19th October, 2017

Announcement: Most Underrated Book Award Shortlist


Sponsored by the Australian Booksellers Association

The shortlist

The four titles shortlisted for the 2017 Most Underrated Book Award are:

  • The Island Will Sink (Briohny Doyle, Brow Books)
  • The Invisible War (Ailsa Wild, Briony Barr, Gregory Crocetti, Ben Huchings, Jeremy Barr, Scale Free Network)
  •  Loopholes (Susan McCreery, Spineless Wonders)
  • Horse Island (Christina Kennedy, Zabriskie Books).

Featuring fiction, micro-fiction, nonfiction and a graphic novel, this year’s shortlist highlights the diverse, risk-taking and creative work being published by independent publishers. See below for more information about the shortlisted titles.

The winner of the 2017 Most Underrated Book Award will be announced on the evening of Friday 17 November 2017 at The Wheeler Centre, during the Independent Publishing Conference.

 The announcement will be part of a free Wheeler Centre event. You can book here: https://www.wheelercentre.com/events/most-underrated-book-award-edition

The Most Underrated Book Award is generously sponsored by the Australian Booksellers Association.





Information on the shortlisted titles

The Island Will Sink

Briohny Doyle


About the book

Briohny Doyle’s debut novel, The Island Will Sink, was the first book published by Brow Books in 2016. This work of science fiction is set in the not-too-distant future in which we are perpetually on the brink of collapse, and catastrophe is our most popular entertainment. The energy crisis has come and gone. EcoLaw is enforced by insidious cartoon panda bears and their armies of viral-marketing children. The world watches as Pitcairn Island sinks into the Pacific, wondering if this, finally, will be the end of everything. Amongst it all, Max Galleon, anxious family man and blockbuster auteur, lives a life that he cannot remember.


What happens when you can outsource your memories – and even edit them? When death can be reversed through digitisation, what is the point of living? If the lines between real and unreal are fully blurred, can you really trust anyone, even yourself?


About the publisher

Brow Books is the book-publishing imprint of The Lifted Brow, a not-for-profit literary publishing organisation based in Melbourne.  The Island Will Sink was the first book published under the imprint.


What the judges said about The Island Will Sink:

The Island Will Sink by Briohny Doyle is cli-fi full of meaning and ideas. On one level, it’s the story of film-maker Max Galleon, his family and his obsession with the titular island, Pitcairn, as it finally drops below sea level. It’s also a canvas for Doyle’s ideas which cover everything from the nature of identity, to our relationships with our own memory and the changing nature of childhood. Toward the end, The Island Will Sink has a dream-like quality, as the long-imagined real disaster (as opposed to the artificial kind in Max’s movies) arrives. It’s a critique on the voyeuristic way we process entertainment in all forms: the way we’re drawn to artistic depictions of disaster and yet are utterly incapable of taking real and resolute action to avoid it.


About the author

Briohny Doyle is a Melbourne-based writer and academic. Her first book of non-fiction Adult Fantasy was published by Scribe in 2017. Briohny’s work has appeared in publications such as The Lifted Brow, the Age, Overland, Going Down Swinging and Meanjin, among others, and she has performed her work at the Sydney Festival and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.


The Invisible War

Scale Free Network collaboration


About the book

The Invisible War is an illustrated science-history graphic novel for young adults set in the First World War. It is about the bacteriophage (bacteria-eating virus) that lives in human mucus and fights dysentery (caused by the Shiga/Shigella bacterium). The story takes place on two different physical scales; the macro-scale, from the point of view of a Victorian nurse serving in the trenches of France, and the micro-level, from the point of view of the microbes which fight to keep her body alive when she contracts dysentery.


The Invisible War is a collaboration between Scale Free Network’s Briony Barr and Gregory Crocetti, writer Ailsa Wild, illustrator Ben Hutchings and microbiologist Jeremy Barr and was published in July 2016.


About the publisher

Scale Free Network is an Australian art-science collaborative and publisher that creates books, interdisciplinary workshops, exhibitions and installations that draw on the microscopic world.


What the judges said about The Invisible War:

A graphic novel about dysentery during World War One doesn’t sound like the makings of an engaging work, but The Invisible War: A Tale on Two Scales (created by Briony Barr & Gregory Crocetti; written by Ailsa Wild, in collaboration with Dr. Jeremy Barr; illustrated by Ben Hutchings) is a cleverly created comic that’s informative, interesting and surprising. In this book, even the bacteria go ‘ka-boom’. The story is set on the Western Front where a nurse, Sister Annie Barnaby, working at a casualty clearing station, contracts dysentery. The images chart her body’s fight against the deadly disease as she’s given one ineffective treatment after another, but they also track the course of the dysentery bacteria through her gut as they’re fought off by the superheroes of the story: phages! The work cleverly draws comparisons between the horrors of the war zone the nurse is serving on and the horrors the dysentery is causing to her insides. The Invisible War is an educational and entertaining book and demonstrates an exciting style of science writing that is far from textbook.


About the authors

Briony Barr, art director

Briony Barr is a conceptual artist who regularly collaborates with scientists (mainly microbiologists and physicists). Briony’s artwork draws on generative rules, complex systems, diagrams, microscopic worlds and nineteenth-century views of science and nature. Briony co-founded Scale Free Network to publish a range of interdisciplinary projects that use artistic processes to engage with the ‘invisible’ microscopic world.


