Mind & Body Newsletter – December

This month’s selection of books features a variety of ideas and tips on how to read literature and poetry, as well as, offering some solutions to problems that today’s writers are faced with. It includes true crime stories and some intriguing New Zealand history. Enjoy!

Library News

Literature

It’s time for a little erudition! Add richness to your reading with three of this month’s selections – How to read literature like a professor, Reading poetry and How to be well-read.

Syndetics book cover The ancient Greek hero in 24 hours / Gregory Nagy.
“The ancient Greeks’ concept of the hero was very different from what we understand by the term today, Gregory Nagy argues – and it is only through analyzing their historical contexts that we can truly understand Achilles, Odysseus, Oedipus, and Herakles. In Greek tradition, a hero was a human, male or female, of the remote past, who was endowed with superhuman abilities by virtue of being descended from an immortal god. Despite their mortality, heroes, like the gods, were objects of cult worship. Nagy examines this distinctively religious notion of the hero in its many dimensions.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Help! for writers : 210 solutions to the problems every writer faces / Roy Peter Clark.
“The craft of writing offers countless potential problems. The story is too long. The story’s too short. Revising presents a huge hurdle. Writer’s block is rearing its ugly head. In Help! For Writers, Roy Peter Clark presents an “owner’s manual” for writers, outlining the seven steps of the writing process and addressing the 21 most urgent problems that writers face. In his trademark engaging and entertaining style, Clark offers ten short solutions to each problem.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Roget’s thesaurus of words for writers : over 2,300 emotive, evocative, descriptive synonyms, antonyms, and related terms every writer should know / David Olsen, Michelle Bevilacqua, Justin Cord Hayes, and Robert Bly.
“The ultimate tool for writers! Whether you’re crafting the next great American novel or pounding away at a last-minute blog entry, there will come a time in the process when you struggle to find just the perfect word or phrase. Under the time-tested banner of Roget’s Thesaurus, this collection will quickly become the most essential tool on your desk when you’re working on your next piece.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover How to be well read : a guide to 500 great novels and a handful of literary curiosities / John Sutherland.
“As the annual flow of novels grows ever greater, it’s a hard job to keep up, let alone sort the wheat from the chaff. Fortunately John Sutherland is on hand to do precisely that for you, and in 500 wittily informative essays he introduces you to the very best of the world’s fiction.” (Wellington City Libraries catalogue note)
Syndetics book cover The digested 21st century / John Crace.
“John Crace’s Digested Read first appeared in in February 2000 and has been running ever since. Each week Crace reduces a new book – anything from a Booker Prize winner to a Nigella cookery book is fair game – to 700 words in a parody of the plot, style, dialogue and themes. Or lack of them. The Digested Read has not just become an institution for readers; it is read and enjoyed by publishers and authors too. So long as it is not their book being digested.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Reading poetry / Peter Barry.
“Witty, direct and articulate, Peter Barry illustrates the key elements of poetry at work, covering many different kinds of verse, from traditional forms to innovative versions of the art, such as ‘concrete’ poetry, minimalism and word-free poems. The emphasis is on meanings rather than words, looking beyond technical devices like alliteration and assonance so that poems are understood as dynamic structures creating specific ends and effects.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover How to read literature like a professor : a lively and entertaining guide to reading between the lines / Thomas C. Foster.
“A thoroughly revised and updated edition of Thomas C. Foster’s classic guide–a lively and entertaining introduction to literature and literary basics, including symbols, themes, and contexts–that shows you how to make your everyday reading experience more rewarding and enjoyable. While many books can be enjoyed for their basic stories, there are often deeper literary meanings interwoven in these texts.” (Syndetics summary)

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Popular Non-Fiction

New non-fic books for November.. featuring True Crime.

Syndetics book cover The Valentino affair : the jazz age murder scandal that shocked New York society and gripped the world / Colin Evans.
“Few of silent film heartthrob Rudolph Valentino’s adoring fans knew that he got his start by trying to escape a dirty secret. The lurid tale began in 1912 when notorious playboy Jack de Saulles made headlines by marrying the beautiful young heiress Blanca Errázuriz. After the birth of their son, though, Jack was chasing every chorus girl on Broadway. By 1916, Blanca wanted a divorce and discovered that one of her husband’s mistresses was the dance partner of Rodolfo Guglielmi, a professional tango dancer. Blanca cultivated the young performer, and the ambitious Italian gave evidence on her behalf in divorce court. Furious, de Saulles had Guglielmi arrested on trumped-up vice charges, tarnishing the dancer’s reputation. Then, one sweltering August night when it looked like de Saulles wasn’t going to share custody of their son, Blanca shot him dead. Her family hired the best defense lawyer, who savaged de Saulles’s reputation and painted Blanca as a saint. During the “most sensational trial of the decade,” millions devoured the details of how the high-society marriage had unraveled. Guglielmi, who had already fled to California to avoid poisonous publicity, changed his name to Rudolph Valentino and became Hollywood history.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The dark net : inside the digital world / Jamie Bartlett.
“The online world we inhabit represents only a small fraction of the internet. Beyond Google and commercial web browsers lies a parallel universe: a ‘deep web’ twenty-five times larger than the surface web we know; a world of private chat rooms, second lives, anonymous markets and hidden sites: places where people stretch freedom to its limits to be anything, and do anything, they want. ‘The Dark Net’ is an examination of the hidden corners of the internet and the strange subcultures and protagonists that inhabit it.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Villains, scoundrels, and rogues : incredible true tales of mischief and mayhem / Paul Martin.
“Everyone loves a good villain! From the back pages of history, vivid, entertaining portraits of little-known scoundrels whose misdeeds range from the simply inept to the truly horrifying. Even if you’re an avid history buff, you’ve probably never heard of this disreputable cast of characters: A drunken, ne’er-do-well cop who abandoned his post at Ford’s Theatre, giving assassin John Wilkes Booth unchallenged access to President Lincoln; a notorious Kansas quack who made millions by implanting billy goat testicles in gullible male patients; and America’s worst female serial killer ever. …author and former National Geographic editor Paul Martin serves up concise, colorful biographies of thirty of America’s most outrageous characters. Whether readers choose to be horrified by the story of Ed Gein, Alfred Hitchcock’s hideous inspiration for Psycho, or marvel at the clever duplicity of the con artist who originated the phony bookie operation portrayed in The Sting, there’s something here for everyone…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The underground girls of Kabul : in search of a hidden resistance in Afghanistan / Jenny Nordberg.
“An investigative journalist uncovers a hidden custom that will transform your understanding of what it means to grow up as a girl In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as “dressed up like a boy”) is a third kind of child – a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg… constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom. The Underground Girls of Kabul is anchored by vivid characters who bring this remarkable story to life: Azita, a female parliamentarian who sees no other choice but to turn her fourth daughter Mehran into a boy; Zahra, the tomboy teenager who struggles with puberty and refuses her parents’ attempts to turn her back into a girl; Shukria, now a married mother of three after living for twenty years as a man; and Nader, who prays with Shahed, the undercover female police officer, as they both remain in male disguise as adults…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Religion & Beliefs

