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Publishers’ Picks of 2018

By December 11, 2018February 19th, 2020No Comments

Sh*t Towns of NZ cover imageTo celebrate a bumper year of publishing we asked our members to pick a favourite child and tell us about the book they were most thrilled to publish. We also flipped the coin and asked which other publisher’s title they wished they’d commissioned.

There were definitely some common themes in the books that inspired envy, with Birdstories, Dear Donald Trump and Sh*t Towns of New Zealand topping the list of titles  that turned rival publishers a tad green.

Claire Murdoch, Head of Publishing New Zealand, Penguin Random House New Zealand
What a cruel question, PANZ! Luckily I’m new in the Penguin Random House NZ saddle so – while I can’t take credit for any of it – I can feel hugely proud of all the great books the team has published this year. I still get excited about My Life, My Fight, the Steven Adams biography originally signed by Debra Millar and written by the very brilliant Madeleine Chapman. She’s such a fierce talent and her point of view is fresh and urgent and right for our times.

As for the green-eyed-monster question, I can’t lie – I wish I had published Sh*t Towns of New Zealand. Instead, Allen &Unwin did. Kudos! It’s also great to see Sean Mallon’s Tatau out – and so, so beautifully – from Te Papa Press.

Dear Donald Trump cover imageAlso from the PRH team, Catherine O’Loughlin, Children’s Publisher, could not pick a favourite among her many wonderful 2018 books, but admires Dear Donald Trump by Sophie Siers and illustrated by Anne Villeneuve (Millwood Press).

Jeremy Sherlock, Senior Non-Fiction Publisher is most thrilled to have published Health Your Self by Dr Nic Gill. He would most like to have published: Topp Country: A Culinary Journey by the Topp Twins (Diva Productions) – “a no-brainer, in a way. A beautiful heartland cookbook that celebrates New Zealand, its people

and produce, from our beloved Topp Twins. I’ve bought multiple copies as Christmas gifts already.”

Fiction Publisher Harriet Allan says, “it was a rare pleasure this year to venture into poetry with Owen Marshall’s View from the South, a selection from his past three poetry books along with many more new works. She would have liked to have published Sia Figiel’s Freelove, published by Little Island Press. “Hers is a unique uncompromising voice and her laughter fills an entire room.”

Jenny Hellen, Publisher, Allen & Unwin
I was absolutely thrilled to publish Women, Equality, Power: Selected Speeches from a Life of LeaWomen Equality Power cover imagedership – it was exciting to see the huge response from the media, booksellers and the general public who flocked to hear Helen Clark speak at various events. When I first contacted Helen about the book, she wasn’t so keen as she couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to buy it. But she gradually came on board and was delighted by the way it turned out and the interest it generated and by the admiration

shown to her by many.

Birdstories: A History of the Birds of New Zealand by Geoff Norman (Potton & Burton) is a book I’d have loved to publish. Such a great idea and it looks beautifully put together, with an excellent jacket.

Alex Hedley, New Zealand Publisher HarperCollins Publishers NZ
The book I was most Sam Hunt cover imagethrilled to publish in 2018 was Sam Hunt: Off the Road by Colin Hogg. I’m a huge fan of Sam, and I’m always in awe of Colin Hogg’s artful turn of phrase. Neither are afraid to speak their mind – this is an extremely honest and revealing book!

The book I wish I’d published is The Colour of Time by Dan Jones & Marina Amaral (Head of Zeus), an extraordinary collection of colourised photographs from 1850-1960. Truly startling.  But on a local level, I have to say I’d have been most pleased to publish the Steven Adams story (Steven Adams: My Life, My Fight, Penguin). Also – Hillary’s Antarctica by Jane Ussher and Nigel Watson (Allen & Unwin) is a very fine bit of publishing.

Alison Shucksmith, Product and Publishing Manager, Hachette NZ
I am most proud of publishing Shhh! Don’t Wake the Baby, celebrating the birth of Neve, a brilliant moment for New Zealand and the world.

