Prime Minister’s Literary Awards Shortlist, 2018, announced

I don’t always announce all literary awards shortlists, but have decided to announce the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards shortlist this year. The press release says that over 500 books were submitted across the 6 categories. Is that all? I guess I would have expected more, but it is somewhat expensive to submit, particularly for small publishers. There is NO entry fee, but 10 copies of each book submitted must be provided.

Over the years, the number of categories offered under the award, which was introduced in 2008 by Kevin Rudd, has increased, which is excellent I’d say for Australian writers, given the value of the award. Winners receive $80K, and shortlisted authors $5K.

I also don’t always announce all the categories covered by awards, but this year I’m gonna, starting with Fiction of course!

Michelle de Kretser, The life to comeFiction

  • A long way from home, Peter Carey (Penguin Random House): on my TBR (Lisa’s review)
  • Border districts, Gerald Murnane (Giramondo): on my TBR (Lisa’s review)
  • First person, Richard Flanagan (Penguin Random House): my review
  • Taboo, Kim Scott (Pan Macmillan): on my TBR (Lisa’s review)
  • The life to come, Michelle de Kretser (Allen & Unwin): my review (and winner of this year’s Miles Franklin Award)

Quite a male-dominated list this year, and generally conservative, as it sticks with tried and true authors, but nonetheless these are all, from what I’ve read or ascertained from others, good books. Still, I have liked that this award has often introduced us to something a bit different (like Stephen Daisley, and Lisa Gorton) from the other awards, but not so here. It would be lovely to see Gerald Murnane win – the only one among these not to have won a significant Australian award – given his significant contribution to Australian letters, but, will he?

I have not read any of the rest of the shortlisted books, I’m afraid.


  • Archipelago, Adam Aitken (Vagabond Press)
  • Blindness and rage: A phantasmagoria, Brian Castro (Giramondo Publishing)
  • Chatelaine, Bonny Cassidy (Giramondo Publishing)
  • Domestic interior, Fiona Wright (Giramondo Publishing)
  • Transparencies, Stephen Edgar (Black Pepper)

Looks like that wonderful independent publisher Giramondo is one of this year’s winners, regardless of WHO wins the awards in the end. Good on them, in particular, for supporting poetry so well.


  • Asia’s reckoning, Richard McGregor (Penguin Random House UK)
  • Mischka’s war: A European odyssey of the 1940s, Sheila Fitzpatrick (University of Melbourne Publishing)
  • No front line: Australia’s special forces at war in Afghanistan, Chris Masters (Allen & Unwin)
  • The library: A catalogue of wonders, Stuart Kells (Text Publishing)
  • Unbreakable, Jelena Dokic and Jessica Halloran (Penguin Random House): my report of an In Conversation event

Australian history

  • Beautiful Balts: From Displaced Persons to New Australians, Jayne Persian (NewSouth Publishing)
  • Hidden in plain view: The Aboriginal people of coastal Sydney, Paul Irish (NewSouth Publishing)
  • Indigenous and other Australians since 1901, Timothy Rowse (NewSouth Publishing)
  • John Curtin’s war: The coming of war in the Pacific, and reinventing Australia, Volume 1, John Edwards (Penguin Random House
  • The enigmatic Mr Deakin, Judith Brett (Text Publishing)

And here, NewSouth Publishing, the publishing arm of the University New South Wales, has strut its stuff. They also did well at this year’s New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards, where they won two prizes, including Paul Irish’s Hidden in plain view for the NSW Community and Regional History Prize. As I’ve said before, it’s excellent to see university presses publishing and doing well.

Children’s literature

  • Feathers, by Phil Cummings and Phil Lesnie (Scholastic Australia)
  • Figgy takes the city, Tamsin Janu (Scholastic Australia)
  • Hark, it’s me, Ruby Lee!, Lisa Shanahan and Binny Talib (Hachette Australia)
  • Pea pod lullaby, Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King (Allen & Unwin)
  • Storm whale, Sarah Brennan and Jane Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

Young Adult literature

  • Living on Hope Street, Demet Divaroren (Allen & Unwin)
  • My lovely Frankie, Judith Clarke (Allen & Unwin)
  • Ruben, Bruce Whatley (Scholastic Australia)
  • The ones that disappeared, Zana Fraillon (Hachette Australia)
  • This is my song, Richard Yaxley (Scholastic Australia)

And, in the youth literature area, congrats to Allen and Unwin, Hachette Australia and Scholastic Australia who have scooped the pool. I don’t know enough about this area to know how representative this is, but I do know that indigenous publisher Magabala Books publish children’s books. I wonder if they submitted.

