Nothing but biography: Recent biographies

“Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.” So wrote the esteemed Benjamin Disraeli. A little sweeping maybe, but we biography-lovers cannot but concur. There are some excellent examples of the craft on offer this month.

Syndetics book coverAlexander Hamilton / Ron Chernow.
“Alexander Hamilton was an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean who overcame all the odds to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp and the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhat she ate : six remarkable women and the food that tells their stories / Laura Shapiro.
“Each of the six women in this entertaining group portrait was famous in her time, and most are still famous in ours; but until now, nobody has told their lives from the point of view of the kitchen and the table.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSargent’s women : four lives behind the canvas / Donna M. Lucey.
“In this seductive, multilayered biography, based on original letters and diaries, Donna M. Lucey illuminates four extraordinary women painted by the iconic high-society portraitist John Singer Sargent. With uncanny intuition, Sargent hinted at the mysteries and passions that unfolded in his subjects’ lives.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA secret sisterhood : the literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf / Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney ; foreword by Margaret Atwood.
“Male literary friendships are the stuff of legend; think Byron and Shelley, Fitzgerald and Hemingway. But the world’s best-loved female authors are usually mythologized as solitary eccentrics or isolated geniuses.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe ocean fell into the drop / Terence Stamp.
The Ocean Fell into the Drop is a different kind of showbusiness memoir, one that traces Terence Stamp’s twin obsessions, acting and mysticism, and the relationship the two have to each other for him, through the trajectory of his life.” (Syndetics summary)
See also Stamp album by the same author.

Syndetics book coverThe gamekeeper / Portia Simpson.
“The H is for Hawk for lovers of the outdoors and wildlife. A fascinating memoir of Scotland’s first-ever qualified female gamekeeper. In this wonderful memoir, Portia tells the story of how she first broke into a traditionally conservative, male-dominated profession and the skills, training and dedication that helped to set her apart.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe secret history of Jane Eyre : how Charlotte Brontë wrote her masterpiece / John Pfordresher.
“In The Secret History of Jane Eyre, John Pfordresher tells the enthralling story of Bronte’s compulsion to write her masterpiece and why she then turned around and vehemently disavowed it.” (Syndetics summary)

One to look forward to:
Syndetics book coverAn Almost Perfect Christmas
“From perennially dry turkeys to Christmas pudding fires, from the round robin code of conduct to the risks and rewards of re-gifting, An Almost Perfect Christmas is an ode to the joy and insanity of the most wonderful time of the year.” (Syndetics summary)

A good one reissued:
Syndetics book coverMoab is my washpot / Stephen Fry.
“A number one bestseller in Britain, Stephen Fry’s astonishingly frank, funny, wise memoir is the book that his fans everywhere have been waiting for.” (Syndetics summary)

A good one you might have missed:
Syndetics book coverDadland : a journey into uncharted territory / Keggie Care.
“Keggie takes us on a spellbinding journey, in peace and war, into surprising and shady corners of history, her rackety English childhood, the poignant breakdown of her family, the corridors of dementia and beyond. As Keggie pieces Tom – and herself – back together again, she celebrates the technicolour life of an impossible, irresistible, unstoppable man.” (Syndetics summary)

In the beginning was the book: New literature picks

In this wonderful new world we can read books in many electronic formats – on PCs, eReaders, iPads and smartphones – but we should never forget the comfort and inspiration given by the first hand-held device. Several of this month’s picks celebrate the book.

