Shortlist announced for Australian Christian Book of the Year

An account of the creation of the bionic ear, a reappraisal of two of Australia’s so-called colonial heroes and a popular-level repackaging of an award-winning evangelism textbook are among the shortlisted books for the 2021 Australian Christian Book of the Year Award.

The Rev Dr John Harris – author of the seminal One Blood, 200 Years of Aboriginal Encounter with Christianity, on the relationship between Indigenous people and the Australian church – is in the running for this year’s award, for his new book Judging the Macquaries: Injustice and Mercy in Colonial Australia

In the book, Harris offers his assessment on the character of Lachlan Macquarie and his adversary, Samuel Marsden, a senior chaplain in the colony of New South Wales.

“It ended up being a book about … what people thought of [Lachlan Macquarie] at the time, both those who loved him and admired him – and those who immensely disliked him,” Harris told Eternity.

Graeme Clark, the man who invented the cochlear implant, has been called a “giant of medical science” by former Prime Minister John Howard. He is 86 years old this year, and his book I Want to Fix Ears tells the story of the development of the cochlear implant – a hearing device helping bring sound to the profoundly deaf – in his own words.

He told Eternity in 2014 he believed that hearing is the primary sense for a Christian. “It’s about understanding language, Scripture and the meaning of words,” he said. “After all, ‘I am the Word,’ said Jesus. If you understand words you really understand what it is to be human, relating to God.”

Sam Chan’s book How to Talk About Jesus Without Being that Guy has also made the shortlist. Chan won the US Christianity Today‘s Book of the Year for evangelism in 2018 for his textbook-style tome, Evangelism in a Skeptical World. His latest book has been called a “popular-level repackaging” of that material, designed for everyday Christians.

What Associate Professor Gordon Menzies’ Western Fundamentalism is tackling has been is described this way by another Christian economist, Ian Harper, as “basic and often unstated assumptions that … are easily translated into the language of money”.

“This is why they cause havoc when applied in areas where, instead, human flourishing requires the language of love – where commitment, self-sacrifice and devoted service take the place of self-interested freedom of choice.

“Gordon’s analysis of the impact of Western fundamentalism in the arena of human relationships, especially sex and marriage, offers readers on the Left or Right profound and surprising – even disturbing – conclusions.”

Of the shortlist’s ten titles, only two are written by women. One of them is Sue Williams’ book, Healing Lives, that follows the friendship between Dr Catherine Hamlin, an Australian obstetrician and pioneer in fistula surgery, and her protégée Mamitu Gashe. Hamlin and Gashe first met when Gashe sought treatment for horrific childbirth injuries at the age of 14. Hamlin and her husband saved her, and Mamitu Gashe her life to Hamlin’s mission.

Under the iconic doctor’s guidance, Gashe went from mopping floors and comforting her fellow patients, to becoming one of the most acclaimed fistula surgeons in the world, despite never having had a day’s schooling.

The winner of the Australian Christian Book of the Year will be announced September 2.

Here is the full shortlist:

  • Abundance: New and Selected Poems by Andrew Lansdown
  • Being the Bad Guys by Stephen McAlpine
  • The Good Sporting Life by Stephen Liggins
  • Healing Lives by Sue Williams
  • How to talk about Jesus by Sam Chan
  • I Want to Fix Ears by Graeme Clark
  • Jesus through Muslim Eyes by Richard Shumack
  • Judging the Macquaries by John Harris
  • Talking Sex by the Book by Patricia Weerakoon
  • Western Fundamentalism by Gordon Menzies

The Australian Christian Book of the Year is awarded to an original book written by an Australian citizen. Last year’s winner was For Better Or Worse: How the Church is Better and Worse than You Ever Imagined, by Natasha Moore and her colleagues at the Centre For Public Christianity.

Seeking to acknowledge and encourage excellence in Australian Christian writing, the Award is chosen based upon originality, writing style, design, and the how the book contributes to a need in the Australian Christian landscape.