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Book that will will bring readers back from the dead’ wins $50,000 prize

By May 16, 2018No Comments

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Pip Adam wins premier book awards’ $50,000 prize 

A novel which judges say ‘will bring readers back from the dead’ has won the 2018 $50,000 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize in the country’s premier book awards.

Wellington writer Pip Adam received the honour for her novel The New Animals (Victoria University Press) at the glittering Ockham New Zealand Book Awards ceremony which also celebrated the Awards’ 50th anniversary, held in Auckland’s Aotea Centre tonight.

The New Animals, which parodies the Auckland fashion scene, was praised by the category judges as a confrontational, revelatory novel that holds a mirror up to contemporary New Zealand culture. They said: “The New Animals handles a large ensemble of unrooted characters with skill. It’s stylistically raw and reveals a good deal in a modest way. The New Animals is so vivid in imagery and imagination that the judges haven’t stopped thinking about it since. In this category in 2018 it’s the book with the most blood on the page. It will give you an electric shock.”

Listener journalist Diana Wichtel won the Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction for her memoir Driving to Treblinka: A long search for a lost father (Awa Press).  

“The toughest task of any book, whatever the form, is to make a sentence so good that you just have to read the next one, and the next one, and then wish it could just about go on forever. So it is with Driving to Treblinka,” said the judges. “Wichtel’s curiosity, alternately upsetting and uplifting, turns invisibly into a kind of mission. At its heart this is a family story, but one which cannot but shine a light on the vestiges of anti-Semitism that linger in Europe today.  It is not just a beautifully written book, but an important book, too.”

Elizabeth Smither OBE won the Poetry category – an honour bestowed on her twice before – with her collection Night Horse (Auckland University Press).

“The 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Poetry Award is for a book by an esteemed and celebrated poet who contributes greatly to the New Zealand writing community. The poems in Night Horse are gentle, uplifting, tender, humorous, well-crafted and luminous,” said the Poetry category judges.

Esteemed academics Alison Jones and Kuni Kaa Jenkins won the Illustrated Non-Fiction category for their work Tuai: A traveller in two worlds (Bridget Williams Books).

“Tuai is empathetically written, providing the reader a window into a contested time of meeting, conversion and enterprise. The text and illustrations work in concert, presenting a rounded and rich experience for the reader, enhancing the breadth and depth of the research explored within. Key moments are presented so richly that they envelop and captivate the imagination. The care the authors have given these histories, acknowledging the autonomy that mātauranga Māori has in wider Aotearoa historical narratives, is striking, and we need more of it,” the judges said.

The General Non-Fiction, Poetry and Illustrated Non-Fiction category winners each took home a $10,000 prize.

To add a further celebratory note, Ockham Residential confirmed its sponsorship commitment to the awards for a further five years.

“This year the New Zealand Book Awards have reached the golden age of fifty. However they have only been the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for the last three years, which isn’t long enough in our book!, ” says Mark Todd, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Ockham Residential. “We are delighted to announce a new five-year sponsorship deal with the awards. With public discourse in disarray we need our writers more than ever.”

New Zealand Book Awards Trust chair, Nicola Legat, says Ockham’s commitment is a terrific boon for the Awards. “We are enormously grateful to Ockham for their generous ongoing commitment. What a terrific way to celebrate the Awards’ 50th anniversary; the country’s premier literary honours are in such good heart.” 

Four Best First Book Awards were also presented at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

The Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction: Baby by Annaleese Jochems (Victoria University Press).

The E.H. McCormick Best First Book Award for General Non-Fiction: Driving to Treblinka: A long search for a lost father by Diana Wichtel (Awa Press).

The Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry: Fully Clothed and So Forgetful by Hannah Mettner (Victoria University Press).

The Judith Binney Best First Book Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction: Caves: Exploring New Zealand’s Subterranean Wilderness by Marcus Thomas and Neil Silverwood (Whio Publishing).

Each Best First Book Award winner received $2500.

The Awards ceremony was the first public event in the Auckland Writers Festival, which sees more than 200 of New Zealand’s and the world’s best writers and thinkers offering entertainment and ideas in words, song, theatre and more from 15-20 May.