Syndetics book coverScribbles in the margins : 50 eternal delights of books / Daniel Gray.
“We lead increasingly time-poor lifestyles, bombarded 24/7 by petrifying news bulletins, internet trolls and endless noises. Where has the joy and relaxation gone from our daily lives? Scribbles in the Margins offers a glorious antidote to that relentless modern-day information churn. It is here to remind you that books and bookshops can still sing to your heart.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWoman’s hour : words from wise, witty and wonderful women / foreword by Jenni Murray.
“For the last 70 years, the guests of Woman’s Hour have been entertaining listeners with their compelling combination of wit, warmth, insight, and humor. Woman’s Hour has interviewed many of the biggest female names from entertainment, politics, the arts, and beyond.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRedEdits / Geoff Cochrane.
‘Poets disimprove with age and should die young. Should resemble shooting stars. Should trace short arcs of fizz and fire and then disappear.’ –What I Told Bernie’s Class. In his new collection, Geoff Cochrane defies his own advice to disappear. Instead, he traces wry, darkly glittering lines from odd fragments, encounters, overheard conversations, and moments of absurdity and revelation. RedEdits is the work of one of the most memorable voices in New Zealand poetry.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA secret sisterhood : the literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot & Virginia Woolf / Emily Midorikawa & Emma Claire Sweeney ; foreword by Margaret Atwood.
“Male literary friendships are the stuff of legend, from Byron and Shelley to Fitzgerald and Hemingway. But the world’s most celebrated female authors are usually mythologized as solitary eccentrics or isolated geniuses. Friends Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney prove this wrong, thanks to their investigations into a wealth of surprising collaborations.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOn reading / Steve McCurry ; foreword by Paul Theroux.
“A celebration of the timeless act of reading – as seen through the lens of one of the world’s most beloved photographers.Young or old, rich or poor, engaged in the sacred or the secular, people everywhere read. This homage to the beauty and seductiveness of reading brings together a collection of photographs taken by Steve McCurry over his nearly four decades of travel and is introduced by award-winning writer, Paul Theroux.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAt home in the world : women writers and public life, from Austen to the present / Maria DiBattista and Deborah Epstein Nord.
“In this new literary history, Maria DiBattista and Deborah Epstein Nord contend that even the most seemingly traditional works by British, American, and other English-language women writers redefine the domestic sphere in ways that incorporate the concerns of public life, allowing characters and authors alike to forge new, emancipatory narratives.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRooms of one’s own : 50 places that made literary history / Adrian Mourby.
“Award-winning BBC drama producer Adrian Mourby follows his literary heroes around the world, exploring 50 places where great works of literature first saw the light of day.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMorningstar : growing up with books / Ann Hood.
“In her admired works of fiction, including the recent The Book That Matters Most, Ann Hood explores the transformative power of literature. Now, with warmth and honesty, Hood reveals the personal story behind these beloved novels. Growing up in a mill town in Rhode Island, in a household that didn’t foster a love of literature, Hood discovered nonetheless the transformative power of books.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe book of forgotten authors / Christopher Fowler.
“Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you’re dead. So begins Christopher Fowler’s foray into the back catalogues and backstories of 99 authors who, once hugely popular, have all but disappeared from our shelves.” (Syndetics summary)

One child, one teacher : New Biography books

“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

These famous words spoken by education activist Malala Yousafzai in her address to the United Nations have echoed around the world. Their veracity is borne out in the stories of several of our subjects this month for whom education was the passport to a better life.

Syndetics book coverOf fortunes and war : Clare Hollingworth, first of the female war correspondents / Patrick Garrett.
“Legendary journalist Clare Hollingworth died in Hong Kong aged 105 in January 2017 after an illustrious career spanning the 20th century. Clare was famous for getting ‘the scoop of the century’: the outbreak of the Second World War.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverAnts among elephants : an untouchable family and the making of modern India / Sujatha Gidla.
“Like one in six people in India, Sujatha Gidla was born an untouchable. While most untouchables are illiterate, her family was educated by Canadian missionaries in the 1930s. Several became teachers, one a famous poet and revolutionary” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverEdward VII : the Prince of Wales and the women he loved / Catharine Arnold.
“[Catharine Arnold’s] new biography focuses — deliciously — on the women who shared the scandalously plentiful sex life of Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverFirst confession : a sort of memoir / Chris Patten.
“Chris Patten’s career has taken him from the outer London suburbs to the House of Commons, a seat in the Cabinet, last Governor of Hong Kong, Chairman of the BBC and Chancellor of Oxford University. About all of these he is enlightening and entertaining.” (adapted from Wellington City catalogue note)

Syndetics book coverThe Kelloggs : the battling brothers of Battle Creek / Howard Markel.
“John and Will Kellogg were American empire builders. John was one of America’s most beloved physicians; a best-selling author, lecturer, and health-magazine publisher and founder of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. His youngest brother, Will, was the founder of the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, which revolutionized the mass production of food and what we eat for breakfast” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Durrells of Corfu / Michael Haag.
“The Durrell family are immortalised in Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals and its ITV adaptation, The Durrells. But what of the real life Durrells? Why did they go to Corfu in the first place – and what happened to them after they left? The real story of the Durrells is as surprising and fascinating as anything in Gerry’s books” (Catalogue note)

Syndetics book coverMorningstar : growing up with books / Ann Hood.
“In her admired works of fiction, including the recent The Book That Matters Most, Ann Hood explores the transformative power of literature. Now, with warmth and honesty, Hood reveals the personal story behind these beloved novels” (adapted from book jacket summary)

Syndetics book coverThis long pursuit : reflections of a romantic biographer / Richard Holmes
“From the award-winning author of The Age of Wonder and Falling Upwards, here is a luminous meditation on the art of biography that fuses the author’s own experiences with a history of the genre and explores the fascinating and surprising relationship between fact and fiction.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDaring to drive : the young Saudi woman who stood up to a kingdom of men / Manal al-Sharif
“This is a memoir about living, loving, dreaming, daring, and driving while female — in a country where it’s dangerous to do all of the above. Manal al-Sharif grew up in Mecca the second daughter of a taxi driver, born the year strict fundamentalism took hold. […] Manal-al-Sharif has written a fiercely intimate memoir about the making of an accidental activist, a vivid story of a young Muslim woman who stood up to a kingdom of men — and won. Daring to Drive is a remarkable celebration of resilience in the face of tyranny, the extraordinary power of education and female solidarity, and the difficulties and joys of taking the driver’s seat of your own destiny” (Catalogue description).

