Study of five crested penguins by Jane Ussher from her book which is shortlisted for the Ockham awards.

Win every single book shortlisted for the Ockham New Zealand national book awards

Good old ReadingRoom has a book prize to beat all book prizes, ever: all 16 books – yes, 16! – shortlisted for Wednesday night’s Ockham New Zealand book awards are up for grabs.

They will go to one person who has their name drawn out of a hat after they enter the draw by answering a question which requires a modicum of intelligent guesswork.

All you have to do is select the four titles on the shortlist (as set out below) which you think, or hope, or want, will win each of the four categories of fiction, non-fiction, illustrated non-fiction, and poetry, and write one line outlining why you’ve made each choice.

Hurry, the clock is ticking: entries close at 6pm on Wednesday, May 12. The four winners of the Ockham book awards will be announced at a ceremony later that evening. ReadingRoom will be there and hoping there’s a sandwich or something.

All entries for the ReadingRoom greatest book prize of all times will go into a hat. The first entry which has correctly guessed all four winners will receive every single book on the shortlist so long as their line doesn’t reveal them as a phoney who has only entered because they’re an acquisitive jerk and place no value on literature. A prize of this magnitude ought to – and has to – go to someone who really actually wants like hell to read these books.

We’re talking a prize pack of three novels and one collection of short stories, a biography of painter Ralph Hotere, a kind of cookbook but better than that, four books of poetry by four writers of colour, a meditation on race by a white woman finding her way across cultures and histories in Aotearoa, an incredible collection of photographs of pinned, stuffed, preserved and mounted things which once lived and are now at Te Papa, and other titles listed below. Added up, their retail value is around about oh say $500, maybe closer to $700.

We’re talking the best books of 2020, narrowed down to 16 titles, and they could be destined for your house. Email your entry naming your selections of the winning titles and authors, with one or even two sentences saying something about your choices, to The subject line has to be in screaming caps I WOULD QUITE LIKE TO WIN THE GREATEST BOOK PRIZE OF ALL TIMES.

To repeat: the competition ends on the stroke of 6pm on Wednesday May 12.

The full shortlist is as below. Good luck!


Marti Friedlander: Portraits of the Artists by Leonard Bell (Auckland University Press)

Hiakai: Modern Māori Cuisine by Monique Fiso (Godwit, Penguin Random House)

An Exquisite Legacy: The Life and Work of New Zealand Naturalist G.V. Hudson by George Gibbs (Potton & Burton)

Nature — Stilled by Jane Ussher (Te Papa Press)


Nothing to See by Pip Adam (Victoria University Press)

Bug Week & Other Stories by Airini Beautrais (Victoria University Press)

Remote Sympathy by Catherine Chidgey (Victoria University Press)

Sprigs by Brannavan Gnanalingam (Lawrence & Gibson)


Specimen: Personal Essays by Madison Hamill (Victoria University Press)

Te Hāhi Mihinare |The Māori Anglican Church by Hirini Kaa (Bridget Williams Books)

The Dark is Light Enough: Ralph Hotere A Biographical Portrait by Vincent O’Sullivan (Penguin, Penguin Random House)

This Pākehā Life: An Unsettled Memoir by Alison Jones (Bridget Williams Books)


The Savage Coloniser Book by Tusiata Avia (Victoria University Press)

Funkhaus by Hinemoana Baker (Victoria University Press)

National Anthem by Mohamed Hassan (Dead Bird Books)

Magnolia 木蘭 by Nina Mingya Powles (Seraph Press)

Steve Braunias is the literary editor of Newsroom's books section ReadingRoom, a noted writer at the NZ Herald, and the author of 10 books.

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