Monday musings on Australian literature: 2021 Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award shortlist

Once again I am using my Monday Musings post to make an awards announcement, though I prefer not to. However, I am breaking my rule-of-thumb so soon again for a few reasons: I spent too much time on yesterday’s Living under Covid-19 post leaving less time for today’s post; I have a zoom Tai Chi class this evening; and, the Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award shortlist was announced today. I hope this doesn’t disappoint those of you who enjoy my more usual MM posts (however you define that), but it’s the best I have for you today! It has inspired a future MM post, but you’ll have to wait to see what that is.

Now, you may remember that the longlist for this year’s Nib award was a very long one – 18 titles. I wondered how they were going to whittle it down, and to how many. Before I share their decision, I’ll remind you that this award celebrates “excellence in research and writing”. It is not limited by genre, though given the research focus, nonfiction always features heavily.

Wonderfully, all shortlisted authors automatically win the Alex Buzo Shortlist Prize, of $1000, each. So, a big congratulations to them. And now …

The shortlist

Book cover
  • Gabrielle Carey‘s Only happiness here: In search of Elizabeth von Arnim (biography/memoir) (on my wishlist) (Brona’s review)
  • Kate Holden’s The winter road: A story of legacy, land and a killing at Croppa Creek (nonfiction/environment)
  • Ramona Koval’s A letter to Layla: Travels to our deep past and near future (nonfiction)
  • Sarah Krasnostein’s The believer: Encounters with love, death & faith (nonfiction/religion) (on my TBR)
  • Tim Olsen’s Son of the brush (nonfiction/memoir)
  • Luke Stegemann’s Amnesia Road, landscape, violence and memory (nonfiction/history) (Janine’s review)

Unfortunately, only one of the five books from the longlist that I had on my TBR – I identified four in my longlist post, and bought another since – made it through. However, that one l will definitely read this year, whether it wins or not.

Head judge Jamie Grant said that

This year’s Nib shortlist has been chosen from the largest and most diverse field that the prize has yet known. There are biographies, true crime stories, philosophical meditations, and personal memoirs among the shortlisted books, a variety the judges hope will include as many different readers as possible.

It certainly was diverse in terms of content, and in terms of author gender, but it could be more diverse regarding author background. I wonder if the lack of diversity in this aspect is due to authors not being aware of this prize. Hopefully, posts like this will help improve its visibility.

The judges for the 2021 award are Katerina Cosgrove (author), Jamie Grant (poet and editor), and Lee Kofman (author and editor).

Finally, I should add that there is a People’s Choice prize, which is now open for voting. It is worth $2,500, and all who vote will go into a draw to win a Nib Award prize pack containing all six of this year’s shortlisted books and $100 voucher from Nib Award community partners, Gertrude & Alice Bookstore Cafe. You can Cast Your Vote here!

The overall Winner ($20,000) and the People’s Choice Prize will be announced on 24 November.

Many of you commented on the longlist … any further thoughts now?

10 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: 2021 Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award shortlist

  1. Hi Sue, like you I have read The Believer, and like Lisa gave up on The Winter Road. I saw Tim Olsen talking about his father John Olsen on the Australian Story, it was good but I don’t think I need to read the book. I have too many other books on my TBR,

    • Thank Meg. I haven’t read The believer yet, but will be as my reading group is doing it. Why did you give up on The Winter Road? I didn’t ask Lisa because I know that’s unlikely to be her thing, but your reading is different to hers. I feel the same about Tim Olsen’s book. I’d be interested and would happily read it if my reading group chose it, but otherwise, there are other books I want to read more.

  2. Only Happiness Here is my pick. Entertaining and informative.

    Like you and Meg I enjoyed the Australian Story episodes on Tim Olsen (more than I thought I would) but reading the book is not likely to happen given the towering TBR piles in my house! And none of the others interest me enough at this point in time (how diplomatic was that).

    • Haha Brona. I’m sure the Australian Story people and the publishers don’t want this to be the outcome of their program, but there’s only so much time, isn’t there (even in lockdown!)

      Carey would be my number 1 priority from this list, though I did enjoy The trauma cleaner, so am perfectly happy to read The believer with my reading group.

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