Ockham Finalists 2022

The shortlist – selected from a longlist of 40 books by four panels of specialist judges (for fiction, poetry, illustrated non-fiction and general non-fiction) – includes both literary luminaries and first-time authors.

Rob Kidd, the convenor of judges for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction, says the finalists in this category refuse to be pinned down by genre.

“These novels are packed with life in an array of ordinary and extraordinary forms; they all swell with vitality. A Good Winter by Gigi Fenster is an unnerving and absorbing reading experience as the darkness gradually closes in. Bryan Walpert’s Entanglement is dazzlingly intelligent and ambitious in scope. Rebecca K Reilly’s Greta & Valdin is gloriously queer, hilarious and relatable, and Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka is poetic, intense, clever and richly imagined.”

The American writer, editor and literary critic John Freeman will assist the three New Zealand judges to select the fiction winner, who this year will take home a prize of $60,000.

Saradha Koirala, convenor of judges for the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry says the four category finalists have pushed their craft to new limits, giving us outstanding examples of how our literary voices have evolved.

“In a time of global instability, Aotearoa poets have reconnected to their sense of self, exploring identity and challenging our collective history. Tayi Tibble’s Rangikura pays tribute to millennial culture and uses the power of humour, sexuality and friendship to create a collection that encapsulates this generation of Aotearoa. In Sleeping with Stones, Serie Barford demonstrates her ability to use simple eloquence to write about complex matters. Anne Kennedy creates poems that are consistently engaged with issues of the anthropocene in The Sea Walks into a Wall, and the pristine imagery and fine ear for rhythm and beat means each of Joanna Preston’s poems in Tumble are a celebration of poetry,” says Ms Koirala.

The judges found the four finalist books in the Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction impossible to exclude in both their exemplary individual qualities as books, and the insight and depth they all bring to their varied and valuable content, says convenor of judges Chanel Clarke.

“Particularly outstanding this year are a number of well-researched yet not so well-known histories and herstories, beautifully delivered, that invite surprising new understandings of ourselves. Dressed: Fashionable Dress in Aotearoa New Zealand 1840 to 1910 by Claire Regnault is a beautiful and beguiling book that will seduce a wide audience. In NUKU: Stories of 100 Indigenous Women, Qiane Matata-Sipu gracefully presents her subjects in their own words and through her tremendous portrait photography. Shifting Grounds: Deep Histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland by Lucy Mackintosh is a fresh and timely study that weaves multiple narratives into a highly readable story and The Architect and the Artists: Hackshaw, McCahon, Dibble by Bridget Hackshaw is a thorough and beautifully produced triangulation of creative practice,” says Ms Clarke.

Nicholas Reid, convenor of judges for the General Non-Fiction Award says the category finalists stand out not only for their individual excellence in research, story-telling and deep insight, but also for their contribution to the ongoing narrative of what it means to be a New Zealander.

“Each work brings deep insight and beautiful writing to their subjects, which included three very different autobiographies and a work of remarkable historical scholarship. From the Centre: A Writer’s Life by Patricia Grace is a rare literary memoir, free of egotism; Dave Lowe’s The Alarmist: Fifty Years Measuring Climate Change has a rich texture of family and a clear awareness that members of the scientific community are not always in harmony; the prose in Charlotte Grimshaw’s The Mirror Book is exquisitely precise in its navigation of the complexity of the author’s family dynamics, and Vincent O’Malley helps readers to think critically as he presents balanced arguments about contested battles and other conflicts in Voices from the New Zealand Wars | He Reo nō ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa.

The 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards shortlisted titles are:

*represents debut authors.

Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction

A Good Winter by Gigi Fenster (Text Publishing)

Entanglement by Bryan Walpert (Mākaro Press)

Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Te Herenga Waka University Press)*

Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers)

Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry

Rangikura by Tayi Tibble (Te Herenga Waka University Press)

Sleeping with Stones by Serie Barford (Anahera Press)

The Sea Walks into a Wall by Anne Kennedy (Auckland University Press)

Tumble by Joanna Preston (Otago University Press)

Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction

Dressed: Fashionable Dress in Aotearoa New Zealand 1840 to 1910 by Claire Regnault (Te Papa Press)

NUKU: Stories of 100 Indigenous Women by Qiane Matata-Sipu (QIANE+co)*

Shifting Grounds: Deep Histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland by Lucy Mackintosh (Bridget Williams Books)*

The Architect and the Artists: Hackshaw, McCahon, Dibble by Bridget Hackshaw (Massey University Press)*

General Non-Fiction Award

From the Centre: A Writer’s Life by Patricia Grace (Penguin, Penguin Random House)

The Alarmist: Fifty Years Measuring Climate Change by Dave Lowe (Te Herenga Waka University Press)*

The Mirror Book by Charlotte Grimshaw (Vintage, Penguin Random House)

Voices from the New Zealand Wars | He Reo nō ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa by Vincent O’Malley (Bridget Williams Books)

New Zealand Book Awards Trust spokesperson Paula Morris says the shortlist of 16 excellent books is surprising and surprisingly diverse.

“Shortlisted writers range from iconic names to emerging voices; publishers range from multinational to small independents. The quality of our writers, illustrators, editors and publishers makes these awards increasingly competitive and the winners impossible to predict,” says Dr Morris.

The winners of the 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, including the four Crystal Arts Trust Best First Book award winners, will be announced on 11 May.

The General Non-Fiction, Poetry and Illustrated Non-Fiction category winners will each receive a $10,000 prize. The winners of the four Crystal Arts Trust Best First Book Awards will each receive $2,500.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, Jann Medlicott and the Acorn Foundation, Mary and Peter Biggs CNZM, the Crystal Arts Trust, Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand and the Auckland Writers Festival.


This year’s Ockham New Zealand Book Awards judges are: Otago Daily Times journalist and books editor Rob Kidd; Booksellers Aotearoa’s programme coordinator and avid reader Gemma Browne; and award-winning writer and freelance oral historian/researcher Kelly Ana Morey (Ngāti Kurī, Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri) (Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction); author, poet, reviewer and teacher Saradha Koirala; internationally published and award-winning poet, playwright, short story writer and novelist Apirana Taylor (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau ā Apanui, , Ngāti Ruanui and Te Āti Awa); and writer, editor and bookseller Jane Arthur (Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry); museum curator Chanel Clarke (Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Porou, Waikato Tainui); photographer, author and urbanist Patrick Reynolds; and former publisher and co-founder of Godwit Press Jane Connor (Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction); and poet and non-fiction author, book reviewer and blogger Nicholas Reid, award-winning journalist and photographer Aaron Smale(Ngāti Porou); and poet, historian, former diplomat and Fulbright alumna Leilani Tamu (General Non-Fiction Award).

International Fiction judge John Freeman is founder of the literary annual Freeman's, executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf, and the author and editor of ten books including The Park, The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story, Dictionary of the Undoing, and, with Tracy K. Smith, There's a Revolution Outside, My Love.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are the country’s premier literary honours for books written by New Zealanders. First established in 1968 as the Wattie Book Awards (later the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards), they have also been known as the Montana New Zealand Book Awards and the New Zealand Post Book Awards. Awards are given for Fiction (the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction), Poetry (the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry) Illustrated Non-Fiction (the Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction) and General Non-Fiction. There are also four awards for first-time authors (The Crystal Arts Trust Best First Book awards) and, at the judges’ discretion, Te Mūrau o te Tuhi, a Māori Language Award. The awards are governed by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust (a registered charity). Current members of the Trust are Nicola Legat, Karen Ferns, Paula Morris, Jenna Todd, Anne Morgan, Melanee Winder, Melinda Szymanik and Richard Pamatatau. The Trust also governs the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day.

