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CAL Waverley Library Award for Literature

Known affectionately as the 'The Nib' , The $20,000 CAL Waverley Library Award for Literature is now in its 9 th year. It is sponsored by , Copyright Agency Limited’s (CAL) Cultural Fund .

The Award recognises excellence in research in the creation of a literary work of merit, published during the 12 months prior to 30 June. It was launched at the 2002 Sydney Writers Festival. The Award is open to all kinds of fiction and non-fiction by authors who are citizens or permanent residents of Australia.

Previous winners of the award are Tim Low (2002), Barry Hill (2003), Geoffrey Blainey (2004), Helen Garner (2005), Gideon Haigh (2006) and John Bailey (2007), Christopher Koch in 2008.

2010 |2009 |2008 Shortlists | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 |2002

2010 Winner & sHORTLIST

Andrew Tink                  William Charles Wentworth                       [Allen & Unwin]

William Charles Wentworth: Australia's Greatest Native Son

The figure of W.C. Wentworth looms over Australian history and politics to this day, particularly here, where a neighbouring electorate bears his surname. Thus it seems appropriate that his biography should be undertaken by an author with first-hand experience of the political life. All the same, research and writing skills are as necessary to the creation of a biography as is the empathy that results from a shared occupation. Both are present, here, in a book that recounts the life of the illegitimate son of a surgeon suspected of highway robbery, who became a celebrated explorer, poet, journalist, politician, newspaper proprietor, owner of the South Island of New Zealand, and founder of a dynasty. It is a life that cannot fail to hold the reader’s attention, and a story deserving of the justice this elegantly written work has done it. 

Read the full judges report

Other Shortlisted

Shortlisted Book with judges comments. Factors considered by the judges include readability, innovation, knowledge and literary merit, and value to the community.

Ken Hillman    Vital Signs: stories from Intensive Care      [UNSW Press]

Vital Signs: Stories from Intensive Care

A man with interesting blue feet, which have to be cut off; a woman with blood poisoning as a result of going for a ten kilometre run after shaving off her pubic hair; families at the bedsides of dying patients: these are among the scenes sketched for us in this remarkable memoir by the first Australian doctor to qualify as an intensive care specialist.  While recounting his own experiences, he also discusses the ethical dilemmas faced by medical staff with the power of life or death in their hands, and supplies a well-researched history of the development of life-saving technology. Above all, though, this book is the story of man who has had to live with tragedy for much of his life – and who has been able, occasionally, to avert it.

Ben Hills   Breaking News: the golden age of Graham Perkin     [Scribe Publishing]

Breaking News: The Golden Age of Graham Perkin

Just weeks before the dismissal of the Labor Government in 1975, Graham Perkin, the editor of Melbourne’s Age newspaper, died of a heart attack at the age of 45. His last editorial, famously headed “Go Now, Go Decently”, implored Gough Whitlam, the leader he had previously supported, to defuse the impending crisis by resigning. His plea went unnoticed, and the news of his death was overshadowed by the drama that followed. This book recounts the life of one of Australia’s most influential and gifted journalists, but it is much more than just a biography. It is a detailed insider’s account of the workings of a great newspaper, and an insight into the development of the mass media – not only newspapers, but magazines, radio and television – as we know them today. It is also a history of this country, as seen through a newspaperman’s eyes, in the period between the Second World War and the end of the Vietnam War, written with the readability and clarity of a thriller.

Leta Keens              Shoes for the Moscow Circus                    [Murdoch Books]

Shoes for the Moscow Circus: Scenes from a Hidden World

Taxidermists, boat-builders, book-binders, bat-makers, a blacksmith, a foundry, a tannery, a cricket ball maker, and a doll hospital, among many other unusual yet necessary occupations, are examined in patient, meticulous detail by the author of this fascinating book, which might best be described as an industrial miscellany. Interviews with craft-obsessed, sometimes cantankerous workers are combined with vivid descriptions of the settings where these varied and specialist trades are carried out. This is a delightful yet most unexpected book, wide-ranging in its research and lucid in its written expression.

