Writers to the fore this festive season – Recent biography picks

It is fitting that we mark a New Zealand Christmas with the award-winning biography of an exceptional man who embodied the best of our two cultures. Read his story in this month’s top pick Te Oka – pākehā kaumātua.
However the focus of this selection is very much on writers. This year marks the bi-centenary of the death of Charlotte Bronte, and it has been marked by Penguin with release of a major scholarly biography. Other writers featured are Beryl Bainbridge, Angela Carter, Patrick Leigh Fermor and the wonderful Alan Bennett. Wherever you are these holidays dear biography-lovers, take time to read!

Syndetics book coverTe Oka – pākehā kaumātua : the life of Jock McEwen / Mary McEwen.
“Jock McEwen, administrator, historian, linguist, composer and master carver, was a well-known figure in the Ma-aori world and the wider Pacific for over half a century. Born in Cheltenham near Feilding in 1915 he was brought up with a strong Presbyterian work ethic, which he retained until his death in 2010. Jock came into early contact with the Ma-aori community at Aorangi, where he learned to speak fluent te reo and developed interests in whakapapa (including his own) and tikanga M-aaori.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverI loved her in the movies : memories of Hollywood’s legendary actresses / Robert J. Wagner with Scott Eyman.
“Film and television actor and New York Times bestselling author Robert Wagner’s memoir of the great women movie stars he has known.In a career that has spanned more than sixty years Robert Wagner has witnessed the twilight of the Golden Age of Hollywood and the rise of television, becoming a beloved star in both media”.(Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverA room in Athens / Frances Karlen Santamaria.
“First published in 1970, A Room in Athens is the remarkable journal of a free-
spirited, young American woman abroad in Greece with her writer husband in 1964. Inspired by the sixties’ vogue for the exuberant land of Zorba and Lawrence Durrell, they seek an Aegean idyll-but their plans threaten to go awry when she learns she is pregnant.”Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverBeryl Bainbridge : love by all sorts of means : a biography / Brendan King.
“Dame Beryl Bainbridge was one of the most popular and recognisable English novelists of her generation. She was shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, and her critically acclaimed novels The Dressmaker (1973), The Bottle Factory Outing (1974), An Awfully Big Adventure (1990), Every Man For Himself (1996) and Master Georgie (1998), confirmed her status as one of the major literary figures of the past fifty years.(Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverCharlotte Brontë : a life / Claire Harman.
‘There was no possibility of taking a walk that day…’ With these words Charlotte Bronté began Jane Eyre and changed English literature irrevocably. Now, on the 200th anniversary of Charlotte’s birth, Claire Harman’s landmark biography provides a bold new view of one of Britain’s best loved writers, revealing that her life possessed all the drama and tragedy of a Gothic tale.”Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverThe invention of Angela Carter / Edmund Gordon.
“Angela Carter is widely acknowledged as one of the most important and beguiling writers of the last century. Her work stands out for its bawdiness and linguistic zest, its hospitality to the fantastic and the absurd, and its extraordinary inventiveness and range. Her life was as modern and as unconventional as anything in her fiction.Born Angela Olive Stalker in Eastbourne in 1940, her story spans the latter half of the twentieth century”.(Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverDashing for the post : the letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor / selected and edited by Adam Sisman.
“<“”A revelatory collection of letters written by the author of The Broken Road. Handsome, spirited and erudite, Patrick Leigh Fermor was a war hero and one of the greatest travel writers of his generation. He was also a spectacularly gifted friend”. (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverDown the dirt roads : a memoir of love, loss and the land / Rachael Treasure.
‘For me, being in a paddock means anything is possible…’ Country girl and bestselling novelist Rachael Treasure had worked hard to build a long-dreamed-of lifestyle on her own patch of dirt in Tasmania’s rugged and beautiful wilderness. But through the breakdown of her marriage, Rachael lost her family farm and, in her words, lost her way in life. Discovering an all-new compass to live by, she took her two kids and her dogs and left the beaten path.” (Syndetics summary).

