NZ Booklovers Awards 2021 Shortlist

By NZ Booklovers | Posted: Thursday March 4, 2021

The winner in each category will be announced on 18 March 2021, and each winner receives $500 from NZ Booklovers.

The Best Adult Fiction Book Award is judged by author, reviewer and judge of the Ngaio Marsh Awards Stephanie Jones, publishing professional Rachel White, and NZ Booklovers Director and author Karen McMillan.

The Best Lifestyle Book Award is judged by journalist and author Andrea Molloy, former magazine editor and lifestyle journalist Peta Stavelli, and publisher, home renovator and foodie Iain McKenzie.

The Best Children’s Book Award is judged by author and creative writing teacher Paddy Richardson, writer and former editor Heidi North, and early childhood kaiako and journalist Rebekah Lyell.

Judges’ comments:


Addressed to Greta by Fiona Sussman: ‘You must meet Greta, one of the most well-realised and endearing figures in recent New Zealand fiction. Sussman, a Ngaio Marsh Award winner for Best Novel, takes an oft-traversed path – protagonist receives an unexpected inheritance with strings attached – and then rejects predictability, letting Greta loose on a global adventure that turns her quiet life on its head. If a woman in her later 30s can be the subject of a bildungsroman, that’s Addressed to Greta – but categorisation aside, this novel is something special, and a passage set in Rwanda is a superb example of historically informed storytelling.’

Ephemera by Tina Shaw: ‘Set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic Auckland, this novel is a great read, especially in the current COVID climate. Ruth, a former Ephemera Librarian, sets out on a journey down country to find the man who can supply her with much-needed drugs for her sick sister. The journey takes her through towns and landmarks familiar to us, although they are much changed with the new society they are living in. Her travel companions, and those she meets along the way, are all trying to cope in this new world. It’s a perilous journey, and there are some great twists and turns along the way. This is a great story and is engaging and entertaining at the same time. It is an enlightening look at what could possibly be.’

For Reasons of Their Own by Chris Stuart: ‘Set in Melbourne, this is a pacey and well-written crime thriller. With the action taking place in both small-town Australia and big-city Melbourne, there are many layers to this story, which has both local and international connections. The writing is fast-paced, and the characters are well developed. The main character, DI Robbie Gray, is battling her own demons as well as trying to solve a murder case. The storyline covers international corruption, personal and work relationships, and the search for the truth. The plotline is believable and absorbing and the writing is intelligent and well constructed.’

I Wish, I Wish by Zirk van den Berg: ‘This wry novella is enthralling – a deceptively clever, blackly funny man-alone story in a surprising setting which flares off in several unexpected directions, among them a subtle but incisive comment on loss and grief. Van den Berg is a skilled prose stylist who has pulled off something bold and unusual; this is likely to be one of the most singular literary treats you’ll encounter in 2021.’

The Silence of Snow by Eileen Merriman: ‘This is a page-turning medical drama that puts the reader into the lives of young doctors, so you feel the strain and risk they experience in their profession. Merriman has crafted a superb novel that is both moving and true to life. The climax was a surprise, but it felt inevitable once the end was reached, like any well-crafted fiction. Merriman excels in this genre, bringing authenticity to a thrilling read.’

Tiny Pieces of Us by Nicky Pellegrino: ‘Experienced novelist Nicky Pellegrino once again delivers a charming and lyrical book that is a fine piece of storytelling, with memorable characters. For once, most of the action is set in London, although she cleverly whisks the action to Italy at one point, a feature of her previous novels. It’s emotionally engaging, beautifully written, and sensitively done given the subject matter.’

Victory Park by Rachel Kerr: ‘A nuanced and incisive story of lives lived quietly and with dignity; these are Kiwis not at the margins of society, but without the comfortable buffer likely enjoyed by many who will read Kerr’s debut. Kerr has hit that sweet spot between the specific and the universal, and found a way to reveal people in their humanity and their foibles without being sentimental or sorrowful or pandering or judgemental. There are hints of Charlotte Grimshaw’s caustic social analysis in a character whose financial house of cards collapses spectacularly – but Kerr is a writer with her own clear voice and one to watch.’

While the Fantail Lives by Alan Titchall: ‘This novel cleverly weaves the events of the wider world into a small North Island hydro village in the early 1960s. Written from the point of view of an 11-year-old boy, it examines the post-WW2 attitudes and relationships of the village residents, a mix of ethnicities and nationalities, as they face the prospect of a possible nuclear war as the Cuban Missile Crisis takes place out in the wider world. Alongside this, the fate of the fantail adds to the unfolding drama as the ghosts of the past rear their heads. This is a well-crafted and delightful novel. The telling of the story through an 11-year-old’s eyes brings an innocence to the events and the complexities of the characters’ relationships.’


Aroha by Dr Hinemoa Elder: ‘Dr Hinemoa Elder shares timeless Māori wisdom for a contented life, in harmony with our planet. Each of the 52 whakataukī – traditional life lessons – is expertly explained by the respected Māori psychiatrist. Aroha is an extraordinary book offering an alternative way to view the world, our place within it and how we live alongside each other. Dr Elder’s accessible writing makes this a delightful guide, inspiring readers to find aroha in the modern world. This must-have hardback incorporates traditional art and decoration in its thoughtful design. Aroha is undeniably a book of its time, reflecting our increased need for compassion and connection in the current COVID-19 era.’