Paul Kelly                   The March of the Patriots   [Melbourne University Publishing]

The March of Patriots

The story of Australian politics in the last two decades, it can be argued, is the story of two leaders whose differences were less than their similarities.  Both Paul Keating and John Howard grew up in Sydney’s south west suburbs, and both came from similar family backgrounds.  Yet as politicians they presented themselves as utter opposites, even while supporting policies that were nearly the same.  This epic work from the 1990 Graham Perkin Journalist of the Year is the first half of a two-part study of the events and political struggles that led to the making of modern Australia. There is no writer better qualified to portray this period, and the extensive research in this first volume is complemented by a series of interviews with the narrative’s central characters.

Kristin Otto                         Capital: Melbourne at the Centre of the World 1901-1927         [Text Publishing]

Capital: Melbourne at the Centre of the World 1901-1927

For its first twenty-seven years as a federation, the capital city of Australia was Melbourne.  This eventful period took in the First World War, and many dramatic advances in technology and industry, as cars, aeroplanes, the wireless and the cinema were introduced.  This handsomely illustrated book provides a series of snapshots of life in Melbourne in those years, as seen through the eyes both of ordinary people and of eminent figures such as Sir John Monash, Dame Nellie Melba, C.J. Dennis, Houdini, and Macpherson Robertson, inventor of the Cherry Ripe. Mac Robertson was responsible for Melbourne’s first death by car accident, when he ran over a man in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, while travelling at “seven or eight miles an hour”.  When the war ended, Melba had herself driven to the village of Lilydale, where she rang the fire bell; Dennis’s illustrator, David Low, said of her that “she was a bullying woman who ate a great deal and swore a lot.”  There are similar illuminating anecdotes on every page of this evocative study.

Nib 2009 Winner & Shortlist

2010 |2009 |2008 Shortlists | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 |2002

2009 Winner -

The Land I Came Through Lastbuy_from_fishpondRobert Gray The Land I Came Through Last - [Giramondo Publishing] -The title of Robert Gray’s memoir is from a poem by Christopher Brennan, ‘The land I came thro’ last was dumb with night / a limbo of defeated glory, a ghost.’ There is more of glory than defeat, however, in this work of memory by a writer who is himself one of Australia’s best-known poets. The unrivalled ability with imagery and the expression of emotion characteristic of Gray’s poetry, also distinguish his prose, in his account of his parents’ painful marriage, and his own childhood, growing up on the north coast of New South Wales. The family’s resilience, and the beauty of the coastal landscape, are evoked with striking economy and awareness. Beyond, the book offers the portrait of a period, told through the characters of the ‘extreme people’ that have influenced Gray – including his grandparents, aunts and lovers, and artists and writers such as Patrick White, Bruce Chatwin and Les Murray.

2009 Other Shortlisted

Tom Wills: His Spectacular Rise and Tragic Fall| The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One | Shattered Anzacs: Living With the Scars of War| Art of Australia: v. 1

Greg de Moore Tom Wills

David Kilcullen The Accidental Guerrilla [Scribe Publications]

Marina Larsson Shattered Anzacs [UNSW Press] - members.

David Levell Tour to Hell [University of Queensland Press] -

John McDonald Art of Australia [Pan Macmillan] -

2010 |2009 |2008 Shortlists | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 |2002


The Memory Room |People Like Us | Vietnam: The Australian War | The Dark Mountain |Pitcairn - Paradise Lost: Uncovering the Dark Secrets of a South Pacific Fantasy Island | Australia's Birthstain: The Startling Legacy of the Convict Era

Christopher Koch The Memory Room (Vintage/ Random House)- Winner

Judges comments: To become a spy, one must develop a taste for secrecy as well as learning the skills of concealment. Yet for Christopher Koch fascination lies in the nature of the psychological need which might propel a person into a life of espionage. In exploring the impulses which lead his characters, Vincent Austin and Erica Lange, from an innocent world of make-believe to real-life deceptions in the context of the last years of the Cold War, and then to tragedy, he has researched in convincing detail the actual operations of professional secret agents. His novel also depicts China with the same evocative richness found in his descriptions of Tasmania, Sydney, Canberra,
and the Monaro.

