Best First Books revealed in New Zealand Post Book Awards

One of New Zealand’s oldest birds wins prize for newest talent

A book about a Moa - that has been described by judges as illuminating, entertaining and utterly original - has won the New Zealand Society of Authors’ Best First Book Non-Fiction prize in the New Zealand Post Book Awards.   

Quinn Berentson’s book Moa: The life and death of New Zealand’s legendary bird was singled out by the judges as one of the “best surprises of all the books we read”.

Chief Judge John Campbell said: “Think of Moa as a really great historical biography, in which almost everyone (including the bird itself) is varying degrees of mad.”

The other winners were the Poetry book Graft by Helen Heath and the Fiction book, I Got His Blood on Me by Lawrence Patchett.

The overall quality of this year’s Best First Books was so strong that many could easily have been finalists of the New Zealand Post Book Awards in their own right, the judges said.

The category finalists in the New Zealand Post Book Awards will be announced next week, and the winners will be revealed during a star-studded literary awards ceremony in Auckland on 28 August.

What the judges said about the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) Best First Book award winners:

Graft by Helen Heath
Victoria University Press
(winner of the NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book for Poetry award)  

“Helen Heath is a candid poet, unflinching, both with what she sees close to her and in the mirror, but capable of great generosity too. Her mother is so beautifully evoked that we feel we know her. Some of the poems are so sad they ache. This is a brave, moving, revealing and assured collection.”

I Got His Blood on Me by Lawrence Patchett
Victoria University Press
(winner of the NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book for Fiction award)

“We congratulate Lawrence on his originality, his skills as a story teller, and the welcome audacity of a short story collection which ranges from playing with history, to magic realism, to a tougher kind of realism entirely: all of it somehow plausible. We can’t wait to see what Lawrence Patchett does next.”

Moa: The life and death of New Zealand’s legendary bird by Quinn Berentson
Craig Potton Publishing
(winner of the NZSA E.H. McCormick Best First Book for Non-Fiction award)

Moa tells the extinct bird’s story in an exhaustive, scholarly and utterly engaging way. Think of Moa as a really great historical biography, in which almost everyone (including the bird itself) is varying degrees of mad. Illuminating, entertaining and utterly original, Moa is also lovingly presented and was one of the best surprises of all the books we received.”