New Zealand at War, home and abroad – History Picks for July

This month’s history picks reach the regular quota of World War Two content, with Smoky the Brave also scoring highly on the animals-with-jobs meter and Ake ake kia kaha e! : Forever Brave! looking at the iwi who contributed to the Maori Battalion, both abroad and at home. Elsewhere we go back in Aotearoa’s history with Vincent O’Malley’s The New Zealand Wars providing a detailed look at an oft-neglected topic in our past.

The promise : love and loss in modern China / Xinran
“Xinran begins with the magic and tragedy of one young couples wedding night in 1950, and goes on to tell personal experiences of loss, grief and hardship through China’s extraordinary century. In doing so she tells a bigger story – how traditional Chinese values have been slowly eroded by the tide of modernity and how their outlooks on love, and the choices they’ve made in life, have been all been affected by the great upheavals of Chinese history. A spell-binding and magical narrative, this is the story of modern China through the people who lived through it, and the story of their love and loss.” (Catalogue)

Smoky the brave / Lewis, Damien
“In February 1944, as Japanese advances threatened to engulf Australasia, a four-pound Yorkshire terrier was discovered hiding in a Japanese shell scrape amidst the thick jungles of Papua New Guinea. A mystery, she was adopted by Corporal William ‘Bill’ Wynne. Living in his tent, sleeping on felt salvaged from a card table, and sharing his rations, Smoky became the de facto mascot of the regiment. She went on to fly numerous missions, cocooned in a pack hanging next to the machine-guns used to repel marauding Japanese fighters.” (Catalogue)

North Korea in 100 facts / Monti, Ruth Ann
“Ruth Ann Monti teases out the truth about North Korea to provide an illuminating insight into a society that might just as well be in outer space for most in the West. Did you know, for instance, that high school students are required to complete an 81-hour course on current leader Kim Jong-un? Or that everyone must wear a Kim badge at all times? How about the fact that Kim Jong-il, kidnapped two of South Korea’s film industry giants and made seven films with them – including a Socialist version of Godzilla?” (Catalogue)

The New Zealand Wars = Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa / O’Malley, Vincent
“The New Zealand Wars were a series of conflicts that profoundly shaped the course and direction of our nations history. The wars are an integral part of the New Zealand story but we have not always cared to remember or acknowledge them. Today, however, interest in the wars is resurgent. Public figures are calling for the wars to be taught in all schools and a national day of commemoration was recently established.” (Catalogue)

The Plimmer legacy : a family story from early Wellington to modern farming in the Rangītikei / Dawson, Bee
“From Wellington’s Plimmer Steps to the green hills of Motukawa. This is the story of a family – several generations of influential people – starting with ‘the father of Wellington’, John Plimmer, whose statue stands at the bottom of Plimmer Steps on Lambton Quay. Stories of Victorian and Edwardian life in the capital city lead on to the diverging paths of later generations, with an ongoing involvement in commerce, politics and farming.” (Catalogue)

Armageddon and paranoia : the nuclear confrontation / Braithwaite, Rodric
“In 1945, the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and warfare was never the same again. There are few villains in this story: on both sides of the Iron Curtain, dedicated scientists cracked the secrets of nature, dutiful military men planned out possible manoeuvres and politicians wrestled with potentially intolerable decisions. None of them wanted to start a nuclear war, but all of them were paranoid about what the other side might do.” (Catalogue)

American cipher : Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. tragedy in Afghanistan / Farwell, Matt
“Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl left his platoon’s base in eastern Afghanistan in the early hours of June 30, 2009. Since that day, easy answers to the many questions surrounding his case–why did he leave his post? What kinds of efforts were made to recover him from the Taliban? And why, facing a court martial, did he plead guilty to the serious charges against him?–have proved elusive.” (Catalogue)

Ake ake kia kaha e! : forever brave! : B Company 28 (Maori) Battalion, 1939-1945 / Gardiner, Wira
“A truly unique insight into the impact the Second World War had on the iwi of the central North Island and Bay of Plenty districts (including Te Arawa, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Tuhoe, Whanau-a-Apanui, Ngati Maru and Ngati Paoa) focusing on the region’s war effort not only overseas, but also at home and in government. Through personal recollections, eyewitness accounts, numerous anecdotes and highly illustrated throughout, the book tells the fascinating story of the B Company’s war, capturing the special `spirit’ of the Maori Battalion.” (Catalogue)

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