Vive la France! Literature picks for August

This month the focus is on French authors – Flaubert, Jules Verne, Emile Zola. A little bit late for Bastille Day, but a tribute the great literature of a great country. And in the bicentennial year of Jane Austen’s death we celebrate the reissue of a book on her association with theatre and film by the very readable British writer Paula Byrne.

Syndetics book coverGoethe : life as a work of art / Rüdiger Safranski ; translated by David Dollenmayer.
“Goethe was writing in the midst of a dramatic and bloody time for Europe: the revolutions in France and America overturned the old regimes and introduced new ways of thinking about the world. Set against this backdrop, Goethe’s life and work serve as an essential touchstone for the birth of the modern age. But as Safranski ultimately shows, Goethe’s greatest creation was not only his literary masterpieces but his very life.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWinning words : inspiring poems for everyday life / chosen and introduced by William Sieghart ; [with a foreword by Sebastian Faulks].
“Faster, higher, stronger: winning words are those that inspire you on to Olympian goals. From falling in love to overcoming adversity, celebrating a new born or learning to live with dignity: here is a book to inspire and to thrill through life’s most magical moments. From William Shakespeare to Carol Ann Duffy, our most popular and best loved poets and poems are gathered in one essential collection.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe genius of Jane Austen : her love of theatre and why she works in Hollywood / Paula Byrne.
“Perfect for fans of Jane Austen, this updated edition of Paula Byrne’s debut book includes new material that explores the history of Austen stage adaptations, why her books work so well on screen, and what that reveals about one of the world’s most beloved author.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAnimals strike curious poses : essays / Elena Passarello.
“Beginning with Yuka, a 39,000 year old mummified woolly mammoth recently found in the Siberian permafrost, each of the 16 essays in Animals Strike Curious Poses investigates a different famous animal named and immortalized by humans. Modeled loosely after a medieval bestiary, these witty, playful, whipsmart essays traverse history, myth, science, and more, bringing each beast vibrantly to life.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJules Verne : the definitive biography / William Butcher.
“Highly readable narrative of a writing phenomenon. The world’s most translated best-selling writer.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverInjury time / Clive James.
“Injury Time finds James in a similar mood [as that displayed in Keen] to capture and cherish moments of beauty and love; thinking about how best to live in his remaining days; and casting his mind forward to when he will be gone and how he might be remembered.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverMetaphors be with you : an A-to-Z dictionary of history’s greatest metaphorical quotations / Dr. Mardy Grothe.
“If you’ve ever tried to describe a broken heart, a thankless child, or a glorious triumph, you know how valuable–and compelling–the perfect metaphor can be.”(Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe disappearance of Zola : love, literature and the Dreyfus case / Michael Rosen.
“It is the evening of 18 July 1898 and the world-renowned novelist Zola is on the run. His crime? Taking on the highest powers in the land with his open letter ‘J’accuse’ and losing. Forced to leave Paris, with nothing but the clothes he is standing in and a nightshirt wrapped in newspaper, Zola flees to England with no idea when he will return.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverForever words : the unknown poems / Johnny Cash ; edited and introduced by Paul Muldoon ; forward by John Carter Cash.
“Since his first recordings in 1955, Johnny Cash has been an icon in the music world. In his newly discovered poems and song lyrics, we see the world through his eyes. The poetry reveals his depth of understanding, both of the world around him and within – his frailties and his strengths alike.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFlaubert in the ruins of Paris : the story of a friendship, a novel, and a terrible year / Peter Brooks.
“From the summer of 1870 through the spring of 1871, France suffered a humiliating defeat in its war against Prussia and witnessed bloody class warfare that culminated in the crushing of the Paris Commune. In Flaubert in the Ruins of Paris, Peter Brooks examines why Flaubert thought his recently published novel, Sentimental Education, was prophetic of the upheavals in France during this “terrible year,” and how Flaubert’s life and that of his compatriots were changed forever.” (Syndetics summary)

You might have seen the recent publicity about a newly discovered short story by Katherine Mansfield – the first one she ever had published. It was found by Redmer Yska, who has written about the Wellington of her childhood.

Syndetics book coverA strange beautiful excitement : Katherine Mansfield’s Wellington, 1888-1903 / Redmer Yska.
A Strange Beautiful Excitement is a wild ride through the Wellington of Katherine Mansfield’s childhood. From the grubby, wind-blasted streets of Thorndon to the hushed green valley of Karori, author Redmer Yska, himself raised in Karori, retraces Mansfield’s old ground: the sights, sounds and smells of the rickety colonial capital.” (Syndetics summary)

In the bleak mid-winter – July biography picks

…you need lots of good books to curl up with in front of the fire. Try some of these!

