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Non-Fiction Prize
Subcategory of The Age Book of the Year Award
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Latest Winners / Recipients

Year: 2011

winner y separately published work icon A Three-Cornered Life : The Historian W. K. Hancock Jim Davidson , Sydney : University of New South Wales Press , 2010 Z1704878 2010 single work biography 'While W.K. Hancock may no longer be described as 'Australia's most distinguished historian', he has some enduring claims to our attention. No other Australian historian - and few elsewhere - can match his 'span', to use one of his watchwords. Hancock was a major historian in four or five fields, who himself made history by going on a mission to Uganda for the British government in 1954 to mediate the future of Buganda after its ruler had been exiled. He was also, from a room in the Cabinet Office in Whitehall, the editor of a vast historical project: the writing of a series of accounts of British mobilisation on the home front during the Second World War. In addition, Hancock was a founder of the Australian National University, while his Australia (1930) remains one of the classic accounts of this country' (Publishers website).

Year: 2010

winner y separately published work icon Ten Hail Marys : A Memoir Kate Howarth , 2008 St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2010 Z1680974 2008 single work autobiography

'In January 1966, Kate Howarth gave birth to a healthy baby boy at St Margaret's Home for unwed mothers in Sydney. In the months before the birth, and the days after, she resisted intense pressure to give up her son for adoption, becoming one of the few women to ever leave the institution with her baby. She was only sixteen years old.

'What inspired such courage?

'In Ten Hail Marys, Kate Howarth vividly recounts the first seventeen years of her life in Sydney's slums and suburbs and in rural New South Wales. Abandoned by her mother as a baby and then by "Mamma", her volatile grandmother, as a young girl, Kate was shunted between Aboriginal relatives and expected to grow up fast. A natural storyteller, she describes a childhood beset by hardship, abuse, profound grief and poverty, but buoyed with the hope that one day she would make a better life for herself.

'Frank, funny and incredibly moving, Ten Hail Marys is the compelling true story of a childhood lost, and a young woman's hard-won self-possession.' (From the publisher's website.)

Year: 2008

winner y separately published work icon American Journeys Don Watson , North Sydney : Random House , 2008 Z1477248 2008 single work prose travel

'Only in America - the most powerful democracy on earth, home to the best and worst of everything - are the most extreme contradictions possible. In a series of journeys acclaimed author Don Watson set out to explore the nation that has influenced him more than any other.

'Travelling by rail gave Watson a unique and seductive means of peering into the United States, a way to experience life with its citizens: long days with the American landscape and American towns and American history unfolding on the outside, while inside a tiny particle of the American people talked among themselves.

'Watson's experiences are profoundly affecting: he witnesses the terrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast; explores the savage history of the Deep South, the heartland of the Civil War; and journeys to the remarkable wilderness of Yellowstone National Park. Yet it is through the people he meets that Watson discovers the incomparable genius of America, its optimism, sophistication and riches - and also its darker side, its disavowal of failure and uncertainty.

'... American Journeys investigates the meaning of the United States: its confidence, its religion, its heroes, its violence, and its material obsessions. The things that make America great are also its greatest flaws.' (Publisher's blurb)

Year: 2006

winner y separately published work icon Velocity Mandy Sayer , Milsons Point : Vintage Australia , 2005 Z1196937 2005 single work autobiography

'VELOCITY tells the moving, painful but often hilarious story of Mandy Sayer's childhood and adolescence, a life lived on the edges - of society, of poverty, of certainty, of love.

'Filled with beautifully realised descriptions of life seen through a child's eyes - a child who gradually comes to realise her adored parents are all too tragically flawed and broken. Mandy is immersed in a world of smoky jazz bars, steamy beer gardens and lino-floored dosshouses, while vainly trying to make sense of the shambolic lifestyle of her alcoholic parents.

'Conceived after her jazz musician father swallowed a block of hash at a party, a young Mandy soon comes to realise that nothing in her world stays the same for long. Her father is prone to perplexing vanishing acts: absent for months at a time, he arrives on the doorstep to greet his delighted daughter with great affection, but no explanations. Meanwhile, her mother pursues fruitless relationships with other men while her father reacts with seeming indifference. Mandy and her mother frequently move house so her mother can take on housekeeping jobs, leaving Mandy struggling to make lasting friendships and longing for stability. She feels particularly vulnerable when her mother becomes involved with Hakkin, a deeply aggressive man whose violent and erratic outbursts are not reserved only for Mandy's mother.

'But there are many moments in life which bring Mandy joy and offer refuge: times when she feels assured of the love and approval of her parents: when she immerses herself in poetry, acting and music, and surrounds herself with those who share her passions.

'Velocity packs the emotional impact of 'Angela's Ashes' with the surreal humour and razor-sharp observations of 'Running with scissors'. Sayer brings into focus those moments when the child's world and the adult world intersect, when illusions are shattered and understanding begins. Unflinchingly honest, startlingly brave and written with a clear-eyed, lyrical grace, 'Velocity' is an ultimately uplifting story of struggle and faith against frightening odds. ' (Publication summary)

Year: 2005

winner y separately published work icon Plenty : Digressions on Food Gay Bilson , Camberwell : Lantern , 2004 Z1160512 2004 single work autobiography

Works About this Award

The Words That Count Jason Steger , 2012 single work column
— Appears in: The Saturday Age , 25 August 2012; (p. 26)
Days of Plunder : Tale of Our City Wins Age Book Prize Jason Steger , 2012 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 24 August 2012; (p. 6)
All Eyes On the Prize : Non Fiction Stuart Macintyre , Sue Turnbull , 2006 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 5 August 2006; (p. 26)
A list of the shortlisted works with accompanying comments by the judges.