Public and private faith emerges as one theme across several of our beliefs arrivals, together with sacred design and architecture.

Syndetics book cover The secret language of sacred spaces : decoding churches, temples, mosques and other places of worship around the world, by Jon Cannon.
How are sacred ideals expressed in architecture? From the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, to the Angkor Wat, Cambodia, to the Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China, the key strength of this book is the fantastic photos which illustrate how various religious traditions used design elements to express differing ideas about worship and beliefs, and how those changed over time (or in different locations) within the same faith tradition. A fascinating contribution and approach to comparative world religions. Another recent arrival focusing more on design than architecture is Gateway to the heavens : how geometric shapes, patterns and symbols form our reality, by Karen L. French.
Syndetics book cover The complete illustrated history of Catholicism & the Catholic saints : a comprehensive account of the history, philosophy and practice of Catholic Christianity and a guide to the most significant saints, by Tessa Paul ; consultant, Ronald Creighton-Jobe.
Despite it’s inclusive title, this book focuses solely on the Roman tradition, with no reference to any other, as one reviewer notes. However, even taking that into account, there is much to recommend if you want a one volume history of its rich history and church traditions, significant rituals, festivals and holy Days. Well illustrated.
Syndetics book cover Public Zen, personal Zen : a Buddhist introduction, by Peter D. Hershock.
As the title suggests, the author presents an overview of Zen from two different viewpoints: its “public” or institutional history and its “personal” or practiced history. The development of Zen as a religious institution in Japan is traced, together with how Zen has been practiced by both laypeople, clergy, and the ruling classes throughout its history. This is also a good study of the connections between a religion and the political, social, and economic institutions with which it lives.
Syndetics book cover Waking up : a guide to spirituality without religion, by Sam Harris.
Neuroscientist Harris argues from a growing body of scientific research that the idea of ‘self’, is both “an illusion and the primary cause of human suffering”. He argues that we need to transcend this, which will lead to a deeper sense of personal well-being, plus increased ethical behaviour towards others.

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History

The past stories and history of New Zealand are not only the domain of the rich and famous. This month in the New Zealand collection we feature some stories of early pioneers whose names are not famous or well known but who played their part in the history of New Zealand.

Syndetics book cover Our stories : the way we used to be : the New Zealand that time forgot… / edited by Ian Wishart.
Every day, thousands of news stories are published in New Zealand, chronicling the big events and the small. Most of these stories are long forgotten by the time historians get around to compiling the ‘official record’ of our country. Discover the heroes and villains of our past through long forgotten news stories, and find out how life really was in pioneer New Zealand. (Adapted from back cover)
Syndetics book cover Rough on women : abortion in 19th-century New Zealand / by Margaret Sparrow.
“Stories of abortion in 19th-century New Zealand, from newspaper accounts, court records and coroner’s reports”–Publisher information. The women in this book are all long dead and little is known of their inner lives. Most of what we know about them comes from coroners’ reports and newspaper accounts, and in many cases we know more about their abortionists than the women themselves. Women obtained abortions by whatever means they could, despite the dangers of poisoning, haemorrhage, and infection. And abortionists did their work despite the threat of long prison sentences or even the death penalty. (Adapted from back cover)
Syndetics book cover Stolen lives : a New Zealand foster child’s story from the ’40s and ’50s / Netta England.
Netta and her older brother Ray hardly knew their mother. She was a strange woman who made occasional visits, and they did not even know they had a Father. Instead from a very early age they lived with foster parents and at school were treated as different. Growing up, Netta became increasingly aware that her foster mother disliked her. Though never starved, Netta suffered neglect, as well as mental, physical and sexual abuse. After her brother’s death in 1976, Netta, by then married with a grown up family, began her long journey to learn about and understand what had happened in the past. She wanted to find out if somewhere out there was a family, her own family that she could belong to. How would she find them, and would they want to know her? She needed to find her roots. Stolen Lives is the record of Netta’s journey from a neglected and abused state ward, to a woman who discovers her heritage and creates a positive life regardless of her upbringing. (Syndetics summary)

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