Heavy summer reading load for first-time book award judges

Lucy Hammonds
Lucy Hammonds
Most people’s summer reading consists of a cold drink and a best-seller on the beach.

But two Dunedin women had a little more on their plate.

Dunedin Public Art Gallery curator Lucy Hammonds is a judge for the illustrated non-fiction award at this year’s Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, while University of Otago associate professor of history Angela Wanhalla is on the panel judging the non-fiction category.

The pair told the Otago Daily Times they had lost count of the number of books they had read since entries opened more than five months ago.

"There were piles," Ms Hammonds said.

Ms Wanhalla said the wobbly columns of reading material dominated both her house and her office.

But the task for the first-time judges had never been painful.

"I actually found it really rewarding and really surprising too," Ms Wanhalla said.

Angela Wanhalla
Angela Wanhalla

She said the variety of subject matter the non-fiction bracket attracted meant she found herself reading about subjects she would never have  broached otherwise.

Ms Hammonds — whose book Gordon Walters: New Vision was short-listed last year — said it was an honour to be involved in the prestigious showcase of the country’s top talent.

"The Ockham Awards are a really important platform to promote literary excellence in production, design and making great books ... so being involved is a privilege and something you take very seriously."

The longlists for each category — fiction, poetry, non-fiction and illustrated non-fiction — will be announced on January 31.

Then, for the judges, deliberations will intensify.

"We’ll be having a much deeper discussion around those books and how to come up with a short-list," Ms Wanhalla said.

Awards manager Belinda Cooke said there had been 154 entries in total for this year’s prizes — 40 of which came from debut authors.

This year had seen a spike in both non-fiction categories, she said.

Short-lists will be announced in March and the winners will be revealed at a ceremony on May 14.

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz

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