The complete shortlist with judges’ comments can be seen on the website. And now, I apologise for the rushed post, but I’m running late for my afternoon commitments and will be out this evening too.

Thoughts, anyone?

20 thoughts on “Prime Minister’s Literary Awards Shortlist, 2018, announced

    • Though Giramondo is in there, albeit for a less popular form. I can’t help wondering, Anna, if a conservative government results in more conservative choices but I haven’t done that analysis so didn’t explore that in my post. (I’m between commitments at present!)

  1. One Indigenous, one woman. They’re both such excellent writers that it would be difficult to call them tokens, but … this is a very ham-fisted government. Like Lisa, I hope Murnane wins – a token for his amazing output over a lifetime.

  2. I think everyone knows that I’m a big supporter of small publishers, and that I think they tend to publish the most interesting books, but this time I’m not going to join in querying the dominance of the big publishers in the fiction shortlist. It’s true that they usually do dominate the lists and not always justifiably so, but this time, it’s simply the case that Australia’s most notable writers all published important books that are eligible this year, and they tend to publish with the big publishers. And it’s also the big publishers who are great supporters of children’s lit and YA.

    • Agree, Lisa. I hope it’s clear that I wasn’t really querying the big publisher dominance, particularly as some smaller publishers ARE represented here – Giramondo, and NewSouth, in particular.

      I do think though that while the fiction list IS by notable writers – I like them all (the writers I mean, as I haven’t read all these particularly books!)- this could also be seen as a “safe” selection.

      • Well, maybe… I would say that all of them are exceptional, as you’d expect from writers of this calibre.
        BTW I am having trouble with being constantly logged out of WP. I’ve reported it and they’re onto it, but if I don’t reply to a comment, especially on blogs other than my own, that’s why. (It’s taken three attempts to reply here, let’s see if this one works!)

        • I’ve been thinking about checking in with you about this because it’s happening to me too – more on some WP blogs than others. Some work first time, but others just don’t. It’s weird. I even have to keep logging into my own blog. I’m in my dashboard, and then go to view post and it brings it up but displays it to me as if I’m a stranger offering me to subscribe to my own blog that I’ve just been working on. All very weird. I thought it may have been an Operating System update on my computer but yours is very different to mine so maybe it’s something else.

        • Ah, well please do report it. It’s driving me nuts having to log in all the time, and most exasperating of all is the way it logs me out when I’m previewing a new post! At this stage, they think it’s just MS Edge or a Windows Update so it has happened with Safari, so it will help if you report it too. When you do, visit this first and send them the string that appears in the blue box? And tell them you’ve been talking to me so that they can see we have the same problem.

        • Will try to do Lisa – am flat chat with back-to-back commitments over the next two days, including some I’m organising, so finding time to frame the exact facts in my situation for them is tricky. Which address are you contacting them though?

  3. These awards sound a lot like the Canadian Governor General’s Awards, with all the cateogorites represented (in which I generally have a poor showing beyond the fiction category). This year I added five other books to my library queue, in drama and poetry and childrens, and wagged my finger in my own direction to remember to read widely. *laughs* And, then, I expect I’ll focus solely on fiction for the next year as well.

  4. All these fascinating looking books. I wish that I had the time to read most of them. I need to read some more Australian literature in general and I need to read more contemporary literature in general so I might give some of the fiction a try.

    • Yes, me too Brian! Particularly those three on my TBR. They’d be a good start I reckon. I need to get back to more classics! But I will be reading Howards End soon which is a 20th century classic!

  5. I hope, once again to concentrate on my own books and more Australian books next year but I get so distracted. I am absolutely discombobulated lately. Have not read these but several on there I wish I could say I have. Hopeless!!

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