A good one you might have missed:

Syndetics book coverSkating to Antarctica / Jenny Diski.Skating to Antarctica
“This strange and brilliant book recounts Jenny Diski’s journey to Antarctica last year, intercut with another journey into her own heart and soul…a book of dazzling variety, which weaves disquisitions on indolence, truth, inconsistency, ambiguousness, the elephant seal, Shackleton, boredom and over and over again memory, into a sparse narrative, caustic observation and vivid description of the natural world. While Diski’s writing is laconic, her images are haunting.’
Elspeth Barker, Independent on Sunday” (Syndetics summary).

A good one in another part of the library:

Syndetics book coverKeeping on keeping on / Alan Bennett.
“‘I seem to have banged on this year rather more than usual. I make no apology for that, nor am I nervous that it will it make a jot of difference. I shall still be thought to be kindly, cosy and essentially harmless. I am in the pigeon-hole marked ‘no threat’ and did I stab Judi Dench with a pitchfork I should still be a teddy bear.” (Syndetics summary).

James McNeish, the celebrated New Zealand novelist, playwright, and biographer, died in November aged 85.

Syndetics book coverTouchstones : memories of people and place / James McNeish.
“A young man leaves home as a deckhand on a Norwegian freighter, to travel the world. He returns to New Zealand changed almost beyond recognition. Along the way he meets nine people who influence his life and help make him the writer he becomes.” (Publisher information)

Language is a living thing – November literature picks

We all know that language is evolving all the time. We are concerned about changes to the English language – the French and the Germans are equally concerned about changes to theirs. But it is an irresistible force and we cannot afford to be too purist about it. In fact the inventiveness and ingenuity involved make it rather fun. Read this month’s top pick to find out more about it.

Syndetics book coverWords on the move : why English won’t – and can’t – sit still (like, literally) / John McWhorter.
“Language changes because of people, maintains McWhorter (English and comparative literature, Columbia Univ.; Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue). We understand a new word such as hangry to be a blend of “hungry” and “angry,” or hunger-induced anger. We also understand that someone using the word hangry wants to be viewed as modern or “in the know.” These transitions in language involve strong alterations in how we pronounce and construct language itself.”(Library Journal).

Syndetics book coverWhat I know for sure / Oprah Winfrey.
“”You lead life; it doesn’t lead you” is the motivating message behind media super star Winfrey’s life, career, and latest book-a compilation from the past 14 years of her monthly column in O, the Oprah Magazine. Divided into topics including resilience, clarity, gratitude, and awe, each essay provides a brief encouraging and thought-provoking reading moment. Winfrey writes calmly and conversationally. Among many other topics, she addresses personal strength, spirituality, clutter, and debt”. (Publisher Weekly).

Syndetics book coverSoul at the white heat : inspiration, obsession, and the writing life / Joyce Carol Oates.
“This collection of essays from the award-winning author Oates ranges from observations on the writing life to critical reviews of classic and contemporary works. Additional pieces include commentary on the film The Fighter and details of a visit to San Quentin prison. The selection of 33 previously published essays encompasses a wide range of topics with Oates’s pinpoint focus” (Library Journal).

Syndetics book coverOde to childhood : poetry to celebrate the child / edited by Lucy Gray.
“Celebrate children! Featuring work by some of the world’s great poets, this beautifully illustrated anthology captures all the charms, beauty, and love of childhood. The selections include William Blake’s gentle “A Cradle Song,” Walt Whitman’s “There Was a Child Went Forth,” and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Children’s Hour,” as well as verses by Milton, Wordsworth, Christina Rossetti, and more.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverThe new torchlight list : in search of the best modern authors / Jim Flynn.“Writers’ festivals, TV book shows, radio interviews, book clubs, TED Talks—today’s novelists are a travelling roadshow. New books and their authors are thrown to the wolves, aka reviewers, to be savaged, praised to the skies, or sadly just ignored. In the midst of all this, how can the bewildered booklover decide what to read? Jim Flynn tackles the question head-on in this racy, funny, no-holds-barred book, the sequel to his bestseller The Torchlight List”.-Publisher’s note.

