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Prime Minister’s Literary Awards Shortlist, 2019, announced

September 12, 2019

As you know, I don’t announce all literary awards shortlists, but the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards have an “interesting” history, so I plan to follow them more closely than I originally did.

The press release says that over 500 books were submitted across the 6 categories, much the same as last year in fact. Last year, I listed all categories, but this year I am just listing the three that feature most often on my blog.

Rodney Hall, A stolen seasonFiction

  • Rodney Hall’s A stolen season, Picador (my review)
  • Gail Jones’ The death of Noah Glass, Text Publishing
  • Melissa Lucashenko’s Too much lip, University of Queensland Press (my review)
  • Suneeta Peres da Costa’s Saudade, Giramondo Publishing (Lisa ANZLitLovers’ review)
  • Laura Elizabeth Woollett’s Beautiful revolutionary, Scribe Publications

While last year’s list was male-dominated, this year’s tips the balance just over to the women’s side. Also, last year’s list seemed a little conservative, sticking to tried and true authors, while this year’s list mixes it up a bit. Indeed I barely know two of them. Best of all, last year I had read none of the shortlist, while this year I’ve read two! Hall, Jones and Lucashenko have appeared on a few lists this year, with Lucashenko, of course, recently winning the Miles Franklin Award.

Maria Tumarkin, AxiomaticNon-fiction

  • Cynthia Banham’s A certain light: A memoir of family, loss and hope, Allen & Unwin
  • Gabrielle Chan’s Rusted off: Why country Australia is fed up, Vintage Books
  • Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell’s Half the perfect world: Writers, dreamers and drifters on Hydra, 1955–1964, Monash University Press
  • Chloe Hooper’s The arsonist: A mind on fire, Hamish Hamilton (on my TBR) (Lisa AnzLitLovers’ review)
  • Maria Tumarkin’s Axiomatic, Brow Books (my review)

A mixed bunch, as you’d expect from something broadly described as “non-fiction”, but I’m pleased that again, unlike last year, I have actually read one of the books, and have another on my TBR. I like the judges’ description of Tumarkin’s exploration of her axioms, that she “turns them upside down and uses them to explore the intersection of past and present memories and the entanglement of human frailty.”

Clare Wright, You daughters of freedomAustralian history

  • Billy Griffiths’ Deep time dreaming: Uncovering ancient Australia, Black Inc.
  • Anna Haebich’s Dancing in shadows: Histories of Nyungar performance, UWA Publishing
  • David Kemp’s The land of deams: How Australians won their freedom, 1788-1860, The Miegunyah Press
  • Meredith Lake’s The Bible in Australia: A cultural history, NewSouth Publishing
  • Clare Wright’s You daughters of freedom: The Australians who won the vote and inspired the world, Text Publishing (my review)

Like last year, university publishing houses have done well here, with UWA Publishing, The Miegunyah Press and NewSouth Publishing taking three of the five spots. But, unlike last year, this year I have actually read one of the books! I am also particularly keen to read Billy Griffiths’ book which explores not only Australia’s archeology but the history of archeologists’ relationship with indigenous people and their knowledge and ideas about Australia’s “deep past”. While Griffiths and Haebich address indigenous Australia in their histories, I’m disappointed that there are no indigenous-authored histories here. Were any published or submitted this year I wonder?

The complete shortlist with judges’ comments can be seen on the website (Click on each book for the comments).

Thoughts, anyone?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2019 10:23 pm

    Sue, unbelievable…I ‘ve read 5 of the books! Favorite? Billy Griffith’s Deep Time Dreaming…it was so informative and well written! Thanks for this shortlist 🙂

    • September 12, 2019 10:57 pm

      And I’ve only read 4, Nancy! My brother highly recommends Deep time dreaming too. I’m sure I’d love it.

  2. September 12, 2019 10:57 pm

    I’ve only read The Arsonist and Axiomatic, both of which I enjoyed a lot. I do hope the Hooper wins – I feel it was hardly done by being overlooked for the Stella.

    • September 12, 2019 10:58 pm

      Thanks Kate. I really must read that, as I love her The tall man. I’m surprised that I’ve actually read 4 this year. A record for me!!

  3. September 12, 2019 11:01 pm

    Thanks for all the mentions, Sue. I’ve been out at the theatre so I missed the announcement altogether.
    (And now I exhausted, and off to bed!)

    • September 13, 2019 12:02 am

      A pleasure Lisa … I was out too (at the movies) when the email came through, but we were home before 9 so was able to write them up. Hope the theatre was great.

  4. September 13, 2019 5:48 am

    I saw a fascinating bloke on The Drum the other night – Gregory Phillips. He’s someone I hope will write a book, rather than only scholarly articles: SUCH a thinker !
    I reckon anything from Text Publishing is a likely goer.
    There now: my usual irritatingly off-topic rave. 🙂

    • September 13, 2019 8:27 am

      Never irritatingly off-topic M-R! I love that you find some tangent that works for you!!! The Drum does get some good thinkers on.

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