Landmarks by Grahame Sydney, Brian Turner, and Owen Marshall: ‘Any book containing the work of either Grahame Sydney, Brian Turner or Owen Marshall is sure to be a spine-tingler. A book which contains the work of all three grouped gloriously together provides a visceral link to Aotearoa’s epic landscape through painting, poetry and prose which is uniquely of us. Landmarks is – quite simply – breath-taking. It is presented in the traditional coffee table format with a Grahame Sydney painting adorning the cover so life-like you feel as if you could step right into the landscape. And in a year when we have been confined by COVID-19 to the exploration of our own shores, why would you not want to? With Landmarks the reader can see the country while also sinking into their favourite settee.’

Shared Kitchen by Julie and Ilaria Biuso: ‘Much-loved New Zealand cookbook author Julie Biuso returns with her daughter, Ilaria. The result is Shared Kitchen, a stunning recipe book showcasing real food from scratch. The magnificent photography is accompanied by a collection of inspiring recipes, including easy ideas for using leftovers and a fresh take on classic recipes. Now, more than ever before, home-cooked meals are a shared ritual and Shared Kitchen encourages the reader to enjoy the process. This intergenerational collaboration provides an opportunity for the reader to strengthen ties and improve relationships by sharing a meal. Shared Kitchen is a valuable addition to any Kiwi kitchen and a book to treasure!’

Surf Dreams – New Zealand Surf Culture by Derek Morrison: ‘Derek Morrison is a former editor of New Zealand Surfing magazine, which explains the eloquence of this visually stunning book illustrated with Morrison’s own photos. As the narrative moves through the country from Ahipara in the far north to Riverton in the deep south, Morrison offers the reader engaging stories about 15 different surfing communities. Right from the classic New Zealand surf break on the cover throughout the entire book, this is a class act. Showcasing – as it does – our beautiful country, it will have broad appeal to readers well beyond the surfing fraternity.’

Two Raw Sisters – All Eaters Welcome by Margo and Rosa Flanagan: ‘Christchurch sisters Margo and Rosa Flanagan have a solid following for their plant-based, ethical-eating ethos. Their first cookbook sold out before it even hit the shelves, and this second offering builds on the promotion of food which is not so much uncooked as it is unprocessed. This “begin with the vegetables and then choose your matching protein” approach is perfectly attuned to contemporary living. As a whole this is a timely recipe for living well with a smaller carbon footprint. Two Raw Sisters shows us it is possible to live bountiful lives that are good for the planet and good for us.’

Wild Kinship by Monique Hemmingson: ‘This impressive book showcases the lives of conscious entrepreneurs who have environmental sustainability at their core. Curated in a timeless hardback with stunning photography, Wild Kinship shares a story of mindful consumption. Wild Kinship is full of innovative ideas and is beautifully presented. It is not just for aspiring entrepreneurs but encourages us all to find balance by nurturing the world around us. Its wide appeal and accessible Q&A format make it both an inspirational and a practical read. Especially today, in these COVID-19 times, Wild Kinship supports community and shows how our daily actions can be good for the world.’


Hare & Ruru by Laura Shallcrass: ‘A gentle and tender story about Hare, who must find a solution for his dislike of noise. The language is reflective and restful and the understated, though charming, illustrations beautifully evoke the main themes of the importance of stillness and tranquillity.’

The Hug Blanket by Chris Gurney: ‘A little girl has a special relationship with her nana. They play together and find precious things, and Nana knits her a special blanket. Beautifully illustrated with warm, bright pictures, this is a thoughtful book which sensitively and honestly deals with love and loss.’

I am the Universe by Vasanti Unka: ‘Wonderful illustrations combine with sparse, yet vibrant, descriptions to create a deftly structured book beginning with the vastness of the universe which then gradually narrows its focus to the earth and, finally, to the domestic lives of people living here. This is a book which informs through entertainment, and children – and adults – will be tempted into it again and again by the vivid and detailed images. In our current climate of COVID, the themes are particularly poignant as they remind us of our universal connectivity.’

The Midnight Adventures of Ruru and Kiwi by Clare Scott: ‘A charming story, written in rhyme and recalling Edward Lear’s Owl and the Pussycat in subject and cadence, about Ruru and Kiwi, who host a midnight feast for their friends. The language is lovely and poetic – “wrapped snug in night’s velvety black” – and the superb illustrations perfectly reflect the story.’

Sharing with Wolf by Melinda Szymanik: ‘This book is filled with quirky humour. Through dialogue and action and the corresponding illustrations, both characters become very real in their shared dilemma. There is much delight in the growing tension, making this a great read-aloud book.’

Tatty Catty by Susannah Whaley: ‘Tatty Catty longs to explore the sea. This is a fun-filled story of adventure and determination and would be a wonderful read-aloud book which children would love. Vibrant, detailed, colourful illustrations and superbly told in rhyme.’

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