AND ON A LIGHTER NOTE :

Syndetics book coverWould I lie to you? presents the 100 most popular lies of all time / Peter Holmes, Ben Caudell and Saul Wordsworth with interjections from Rob Brydon, Lee Mack & David Mitchell.
“Like the deliriously funny contributions of Rob Brydon, Lee Mack and David Mitchell in the hugely successful panel game, here is a delightful collection of 100 fibs that all of us can recognise… Written in the same warm, witty and inspired tone that’s made the TV show such a hit, the book uncovers the little deceptions that strike a chord with all of us. ” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverI think I can see where you’re going wrong and other wise and witty comments from Guardian readers / edited by Marc Burrows ; with illustrations by Tom Gauld ; with a foreword by John Crace.
“The Guardian publishes over forty thousand reader comments a day below the line. This is a miscellany of the best and most baffling thoughts from their witty, well-meaning readers.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMy grammar and I (or should that be ‘me’?) : old-school ways to sharpen your English / Caroline Taggart and J.A. Wines.My Grammar and I (Or Should That Be): Old-School Ways to Sharpen Your English
“A runaway hit and Sunday Times bestseller in 2008, My Grammar and I has continued to grow in popularity, becoming the go-to guide for grammar. Repackaged with a fresh jacket design, this much-loved gift title is now available in paperback, for new readers and fans of the series alike. My Grammar and I offers amusing examples of awful grammar, while steering you in the direction of grammatical greatness.”(Syndetics summary)

AND A GOOD ONE TO LOOK FORWARD TO :
(BESTSELLER COPY AVAILABLE NOW)
Syndetics book coverKeeping on keeping on / Alan Bennett.
“‘I seem to have banged on this year rather more than usual. I make no apology for that, nor am I nervous that it will it make a jot of difference. I shall still be thought to be kindly, cosy and essentially harmless. I am in the pigeon-hole marked ‘no threat’ and did I stab Judi Dench with a pitchfork I should still be a teddy bear.” (Syndetics summary).

October’s bumper crop – Recent Biography picks

Every now and then we receive a ”bumper crop” of good books – so many that you will be hard-pressed to choose between them. October has been such a month. Goodies which came through our doors include Queen Bees – a study of the new breed of society hostesses which emerged in Britain between the wars, a new study of novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, and a fascinating look at Boris Pasternak’s tragic muse, Olga Ivinskaya who became Lara in his famous novel Dr Zhivago.

Syndetics book coverFirst women : the grace and power of America’s modern First Ladies / Kate Andersen Brower.
“Brower (The Residence) has written a sophisticated and intimate portrait of modern first ladies, from Jacqueline Kennedy through Michelle Obama in expertly balanced prose that is neither too impersonal nor too personal. Though Brower doesn’t whitewash the different personalities of the women, she manages to find positives in even some of the more reputedly prickly characters.” (Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverQueen bees : six brilliant and extraordinary society hostesses between the wars / Siân Evans.
Queen Bees looks at the lives of six remarkable women who made careers out of being society hostesses, including Lady Astor, who went on to become the first female MP, and Mrs Greville, who cultivated relationships with Edward VII, as well as Lady Londonderry, Lady Cunard, Laura Corrigan and Lady Colefax. Written with wit, verve and heart, Queen Bees is the story of a form of societal revolution, and the extraordinary women who helped it happen.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe pigeon tunnel : stories from my life / John Le Carré.
“When John le Carré was writing Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974), he made a mistake that would change his life. Working from an outdated guidebook, he described a pursuit by ferry across the straits between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, not knowing that a tunnel had been built under the sea connecting the two points. Appalled, he swore that he would never again set a scene in a place he hadn’t visited. As a result of that vow, le Carré’s readers now have the opportunity to enjoy what is both a meditative look at the writing life and an exciting, anecdote-rich travel memoir.” (Booklist)

Syndetics book coverThe house on the hill / Susan Duncan.
“In The House on the Hill, Susan Duncan reaches an age where there’s no point in sweating long-term ramifications. There aren’t any. This new understanding delivers an unexpected bonus – the emotional freedom and moral clarity to admit to hidden and often fiendish facts of ageing and, ultimately, the find ways to embrace them. This, in turn, unleashes an overwhelming desire to confront her intractable 95-year-old mother with the dreadful secrets of the past before it is too late, no matter the onsequences.” (Library catalogue note).