Syndetics book coverCamera girl / Doreen Doreen Spooner with Alan Clark
“The inspiring life story of Fleet Street’s first female photographer. Doreen Spooner’s remarkable journey of glamour, heartbreak, and loss, through to adventure, success and a working mum’s determination to make it in a man’s world… Within a compelling mix of real-life dramas [she] managed a challenging career as Britain’s first ever female national newspaper photographer.” (www.amazon.uk).

Syndetics book coverBetween them : remembering my parents / Richard Ford.
“LONGLISTED FOR THE GORDON BURN PRIZE 2017 “From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sportswriter comes a deeply personal account of his parents – an intimate portrait of American mid-twentieth century life, and a celebration of family love.” (Syndetics summary.)

Syndetics book coverNot your average nurse : from 1970s London to outback Australia, the true story of an unlikely girl and an extraordinary career / Maggie Groff.
“To a young girl the life of a student nurse sounds exciting, but with long hours and short shrift it’s never easy. So when Maggie Groff defies her parents’ wishes and embarks as a student nurse at London’s King’s College Hospital, she must quickly get to grips with the demands of her chosen career.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverOnly : a singular memoir / Caroline Baum.
“Caroline Baum’s fascinating and moving memoir about being an only child in a very unusual family.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverLight and shadow : memoirs of a spy’s son / Mark Colvin.
“Mark Colvin is a broadcasting legend. He is the voice of ABC Radio’s leading current affairs program PM ; he was a founding broadcaster for the groundbreaking youth station Double J; he initiated The World Today program; and he’s one of the most popular and influential journalists in the twittersphere. Mark has reported on wars, royal weddings and everything in between. In the midst of all this he discovered that his father was an MI6 spy”. (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverA life in questions / Jeremy Paxman.“News, views and hilarious stories from the legend of Newsnight and long-standing quiz master of University Challenge.
‘Bursting with good things’ Daily Telegraph. Jeremy Paxman is Britain’s bravest, most incisive political interviewer. The no-nonsense star of BBC Newsnight, Paxman is a supreme inquisitor, a master at skewering mammoth egos with his relentless grilling.”(Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverFor the glory : the life of Eric Liddell / Duncan Hamilton.
“‘Eric Liddell deserves a definitive biography. This is it.’ Sunday Times , Books of the Year “Faster. Higher. Stronger. No one has embodied the ideals of the Olympic movement quite like Eric Liddell, star of the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire . After refusing to compete on religious principle in the event in which he was favourite, the 100 metres, at the 1924 Games in Paris, Liddell won an astonishing gold medal in the 400 metres. But instead of pursuing a path of global fame and fortune, he chose to follow his calling as a missionary in the country of his birth, China.”(Syndetics summary).

THREE GOOD ONES REISSUED :

Syndetics book coverThe plague and I / Betty MacDonald.
“Getting tuberculosis in the middle of your life is like starting downtown to do a lot of urgent errands and being hit by a bus. When you regain consciousness you remember nothing about the urgent errands. You can’t even remember where you were going.” Thus begins Betty MacDonald’s memoir of her year in a sanatorium just outside Seattle battling the “White Plague.” MacDonald uses her offbeat humor to make the most of her time in the TB sanatorium–making all of us laugh in the process.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverImages and shadows : part of a life / Iris Origo.
“Bring her up somewhere where she does not belong… I’d like her to be a little ‘foreign’. Iris Origo was born in 1902 and spent her youth in the ancestral estate on Long Island and in her grandfather’s castle in Ireland. Her father died tragically when she was eight, and she continued her peripatetic life with her indefatigable mother and beloved governess.”(Wellington City Libraries catalogue note).

Syndetics book coverBeasts in my belfry / Gerald Durrell.“”A loving chronicle of jitter-bugging gnus, singing duets with a bear, stealing eggs to feed the Arctic foxes, practising tiger sniffs . . . Highly entertaining and informative” The Times “Over a year at Whipsnade Zoo we encounter a typically absurd cast – including Albert the lion, who’s a dab hand at ventriloquism, and Teddy the brown bear, with whom the young Durrell sings duets”.
(Syndetics summary).

AND ONE TO LOOK FORWARD TO:
Syndetics book coverThe Husband Hunters: Social Climbing in London and New York [paperback]
“Towards the end of the nineteenth century and for the first few years of the twentieth, a strange invasion took place in Britain. The citadel of power, privilege and breeding in which the titled, land-owning governing class had barricaded itself for so long was breached. The incomers were a group of young women who, fifty years earlier, would have been looked on as the alien denizens of another world – the New World, to be ” (Syndetics summary)

Poetry and plays – Recent Literature picks

Poetry and plays are the focus of this month’s picks, including the much anticipated Poetry 17, the New Zealand poetry yearbook. A newly-published notebook of a road trip undertaken in the American South by Joan Didion and a novel study of the powerful attraction of Sylvia Plath complement the list.

