Independent booksellers do an incredible job in reading and hand-selling Australian literature. They ensure that excellent books that could otherwise be overlooked, reach readers – and these books often go on to become best sellers and recipients of literary awards. Indie bookstores are regarded with great affection by authors and publishers, as are the staff of Leading Edge Books, led by Galina Marinov, who organise the awards.
Some former Book of the Year winners are The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, All That I Am by Anna Funder, The Bush by Don Watson and Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.
The Indies are the annual vanguard awards and give a strong indication of which books are valued by both the experts and readers. The awards began in 2008 and are growing in stature. In a mark of esteem by the industry, booksellers announce the winners in each category.
The 2016 Fiction winner is Charlotte Wood for The Natural Way of Things (A&U), which I reviewed here. This portrayal of women who have been involved in sexual scandals and are mysteriously incarcerated in the Australian desert is generating vigorous discussion with readers. It is a unique and important novel and it also won overall Book of the Year. Elegant Charlotte Wood was clearly moved in her acceptance speech, recognising the encouragement of booksellers during her career and regarding the award as a high honour.
Magda Szubanski’s memoir Reckoning (Text Publishing) won the Non-Fiction category. There is much to ponder in this well-written book, including the impact of what happens in childhood on the years that follow: particularly in Magda’s case, the secret of her sexuality. Having a father as an assassin is also a fascinating angle.
Debut Fiction was won by a very appreciative Lucy Treloar with Salt Creek (Pan Macmillan) from a strong field which included Rush Oh! and Relativity and the Children’s award was won by the prolific Aaron Blabey with The Bad Guys Episode 1 (Scholastic), a change from his extremely popular picture books such as Pig the Pug (which was shortlisted last year).
A new category this year is the Young Adult award. It is certainly worth separating this category from Children’s. The inaugural winner is the very deserving Fiona Wood for Cloudwish (Pan Macmillan). See my review about Cloudwish in the Weekend Australian:
And more can be found about the Indies Awards here.
Thanks to all the organisers and those involved.