AustLit logo
Most Underrated Book Award
or MUBA
Subcategory of Awards Australian Awards
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

History

This annual award aims to shine a light on some of the outstanding titles produced by small and independent Australian publishers that, for whatever reason, did not receive their fair dues when first released. Organised by the Small Press Network (SPN), it has recently been sponsored by Booktopia.

Winners

2019 winner y separately published work icon Songwoman Ilka Tampke , London : Hodder and Stoughton , 2018 12801286 2018 single work novel historical fiction fantasy

'Since the slaughter of her people, Ailia has been living, alone, in the forest. It is a time of deep healing and communing with the earth and its spirits - the Mothers. But now, Ailia has regained enough strength to return to the tribes, and rejoin the war.

'She goes to Llanmelin, a major tribal centre in southeast Wales, where the British war king, Caradog has been leading a bitter guerrilla campaign against the encroaching Roman army.

'Ailia and Caradog begin a passionate relationship - but as the Roman general Scapula becomes ever more determined to claim the rich roils of Wales, pressure mounts for a final battle that will determine the future of Britain.

'As the battle approaches, Ailia must use her powers to protect, forever, what is most sacred amongst her people. The future of Britain will depend upon her success.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2018 winner y separately published work icon Living in Hope Frank Byrne , Frances Coughlan , Gerard Waterford , Alice Springs : Ptilotus Press , 2017 14216416 2017 single work autobiography

'The killing times were barely over in the Kimberley.
What I knew, even as a small boy, was that no-one argued with a whitefella. People talked in whispers.
I was still so small.
This is the story of the early years of my life. The story of a boy who was taken away from his mother and his family forever when he was just six years old. He had no say in it. His family had no say in it. The government had all the say in everything.

'A memoir of boyhood by a man who was removed as a child – from country, from culture and language, from family, from his mother.

'Filled with surprises and unlikely fun, this is more than just a story of surviving. From hiding out from the Japanese in spring-fed caves in the deep Kimberley, to being let loose in a paddock just like a poddy calf at Moola Bulla, to cowboy comics at the Beagle Bay mission.

'A story of white bosses, of priest bosses, of black stockmen and of staying out of trouble.

'With honesty and unexpected graciousness, Frank reminds us of a not-so-distant past and of how things happened for Aboriginal people in the North West.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2017 winner y separately published work icon The Invisible War : A Tale on Two Scales Ailsa Wild , Briony Barr , Gregory Crocetti , Ben Hutchings (illustrator), Collingwood : Scale Free Network , 2016 10777298 2016 single work graphic novel young adult

'While treating a patient with dysentery, Sister Annie Barnaby encounters a strain of lethal bacteria. As the invaders journey deep into her gut, the resident microbes must ght to survive. Annie’s life hangs in the balance. Enter the phage, a deadly predator, ready to wage war to protect their host.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2016 winner Marcus Westbury For Creating Cities.
2015 winner y separately published work icon The Grapple Annual No. 1 Duncan Felton (editor), Campbell : Grapple Publishing , 2014 8884152 2014 anthology poetry short story autobiography

'The Grapple Annual is Grapple Publishing’s flagship publication. It’s a calendar-based anthology, always full of excellent prose, poetry, comics and art. Each will be a diverse collection, with contributors from all over Canberra, across Australia and around the world. Only 365 numbered and dated copies of each Annual are printed (366 in leap years). It’ll hook and hold you for the whole year.' (Publication summary)

2014 winner y separately published work icon A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists Jane Rawson , Melbourne : Transit Lounge , 2013 6105987 2013 single work novel fantasy (taught in 1 units)

'It is 1997 in San Francisco and Simon and Sarah have been sent on a quest to see America: they must stand at least once in every 25-foot square of the country. Decades later, in an Australian city that has fallen on hard times, Caddy is camped by the Maribyrnong River, living on small change from odd jobs, ersatz vodka and memories. She's sick of being hot, dirty, broke and alone. Caddy's future changes shape when her friend, Ray, stumbles across some well-worn maps, including one of San Francisco, and their lives connect with those of teenagers Simon and Sarah in ways that are unexpected and profound. A meditation on happiness – where and in what place and with who we can find our centre, a perceptive vision of where our world is headed, and a testament to the power of memory and imagination, this is the best of novels: both highly original and eminently readable.' (Publisher's blurb)

2013 winner y separately published work icon Fish-Hair Woman Merlinda Bobis , North Melbourne : Spinifex Press , 2012 Z1828806 2012 single work novel fantasy

'1987. The Philippine government fights a total war against insurgency. The village of Iraya is militarised. The days are violent and the nights heavy with fireflies in the river where the dead are dumped.

'With her twelve-metre hair, Estrella, the Fish-Hair Woman, trawls corpses from the water that tastes of lemon grass. She falls in love with the Australian Tony McIntyre who disappears in the conflict. Ten years later, his son travels to Manilla to find his father.

'From the Philippines to Australia, Hawai'i, to evocations of colonial Spain, this transnational novel spins a dark, epic tale. Its storytelling is expansive, like the heart - How much can the heart accommodate? ... Only four chambers but with infinite space like memory, where there is room for those whom we do not love.' (From the publisher's website.)

2012 inaugural winner y separately published work icon The Cook Wayne Macauley , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2011 Z1814484 2011 single work novel satire

'Power through service, says Head Chef. It's one of the first lessons taught at Cook School, where troubled youths learn to be master chefs by bowing to decadence and whim, by offering up a part of themselves on every plate.

'It's a motto Zac takes to heart. A teenage boy with a difficult past, he throws himself into the world and work of haute cuisine. He has dreams of a future, of escaping the dead-end, no-hope lot of his fellow cooks. He wants to be the greatest chef the world has seen. He thinks he's taken his first steps when he becomes House Cook for a wealthy family. Never mind that the family may seem less than appreciative. Or refined. Or deserving. Power through service.

'But as the facade crumbles and his promised future looks unlikely to eventuate, Zac the Cook is forced to reassess everything. Sweet turns sour and ends in bitter revenge.

'Blackly funny and deliciously satirical, The Cook feeds our hunger to know what goes on in the kitchen, while skewering our culture of food worship.' (From the publisher's website.)

X