Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Go Virtual for 2020 Winners' Announcement

The winners of the country’s premier literary honours – the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards – will be delivered to the nation online, on the original date set down for the awards ceremony in Auckland: Tuesday 12 May.

"Covid-19 has interfered with our annual celebration of the finalist authors and publishers in an event that’s greatly anticipated and enjoyed by hundreds as one of the first events of the Auckland Writers Festival,” says New Zealand Book Awards Trust chair Nicola Legat. “But as the old adage goes, ‘the show must go on’, and we hope that by making our announcements ‘virtual’ we will reach an audience of thousands on the evening of 12 May."

Working with the talented team at the Auckland Writers Festival and production company Lotech, a slick, tight virtual ceremony is being planned, fronted by popular ceremony MC for the past two years, broadcaster and te reo Māori advocate Stacey Morrison. The schedule will kick off at 6pm with the announcement of the MitoQ Best First Book awards and then continue after a short break, at 7pm, with formalities and the reveal of winners of the four main subject categories: the General Non-Fiction Award, the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry, the Illustrated Non-Fiction Award and, finally, the $55,000 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction.

A special Ockham New Zealand Book Awards YouTube channel has been set up for the announcements, which will also be shared live across social media channels. The channel is hosting a series of finalist author readings in the four weeks leading up to the winners’ announcements under the banner of ‘Ockhams Out Loud’.

“Life during Covid-19 has become about staying home and staying safe. In these circumstances, books are our best companions, and these 16 great New Zealand books delight, excite, challenge and stretch us. Whoever wins at our virtual awards on May 12, the country is the richer for all of them,” says Nicola Legat.

The 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards shortlisted titles are:

Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction:

Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press)

Pearly Gates by Owen Marshall (Vintage, Penguin Random House)

A Mistake by Carl Shuker (Victoria University Press)

Halibut on the Moon by David Vann (Text Publishing)

Mary and Peter Biggs Awards for Poetry:

Moth Hour by Anne Kennedy (Auckland University Press)

How to Live by Helen Rickerby (Auckland University Press)

Lay Studies by Steven Toussaint (Victoria University Press)

How I Get Readyby Ashleigh Young (Victoria University Press)

Illustrated Non-Fiction Award:

Crafting Aotearoa: A Cultural History of Making in New Zealand and the Wider Moana Oceania by Karl Chitham, Kolokesa U Māhina-Tuai, Damian Skinner (Te Papa Press)

Protest Tautohetohe: Objects of Resistance, Persistence and Defiance edited by Stephanie Gibson, Matariki Williams, Puawai Cairns (Te Papa Press)

We Are Here: An Atlas of Aotearoa by Chris McDowall and Tim Denee (Massey University Press)

McCahon Country by Justin Paton (Penguin Random House and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki)

General Non-Fiction Award:

Dead People I Have Known by Shayne Carter (Victoria University Press)

Shirley Smith: An Examined Life by Sarah Gaitanos (Victoria University Press)

Wild Honey: Reading New Zealand Women’s Poetry by Paula Green (Massey University Press)

Towards the Mountain: A Story of Grief and Hope Forty Years on from Erebus by Sarah Myles (Allen & Unwin)

The winner of the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction will receive $55,000 in 2020. The General Non-Fiction, Poetry and Illustrated Non-Fiction category winners will each receive a $10,000 prize. The winners of the four MitoQ Best First Book awards will each receive $2,500.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, Jann Medlicott and the Acorn Foundation, Mary and Peter Biggs, MitoQ and the Auckland Writers Festival.

To find out more about the shortlisted titles go to

To watch the Ockhams finalist author readings and the winners announcements on 12 May go to