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Judges' Report: Review, Best Review Page

Reviewer of the Year 2005

Best Review Page or Programme 2005

Judges' Report

The June 2005 editorial of New Zealand Books magazine looked at the problem of reviewing, saying "what we need are reviews that are not afraid to offer a well argued forthright critique of a new book - whether in praise or dispraise". The judges in these awards look for reviews which do just that, reviews which "put the reader and the book first."

Informed criticism and lively debate are cornerstones of a vibrant and healthy literary culture and it is encouraging to note that New Zealand has such a rich resource of talented reviewers and review outlets contributing to this. Selecting a shortlist in each category was a relatively simple task thanks to some outstanding entries, trying to then pick the finalists was a fascinating and challenging exercise during which we kept the review's target audience firmly in mind.

The reviews which stood out for the judges offered pertinent criticism of themes, character and language, rather than telling us the contents of the book. The best of the best demonstrated the reviewer's background knowledge and mentioned other books on similar themes, used language that was accessible and drew the audience in with their comment and structure. These were the reviews which informed and entertained in their own right.

Here the judges would like to make special mention of Guy Somerset, who produces a wide variety of thoughtful reviews, and of Landfall magazine for their constructive literary criticism and interesting poetry reviews. The judges would also like to generally encourage more review coverage of children's books and poetry, and more submissions to these awards from radio.

The Best Review Page or Programme Award finalists for 2005 are:

· The New Zealand Herald - Canvas Magazine

The New Zealand Herald's Canvas has lifted the bar for the presentation of reviews in daily newspapers. Keeping its varied readership in mind, Canvas provides a good balance of long and short reviews that target the committed book lover and attract new readers alike.

· New Zealand Books

New Zealand Books is notable for the accessibility of its reviews, the excellent quality of its long reviews and the wide range of New Zealand books that are covered.

· North and South

North and South's review pages are extremely thoughtful and balanced, with by far the best range of both New Zealand and imported books, and a showcase of the most recently available satisfying reads. The pages also make a visual impact which will certainly help attract new readers.

The 2005 Best Review Page or Programme Award goes to - North and South

The Reviewer of the Year Award finalists for 2005 are:

· David Eggleton

David Eggleton draws the writer in with his entertaining writing style and continues to submit reviews of a consistently high standard; he takes up the challenge to discuss books that often have a narrower literary appeal, and introduces readers to books they may not have thought of reading.

· Tony Simpson

Tony Simpson's review on war histories in New Zealand Books October 2004 discussed six separate books as a group, and is a masterful example of the skill involved in combining separate books into one longer in-depth review. Like the other finalists, his reviews draw the audience in with fascinating comment and clever structure.

· Anna Rogers

Anna Roger's experience as an editor shows in her reviews. They are clear and concise with excellent summations of her view of the work concerned. Her main strength is her ability to connect with her audience and be totally in tune with her subject.

The 2005 Reviewer of the Year Award goes to - Tony Simpson

Ruth Todd & John Ahradsen
Judges 2005


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