New Zealand Book Awards: Witi Ihimaera, Patricia Grace among finalists
Patricia Grace and Witi Ihimaera are among the finalists in the significantly re-jigged national book awards.
Announced overnight, the shortlist is 16 books in four categories, with a $50,000 prize for the fiction winner.
Grace is a finalist in the fiction category, for Chappy, her first novel in 10 years, alongside debut novelist David Coventry, whose book The Invisible Mile tells of a joint New Zealand-Australian Tour de France effort in 1928.
Ihimaera is a non-fiction finalist for Maori Boy, a memoir of his rural 1950s childhood outside Gisborne.
Another novelist, Fiona Farrell, makes the non-fiction category for Villa at the Edge of the World, about the Christchurch rebuild.
The winners will be announced on the opening night of the Auckland Writers Festival on May 10.
Following a year's break, the book awards have picked up new sponsors and been simplified.
There is no longer a supreme winner for book of the year because "it never seemed to make anyone happy", according to New Zealand Book Awards Trust chair Nicola Legat.
"It was really invidious," said Legat. "We saw that in 2014, when Eleanor Catton didn't win book of the year [with Man Booker Prize-winning The Luminaries] but she won the best fiction book. That seemed controversial to people; it is the decision the judges made.
"It is very, very difficult for a panel of judges to choose between a great book of non-fiction and a great novel, it's almost impossible."
Previously, five judges presided over all categories, "an enormous task", said Legat. Now there are three judges assigned to each category.
Also significant is the prize money for the fiction category, which could be "transformative", allowing the winner to take time off from other work and concentrate on writing.
Full list of finalists in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards:
The Back of His Head by Patrick Evans (Victoria University Press)
Chappy by Patricia Grace (Penguin Random House)
Coming Rain by Stephen Daisley (Text Publishing)
The Invisible Mile by David Coventry (Victoria University Press)
How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes by Chris Tse (Auckland University Press)
The Night We Ate the Baby by Tim Upperton (Haunui Press)
Song of the Ghost in the Machine by Roger Horrocks (Victoria University Press)
The Conch Trumpet by David Eggleton (Otago University Press)
Maurice Gee: Life and Work by Rachel Barrowman (Victoria University Press)
The Villa at the Edge of the Empire: One Hundred Ways to Read a City by Fiona Farrell
(Penguin Random House)
Māori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House)
Lost and Gone Away by Lynn Jenner (Auckland University Press)
Te Ara Puoro: A Journey into the World of Māori Music by Richard Nunns (Potton and
New Zealand Photography Collected by Athol McCredie (Te Papa Press)
Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History by Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney, Aroha Harris
(Bridget Williams Books)
Real Modern: Everyday New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s by Bronwyn Labrum (Te Papa Press)