in our issue ahead of National Poetry Day).
Civilisation: Twenty Places on the Edge of the World by Steve Braunias (Awa Press) was reviewed.
The Meeting Place: Maori and Pakeha Encounters, 1642-1840 by Vincent O’Malley (AUP) was reviewed.
Patched: The History of Gangs in New Zealand by Jarrod Gilbert (AUP) was reviewed.
The Search for Anne Perry by Joanne Drayton (HarperCollins) was accompanied by interviews - Diana Wichtel interviews at that – with Perry and Drayton.
His Own Steam: The Work of Barry Brickell by David Craig, Gregory O’Brien and Haruhiko Sameshima (AUP) was accompanied by an interview with Brickell.
Pat Hanly by Gregory O’Brien and Gil Hanly (Ron Sang Publications) was reviewed.
Selling the Dream: The Art of Early New Zealand Tourism by Peter Alsop, Dave Bamford and Gary Stewart (Craig Potton Publishing) was accompanied by an interview with Alsop.
Stag Spooner: Wild Man from the Bush by Chris Maclean (Craig Potton Publishing) was reviewed.
Let’s not forget, too, the previously announced winners of Best First Book awards.
This is our author interview and review for fiction winner I Got His Blood on Me: Frontier Tales by Lawrence Patchett (VUP); our author interview and review for poetry winner Graft by Helen Heath (VUP); and our author interview for non-fiction winner Moa: The Life and Death of New Zealand’s Legendary Bird by Quinn Berentson (Craig Potton Publishing).
Finally, a shout-out for books not mentioned above but for me highlights of the judging process (again in alphabetical order) …
The Invisible Rider by Kirsten McDougall (VUP)
The Phoenix Song by John Sinclair (VUP)
Soon by Charlotte Grimshaw (Vintage)
At the White Coast by Janet Charman (AUP)
Birds of Clay by Aleksandra Lane (VUP)
Glass Wings by Fleur Adcock (VUP)
Magnificent Moon by Ashleigh Young (VUP)
The Truth Garden by Emma Neale (Otago)
[Although there were many other poetry books full of more incidental pleasures.]
The Making of New Zealanders by Ron Palenski (AUP)
Big House Small House: New Homes by New Zealand Architects by John Walsh and Patrick Reynolds (Godwit)
Buller’s Birds of New Zealand: The Complete Work of JG Keulemans edited by Geoff Norman (Te Papa Press)
Manly Affections: The Photographs of Robert Gant 1885-1915 by Chris Brickell (Genre)
Ripe Recipes: A Fresh Batch by Angela Redfern (Beatnik)
We Will Work With You: Wellington Media Collective 1978-1998 edited by Mark Derby, Jennifer Rouse and Ian Wedde (VUP)
With Bold Needle & Thread: Adventures in Vintage Needlecraft by Rosemary McLeod (Godwit)
Alas, though, not everyone can be a finalist – or a winner.
But you”ll have to wait until August 28 to find out those.
Click here for Guy Somerset’s commentary on being a New Zealand Post Book Awards judge.