This award recognises the Australian new release that booksellers most enjoyed reading, marketing and handselling during the previous year.
In 2020, the awards were presented in three categories for the first time: adult fiction, nonfiction, and children's. Prior to 2020, the award was presented to a single title from any category.
'Brisbane, 1983: A lost father, a mute brother, a mum in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious crim for a babysitter. It's not as if Eli's life isn't complicated enough already. He's just trying to follow his heart, learning what it takes to be a good man, but life just keeps throwing obstacles in the way - not least of which is Tytus Broz, legendary Brisbane drug dealer.
'But if Eli's life is about to get a whole lot more serious. He's about to fall in love. And, oh yeah, he has to break into Boggo Road Gaol on Christmas Day, to save his mum.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she's blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor. It's then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city's most prestigious organisation: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart–an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests–or she'll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.' (Publication summary)
'Artist Elizabeth Gould spent her life capturing the sublime beauty of birds the world had never seen before. But her legacy was eclipsed by the fame of her husband, John Gould. The Birdman’s Wife at last gives voice to a passionate and adventurous spirit who was so much more than the woman behind the man.
'Elizabeth was a woman ahead of her time, juggling the demands of her artistic life with her roles as wife, lover, helpmate, and mother to an ever-growing brood of children. In a golden age of discovery, her artistry breathed wondrous life into countless exotic new species, including Charles Darwin’s Galapagos finches.
'In The Birdman’s Wife a naïve young girl who falls in love with an ambitious genius comes into her own as a woman, an artist and a bold adventurer who defies convention by embarking on a trailblazing expedition to the colonies to discover Australia’s ‘curious’ birdlife.
'An indelible portrait of an extraordinary woman overlooked by history - until now.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'Heartbreaking, joyous, traumatic, intimate and revelatory, Reckoning is the book where Magda Szubanski, one of Australia's most beloved performers, tells her story.
'In this extraordinary memoir, Magda describes her journey of self-discovery from a suburban childhood, haunted by the demons of her father's espionage activities in wartime Poland and by her secret awareness of her sexuality, to the complex dramas of adulthood and her need to find out the truth about herself and her family. With courage and compassion she addresses her own frailties and fears, and asks the big questions about life, about the shadows we inherit and the gifts we pass on.
'Honest, poignant, utterly captivating, Reckoning announces the arrival of a fearless writer and natural storyteller. It will touch the lives of its readers.' (Publication summary)
'Andy and Terry's incredible, ever-expanding treehouse has 13 new storeys, including a watermelon-smashing level, a wave machine, a life-size snakes and ladders game (with real ladders and real snakes), a rocket-powered carrot-launcher, a Ninja Snail Training Academy and a high-tech detective agency with all the latest high-tech detective technology, which is lucky because they have a BIG mystery to solve - where is Mr Big Nose??? ' (Publication summary)
'In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men.
'Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids speaking with Agnes. Only Toti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes's spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to salvage her soul. As the summer months fall away to winter and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes's ill-fated tale of longing and betrayal begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn't she?
'Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about personal freedom: who we are seen to be versus who we believe ourselves to be, and the ways in which we will risk everything for love. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland's formidable landscape, where every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?' (Publisher's blurb)
'This is a story of right and wrong, and how sometimes they look the same ...
'1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife Isabel live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world.
'One April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant - and the path of the couple's lives hits an unthinkable crossroads.
'Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they made that day - as the baby's real story unfolds...' (From the publisher's website.)
'Anna Funder's utterly compelling first novel All That I Am is about the heroic and largely tragic fate of a small group of left-wing German activists who opposed the rise of Hitler. It centres on two real people: the playwright Ernst Toller (famously eulogized by his friend W H Auden), and one of his associates, Ruth Koplowitz. Ruth was also a friend of Toller, and came to live in Sydney after WW2, where Anna got to know her well in later life. Their lives were tied together by the charismatic, passionate Dora - All That I Am vividly, passionately and irresistibly brings back to life their struggles, their hopes, their fears and their fates.'
Source: Penguin News, 6 October 2010
'Anh Do nearly didn't make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives on the sea as they escaped from war-torn Vietnam in an overcrowded boat. But nothing - not murderous pirates, nor the imminent threat of death by hunger, disease or dehydration as they drifted for days - could quench their desire to make a better life in the country they had dreamed about.
'Life in Australia was hard, an endless succession of back-breaking work, crowded rooms, ruthless landlords and make-do everything. But there was a loving extended family, and always friends and play and something to laugh about for Anh, his brother Khoa and their sister Tram. Things got harder when their father left home when Anh was thirteen - they felt his loss very deeply and their mother struggled to support the family on her own. His mother's sacrifice was an inspiration to Anh and he worked hard during his teenage years to help her make ends meet, also managing to graduate high school and then university.
'Another inspiration was the comedian Anh met when he was about to sign on for a 60-hour a week corporate job. Anh asked how many hours he worked. "Four," the answer came back, and that was it. He was going to be a comedian! The Happiest Refugee tells the incredible, uplifting and inspiring life story of one of our favourite personalities. Tragedy, humour, heartache and unswerving determination - a big life with big dreams. Anh's story will move and amuse all who read it.' (From the publisher's website.)
