King Brown Country gets crowned

While the ARIAs may have got most of the picture coverage (it’s hard to complete with Kylie’s shining smile and perfect bottom) last night was also a big night for non-fiction reading with Russell Skeldon’s King Brown Country being crowned the year’s best nonfiction book at the 56th Walkley Awards Gala Ceremony in Brisbane.

It’s said that everyone has a book in them and each year many Australian journalists put a pen to paper (or, realistically, fingers to the keyboard or iPad) in the attempt to get that book out and published. The Walkley Book Award recognises some truly exceptional Australian nonfiction literature and long-form journalism. After winnowing down the field three titles were shortlisted:

Skelton is a contributing editor to The Age and no stranger to winning awards for his journalism – he has received the prestigious Grant Hattam Quill award for investigative journalism and a United Nations Association Peace award for his reports on Aboriginal disadvantage. King Brown Country is the culmination of a five year’s work and a challenging read that presents Papunya, a Western Desert community known for its achievements in art in the 1970’s and 80’s, as a community in a severe crisis.

King Brown Country, with its unflinching coverage of the horrors of substance abuse in a neglected community, stirred up plenty of controversy and the Walkley’s three shortlisted titles were drawn from a long-list of titles that included some of this year’s most contentious Australian books; John Howard’s infamous “love him or hate him you need to read this” autobiography Lazarus Rising; Barrie Cassidy’s The Party Thieves; Karen Middleton’s harrowing An Unwinnable War on the Australian involvement in Afghanistan.

The books might not be anywhere near as frothy as the Singing Budgie’s dance floor fillers but there are plenty of options for people looking for a lighter read; Michael Gordon’s love song to surfing Bells: The Beach, the Surfers, the Contest; and Hamish McDonald’s fascinating analysis of the personal and professional feud between world’s two richest brothers, Mahabharata in Polyester.

A complete list of all categories and finalists is online at the Walkley Foundation Website and you can see all the long-listed books on the Boomerang Blog. If you’ve been struggling for a gift idea for the non-fiction fan in your life, one of these books might be the perfect thing for them. That, or a carol from Kylie on Christmas Day.