Ask a Librarian: Stella Prize discoveries
Australian librarians share a book or author they discovered through the Stella Prize.
Rochelle Armstrong, Project Officer, Indigenous Engagement, National Library of Australia
I read the shortlist and often try to read the longlist each year. Over the past few years I have been introduced to some amazing books but Mirandi Riwoe’s The Fish Girl is one that stuck with me, as did Stone Fruit by Lee Lai this year. I had previously read Dropbear by Evelyn Araluen but it was also great to see it and it gave me a good reason to reread and add it to my own home collection.
Vicki Simmonds, Coordinator Library Customer Service, Adelaide City Libraries
This year I read Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down, a shortlisted Stella book for 2022 which I devoured. Previous nominees that I have been introduced to through the Stella Prize include Emily Bitto’s The Strays, The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose, and Here Until August by Josephine Rowe. I was not familiar with any books by these authors before sighting their nominations on the Stella shortlists, so I am definitely drawn to discovering the work of Australian women authors through the Stella Prize nominations. Our libraries also have an ‘Awards’ Collection where we specifically purchase the shortlisted titles for various awards including the Stella each year and shelve these in a specific collection, so they are always easy to browse for customers. A great way to find the Stella Prize winners and shortlisted books easily in the library.
Karys McEwen, Library Manager, Prahran High School
I remember picking up The Strays by Emily Bitto when it was shortlisted in 2015, which ended up winning the Stella Prize. It was my second year of librarianship and I was working in the library of a private girls’ school. The exploration of childhood, friendship, and class in the novel really resonated with me, and sparked some great discussions in my student book club by some of the more advanced readers. I was also lucky enough to see Emily speak at an author talk that year, which encouraged me to seek out more literary events, and urge my students to do the same. I grew up in country WA and never had the chance to meet an author until I was well into my adult years. We are lucky in Melbourne to have such a vibrant culture and community around books and reading.
Antoinette Buchanan, Assistant Director Libraries ACT, ACT Heritage Library
Ellen van Neerven and I’m so very grateful! I love the way they play with form and also the tightness of their prose. Poets write such spare and beautiful prose. Ellen’s books are on my must read, and buy, list!
Jane Cowell, CEO, Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries
I discovered Sofie Laguna through the Stella Prize with her novel The Eye of the Sheep, which I absolutely adored. I tell everyone to read it and all those who have, have loved it. I consider it an underrated book as it should be a bestseller internationally as well as here in Australia. The Stella Prize shortlist is my annual go-to for books to read and I usually find something to challenge me, connect me to a new author, or recommend to my family of readers (six sisters!).
Meredith Erbacher, Librarian, Libraries Tasmania
I had the good fortune to discover Charlotte Wood when she won the 2016 prize with The Natural Way of Things. At the time, this book was breathtaking in its originality – totally unlike any other Australian novel I’d read. Following the Misogyny Speech and preceding the viral ascendence of #MeToo, The Natural Way of Things was exactly the right book for its time.
Joy, Library Officer, City of Burnside Library
I discovered The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose. It is a book that has stayed with me. It’s unusual, and also made me learn more about the artist Marina Abramovic. I also read Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing, and The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna, after they were listed for the Stella Prize. Both are great authors and I look for their new books now.
Jenny Mustey, Librarian Services Manager, Campaspe Library
Looking back at the history of the Stella Prize it seems that the longlist in 2015 appears to have influenced who I have continued to read over the last few years, in particular Sofie Laguna. Sofie’s The Eye of the Sheep, The Choke, and Infinite Splendours are all standout favourites of mine. I have had the pleasure of hosting Sofie a number of times and absolutely love listening to what she is reading and what inspires her writing. Another favourite who I had discovered well before she made the longlist in 2020 is Favel Parrett – Past the Shallows, When the Night Comes, and There Was Still Love are deeply treasured on my bookshelf.