Challenge Confessions

O.K. it’s confession time. I have been an abject failure at meeting my reading challenges for 2014.

A Year in Reading started out well; January, February and March have ticks beside them. But then things went to pieces. By April I was trying to make Mary Poppins do double duty  – as a book that has been made into a movie (already checked off in March) and a re-read from childhood. Cheating on my reading challenges – that’s what it came to.

There were some books I did read, but not in the month assigned to them: Cover for Sydney

  • A book from another country – Sydney by Delia Falconer. (I think Australia counts as another country).
  • An award winner – Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín (actually it’s only been nominated for the Costa so far, but if there is any justice in the world it will win every literary prize going in 2015.) Cheating again – it’s a slippery slope.

Reading Bingo was marginally better, but again with the cheating.

  • A book with a blue cover – Middlemarch by George Eliot. Double cheat. Also June A Year in Reading – read that classic you have never read.
  • A book that is more than ten years old – Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger.  Double cheat –  January A Year in Reading – a book that was published in the year you were born.
  • A book that became a movie – Mary Poppins. Actually a triple cheat. There are no depths to which I will not stoop.

What challenges will I fail in 2015 I wonder? Should  I make not reading Ulysses an annual non-event?

CHAMPIONS! New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2014

Parents, caregivers, aunties, uncles, nanas, grandads, kids  … we are all looking for great books to read, and have read to us. And the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults brings together a bunch of brilliant books.

Read the article Vasanti Unka’s The Boring Book wins the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year for a rundown of the awards ceremony on Monday 23 June.

The full list of winners of the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is:

Cover of The Boring Book Cover of The Beginner's guide to hunting and fishing Dunger Joy Cowley (Winner) Cover of Mortal fire Cover of A necklace of souls Cover of The Three Bears Cover of Bugs

New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and winner of Best Picture Book category: Prizes: $7,500 for the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and $7,500 for Best Picture Book The Boring Book by Vasanti Unka (Penguin Group (NZ), Puffin)

Best Non-Fiction: Prize $7,500: The Beginner’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing in New Zealand by Paul Adamson (Random House New Zealand)

Junior Fiction: Prize $7,500: Dunger by Joy Cowley (Gecko Press)

Best Young Adult Fiction: Prize $7,500: Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox (Gecko Press)

Best First Book: Prize $2,000: A Necklace of Souls by R L Stedman (Harper Collins Publishers (NZ), HarperVoyager)

Children’s Choice: Prize $2,000: The Three Bears…Sort Of by Yvonne Morrison and Donovan Bixley (Scholastic New Zealand)

Honour award: Prize $500: Bugs by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers)

Māori Language award: Prize $1,000 (announced on 8 April) Taka Ki Ro Wai by Keri Kaa and Martin D Page (Tania&Martin)

 

Our own wonderful librarian Zac Harding was a judge, along with Ant Sang and Barbara Else.

Man Booker Prize goes to … our Eleanor Catton!!!

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

Crossing our fingers for Eleanor Catton

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

The Politics of Prizes

A beaming Sam Elworthy was the enthusiastic host for “The  Politics of Prizes”. On the panel: birthday girl Stella RimingtonJenny Pattrick of Denniston Rose fame and “literary super-judge” New Zealander Stephen Stratford.

The panellists presumably accept the value of prizes as there was no discussion regarding the rationale behind prize giving, or the impact of elevating some titles over others. The discussion instead focused on the mechanics behind prizes such as The Man Booker and the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

The perfect short-list size?  The consensus was that 5 titles gave enough scope.

The qualities desirable in a judge? Stephen Stratford likes common sense judges from a variety of backgrounds and careers. “Academics are terrible judges”, he said, as they worry too much about their reputation. Stella Rimington quoted the Man Booker mandate “to appeal to average, intelligent readers” and the judges likewise she felt should be average, intelligent readers outside of the established literary milieu.

What are the challenges of being a judge or chair? Stella Rimington said the recruitment process for the panel “was like joining MI5, someone sidles up to you and says “pssst, do you want to be a judge?” ” Stephen Stratford aims to be in a compatible group and found it frustrating that initially there is so much secrecy about the panellists. He had to hide mountains of submitted books around his house so no one would twig he was a judge. Ok if your house is big but Elizabeth Smither has such a wee house that she eventually stopped letting any one through the front door! The role of Chairman both Rimington andStratford agreed is to keep an eye on factions,  prejudice and to ensure no single voice dominates the discussion.

What are the impact of prizes on sales? Stratford rearranged a few feathers when he declared that from the point of view of small town and mall-based booksellers there was very little. “WOFT” (Waste of F***ing Time) was the delightful phrase a “friendly, local bookseller” chum of his used but Stratford also acknowledged the situation may be different in “brainy book shops”

Rimington talked about the publicity machine surrounding the Booker prize and its need to generate controversy and therefore column inches. The 2011 Man Booker long-list, short-list and eventual winner Julian Barnes’s Sense of an ending were the highest selling titles of any previous year.

A one-eyed but highly entertaining look into the world of prize-giving.