I wish we had published Granny McFlitter Champion Knitter by Heather Haylock and Lael Chisholm (Puffin), a beautiful book that is both a delight for grown-ups and children to admire and read.

Bridget Williams, Director and Publisher BWB
Ko Taranaki Te Maunga cover imageI’m thrilled with In Ko Taranaki Te Maunga, Rachel Buchanan writes a very personal narrative about Parihaka, weaving together whakapapa, history, contemporary politics and her own vivid experience. And what we love about this book is the impact it has had – racing out the bookshop door, popular on Facebook, and so many people gathering at the National Library to hear Buchanan speak with Mahara Okeroa. So, yes, we’ve reprinted, and our great distributors at Batemans are continuing to pack it out of the warehouse.

Birdstories: A History of the Birds in New Zealand by Geoff Norman (Potton & Burton) is right off the BWB publishing patch – but here we are up at the top of the Botanic Gardens, with kererū literally at the window, tūī and kākā flapping their way past. So this stunning publication is a must-have for the BWB office in 2019!

Carolyn Lagahetau, Editorial Director, Oratia Books
I’m really thrilled that in 2018 we published Nanny Mihi and the Bellbird by Melanie Drewery and Tracy Duncan. Nanny Mihi has been in my publishing life for a couple of decades; she’s had a bit of a holiday and has been treated like some of our real life nannies; I didn’t visit her or call her as much as I should have! So, here she is, revitalised and sharing her smart, funny and delicious ways with her mokopuna.

I would have liked to have published the David Riley title Fānene Peter Maivia, Son of Samoa in his Reading Legends series, in Samoan and English (published by Reading Warrior). Alongside books in his Pasifika Heroes series, David writes about historical and contemporary figures from the different islands, providing Pasifika children an impetus to read as they see themselves reflected in the books. He also gives them the message that their lives can include achieving things they might not think are possible.

Kevin Chapman, Director Upstart Press
I am proud of How Māui Fished Up The North Island, by Donovan Bixley. I have wanted for a long time to publish in more than one of New Zealand’s official languages, and Donovan’s different, and cheeky, take on this great story was the obvious candidate.

I wish I had published Past Tense by Lee Child (Penguin Random House). Would love the sales!


Nicola Legat, Publisher Massey University Press & Te Papa Press
For Massey University Press I was thrilled to publish Damian Skinner’s Theo Schoon: A Biography. Collectors know about him but for the public Schoon has been in the shadows for too long. Damian shines a long-overdue light on a remarkable, extraordinarily complex and influential figure in this country’s art history.

For Te Papa Press I am very proud of Sean Mallon and Sebastien Galliot’s Tatau: A History of Samoan Tattooing. The scope of the authors’ research is so impressive, it’s full of superb images, and InHouse has backed it up with outstanding design.

I don’t publish fiction but if I did I’d have loved to have published Kate Duignan’s superb The New Ships (Victoria University Press).  Well done VUP!

Quentin Wilson, Quentin Wilson Publishing
The title I was most thrilled to publish in 2018 was Province of Danger, by Ray Grover. Province of Danger is the most extensively researched and well-written novel about WW II and the surrounding times I have ever read. Kevin Ireland’s Foreword to this book sums it up better than I am able: “No New Zealand novel about the harrowing experience of our growth towards nationhood has a broader sweep and more detailed grasp of events. It is a masterpiece of times that must never be forgotten”.

I would most like to have published Fight for the Forests: The pivotal campaigns that saved New Zealand’s forests by Paul Bensemann (Potton & Burton). This book recounts inspiring actions by inspiring individuals. I wish I had been there and I wish I had known the people involved. This book makes getting to know and understand those people and their actions possible.