Dr Gregory Crocetti, science director

After working for a decade as a microbial ecologist, Dr Gregory Crocetti moved across to teaching science. Gregory co-founded Scale Free Network and manages a team of writers, visual artists, scientists, educators and designers to create the Small Friends Books series, which publishes stories of partnership between microbes and larger forms of life.


Ailsa Wild, writer

Ailsa Wild is the author of two books in the Small Friends Books series published by Scale Free Network. She is also the author of the popular children’s series, ‘Squishy Taylor’.


Ben Hutchings, illustrator

Ben Hutchings is a comic book artist and co-founder of Australia’s first cartoonists’ studio, Squishface Comic Studio, where he works as a freelance artist. Ben has worked on poetry books and magazines, among other projects such as The Invisible War.


Dr Jeremy Barr, science advisor
Jeremy currently performs science experiments at San Diego State University, USA. Starting August 2016, he and his phage swarm will be making the voyage across the Pacific to join Monash University as a lecturer. He is an avid collector of phages and is solely responsible for the lysis and death of trillions of bacteria (all in the name of science of course…




Susan McCreery


About the book

Susan McCreery’s Loopholes is a collection of microfiction published in December 2016 by Spineless Wonders. The book provides glimpses into the everyday challenges of family life, relationships, ageing and loss. The characters are typical humans – flawed, vulnerable, frustrating and frustrated. Told with empathy and wit, and honed with a wordsmith’s skill, Loopholes makes us see ourselves and each other differently. With each of the stories being told in 250 words or less, this book plays with brevity and implication, and makes for provocative reading.


About the publisher

Spineless Wonders is a publishing company devoted to short, quality fiction produced by Australian writers. It is interested in brief fiction in all its forms – short story, novella, sudden fiction and prose poetry. The stories are ‘spineless’ because they are intended to be read on digital devices by people on the move with a little time on their hands.


What the judges said about Loopholes:

In Susan McCreery’s Loopholes, microfiction is the ideal form to show poignant and sometimes challenging slices of life in silken prose. McCreedy’s tiny stories are about everyday people in their normal lives: a young couple’s relationship is strained when their car breaks down; a woman meets her boyfriend’s parents for the first time at a tense dinner; a woman considers her feelings about walking. The stories range from two smallish pages to a few perfectly chosen lines. They could almost be read as poems. In all cases, they linger beyond the turning of the page and it’s easy to imagine them as complete worlds; full-length novels concentrated down to their barest essence. McCreery can see beyond the surface of her characters to their very hearts.


About the author

Susan McCreery is a writer from Thirroul in New South Wales. Her microfiction has been published by Spineless Wonders (Writing to the Edge, Flashing the Square and Out of Place), as well as by Seizure and Cuttlefish. Her poetry and short fiction have also appeared in Best Australian Poems 2009, Sleepers Almanac, Going Down Swinging, Hecate, Five Bells and Island, among others.



Horse Island

By Christina Laidley Kennedy, photography by Jason Busch


About the book

Horse Island, the private retreat of Christina and Trevor Kennedy, sits tucked away in an estuary of Tuross Lake on the South Coast of NSW. To the west, softened by distance, are the mountains of the Great Dividing Range. To the east is the sea. But what is most surprising in this place of great natural beauty is the remarkable garden created by Christina, featuring only Australian indigenous plants.


Horse Island, the book, reflects Christina’s own desire to share the true magic of an extraordinary place. We walk beside her as she guides us around the island encouraging us to think differently about native plants and how they are used in a domestic situation. It is the author’s own gardening story, her total zeal for and commitment to indigenous plants combined with gorgeous photography by Jason Busch that creates this truly beautiful book.


About the publisher

Zabriskie Books began as a boutique bookshop in Bondi, Sydney. The store held monthly author talks and dinners at local venues to showcase emerging and established authors from around Australia. As a publisher, Zabriskie Books wants to continue the conversations started at these events by publishing stories to inspire and cherish. The press sees publishing as a collaboration between the publisher, the author and the designer – not only a fulfilling reading experience, but a beautifully crafted object as well.


What the judges said about Horse Island:.

Horse Island is a lavish book about the extraordinary garden Christina Kennedy created at her home on the South Coast of NSW featuring only Australian indigenous plants. Beautifully illustrated in colour and indexed, Horse Island tells in wonderful detail the story of how this unfenced 200-acre paddock came to life plant-by -plant, season-by-season. The essays also speak to the importance Christina placed on maintaining its historical and possibly future native significance. This special place was inspired by Christina’s great-great grandfather Thomas Mort, of whose original estate Horse Island was a part, and the botanical passion and ‘can do’ attitude that her mother inherited from him. The connection and gratitude to both her family and community, who were instrumental with their expertise and know-how, is at the heart of this book and Christina’s generous references to their contribution make this book and the Horse Island gardens even more special. This is an essential reference book for anyone embarking on the creation of a native garden or for those seeking inspiration for a large project. While it is an aspirational book about finding a corner of the world and claiming it as yours, Horse Island also highlights our responsibility to leave something behind that is both extraordinary and meaningful.


About the authors

Christina Kennedy, author

Christina Kennedy’s design and cultivation of a classical garden using native plants across her property on Horse Island was selected by the State Library of New South Wales to feature in its Grand Garden Designs exhibition, which surveyed contemporary landscape design across the state.


Jason Busch, photographer

Jason Busch is a Sydney-based photographer who was commissioned by the State Library of New South Wales to photograph Horse Island, among other properties, as part of an exhibition on contemporary landscape design. His landscape photography has also been featured in the 2015 publication Wendy Whiteley and The Secret Garden by Janet Hawley.


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