UPDATE: Winners announced 1 December – winners are in bold, below.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for the Arts Mitch Fifield had a big, distracting day yesterday (YES!) but today they have actually got some work done and have announced the shortlist for the 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

According to the press release there were more than 450 entries and “The 30 shortlisted books showcase the breadth and depth of Australia’s literary talent across six categories—fiction, non-fiction, Australian history, young adult fiction, children’s fiction and poetry.”

This year marks 10 years since the first Prime Minister’s Literary Awards took place in 2008. You’d think that would be long enough for the administrators to get it right but these awards are plagued by issues of timing (no one ever says when the shortlist or winners will be announced).  This year, all they can say is: “The winners will be announced in the coming weeks.” Well, that takes us very close to Christmas and does not leave long for the winners to capitalise on any possible boost to Christmas sales.

Hello government? This stuff is not brain surgery. To add insult to injury, Malcolm Turnbull’s name is spelled incorrectly on the (poorly designed but very fancy looking) website. I used to work for the relevant department (albeit in the Communications portfolio, not Arts), and I still do consulting work there from time to time, so I’m very much aware that the underlying problems are not the fault of the public servants (although the website probably is). Rather it’s the politicians using this prize as a political football. Enough already!

The publishers of each book aren’t mentioned until you click through on each title but in listing the titles below I noticed some interesting trends:

  • Several of the big multi-national publishing firms are completely absent from the shortlist, but Australian independent publishers are well represented.
  • The five poetry texts come from only three different publishers.
  • Three of the five history titles came from NewSouth Publishing.
  • Although the total authors (30) are split exactly 50/50 by gender, women authors are over-represented in the Young Adult and Children’s Fiction category, and under-represented in every other category.

Anyway, my heartfelt congratulations to all the shortlisted writers.


  • The Easy Way Out, Steven Amsterdam (Hachette Australia)
  • The Last Days of Ava Langdon, Mark Flynn (University of Queensland Press)
  • Their Brilliant Careers, Ryan O’Neill (Black Inc)
  • Waiting, Philip Salom (Puncher & Wattman)
  • Extinctions, Josephine Wilson (UWA Publishing)


  • Painting Red Orchids, Eileen Chong (Pitt Street Poetry)
  • Year of the Wasp, Joel Deane (Hunter Publishers)
  • Content, Liam Ferney (Hunter Publishers)
  • Fragments, Antigone Kefala (Giramondo Publishing)
  • Headwaters, Anthony Lawrence (Pitt Street Publishers)


  • Mick: A life of Randolph Stow, Suzanne Falkiner (UWA Publishing)
  • The Art of Time Travel: Historians and their craft, Tom Griffiths (Black Inc)
  • Our Man Elsewhere: In search of Alan Moorehead, Thornton McCamish (Black Inc)
  • Quicksilver, Nicholas Rothwell (Text Publishing)
  • The Art of Rivalry: Four friendships, betrayals and breakthroughs in modern art, Sebastian Smee (Text Publishing)

Prize for Australian History

  • ‘A passion for exploring new countries’ : Matthew Flinders and George Bass, Josephine Bastian (Australian Scholarly Publishing)
  • Evatt: A life, John Murphy (NewSouth Publishing)
  • Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga Story, Elizabeth Tynan (NewSouth Publishing)
  • A Handful of Sand: The Gurindji Struggle, After the Walk-off, Charlie Ward (Monash University Publishing)
  • Valiant for Truth: The Life of Chester Wilmot, War Correspondent, Neil McDonald (NewSouth Publishing)

Young Adult Fiction

  • Words in Deep Blue, Cath Crowley (Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • The Bone Sparrow, Zana Fraillon (Hachette Australia)
  • The Stars at Oktober Bend, Glenda Millard (Allen & Unwin)
  • Forgetting Foster, Dianne Touchell (Allen & Unwin)
  • One Would Think the Deep, Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)

Children’s Fiction

  • Home in the Rain, Bob Graham (Walker Books)
  • Blue Sky, Yellow Kite, Janet A Holmes / Jonathan Bentley (Little Hare Books)
  • My Brother, Dee Huxley / Oliver Huxley (Working Title Press)
  • Figgy and the President, Tamsin Janu (Scholastic Australia)
  • Dragonfly Song, Wendy Orr (Allen & Unwin)
Source: https://thomaswightman.co.uk/book-sculpture-drowning-from-obsession