Paul Kelly paid tribute to the late and sorely missed Australian poet Les Murray, Osher Gunsberg tried his hand at some literary match-making, and Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales proved that they're not just the wittiest and most insightful commentators on the political scene but perhaps on the literary scene as well.
All this plus a cameo by Pulitzer Prize-winner, Andrew Sean Greer (Less), and some surprise winners, were highlights of the book publishing industry's night of nights – the 2019 ABIA Awards. And as an ABIA sponsor, The Australian Women's Weekly was there, brushing coattails with our favourite authors and clinking glasses with winners.
Most surprised and delighted of all was Trent Dalton, whose debut novel, Boy Swallows Universe (Harper Collins), captured four awards – the first book in ABIAs history to do that – Literary Book of the Year, New Writer of the Year, Audio Book of the Year and the big one, the overall Book of the Year Award. Stage and screen adaptations of the best-selling autobiographical novel are rumoured to be announced soon.
One of The Weekly's favourites and another debut novelist, Holly Ringland, picked up General Fiction Book of the Year for her international best seller, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, which Kate Forsyth described as "heart-breaking and life-affirming…and an astonishing debut."
Behrouz Boochani won General Non-Fiction Book of the Year for the memoir, No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison (Pan Macmillan), which he typed on his mobile phone while in detention. The internationally acclaimed journalist, scholar and Kurdish-Iranian refugee was unable to accept his award because he remains there.
Another courageous and compelling memoir by a debut author, Bri Lee's Eggshell Skull (Allen&Unwin) picked up Biography of the Year.
To find how your favourite authors fared at the awards, see our complete list of winners below.
Book of the Year: Boy Swallows Universe, Trent Dalton (HarperCollins)
General Fiction Book of the Year: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Holly Ringland (HarperCollins)
Literary Fiction Book of the Year: Boy Swallows Universe, Trent Dalton (HarperCollins)
International Book of the Year: Less, Andrew Sean Greer (Hachette)
Biography Book of the Year: Eggshell Skull, Bri Lee (Allen & Unwin)
General Non-Fiction Book of the Year: No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, Behrouz Boochani, Omid Tofighian (translator) (Pan Macmillan)
An Honourable Mention for Non-Fiction Book of the Year went to Any Ordinary Day, Leigh Sales (Penguin Random House)
Watch Trent Dalton's acceptance speech in the player below. Story continues after video.
Book of the Year for Older Children (ages 13+): Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds, Jeremy Lachlan (Hardie Grant Egmont)
Book of the Year for Younger Children (ages 7-12): The 104-Storey Treehouse, Andy Griffiths, Terry Denton (Pan Macmillan)
Children's Picture Book of the Year (ages 0-6): All the Ways to be Smart, Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys (Scribble Kids' Books)
Illustrated Book of the Year: Family: New vegetable classics to comfort and nourish, Hetty McKinnon (Pan Macmillan)
Small Publishers' Adult Book of the Year: Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, Dr Anita Heiss (ed.) (Black Inc Books)
Small Publishers' Children's Book of the Year: Whisper, Lynette Noni (Pantera Press)
The Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year: Boy Swallows Universe, Trent Dalton (HarperCollins)
Audiobook of the Year: Boy Swallows Universe, Trent Dalton, Narrator Stig Weymss (HarperAudio)
Lloyd O'Neil Hall of Fame Award: Richard Walsh