Syndetics book coverA girl walks into a book : what the Brontës taught me about life, love, and women’s work / Miranda K. Pennington.
“How many times have you heard readers argue about which is better, Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights? The works of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne continue to provoke passionate fandom over a century after their deaths. Brontë enthusiasts, as well as those of us who never made it further than those oft-cited classics, will devour Miranda Pennington’s delightful literary memoir.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA to Z great modern writers / Andy Tuohy ; with text by Caroline Taggart.
“Artist and graphic designer Andy Tuohy turns his hand to the world of modern literature in this new instalment of the A-Z series. Rendered in his distinctive style, this new book features portraits of 52 key modern writers significant for their contribution to literature, with a whole host of names from across the world.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover100 greatest American plays / Thomas S. Hischak.
“In 100 Greatest American Plays, Thomas S. Hischak provides an engaging discussion of the best stage productions to come out of the United States. Each play is discussed in the context of its original presentation as well as its legacy. Arranged alphabetically, the entries for these plays include: plot details, production history, biography of the playwright, literary aspects of the drama, critical reaction to the play and major awards.” (Library catalogue)

Syndetics book coverPoetry New Zealand yearbook. 2017 / edited by Jack Ross.
“Continually in print since 1951, when it was established by leading poet Louis Johnson, this annual collection of new poetry, reviews and essays is the ideal way to catch up with the latest poetry from established and emerging New Zealand poets. Issue #51 features 128 new poems by writers including featured poet Elizabeth Morton, Riemke Ensing, Mohamed Hassan, Michele Leggott, Kiri Piahana-Wong and Elizabeth Smither.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSouth and West : from a notebook / Joan Didion ; foreword by Nathaniel Rich.
“From the best-selling author of the National Book Award-winning The Year of Magical Thinking: two extended excerpts from her never-before-seen notebooks–writings that offer an illuminating glimpse into the mind and process of a legendary writer. Joan Didion has always kept notebooks: of overheard dialogue, observations, interviews, drafts of essays and articles–and here is one such draft that traces a road trip she took in June 1970.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHamlet : Globe to globe : two years, 190,000 miles, 197 countries, one play / Dominic Dromgoole.
“Two years, 190,000 miles, 197 countries, one play. For the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth the Globe Theatre in London undertook an unparalleled journey to share Hamlet with the entire world. The tour was the brainchild of Dominic Dromgoole, artistic director of the Globe, and in Hamlet Globe to Globe , he takes readers along with him on this wildly ambitious expedition.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFalstaff : give me life / Harold Bloom.
“From Harold Bloom, one of the greatest Shakespeare scholars of our time comes “a timely reminder of the power and possibility of words [and] the last love letter to the shaping spirit of Bloom’s imagination” (front page, The New York Times Book Review ) and an intimate, wise, deeply compelling portrait of Falstaff–Shakespeare’s greatest enduring and complex comedic characters.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe haunted reader and Sylvia Plath / Gail Crowther.
The Haunted Reader & Sylvia Plath takes an unusual approach to Sylvia Plath studies focusing on the readers of Sylvia Plath rather than the historical figure herself. Working from the premise that Plath is a highly visible cultural figure, this book explores why her readers become so attached to her. Why does she have such a large and devoted following? What is it about her that attracts people, and once they are drawn in, how does this fandom manifest itself?” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverScorn : the wittiest and wickedest insults in human history / Matthew Parris.
“‘He’s 100% political herpes. Back in six months whatever you do. Or three days, like last time.’ Camilla Long on Nigel Farage. ‘You’re as ugly as a salad.’ Bulgarian insult. ‘I’m going to beat him so bad he’ll need a shoehorn to put his hat on.’ Muhammed Ali. There’s no pleasure like a perfectly-turned put-down (when it’s directed at somebody else, of course) but Matthew Parris’s Scorn is sharply different from the standard collections.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMolly Keane : a life / Sally Phipps.
“Molly Keane (1904 – 96) was an Irish novelist and playwright (born in County Kildare) most famous for Good Behaviour which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Hailed as the Irish Nancy Mitford in her day; as well as writing books she was the leading playwright of the ’30s, her work directed by John Gielgud. Between 1928 and 1956, she wrote eleven novels, and some of her earlier plays, under the pseudonym M.J. Farrell.” (Syndetics summary)

Bad girls get good press – Recent Biography picks

This month’s top pick is a beautifully illustrated book which celebrates women who had the courage to challenge the status quo and forged the way for women who came after them. Robin Dalton, once a society figure and subsequent good-time girl, is not quite in the same league,but her story is an entertaining and inspiring one..
Good girls get good press too – activist Coretta King, widow of Martin Luther King, a nurse who devoted her life to sick children – and Queen Victoria, who was a famously good woman.