Syndetics book coverThe match girl and the heiress / Seth Koven.
“Rutgers University historian Koven (Slumming) has fashioned a scholarly yet highly readable jewel that tackles the big issues of early-20th-century England in an intimate way. Through the lives of Muriel Lester and Nellie Dowell, he brilliantly illuminates the growth of global capitalism, a revolutionary “God is love” Christian theology, war and pacifism, feminism and sexuality, and class and gender relations.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverElizabeth Jane Howard : a dangerous innocence / Artemis Cooper.
“Elizabeth Jane Howard (1923-2014) wrote brilliant novels about what love can do to people, but in her own life the lasting relationship she sought so ardently always eluded her. She grew up yearning to be an actress; but when that ambition was thwarted by marriage and the war, she turned to fiction. Her first novel, The Beautiful Visit, won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize – she went on to write fourteen more, of which the best-loved were the five volumes of The Cazalet Chronicle.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLara : the untold love story that inspired Doctor Zhivago / Anna Pasternak.
“The heartbreaking story of the love affair between Boris Pasternak, the author of Doctor Zhivago, and Olga Ivinskaya–the true tragedy behind the timeless classic. When Stalin came into power in 1924, the Communist government began persecuting dissident writers. Though Stalin spared the life of Boris Pasternak–whose novel-in-progress, Doctor Zhivago, was suspected of being anti-Soviet–he persecuted Boris’s mistress, typist, and literary muse.” (Publisher’s description)

A good one you might have missed:

Syndetics book coverDiplomatic baggage : the adventures of a trailing spouse / Brigid Keenan.
“Brigid Keenan has worked on Nova, edited sections of the Sunday Times and contributed a regular column to Punch and Sainsbury’s Magazine . The author of four previous books, she is married to the EU’s man in Kazakhstan.” (Syndetics summary)

And a good one in another part of the library:
Those who loved “Love Nina” will enjoy this autobiographical novel.

Syndetics book coverParadise Lodge : a novel / Nina Stibbe.
“A delightful story of growing up, getting old, and every step in between, from the acclaimed author of Man at the Helm and Love, Nina. After succeeding in her quest to help her unconventional mother find a new “man at the helm,” fifteen-year-old Lizzie Vogel simply wants to be a normal teenager. Just when it looks as if things have settled down, her mother goes and has another baby. On top of that, Lizzie’s best friend has deserted her for the punk craze, which Lizzie finds too exhausting to commit to herself.” (Syndetics summary)

Bloomsbury South – Recent Literature picks

“Bloomsbury South” is the appellation given by the authors to the Christchurch of the two decades between 1933 and 1953, a time of unique fusion between artists, writers, musicians, the establishment of a new new literary magazines and a specialist printing press. A true flowering of the arts in the antipodes. Also making waves this month is a new collection of essays entitled Extraordinary Anywhere. Read these lovely books and be a proud Kiwi.

