Literary Prizes


Everyone knows about Road Rage – where all other drivers are idiots, your blood pressure soars, you discover swear words you weren’t aware you knew and, when you glance in the rear view mirror to glare at another driver, you don’t recognise the face looking back at you.

But you may be less familiar with Book Rage. Some of the symptoms are similar, but it usually happens at a book club, surrounded by friends, eating delicious nibbly things, sipping wine and doing what you love best – talking about books. And then WHAM, out of the blue, Book Rage flares up.

I’ve belonged to reading groups most of my adult life and here are four of the books that nearly tore those groups asunder:

  • Cover of The SlapThe Slap (Christos Tsiolkas). You don’t know who you are as a parent until someone else slaps your child. At a barbie. The discussion might start out civilised, but child rearing practices can divide even loving couples, never mind a group of ladies only loosely linked by their love of books. Be warned, it could turn ugly.
  • Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen). No one saw this coming, but in retrospect, books about animals do run the risk of degenerating into  emotionally charged “cruelty to animals” accusations. These are always taken personally. You may not get offered a second glass of wine.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (E. L. James). This was a particularly tricky one for me as I had already taken a vow not to even touch the book. So this book was already causing me significant stress in the workplace. When it showed up at my book group, I launched into a vitriolic attack on it – even though I had not read it, and never ever would. This stance neatly divides people  into those who believe you can’t have an opinion on something you haven’t tried, and the rest of the thinking world.
  • Cover of The Grass Is SingingThe Grass is Singing (Doris Lessing). Most Book Rage starts like this. One person (in this case me) puts a book she loves into the club. Someone in the group responds with comments like: “I never knew any Rhodesians like that” or: “This book is rubbish“.  Next thing I hear myself saying: “Well, you’re wrong” and recklessly amping it up to – “You’re all wrong“. Then I stomped out of the room to the toilet where I tearfully felt I would have to leave any book group that did not appreciate a Nobel Prize winning author. When I looked in the mirror, I saw staring back at me a person I barely recognised. A horrible book snob. I returned to the group. They gave me a cupcake and a coffee. I took Doris Lessing out of the club. We never spoke of it again.

How about you? Do you have any books that have have caused harsh words to be said, that have cut deep beneath the veneer of  civilised behaviour, that have lost you friends?

A book that maybe made you learn something about yourself?

Because I haven’t got enough reading to be going on with this year, what with a For Later list of only 410 titles Cover: Franny and Zooeyand a New Year’s Resolution to read a mere seven books off The Guardian Best Books of 2013 list, I eagerly agreed to a colleague’s challenge to play Reading Bingo with her.

When I counter-challenged her to #readwomen2014 she raised me A Year in Reading and we were off. So far I have managed four things off Reading Bingo, but my sheet doesn’t have the tidy lines that were so exciting on Housie cards in 1970s booze barns, more a scattered set of crosses. I’m too busy trying to make one book do for two challenges to be systematic.

So far I’ve only managed it with Franny and Zooey. It met both the Reading Bingo challenge of reading “A book that is more than 10 years old” and the Year in Reading challenge “In January read a book published the same year you were born”.

The trouble with reading a lot is that it just makes you want to read more. Franny and Zooey reminded me of how much I loved the Glass family and how I should go back and read all the Glass stories. At least they’re short.

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life (Guardian Best Books of 2013) made me think I should read about her family and more of her fiction before I embarked on her biography. Happily I could use The Knox Brothers for “A book of non-fiction” in Reading Bingo.  And perhaps the The Golden Child could do for “The first book by a favourite author”(it’s her first fiction book).

Then I foolishly left myself short of books when on holiday and had to buy a second-hand copy of Middlemarch. Cover: My life in MiddlemarchI’d  always planned to read it after listening to it on talking book, but it’s languished on my For Later list for years. The task became more urgent when it had to be read before My Life in Middlemarch, a book about how important books can be in our lives. As if I need to read about reading. But it has had great reviews and Rebecca Mead’s New Yorker pieces are always good.

Unfortunately I’m so deep in my reading challenge addiction I chose an edition of Middlemarch with a blue cover  just so I could cross off the “A book with a blue cover” Reading Bingo  square . It’s so musty it nearly asphyxiates me every time I open it  and as I finish each page it detaches itself from the ancient glue that has held the book together for the last 40 years.

And now Book Club has decided to read the 2013 Man Booker short list so we can judge whether The Luminaries deserved to win.  And I’ve already read the shortest book on the list. Sigh.