Waleed Aly People Like Us (Picador/Pan Macmillan)
Paul Ham Vietnam - The Australian War (Harper Collins)
Catherine Jinks The Dark Mountain (Allen & Unwin)
Kathy Marks Pitcairn - Paradise Lost (Fourth Estate/ Harper Collins)
Babette Smith Australia's Birthstain (Allen & Unwin)

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2010 |2009 |2008 Shortlists | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 |2002

Winners and Shortlisted Authors 2002 - 2007

Award sponsored by Westfield during these Years

Mr Stuart's Track: The Forgotten Life of Australia's Greatest Explorer | A Castle in Tuscany: The Fascinating Life of Janet Ross - A Woman Ahead of Her Time | The Great War | The Forgotten Children: Fairbridge Farm School and Its Betrayal of Australia's Child Migrants | A Thinking Reed |Unpolished Gem

Winner: John Bailey Mr Stuart’s Track [Macmillan]

Sarah Benjamin A Castle in Tuscany [Pier 9/Murdoch]
Les Carlyon The Great War [Macmillian]
David Hill The Forgotten Children [Random House]
Barry Jones A Thinking Reed [Allen & Unwin]
Alice Pung Unpolished Gem [Black Inc]

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Asbestos House: The Secret History of James Hardie Industries | Secrets of the Jury Room | Motherhood: How Should We Care for Our Children? | Margaret Olley: Far from a Still Life | 1932 | The Wing of Night

Winner: Gideon Haigh Asbestos House [Scribe Publications]

Malcolm Knox Secrets of the Jury Room [Random House]
Anne Manne Motherhood [Allen & Unwin]
Meg Stewart Margaret Olley: Far From a Still Life [Random House]
Gerald Stone 1932 [Pan Macmillan]
Brenda Walker The Wing of Night [Penguin/ Viking]

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Winner: Helen Garner Joe Cinque’s Consolation [Picador/Pan Macmillan]

Robert Dessaix Twighlight of Love [Picador/Pan Macmillan]
Tim Flannery Country [Text Publishing]
Helen Garner Joe Cinque’s Consolation [Picador/Pan Macmillan]
Paul Ham Kokoda [HarperCollins]
Susan Johnson The Broken Book [Allen & Unwin]
Alasdair McGregor Frank Hurley [Penguin/Viking]


Winner: Geoffrey Blainey Black Kettle and Full Moon [Penguin Group]

Inga Glendinnen Dancing with Strangers [Text Publishing]
Chester Porter Walking on Water: A Life in the Law [Random House]
James Woodford The Dog Fence [Text Publishing]
Geoffrey Blainey Black Kettle and Full Moon [Penguin Group]
Gabrielle Lord Lethal Factor [Hodder Headline]
Li Cunxin Mao’s Last Dancer [Penguin Group]

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Winner: Barry Hill Broken Song [Knopf]

Michelle Arrow Upstaged [Currency Press]
Barry Hill Broken Song [Knopf]
David Metzenthen Boys of Blood and Bone [Penguin]
Gaby Naher The Truth About My Fathers [Random House]
Nicolas Rothwell Wings of the Kite-Hawk [Picador]
Margaret Simons Meeting of the Waters [Hodder]


Winner: Tim Low The New Nature [Viking]

Geraldine Brooks Year of Wonders [Fourth Estate]
Gideon Haigh The Big Ship [Text Publishing]
Ian Hancock John Gorton-He Did it His Way [Hodder Headline]
Tim Low The New Nature [Viking]
Brenda Niall The Boyds [MU Press]
Shirley Walker Roundabout at Bangalow [UQ Press]

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