Syndetics book coverBad girls throughout history : 100 remarkable women who changed the world / Ann Shen.
“The 100 revolutionary women featured in this illustrated book were bad in the best sense of the word: they challenged the status quo and changed the rules for those who followed. From ancient times through present day, from pirates to artists, scientists to spies, these courageous women achieved unprecedented feats and left a permanent mark on human history.”–Back cover.

Syndetics book coverBreaking ranks / James McNeish.
“Three distinct stories about three distinct men, but with one thing in common – they all paid the price for standing up for what they believed. From a great writer, three great stories about conscience and consequence. This is the story of three men – a doctor, a soldier and a judge. They are men of rare achievement. The doctor has the gift of saving others but not himself. The soldier disobeys orders and abandons his command post in a bid to die with his men. The judge cares more to uphold a principle than save himself from ruin. All three defy convention.”(Wellington City Libraries catalogue note).

Syndetics book coverJuliet’s answer : one man’s search for love and the elusive cure for heartbreak / Glenn Dixon.Juliet’s Answer: One Man’s Search for Love and the Elusive Cure for Heartbreak
“Eat, Pray, Love meets The Rosie Project in this fresh, heartwarming memoir by a man who travels to Verona and volunteers to answer letters addressed to Shakespeare’s Juliet, all in an attempt to heal his own heartbreak. When Glenn Dixon is spurned by love, he packs his bags for Verona, Italy. Once there, he volunteers to answer the thousands of letters that arrive addressed to Juliet–letters sent from lovelorn people all over the world”.(Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverVictoria : the heart and mind of a young queen / foreword by Daisy Goodwin ; written by Helen Rappaport.
‘The official companion to ITV’s drama, ‘The Victoria letters” delves into the private writings of the young Queen Victoria, painting a vivid picture of the personal life of one of England’s greatest monarchs.”(Wellington City Libraries catalogue note).

Syndetics book coverAlways the children : a nurse’s story of home and war / Anne Watts.
“Anne Watts grew up in a small village in north Wales in the 1940s. She trained as a nurse and midwife, joined the Save the Children Fund, and was posted to Vietnam in 1967. Here, Anne was faced with a vision of hell that her training at Manchester’s Royal Infirmary could not have prepared her for.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverSully : my search for what really matters / Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger ; with Jeffrey Zaslow.Proxy Error
“Airline pilot Captain “Sully” Sullenberger tells his life story, including his perspective on the emergency landing on the Hudson River that earned him the world’s admiration, and offers insight into the qualities that have been vital to his success”–Publisher.

Syndetics book coverThe long and winding road / Alan Johnson.
“When Tony Blair brought Alan Johnson into Parliament in 1997, it was something of a culture shock. Blair famously said to him ‘Oh, so you really are working class aren’t you’. In this memoir of politicking and skulduggery, he tells of his experiences in Westminster.”(Wellington City Libraries catalogue note).

Syndetics book coverOne leg over : having fun – mostly – in peace and war / Robin Dalton.At the age of ninety-five, Robin Dalton looks back on her life, particularly on her love life. Married at nineteen, disastrously, Robin has a lucky escape-her ‘Society Divorce’ makes the front page of Sydney newspapers, bumping the war to page three ‘One leg over” is a story of love and romance, of loss and great sadness. But above all it’s a celebration of a wonderful life..”(Wellington City Libraries catalogue note).

Syndetics book coverMy life, my love, my legacy / Coretta Scott King ; as told to the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds.The Washington Post ‘s Books to Read in 2017
The New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
USA Today , “New and Noteworthy”
Read it Forward, Favorite Reads of January 2017″.The life story of Coretta Scott King–wife of Martin Luther King Jr., founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (The King Center), and singular twentieth-century American civil and human rights activist.” (provided by publisher)

A GOOD ONE YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
Syndetics book coverMy history : a memoir of growing up / Antonia Fraser.‘Antonia Fraser’s memoir describes growing up in the 1930s and 1940s but its real concern is with her growing love of history. The fascination began as a child when her evacuation at the beginning of the war to an Elizabethan manor house became an inspiration for historical imaginings – and developed into an enduring passion; as she writes, ‘for me, the study of History has always been an essential part of the enjoyment of life’.(Amazon.co.uk summary)

AND A GOOD ONE IN ANOTHER PART OF THE LIBRARY
Syndetics book coverPrinces at war : the bitter battle inside Britain’s royal family in the darkest days of WWII / Deborah Cadbury.
‘British author Cadbury explores the many layers involved in the abdication crisis of 1936, which ceded the British crown to the seemingly least prepared of the four sons of George V, George VI, aka Bertie, who revealed himself in the subsequent crisis of war to be the most suitable and stalwart of all.”(Wellington City Libraries catalogue note).

The play’s the thing – Literature picks for March

Well so said Hamlet, and this month’s picks certainly seem to reflect this. We feature two collections of New Zealand plays and the prize -winning playscript on which the Oscar winning film “Fences” was based. Also on offer are books about Alice Munro, Maya Angelou, Jan Morris and Jonathan Swift – a rich harvest indeed.