It’s a bit tragic, but the challenges have actually given me a new enthusiasm for reading. Now to manipulate the Man Booker short list titles into meeting at least two criteria of my reading challenges each…

Dear LifeMy excitement at Alice Munro winning the Nobel Prize was intense, but before I got around to blogging about it, Eleanor Catton won the Man Booker. Now that there are hundreds of holds on The Luminaries it’s probably time to look for something to read while we’re waiting.

If your next read must be from a prize-winning author you can’t go wrong with Alice Munro. You won’t have to wait because four holds is the highest number on any of her books at the moment and most don’t have any – you can pluck them off the shelves.

Munro has been called the ‘Canadian Chekov’ but I find that vaguely patronising – why isn’t Chekov ‘the Russian Munro’? She is, in the words of the Nobel committee, ” the master of the contemporary short story”; she is only the thirteenth woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature; she is actually readable, unlike many other Nobel literature laureates; she is modest and she shares a nationality with lots of other great writers and musicians.

The Margarets (Atwood and Laurence). Carol Shields.  The McGarrigles. Leonard Cohen (musician and writer – after all he did write Beautiful Losers, “the most revolting book ever written in Canada”). Neil Young. K.D. Lang.

And Joni Mitchell, my personal heroine, 70 on the 7th of November 2013.

Who is your favourite Canadian? Writer, musician or ice hockey player? Or politician? Pierre Trudeau passed for a hottie among the Commonwealth Prime Ministers of my youth; mind you he didn’t have much competition.

Cover of The LuminariesEleanor Catton The luminaries has just won the Man Booker Prize. This is news, this is big news and is PHENOMENAL!

Congratulations Eleanor!

I am watching her make a beautiful and graceful acceptance speech.

Here is the 2013 shortlist for the Man Booker Prize

Cover of We need new names Cover of Harvest Cover of The lowland Cover of A Tale for the time being Cover of The testament of Mary

Cover of The LuminariesNot long now until the winner of the Man Booker Prize is announced. Kia ora Eleanor Catton and best of luck. From me and all of us at Christchurch City Libraries – librarians and library users alike. I wonder what the Man Booker equivalent of Break a leg is -  Bust that Man Booker?

The Luminaries is a bloody BRILLIANT piece of fiction.

The Man Booker Prize will be announced at London’s Guildhall on Tuesday 15 October 2013 – 7 to 11pm (BST).  So we will be at our desks or having breakfast here in NZ – the event starts at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 7am.

NZ Listener will be there:

  • Check out the 2013 shortlist on our page listing previous nominees and winners of the Man Booker Prize

book cover for The gathering of the lostWe are always exited when a local writer achieves success on a wider stage – look at the fuss over Eleanor Catton. Even more so when they do so in a bold way – certainly Eleanor Catton has done that with her massive, specifically structured novel.

Now we can add Christchurch writer Helen Lowe who has boldly launched into a 4 novel fantasy series. Her first novel in the series, The heir of night, won a top international prize (the Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer) and now the second in the series The gathering of the lost, published last year, is shortlished for the David Gemmell Legend Award for best fiction.

Publicly announcing you are writing a 4 novel series seems a very brave thing to do. Can you keep the story and characters credible over 4 books? Keep them interesting and maintain the standard? Fans can be exacting.

We’ve written about and talked to  Helen Lowe before as she has pursued her exciting and successful career. Berinda Joy did an in depth interview with her in 2010 following the cancellation of The Press Writers Festival 2010.

Here is her latest interview with the award organisers.

If you are a Helen Lowe fan you may like to visit her website or follow her blog – she writes regularly about writing, poetry and the genres of fantasy and science fiction.

Here is the 2013 shortlist for the Man Booker Prize – announced last night (Tuesday 10 September):

Cover of We need new names Cover of The Luminaries Cover of Harvest Cover of The lowland Cover of A Tale for the time being Cover of The testament of Mary

Kiwis are abuzz with the news that our gal Eleanor Catton has made it through to the shortlist. Here’s some of the action on Twitter. Firstly, from Eleanor:

And then the commentary:

The winner is announced on 15 October 2013.
Congrats Eleanor, we are rooting for you to knock the bstard off!
#letsgonemanbooker

Last night was a big booky shindig – the New Zealand Post Book Awards. I stayed up past my bedtime following the  #nzpba hashtags on Twitter last night – and there is still action on it this morning as people discuss the winners.