Rachel Lawson, Associate Publisher, Gecko Press
As a way to choose just one book from our 2018 list, I’ll regress to the age of 10, when the magic of reading felt strongest for me. For that 10-year-old I’ll choose The 

Mapmakers’ Race by Eirlys Hunter—a quintessential adventure novel with tramping! Narrow escapes, family, resourcefulness and maps in a landscape reminiscent of the Southern Alps. This book was a treat to work on and to watch becoming a favourite of indie booksellers and readers—in the UK and Australia as well as New Zealand.

For the book I’d have loved to publish in the same age range, Kate De Camillo’s Louisiana’s Way Home (Walker Books) —a gorgeous lively and distinctive voice, a tough story told with lots lightness, and beautifully published with a cracker of a cover.

Sally Greer, Publisher, Beatnik Publishing
I was most thrilled to publish RIPE RECIPES: A Third Helping by Angela Redfern and the Ripe Deli team. Beatnik has had huge success with the first two RIPE RECIPE books, and there has been so much demand for a third book. This all-new collection of recipes celebrates 15 years of business for the Ripe Deli crew and includes all-time favourites as well as exciting new dishes.

The book I wish I’d published is Dear Donald Trump by Sophie Siers (Millwood Press). I love that this book has done so well with international rights, and that Sophie had lots of help from fellow publishers that contributed to its success. That is the experience I’ve had with attending the Frankfurt Book Fair too, and that’s the lovely thing about our industry is that we support and help each other. It’s completely opposite to Trump’s wall building approach!

Sam Elworthy, Director, Auckland University Press
At AUP, the game changer book for us was Sir Tīmoti Kāretu and Wharehuia Milroy’s He Kupu Tuku Iho: Ko te Reo Māori te Tatau ki te Ao. Completely in te reo, our expectations were modest but we sold out our first print run in a week and are rapidly selling through a second printing. We’ll be rolling out big plans next year for Kotahi Rau Pukapuka, 100 Book in Te Reo, so this book was an exciting start.

Other publishers’ books? Phew. I reckon Sh*t Towns of New Zealand (Allen & Unwin) if I could get it through the AUP board. But seriously, A&U are doing great publishing (though I still resent Mel for edging out AUP for publisher of the year).

Here are some other wonderful books our publishers are proud of:

Charyn Jones, Managing Editor, Wendy Pye Publishing
One of our authors wrote a text about mindfulness, Staying Still by Samantha Montgomerie. She planned this so that students could focus on the doing words of listening, looking, thinking and breathing. She started with a reference to how much fun it is to run and skip and be busy. She then went on to demonstrate ways of staying still and being in your surroundings and aware of your emotions. Those of us working on the book felt “softened” by the message.

Mary Varnham, Editor-in-chief, Awa Press
When Emma Gilkison, an IIML graduate, came to us with the manuscript for her extraordinary memoir, The Heart of Jesus Valentino, we were gripped from page one. Emma and her partner Roy Costilla had faced a situation that’s every parent’s nightmare – learning their unborn child was suffering from an unsurvivable medical condition. This sounds a sad story but in Emma’s hands it becomes a page-turner – beautifully written and starkly honest. For a revealing insight into how doctors and midwives view and treat such rare conditions, read this book.

Alex Collins, Chief Executive, Lift Education Tautai Ake
Lift Education E Tū published a series of 33 literacy books in gagana Tokelau for use in schools in Tokelau. They were developed in conjunction with Matāeke o Akoakoga a Tokelau (the Tokelau Department of Education), an editorial team in Tokelau, and Elaine Lameta from Massey University.

Penguins Under the Porch cover imageJenny Haworth, Wily Publications
The book I was most thrilled to publish was Penguins Under the Porch by David Harbourne.  This is a study of Oamaru and is one of the best written non-fiction books I published this year. David was a Yorkshire man who came to New Zealand and fell in love with Oamaru and then returned for several months, interviewed everyone possible in Oamaru and then wrote the book.

Charlotte Gibbs, Toitoi Media
The Jillion is a collection of incredible work from Toitoi Issues 1-12. Written and illustrated by New Zealand’s young writers and artists ages 5-13, the Jillion is a celebration of their curiosity, courage and creativity.