Ockham Residential is Auckland’s most thoughtful developer. Through creating elegant and enduring buildings that are well-loved by those who make them home, Ockham hopes to enhance Auckland – and to contribute to its many communities. Founded in 2009 by Mark Todd and Benjamin Preston, Ockham supports a number of organisations in arts, science and education. These include the Ockham Collective, their creative and educational charity, the acclaimed BWB Texts series, the People’s Choice Award in New Zealand Geographic’s Photographer of the Year Award, and Ponsonby’s Objectspace gallery. But its principal sponsorship of the New Zealand Book Awards, a relationship now in its eighth year, is perhaps Ockham’s most visible contribution. Says Mark Todd: “Our communities would be drab, grey and much poorer places without art, without words, without science – without critical thought. That’s why our partnership with the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards means the world to us.”

Creative New Zealand has been a sustaining partner of New Zealand’s book awards for decades. The national arts development agency of the New Zealand government encourages, promotes and supports the arts in New Zealand for the benefit of all New Zealanders through funding, capability building, an international programme, and advocacy. Creative New Zealand provides a wide range of support to New Zealand literature, including funding for writers and publishers, residencies, literary festivals and awards, and supports organisations which work to increase the readership and sales of New Zealand literature at home and internationally.

The Acorn Foundation is a community foundation based in the Western Bay of Plenty, which encourages people to leave a gift in their wills and/or their lifetimes to support their local community forever. Donations are pooled and invested, and the investment income is used to make donations to local charities, in accordance with the donors’ wishes. The capital remains intact. Since it was established in 2003, Acorn has distributed over $10 million. Donors may choose which organisations are to benefit each year, or they may decide to leave it to the trustees’ discretion. Community foundations are the fastest growing form of philanthropy worldwide, and there are now 17 throughout New Zealand, with more in the early stages. The Prize for Fiction has been provided through the generosity of one of the Foundation’s donors, Jann Medlicott, and will be awarded to the top fiction work each year, in perpetuity. Its base figure of $50,000 in 2016 is adjusted each year, to reflect wage inflation.

Mary and Peter Biggs CNZM are long-time arts advocates and patrons – particularly of literature, theatre and music. They have funded the Biggs Family Prize in Poetry at Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters since 2006, along with the Alex Scobie Research Prize in Classical Studies. They have been consistent supporters of the International Festival of the Arts, the Auckland Writers Festival, Wellington’s Circa Theatre, the New Zealand Arts Foundation, Featherston Booktown, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Featherston Sculpture Trust and the Wairarapa’s Kokomai Arts Festival. Peter was Chair of Creative New Zealand from 1999 to 2006. He led the Cultural Philanthropy Taskforce in 2010 and the New Zealand Professional Orchestra Sector Review in 2012. Peter is Chief Executive of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. He was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for arts governance and philanthropy in 2013.

Founded in 1921, Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand is the membership association for bookshops in New Zealand. This national not-for-profit trade organisation works to help independently owned and chain bookstores to grow and succeed. Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand provides education, information, business products, and services; creates relevant programmes; and engages in public policy and industry advocacy. The association is governed by a volunteer board of booksellers.

The Crystal Arts Trust is an independent registered charitable trust dedicated to cultural philanthropy. Formed in 2021 by longstanding patrons of the arts James and Rosetta Allan, its aim is to make a difference to the future of emerging writers, visual artists, and musicians, by providing financial support at a critical time in their career. To provide enduring support, the Crystal Arts Trust plans to cultivate partnerships with an array of arts, cultural, and corporate organisations from across the country. With their backing, the trust will work to ensure that emerging artists receive the support they need to thrive, develop their career, and become commercially successful.

The Auckland Writers Festival | Waituhi o Tāmaki is the largest literary event in New Zealand and the largest presenter of Aotearoa literature in the world. Established in 1999, this annual festival hosts more than 200 writers for six days of discussion, conversation, reading, debate, performance, schools, family and free events ranging across fiction, non-fiction, poetry, music, theatre, culture, art and more. Audience attendance ranges between 65-85,000. This year’s Festival takes place 23-28 August 2022.