Syndetics book coverMaya Angelou : adventurous spirit / Linda Wagner-Martin.
“A comprehensive biographical and critical reading of the works of American poet and memoirist Maya Angelou (1928-2014). Linda Wagner-Martin covers all six of Angelou’s autobiographies, as well as her essay and poetry collections, while also exploring Angelou’s life as an African American in the United States, her career as stage and film performer, her thoughtful participation in the Civil Rights actions of the 1960s, and her travels abroad in Egypt, Africa, and Europe.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe map and the clock : a laureate’s choice of the poetry of Britain and Ireland / edited by Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke.
The Map and the Clock is a celebration of the most scintillating poems ever composed on our islands. Curated by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and by Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales, this anthology gathers fourteen centuries of extraordinary verse – beginning with the first writings from the old languages of England and Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and culminating in some of our most recent poets.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDeaths of the poets / Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts.
“From Chatterton’s Pre-Raphaelite demise to Keats’ death warrant in a smudge of arterial blood; from Dylan Thomas’s eighteen straight whiskies to Sylvia Plath’s desperate suicide in the gas oven of her Primrose Hill kitchen or John Berryman’s leap from a bridge onto the frozen Mississippi, the deaths of poets have often cast a backward shadow on their work.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA double sorrow : Troilus and Criseyde / Lavinia Greenlaw.
“When Chaucer composed Troilus and Criseyde he gave us, some say, his finest poem, and with it one of the most captivating love stories ever written. A Double Sorrow, Lavinia Greenlaw’s new work, takes its title from the opening line of that poem in a fresh telling of this most tortured of love affairs.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAlice Munro : Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage ; Runaway ; Dear life / edited by Robert Thacker.
“The awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to the Canadian writer Alice Munro in 2013 confirmed her position as a master of the short story form. This book explores Munro’s work from a full range of critical perspectives, focussing on three of her most popular and important published collections: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001), Runaway (2004), and her final collection Dear Life (2012).” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBats plays / Ken Duncum & Rebecca Rodden.
“Six seminal plays from Ken Duncum and Rebecca Rodden, whose playwriting partnership powered the vibrant theatre scene round Wellington’s BATS Theatre in the 1980s and 90s. These collected plays are boldly inventive, darkly comic and ceaselessly imaginative.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAriel : a literary life of Jan Morris / Derek Johns ; drawings by Jan Morris.
“Jan Morris is one of the great British writers of the post-war era. Soldier, journalist, writer about places (rather than ‘travel writer’), elegist of the British Empire, novelist, she has fashioned a distinctive prose style that is elegant, fastidious, supple, and sometimes gloriously gaudy.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFences / a play by August Wilson ; introduction by Lloyd Richards.
“Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. In his work, Mr. Wilson depicted the struggles of black Americans with uncommon lyrical richness, theatrical density and emotional heft, in plays that give vivid voices to people on the frayed margins of life.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJonathan Swift : the reluctant rebel / John Stubbs.
“Born in Ireland in 1667, Jonathan Swift defiantly clung to his Englishness. He refused to relinquish this attachment even as corruption and injustice gradually led him to turn against the English government. In a long life, Swift proved a reluctant rebel, though one with a relish for the fight, and implacable when provoked – a voice of withering disenchantment unrivalled and a conscientious Anglican minister.” (Syndetics summary)

Image from Amazon.comStage journeys : 10 short plays from New Zealand / by Paula Crimmens, Tim Hambleton, Richard Prevett, Kerrie Anne Spicer, Rex McGregor, Richard Bull, June Allen, Richard C. Harris, Nataliya Oryshchuk.
Stage Journeys is a collection of 10 award-winning New Zealand plays, each 10 minutes long with no more than 3 onstage characters. This collaboration, written by 9 talented New Zealand playwrights, offers a tantalising selection of genres and styles, suitable for all audiences. Each writer promises to take you on a rollercoaster ride of theatrical delight-from comedy through to drama and beyond.” (Syndetics summary)

Party animals – Biography picks for February

….but not the usual kind. These animals are political not social (although often there is a mixing of the two). Our top pick is a study of growing up as a committed communist in post-war Britain. Author Aaronovitch does more than recount the story of his own journey; he attempts to explain how twentieth century history shaped such fervent adherents and why in the face of damning evidence they were so reluctant to abandon their beliefs. This one of three prize-winning biographies featured this month. We also list a biography of Theresa May and three very worthwhile books of movies currently showing.

Syndetics book coverParty animals : my family and other communists / David Aaronovitch.
“In July 1961, just before David Aaronovitch’s seventh birthday, Yuri Gagarin came to London. The Russian cosmonaut was everything the Aaronovitch family wished for – a popular and handsome embodiment of modern communism.But who were they, these ever hopeful, defiant and historically doomed people?” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSee also:
Stalin ate my homework / Alexei Sayle.