Category winners appear in sessions at the Auckland Writers Festival:

The 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards judges were:

Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize: Poet and academic Anna Smaill; journalist and reviewer Philip Matthews; and bookseller and reviewer Jenna Todd of the Auckland bookshop Time Out. Glasgow-based writer, journalist and founding editor of the Scottish Review of Books Alan Taylor joined the New Zealand judging team in selecting the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize winner.

Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction: Ella Henry, lecturer in AUT’s Māori Faculty; editor and award-winning journalist Toby Manhire; and former bookseller and publisher, Philip King.

Illustrated Non-Fiction: Barbara Brookes, whose A History of New Zealand Women won this category of the awards in 2017; Matariki Williams, (Tūhoe, Taranaki, Ngāti Hauiti, Ngāti Whakaue), Curator Mātauranga Māori at Te Papa; and Kim Paton, Director of the public gallery Objectspace.

Poetry: Poet and novelist Alison Wong; poet Robert Sullivan, deputy chief executive, Māori, Manukau Institute of Technology; and poet, publisher and librettist Michael Harlow.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, The Acorn Foundation, Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd and the Royal Society Te Apārangi.


  • Winners are available for interview
  • Judges are available for interview
  • Winning books are available for review
  • Author images and book jacket images are available


For winners’ collage images:

For winners’ author images:–h3X-L8KqAry733s9ua?dl=0

For winners’ book covers:

To register your interest in attending the ceremony, please contact: Penny Hartill, director, hPR 09 445 7525, 021 721 424,

@theockhams                        #theockhams


Editors’ Notes:

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 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize), General Non-Fiction (the Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction), Illustrated Non-Fiction and Poetry. There are also four Best First Book Awards and, at the judges’ discretion, a Māori Language Award. The awards are governed by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust (a registered charity). Members of the Trust are Nicola Legat, Karen Ferns, Paula Morris, Catherine Robertson, Rachel Eadie, David Bowles, Pene Walsh and Melanee Winder. Creative New Zealand is a significant annual funder of the awards. The Trust also governs the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day.

Ockham Residential Group is Auckland’s most progressive developer. Founded in 2009 by Mark Todd and Ben Preston, Ockham describes itself as an urban regenerator, a company that loves Auckland.  Ockham wants to see Auckland’s built environment become as beautiful and as world-class as its natural landscape. The business has ambitions wider than profitability, and has also established the Ockham Foundation. The Ockham Foundation aims to promote original thinking and critical thought — two key elements of widening the public discourse — via educational initiatives. It works with the University of Auckland to fund First Foundation Scholars studying science, and is a major sponsor to Ngā Rangatahi Toa, a charity transforming the lives of Rangatahi excluded from education.

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 $4.6 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 15 throughout New Zealand, with more in the early stages. The Book Awards’ $50,000 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize has been provided through the generosity of one of the Foundation’s donors, and will be awarded to the top fiction work each year, in perpetuity.

Royal Society Te Apārangi is an independent not-for-profit organisation that supports all New Zealanders to explore, discover and share knowledge. Its varied programmes provide funding and learning opportunities for researchers, teachers, school students, together with those who are simply curious about the world. To celebrate the discoveries of New Zealand researchers, the Society awards medals and elects Fellows, who are leaders in their fields. These experts help the Society to provide independent advice to New Zealanders and the government on issues of public concern. The Society has a broad network of members and friends around New Zealand and invites all those who value the work New Zealanders do in exploring, discovering and sharing knowledge to join with them.

The Auckland Writers Festival is the largest literary event in New Zealand and the largest presenter of New Zealand literature in the world. Now in its 18th year, it hosts more than 200 local and international 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. Festival attendance in 2017 exceeded 73,000.

Creative New Zealand has been a sustaining partner of New Zealand’s book awards for decades. Creative New Zealand 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. It offers financial support for emerging and established artists, art practitioners, groups and organisations, and provides training and online resources to help artists and practitioners develop professionally, grow audiences and markets, and manage their organisations. It also supports internships and national touring to help develop New Zealand arts. 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.

Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd underwrites the sale of book tokens within New Zealand. It is administered by Booksellers New Zealand.