Falling off the literary horse

Book CoverI’m the sort of person who studies literary form like a seasoned horse-racing enthusiast – who’s won what, who’s been rated by whom, who’s appeared on the shortlist, who’s got the best looking cover (okay, I’m shallow). I select what I hope will be winners and, even if they’re not, I take comfort from the belief I’m up with the in-crowd.

Last year however I totally lost track of what was hot and what was not. My concentration went away with my ability to sleep and I found myself reading crime. Elizabeth George, Benjamin Black, P.D. James and Ian Rankin were favourites and following the antics of their intrepid sleuths kept me diverted from the bumps in the night.

Now things are settling down a bit (hopefully, fingers crossed), I’ve decided to get back into something a little more challenging. I’ve perused the Literature guides at Christchurch City Libraries. I have caught up on the Literary prize winners, scanned the 100 most meaningful books of all time and found the Best reads 2011 list to be a cornucopia of literary delights.

I’ve started my re-education with Major Pettigrew’s last stand after a recommendation by robertafsmith. It’s an insightful story, light but beautifully written. I’m enjoying every word. It’s great to be back in the literary saddle again.

Now that I’m back, what do you recommend to keep me there?

Exploring New Zealand fiction online

CoverI like to read a bit of New Zealand fiction, but lately I have run out of ideas on what to read next, so I decided to have a bit of a poke around on our website in search of inspiration.

Book awards are always a good place to start of course and being a bit of a crime buff  I started with the latest Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. This year’s winner, Blood men by Paul Cleave, looks like a starter to me.

Then I moved on to the New Zealand Post Book Award for fiction. The Hut Builder by Laurence Fearnley won the Fiction prize in 2011. This author is entirely new to me. The book is described in the Sunday Star- Times reviewer  as having “enormous integrity, is beautifully written and quietly proud of its Southern roots”. Sounds interesting. The New Zealand Book Council site described an earlier novel as ‘exquisitely realised… exact, sparing, lovely’

Taking a look in the new BiblioCommons catalogue, I found a lists on topics from New Zealand crime novels to New Zealand historical fiction (many new authors). The great Kiwi novel list introduced me to an earlier novel by Fearnley and a fantasy novel set in Christchurch.

There were also some hidden gems. A search for the Auckland Readers & Writers Festival in our blog led me to an interview with Vincent Ward mentioning his book The Past Awaits – not fiction but I thought it looked interesting. I also picked up a reference to Christchurch writer Tusiata Avia. Another entirely new author to follow up.

NZ on screen also opened up a new approach with its New Zealand Book Month Collection which allowed me to view a 1996 documentary on Hone Tuwhare and a selection of  films based on New Zealand books, including State of Siege, a Vincent Ward adaptation of one of Janet Frame’s novels.

All together I thought it a pretty useful experience and I’ll know where to go next time I need to branch out.

New Zealand’s literary high achievers honoured

CoverThe Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement have been announced. The winners are:
Cilla McQueen for poetry; James McNeish for non-fiction; and Joy Cowley for fiction.

These awards are New Zealand’s most prestigious and recognise an entire body of work by those who have made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature.  They are worth $60,000 each.

At the presentation ceremony, Creative New Zealand Chair Alastair Carruthers thanked the writers for the outstanding contribution they had made to New Zealand literature. “These three writers represent the essence of New Zealand’s literary heritage.  Through their work New Zealanders can celebrate this nation’s cultural identity,” he said.

New Zealand Post Book Awards – winners announced tonight

Tonight is the big night in New Zealand’s literary calendar – the New Zealand Post Book Awards awards ceremony.

If you want to get all the gossip and hot of the press awards news, Noel from the New Zealand Book Council will be live tweeting from the event via http://twitter.com/nzbookcouncil.

Here are the finalists in the running:

Continue reading

New Zealand Post Book Awards 2010 – have your say

The New Zealand Post Book Awards (formerly the Montana New Zealand  Book Awards) have just been announced.
We’ve got a page listing the finalists.

The Best First Book Award winners have already been revealed:

  • NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book of Fiction Award winner: Relief Anna Taylor, Victoria University Press
  • NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award winner: Fast talking PI Selina Tusitala March, Auckland University Press
  • NZSA E.H. McCormick Best First Book of Non-fiction Award winner: Trust: A True Story of Women & Gangs Pip Desmond, Random House New Zealand

Search the catalogue for Relief Search the catalogue for Fast Talking PISearch the catalogue for Trust

It looks like New Zealand non-fiction is getting the nod with five finalists in the general and illustrated non-fiction categories, and only three each for fiction and poetry.

The famed Bookman Beattie has revealed his picks on Beattie’s Book Blog. He chooses Alison Wong As the Earth Turns Silver for the fiction category, saying “For me it was not only the best NZ novel in 2009 it was also one of the best I read from any quarter.” High praise indeed.

See also: First novel in line for award, New Zealand Herald

The People’s Choice Award offers you a chance to vote for your favourite finalist and be in to win $1,000 of Booksellers Tokens! So have a vote,  and have your say…