“Entertaining, poignant & surprising, this is a brilliantly written memoir of an unusual childhood by one of Britain’s most-loved comedians, Alexei Sayle.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe missing Matisse / Pierre H. Matisse.
“Nazi planes were bombing Paris the day a lifelong, more personal war began for Pierre. It was the day he lost his identity.Born into a famous family, Pierre Matisse grew up immersed in the art world of Paris and the French Riviera, spending time with some of the most famous artists of the twentieth century.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBorn a crime : stories from a South African childhood / Trevor Noah.
“The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDiary of a wartime affair : the true story of a surprisingly modern romance / Doreen Bates.
“The true story of a surprisingly modern romance in war-stricken London London, 1934. Doreen Bates is working in the same office as E, an older married man. In the years just before the war, they develop an irresistible attraction to one another and strike up a passionate affair. Doreen records it all with startling candour in her diary.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTheresa May : the Downing Street revolution / Virginia Blackburn.
“Only the second woman to hold office at 10 Downing Street, Theresa May inherits the most difficult political mandate of recent times: to negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union and re-establish its place in the wider world. She is known as an uncompromising and fiercely moral political operator who has risen through the ranks through profound competence, instead of cronyism.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOnce we were sisters : a memoir / Sheila Kohler.
“After learning that her sister Maxine was killed when her husband drove them off a deserted road in Johannesburg, Kohler flew back to the country where she was born, determined to reckon with the tragedy and her family’s history of choosing unsuitable men. She shows how the bond between sisters changes but never breaks, even after death.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverScenes and apparitions : diaries, 1988-2003 / Roy Strong.
Scenes and Apparitions begins where its predecessor, Splendours and Miseries, left off. It covers a period of Roy Strong’s life from 1988 to 2003. Shaking off the shackles of public life, Roy was free for the first time to reinvent himself, leaving behind the political and cultural machinations of the art world.” (Syndetics summary)

A good one in another part of the library:

Syndetics book coverLeap in : a woman, some waves and the will to swim / Alexandra Heminsley.
“Alexandra Heminsley thought she could swim. She really did. But, as she learned one day while flailing around in the sea, she really couldn’t.” (Syndetics summary)

Three books of films now showing:

Syndetics book coverColour bar : the triumph of Seretse Khama and his nation / Susan Williams.
“The true story of a love which defied family, Apartheid, and empire – the inspiration for the major new feature film A United Kingdom, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike London, 1947. He was the heir to an African kingdom. She was a white English insurance clerk. When they met and fell in love, it would change the world.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHidden figures : the American dream and the untold story of the Black women mathematicians who helped win the space race / Margot Lee Shetterly.
“Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLion / Saroo Brierley ; with Larry Buttrose.
“A true story of survival and triumph against incredible odds , now a major motion picture starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara. When Saroo Brierley used Google Earth to find his long-lost home town half a world away, he made global headlines.” (Syndetics summary)

Help the babies – Knitting group special meeting on Saturday 25th February

We have received an urgent appeal for singlets, blankets, bootees and jackets for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Wellington Hospital. The library knitting group will hold a special meeting this Saturday 25th February to work on items for this appeal. If you could spare a little time on this day your help would be gratefully received.

Share some fun and fellowship while doing some good in the world!
Wool and patterns will be provided. Being small, the items will be quick to knit.
We will meet behind the escalators on the first floor of Central Library from 1-4PM
A continuous and substantial afternoon tea will be supplied.

CONTACT : Sue Dale
E-mail : sue.dale@wcc.govt.nz
Phone : (04) 801 4146

Books to inspire you:

Syndetics book coverKnitting for good! : a guide to creating personal, social & political change, stitch by stitch / Betsy Greer.
“Every time we knit, we have the opportunity to create positive change in ourselves, our community, and in the world. That’s Betsy Greer’s fervent belief, and in this book she shows us how. Betsy explores the ways we can use knitting to slow down in a fast-paced culture, while using the craft to benefit charities in our communities, to advocate for worthwhile causes, and to support individuals and communities across the globe.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKnitting green : conversations and planet friendly projects / Ann Budd.
“Detailing a wide range of perspectives and approaches to environmental issues, this unique crafting manual offers ideas for knitting conscientiously. Leading figures of the industry, from designers to yarn company executives, share their methods for integrating green principles into their work and lives.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTogether : how small groups achieve big things / Henry Hemmings.
Together is about the extraordinary revival of small groups in Britain today.What happens when a room full of people decide to work towards the same dream? Why is it that when we come together in small groups we are so much more than the sum of our parts?” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKnitting yarns : writers on knitting / edited and with an introduction by Ann Hood.
“The impressive collection of writers here have contributed essays that celebrate knitting and knitters. They share their knitting triumphs and disasters as well as their life triumphs and disasters.” (Syndetics summary)