Winners of the 2021 ABIA Awards announced

The winners of this year’s ABIAs (Australian Book Industry Awards) were announced at Carriageworks in Sydney as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival this evening in a hybrid online and in-person event. Julia Baird took out the top award for Book of the Year for her non-fiction release Phosphorescence, described by guest presenter Cate Blanchett as ‘the book that sustained us as the world went dark.’

The awards, which celebrate excellence in Australian writing, publishing and bookselling, streamed live on Youtube from the Sydney Writers Festival event and were hosted by musician and performer, Casey Bennetto. From the over 7000 new titles published annually by the Australian publishing industry, this year’s shortlist was narrowed down to some of the book industry’s heaviest hitters in a year when books and reading provided comfort and solace to so many. Despite this, 2020 was a difficult year for many authors releasing books, particularly those publishing for the first time into a climate of cancelled festivals, tours and book launches. The success of Phosphorescence despite these challenges was a testament to how much this book meant to so many readers, and it is no surprise that Baird was also awarded the Non-Fiction Book of the Year.

Debut novels by women writers dominated the fiction categories in a year when a number of well-known Australian men published new books (Dalton, Silvey, Flanagan).Ā The Dictionary of Lost Words by bestselling author Pip Williams took out General Fiction Book of the Year, and Literary Fiction Book of the Year went to Jessie Tu forĀ A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing. Stella Prize shortlistee Laura Jean McKay won the Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year for The Animals in that Country,Ā continuing the slate of recent accolades for this boundary pushing novel.

In the children’s category, the Small Publishers’ Children’s Book of the Year was awarded to Gunai author Kirli Saunders for her bookĀ BindiĀ (illustrated by Dub Leffler). Rapper Adam Briggs, alongside co-authors Kate Moon and Rachael Sarra, won the Children’s Picture Book of the Year Award forĀ Our Home, Our Heartbeat.Ā 

Publisher of the year went to Penguin Random House, with Small Publisher of the Year being taken out by University of Queensland Press. Readings and Avid Reader were also big winners in the business awards category, for retailer of the year and bookshop of the year respectively.

Michael Gordon-Smith, CEO of the Australian Publisher’s Association said in his statement, “Having a book on the ABIA lists is special in an ordinary year. To do it this year is a triumph.” We here at The AU Review certainly echo that sentiment, and offer our congratulations to all nominees and winners.

Full List of Winners:

ABIA BOOK OF THE YEAR

  • Phosphorescence: On awe, wonder and things that sustain you when the world goes dark, Julia Baird (HarperCollins Publishers, Fourth Estate)

Audio Book of the Year

  • Tell Me Why, Archie Roach; narrated by Archie Roach (Sound Kitchen, Simon & Schuster Australia, Simon & Schuster Australia)

Biography of the Year

  • The Happiest Man on Earth, Eddie Jaku (Pan Macmillan Australia, Macmillan Australia)

Book of the Year for Older Children (ages 13+)

  • The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin, Allen & Unwin)

Book of the Year for Younger Children (ages 7-12)

  • The Grandest Bookshop in the World, Amelia Mellor (Affirm Press, Affirm Press)

Children’s Picture Book of the Year (ages 0-6)

  • Our Home, Our Heartbeat, Adam Briggs, Kate Moon and Rachael Sarra (Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing, Little Hare)

General Fiction Book of the Year

  • The Dictionary of Lost Words, Pip Williams (Affirm Press, Affirm Press)

General Non-fiction Book of the Year

  • Phosphorescence: On awe, wonder and things that sustain you when the world goes dark, Julia Baird (HarperCollins Publishers, Fourth Estate)

Illustrated Book of the Year

  • In Praise of Veg, Alice Zaslavsky (Allen & Unwin, Murdoch Books)

International Book of the Year

  • Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid (Bloomsbury Publishing, Bloomsbury Circus)

Literary Fiction Book of the Year

  • A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing, Jessie Tu (Allen & Unwin, Allen & Unwin)

Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year

  • The Animals in That Country, Laura Jean McKay (Scribe Publications, Scribe Publications)

Small Publishers’ Children’s Book of the Year

  • Bindi, Kirli Saunders; Illustrated by Dub Leffler (Magabala Books)

The Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year

  • The Coconut Children, Vivian Pham (Penguin Random House, Vintage Australia)

Hall of Fame Awards

Lloyd Oā€™Neil Hall of Fame Award

  • Mandy Macky (Dymocks Rundle Mall, Adelaide)

Pixie Oā€™Harris Award

  • Maryann Ballantyne (Childrenā€™s Publisher, Wild Dog Books)

Business Award Winners

Book Retailer of the Year

  • ReadingsĀ (Melbourne)

Bookshop of the Year:

  • Avid Reader (Brisbane)

Publisher of the Year

  • Penguin Random House Australia

Small Publisher of the Year

  • University of Queensland Press (UQP)

Rising Star Award

  • Pooja Desai (Hardie Grant Childrenā€™s Publishing)

For more information on the ABIAs, visit theirĀ website.

Header Photo: Julia Baird by Alex Ellinghaus

Emily Paull

Emily Paull is a former bookseller and a future librarian. Her debut book, Well-Behaved Women, was released by Margaret River Press in 2019.

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