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Australia Book Awards 2004


The annual Australian Booksellers Association met in Canberra this week to honor the country's best books, best book sellers, best publishers among other categories.  Two books tied for Book of the Year:


August 21, 2004

    • Mao's Last Dancer, Li cunxin (Viking 2004)  An extraordinary memoir of a peasant boy raised in rural Maoist China who was plucked from his village to study ballet and went on to become one of the greatest dancers of his generation. In an April 1981 spectacle that received national media attention, Li defected in a showdown at the Chinese consulate in Houston. He married fellow dancer Mary McKendry and gained international renown as a principal dancer with the Houston Ballet and later with the Australian Ballet.

  • Death Sentence, Don Watson (Knopf 2004)Read the review in The Age: "A terrible thing is happening to the language, [Don Watson] believes, and at the end of the day, in a globalised world, it is not a positive communications outcome. In other words, there is a pox upon our public speech.

In 1992 Watson, a historian and writer, went to Canberra to write speeches for Paul Keating. He saw the prime minister up close and it inspired his award-winning biography, Recollections of a Bleeding Heart. But he saw something else, too, and it has provoked a new book - Death Sentence, The Decay of Public Language.

The book charts how "managerial language" has infiltrated the English of politics, business, bureaucracy, education and the arts. The book is about the rise of core strategies and key performance indicators, and the death of clarity and irony and funny old things called verbs. It is about a new language that Watson calls sludge and clag and gruel. Those three blunt words speak to the book's larger intention. Death Sentence is also a manifesto, the first shots, Watson hopes, in a campaign everyone can join to bring the language back to life." The Age, Nov. 2003

Book Shop of the Year: Mary Ryan's, Milton, Queensland. We've added this shop to the BookBuffet list of independant stores for our readers interested in the inside track of books down-under. Excellent list of staff picks and monthly bestsellers.

Publisher of the Year: Allen & Unwin: Interesting to browse the national titles and authors which are not always availible outside of Australia

Distributor of the Year: Random House Australia.  Here is a list of prize winners at



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