Take a gander at the 2013 winners and get them out of your local library – top notch reads one and all:

Cover of The big music Cover of Nga Waituhi o Rehua Cover of Patched Cover of The Darling North Cover of Hanly Cover of Shelter from the storm Cover of Civilisation

New Zealand Post Book of the year and Fiction winner

The big music Kirsty Gunn (Faber & Faber)

Māori Language Award

Dame Katerina Te Heikōkō Mataira for Ngā Waituhi o Rēhua (Huia Publishers)

People’s Choice Award

Fiction

Poetry

Illustrated non-fiction

Nielsen Booksellers Choice

Shelter from the Storm: The story of New Zealand’s backcountry huts Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown and Geoff Spearpoint (Craig Potton Publishing)

General non-fiction

New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) Best First Book Awards

Cover of I got his blood on me Cover of Graft Cover of Moa

NZSA Hubert Church Award for Fiction: I got his blood on me Lawrence Patchett (Victoria University Press)

NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry: Graft Helen Heath (Victoria University Press)

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

The LIANZA Children’s Book Awards ceremony was on in Wellington last night (Monday 5 August 2013).

Here is the list of winners.

Cover of Red RocksCover of The Nature of ashCover of a great cakeCover of At the beach Cover of My brother's warCove of Ko meru

LIANZA Junior Fiction Award – Esther Glen Medal. For the most distinguished contribution to literature for children aged 0-15. Red Rocks by Rachael King, (Random House New Zealand)

Pene Walsh, Awards Convenor and Gisborne Library Manager said:

although dealing with issues of a broken family, loneliness and bullying, this is an enjoyable and easy read, the story interwoven with myth, is written in a way that makes it entirely believable.

LIANZA Young Adult Fiction Award. For the distinguished contribution to literature for children and young adults aged 13 years and above. The Nature of Ash by Mandy Hager, (Random House New Zealand)

The strong and extremely well-developed characters, along with the dystopian theme, formed an action-packed story that in many ways reflects the current issues facing humankind today.

LIANZA Illustration Award – Russell Clark Award. For the most distinguished illustrations in a children’s book. A Great Cake by Tina Matthews, (Walker Books Australia)

Matthews’ wood cuts and stencils are expertly used in a Japanese-esque style and layers and layers of colour and texture build to create the final illustration … A visually inviting cover is the initial link from picture, to story, to words, and the explosion of imaginative synapses in between.

LIANZA Non Fiction Award – Elsie Locke Medal
For a work that is considered to be a distinguished contribution to non-fiction for young people.
At the Beach: Explore & Discover the New Zealand Seashore by Ned Barraud and Gillian Candler, (Craig Potton Publishing)

It is a hot-chocolate-table book for not only the child who loves facts but the one who love quirky stuff and stories. It is a book for browsing.

LIANZA Librarians’ Choice Award 2013. Awarded to the most popular finalist across all awards, as judged by professional librarians of LIANZA. My Brother’s War by David Hill, (Penguin NZ)

Te Kura Pounamu (te reo Māori). Awarded to the author of a work, written in Te Reo Māori, which makes a distinguished contribution to literature for children or young people. Ko Meru by Kyle Mewburn, translated by Ngaere Roberts, illustrated by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly (Scholastic)

Te Rangi Rangi Tangohau, Te Kura Pounamu Panel Convenor, says children will immediately be drawn into the story because of the simplicity of a lonely mule gazing into the sky dreaming of something new:

It is a humorous read with simple and colourful illustrations that will appeal to young readers. The friendly use of onomatopoeia works well with children and the descriptive and repetitive language will happily guide the reader to patu-patupatu, kiriti=karati, takahi-takatakahi through the story.

The finalists in the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards gathered in Christchurch on Monday night for the awards ceremony. The awards night is always themed, and this year the organisers went for a Witch in the Cherry Tree theme in honour of Margaret Mahy. The book of the year was also renamed the “New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year”.

I was  nervous myself, hoping that my favourites would take out the award, so I’m sure the authors and illustrators themselves were incredibly nervous. Overall, I was pleased to see a couple of my favourites win awards, but I was disappointed that others missed out. I think that Red Rocks and The Nature of Ash are amazing books and if I could give Rachael King and Mandy Hager an award I would.

Judges’ Picks

Cover: Into the River Search catalogue Search catalogue Search catalogue Search catalogue Search catalogue

Children’s Choice

  • Overall Award winner and Picture Book category winner: Melu Kyle Mewburn, Ali Teo & John O’Reilly
  • Non Fiction category winner: Kiwi: the real story Annemarie Florian and Heather Hunt
  • Junior Fiction category winner: My brother’s war David Hill
  • Young Adult Fiction category winner: Snakes and ladders Mary-anne Scott

Cover: Melu Search catalogue Search catalogue Search catalogue

Our pages on the NZ Post Children’s Book awards list current and previous winners, as well as category finalists.

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