5 September 2022
An Anglican agronomist’s life story has won the 2022 Australian Christian Book of the Year.
Tony Rinaudo’s autobiography The Forest Undergound: Hope for a Planet in Crisis, was awarded the SparkLit prize at an awards ceremony on 1 September.
The book tells of Mr Rinaudo’s 17 years spent in Niger, West Africa, where he worked with farmers to regenerate the land using simple, sustainable methods.
Mr Rinaudo described his tale as being about a faith journey in which a boy, despairing at the world’s suffering due to environmental degradation, asks God to help him make a difference, and sets about doing that.
It was also about the restoration of hope, and a call to action, he told The Melbourne Anglican.
“Hope doesn’t happen by accident. It doesn’t fall out of the sky. With God’s grace, you make it happen. If you’re not happy with the state of the world, call out to God and do something about it,” Mr Rinaudo said.
The first-time author, who also works for World Vision Australia, said he had aimed to write the book in a way that focused on the importance of human relations and the faith aspect of his journey.
But he said it would never have happened without COVID, because his work volume had been reduced by pandemic restrictions, and he’d been able to spend time writing every day.
Mr Rinaudo said he was keen to see the book translated into other languages, such as French and Spanish, but also the major languages of developing countries.
SparkLit national director Michael Collie described the author as a man with a mission.
Mr Collie said The Forest Underground showed that there were often simple solutions to even the most complex problems.
“It’s a hopeful book, a positive book and a responsible book because it talks about how humans have the responsibility and ability to solve the problems they cause,” Mr Collie said.
While observing the judging process Mr Collie said he had noted that the judges had used words like “warmth”, “humility”, and “grand adventure” to describe Mr Rinaudo’s work.
Christians by journalist Greg Sheridan, and Bullies and Saints by John Dickson were also among the 10 books that had been shortlisted for the top prize.
Victoria’s Rachel Board won the Australian Christian Teen Writer category, and NSW writer Nichola Chadwick won the Young Australian Christian Writer award.