The finalists for this year’s Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) have been announced and it’s looking good for Australian non-fiction reader and writers this year. The ABIA awards are voted on by booksellers and publishers, rather than literary panels, so rather than focusing on high-brow fiction these awards instead highlight what publishers and bookshops find that readers can’t get enough of.
Real life reads have no shortage of sales but they often get left out in the cold when it’s time to give out writing prizes and awards. Not so with the ABIA awards; not only are two categories out of seven exclusively for non-fiction reads (biography of the year and a general non-fiction category) but plenty of non-fiction has made its way into lists where you would normally expect fiction to reign supreme.
The Book of the Year for Older Children (age 8 to 14 years), has one such hat-tip to real-life reading in its listing of Lonely Planet’s lively Travel Book, Not For Parents Edition. The book of the year category also has a non-fiction offering in William McInnes & Sarah Watt’s memoir, Worse Things Happen At Sea, a celebration (and occasional commiseration) of Australian day to day family life, which is listed alongside such fiction feasts as Caleb’s Crossing and Foal’s Bread.
Non-fiction is also well-represented in the newcomer of the year (debut writer) category, with 3 of 5 of the new writers penning memoirs. Two of those books, A Private Life by Michael Kirby and Life Without Limits (written by Australian-born Nick Vujicic who hasn’t left being born without arms or legs get in his way becoming an international inspirational speaker) have also nominated for biography of the year. How-to writing also gets a shout-out in the form of a nomination for container-gardening guide The Little Veggie Patch Co, which I suspect will shortly be responsible for yet another pile of dead pot-plants on my balcony.
The nominess for Biography of the Year will also delight fans of sports-writing with 2 of the 5 finalists, Darren Lockyer by Darren Lockyer & Dan Koch and The Long Road to Paris by Cadel Evans, jostling for first place. Hazel Rowley’s fascinating Franklin and Eleanor rounds out the list of biographies to five.
The finalists for General Nonfiction book of the year are:
- Biggest Estate on Earth by Bill Gammage
- Worse Things Happen At Sea by William McInnes & Sarah Watt
- Women’s Stuff by Kaz Cooke
- Mawson by Peter FitzSimons
- And Paul Keating, as always, gets the last word in with After Words
There’s plenty there to keep even the most avid booklover reading but if you only have the time to devote to the pick of the crop, the various winners will be announced on May 18 as part of the 2012 Sydney Writers’ Festival.