'At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own.
'This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event.
'In this remarkable novel, Christos Tsiolkas turns his unflinching and all-seeing eye onto that which connects us all: the modern family and domestic life in the twenty-first century. The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue. The slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires.
'What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity - all the passions and conflicting beliefs - that family can arouse. In its clear-eyed and forensic dissection of the ever-growing middle class and its aspirations and fears, The Slap is also a poignant, provocative novel about the nature of loyalty and happiness, compromise and truth.' (Publisher's blurb)
''As I bumped across the water in a leaky tin dinghy I didn't know that the journey had begun. That the pale yellow house with a corridor of columns and long verandah on the high, rough hill would hold the key to it all...'
'At 44 Susan Duncan appeared to have it all. Editor of two of Australia's top selling women's magazines, a happy marriage, a jetsetting lifestyle covering stories from New York to Greenland, rubbing shoulders with Hollywood royalty, the world was her oyster. But when her beloved husband and brother die within three days of each other, her glittering life shatters.
'In shock, she zips on her work face and soldiers on - until one morning eighteen months later when she simply can't get out of bed.
'Heartbreaking, funny and searingly honest, Salvation Creek is the story of a woman who found the courage not only to walk away from a successful career and begin again, but to beat the odds in her own battle for survival and find a new life - and love - in a tiny waterside idyll cut off from the outside world.
'From the terrifying first step of quitting the job that had always anchored her to abandoning herself to a passionate affair that she knows will break her heart, Duncan never flinches from the truth or loses her wicked sense of humour.
'Even when she finds a paradise on earth only to discover that it may be too late. It's been said that the greatest risk in life is not to take a risk. Sometimes you have to risk everything to find the only thing you need.' (Publication summary)
'In 1806 William Thornhill, a man of quick temper and deep feelings, is transported from the slums of London to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. With his wife Sal and their children he arrives in a harsh land he cannot understand.
'But the colony can turn a convict into a free man. Eight years later Thornhill sails up the Hawkesbury to claim a hundred acres for himself.
'Aboriginal people already live on that river. And other recent arrivals - Thomas Blackwood, Smasher Sullivan and Mrs Herring - are finding their own ways to respond to them.
'Thornhill, a man neither better nor worse than most, soon has to make the most difficult choice of his life.
'Inspired by research into her own family history, Kate Grenville vividly creates the reality of settler life, its longings, dangers and dilemmas. The Secret River is a brilliantly written book, a groundbreaking story about identity, belonging and ownership.' (From the publisher's website.)
'In October 1997 a clever young law student at ANU made a bizarre plan to murder her devoted boyfriend after a dinner party at their house. Some of the dinner guests - most of them university students - had heard rumours of the plan. Nobody warned Joe Cinque. He died one Sunday, in his own bed, of a massive dose of rohypnol and heroin. His girlfriend and her best friend were charged with murder. Helen Garner followed the trials in the ACT Supreme Court. Compassionate but unflinching, this is a book about how and why Joe Cinque died. It probes the gap between ethics and the law; examines the helplessness of the courts in the face of what we think of as 'evil'; and explores conscience, culpability, and the battered ideal of duty of care.' (Source: Pan Macmillan website)
Garner takes 'a deliberately subjective and "literary" approach' to her material with an 'emphasis on a sympatheitic authorial persona as the source of the reader's perspective' (Susan Lever 'The Crimes of the Past: Anna Funder's Stasiland and Helen Garner's Joe Cinque's Consolation'. Paper delivered at the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) conference 2006).Announced in 2005.
Almost sixty years ago, George Orwell described the decay of language and why this threatened democratic society. But compared to what we now endure, the public language of Orwell's day brimmed with life and truth. Today's corporations, government departments, news media, and, perhaps most dangerously, politicians – speak to each other and to us in cliched, impenetrable, lifeless sludge.
Don Watson can bear it no longer. In Death Sentence, part diatribe, part cool reflection on the state of Australia's public language, he takes a blowtorch to the words – and their users – who kill joy, imagination and clarity. Scathing, funny and brilliant, Death Sentence is a small book of profound weight – and timeliness.
Source: Penguin Random House Australia.
(https://penguin.com.au/books/death-sentence-9781740512787)Joint winner with Li Cunxin's Mao's Last Dancer.
'Georgie Jutland is a mess. At forty, with her career in ruins, she finds herself stranded in White Point with a fisherman she doesn't love and two kids whose dead mother she can never replace. Her days have fallen into domestic tedium and social isolation. Her nights are a blur of vodka and pointless loitering in cyberspace. Leached of all confidence, Georgie has lost her way; she barely recognises herself.
'One morning, in the boozy pre-dawn gloom, she looks up from the computer screen to see a shadow lurking on the beach below, and a dangerous new element enters her life. Luther Fox, the local poacher. Jinx. Outcast...' (From the publisher's website.)