Syndetics book coverBloomsbury South : the arts in Christchurch, 1933-1953 / Peter Simpson.
“For two decades in Christchurch, New Zealand, a cast of extraordinary men and women remade the arts. Variously between 1933 and 1953, Christchurch was the home of Angus and Bensemann and McCahon, Curnow and Glover and Baxter, the Group, the Caxton Press and the Little Theatre, Landfall and Tomorrow, Ngaio Marsh and Douglas Lilburn. It was a city in which painters lived with writers, writers promoted musicians, in which the arts and artists from different forms were deeply intertwined.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTumult and tears : the story of the Great War through the eyes and lives of its women poets / Vivien Newman.
“During the First World War and its immediate aftermath, hundreds of women wrote thousands of poems on multiple themes and for many different purposes. Women’s poetry was published, sold (sometimes to raise funds for charities as diverse as ‘Beef Tea for Troops’ or ‘The Blue Cross Fund for Warhorses’), read, preserved, awarded prizes and often critically acclaimed. Tumult and Tears will demonstrate how women’s war poetry, like that of their male counterparts, was largely based upon their day-to-day lives and contemporary beliefs.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe prose factory : literary life in England since 1918 / D. J. Taylor.
“Gossipy journalists, revolutionary poets, political novelists and influential professors: take a tour of twentieth century literary culture. The book DJ Taylor was born to write: award-winning literary biographer (won Whitbread Prize for biography of George Orwell), esteemed journalist and novelist (longlisted for Booker for Derby Day) is the expert on 20th century literary culture: he’s lived and worked through half of it! Insight into our world: shines a light on readers, writers, publishers, booksellers and magazine editors – and holds them up for scrutiny.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOn cats / Charles Bukowski ; edited by Abel Debritto.
“A raw and tenderly funny look at the human-cat relationship, from one of our most treasured and transgressive writers. “The cat is the beautiful devil.” Felines touched a vulnerable spot in Charles Bukowski’s crusty soul. For the writer, there was something majestic and elemental about these inscrutable creatures he admired, sentient beings whose searing gaze could penetrate deep into our being. Bukowski considered cats to be unique forces of nature, elusive emissaries of beauty and love.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSalt river songs / Sam Hunt.
Salt River Songs is Sam Hunt’s latest collection of poems, written over the last few years in his house that sits amongst a grove of totara trees on the Arapaoa, one of the five main salt rivers of the Kaipara Harbour. As always, his unflinchingly honest, elegiac and moving poems roam around familiar themes of family, friends and lovers, and the challenges of ageing and mortality. Salt River Songs will also have an introduction from writer and journalist Colin Hogg, an old friend of Sam’s and, appropriately, will be published to mark Sam’s 70th birthday.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhile wandering : words on walking / edited and with an introduction by Duncan Minshull ; foreword by Robert Macfarlane.
“An anthology of literary walks–from Austen, Woolf, and Bronte to Colm Toibin, Bruce Chatwin, and Werner Herzog. This is the ultimate companion for readersnbsp;and walkers looking to take inspiration from poems, novels, plays, and journals. Walking is a fundamental act, often taken for granted, yet through the centuries it has inspired a fascinating literature. This, the first comprehensive anthology on the subject, delves into why we walk and how we walk, the differences between the country hike and the city stroll, walking and wooing, walking into trouble and marching out.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverExtraordinary anywhere : essays on place from Aotearoa New Zealand / editors Ingrid Horrocks & Cherie Lacey.
“This collection of personal essays, a first of its kind, re-imagines the idea of place for an emerging generation of readers and writers. It offers glimpses into where we are now and how that feels, and opens up the range and kinds of stories we can conceive of telling about living here. Contributors include Tony Ballantyne, Sally Blundell, Alex Calder, Annabel Cooper, Tim Corballis, Martin Edmond, Ingrid Horrocks, Lynn Jenner, Cherie Lacey, Tina Makereti, Harry Ricketts, Jack Ross, Alice Te Punga Somerville, Giovanni Tiso, Ian Wedde, Lydia Wevers, and Ashleigh Young.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverThe private life of the diary : from Pepys to tweets / Sally Bayley.
“Diaries keep secrets, harbouring our fantasies and fictional histories. They are substitute boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses and friends. But in this age of social media, the role of the diary as a private confidante has been replaced by a culture of public self-disclosure. The Private Life of the Diary: from Pepys to Tweets is an elegantly-told story of the evolution – and perhaps death – of the diary.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSix facets of light / Ann Wroe.
“Meditiations on the mystery of light. Goethe claimed to know what light was. Galileo and Einstein both confessed they didn’t. On the essential nature of light, and how it operates, the scientific jury is still out. There is still time, therefore, to listen to painters and poets on the subject. They, after all, spend their lives pursuing light and trying to tie it down. Six Facets of Light is a series of meditations on this most elusive and alluring feature of human life.” (Syndetics summary)

And a good one in another part of the library:

Syndetics book coverSavoir faire : 1000+ foreign words & phrases you should know to sound smart / Laura Lee.
“Add hundreds of foreign phrases to your daily lexicon and learn about their quirky, fascinating origins! Some foreign phrases are so good they become a sort of lingua franca. They capture the true zeitgeist, where the English translation is just comme ci, comme ca. If you’re a linguistics geek or language lover with a curiosity about the origins of the foreign phrases, you need this book on your shelf.” (Syndetics summary)

Notable women – Recent Biography Picks

Those who became hooked on Simon Garfield’s edited editions of the Mass Observation diaries (We are at war, Private battles) may have been especially fascinated by one of the protaganists, Maggie Joy Blunt. Now, permission has been given for publication — under her real name — of excerpts from the diaries she kept throughout her long life. Other notable women featured this month include Bridget Keenan, Audrey Hepburn, The Queen and Helen Gurley Brown. Something for every taste!

Syndetics book coverA notable woman : the romantic journals of Jean Lucey Pratt / edited by Simon Garfield.
“In April, 1925, at the age of 15, Jean Lucey Pratt started a journal that she kept until just a few days before her death in 1986, producing more than a million words in 45 exercise books. What emerges is a portrait of a truly unique, spirited woman and writer. Never before has an account so fully, so honestly, and so vividly captured a single woman’s journey through the 20th century.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe ambassador’s wife’s tale / Julia Miles.
“Who really looks after British interests abroad? Behind the pomp of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, another powerful force is busily but discreetly propping up the image of UK Plc. For 28 years, Julia was a ‘diplomatic spouse’, juggling a growing family while supporting the demands of one of the great Offices of State. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes terrifying, she reveals the truth of the realities of life as a Ambassador’s wife, ranging from food shortages to terrorist incidents, to rubbing shoulders with the Queen, Mrs Thatcher and George Best.” (Publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverFull marks for trying : an unlikely journey from the Raj to the rag trade / Brigid Keenan.
“Brigid Keenan was never destined to lead a normal life. From her early beginnings–a colorful childhood in India brought to an abrupt end by Independence and Partition, then a return to dreary postwar England and on to a finishing school in Paris with daughters of presidents and princes–ordinary just wasn’t for her. When, as a ten-year-old, she overheard her mother describe her as “desperately plain,” she decided then and there that she had to rely on something different: glamour, eccentricity, character, a career–anything, so as not to end up at the bottom of the pile.” (Syndetics summary)

Two good ones you might have missed:

Syndetics book coverNancy Mitford : a biography / Selina Hastings.
“It’s hard to believe this is the first full biography of Nancy Mitford, that slightly tarnished “Bright Young Thing” who, with dear Gertie and Noel, Linda and Cole, Wallie and David, has racketed through so many reminiscences of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. By this time, her exploits are as familiar as the strains of “I’ll See You Again.” Considering the quality of the material, Mitford has been fortunate in her biographer.” (Kirkus review)

Syndetics book coverThe Queen’s speech : an intimate portrait of the Queen in her own words / Ingrid Seward.
“On 9 September 2015, Queen Elizabeth II will become the longest-serving monarch in British history. During her 63 years on the throne, few have got to know her well, but there is one body of work that sheds new light on her thoughts, personality and the issues that really concern her: the Queen’s own speeches. For many years, the Queen’s Christmas address was the most-watched programme on television on Christmas Day, and millions still tune in to hear what she has to say.” (Syndetics summary)

From other parts of the library:

Syndetics book coverEnter Helen : the invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the rise of the modern single woman / Brooke Hauser.
“[This book] chronicles the rise of a cultural icon who redefined what it means to be an American woman. In 1965, Helen Gurley Brown, author of the groundbreaking bestseller Sex and the Single Girl, took over an ailing Cosmopolitan and soon revamped it into one of the most bankable–and revolutionary–brands on the planet.” (Adapted from dust jacket)

Syndetics book coverAudrey and Givenchy : a fashion love affair / Cindy De La Hoz.
“The words “Audrey style” conjure images of ballet flats, little black dresses, bateau necklines, capri pants, and countless stunning fashions.Audrey Hepburn, the fashion icon, got her start in the early 1950s, just as a young French designer, Hubert de Givenchy, was beginning his legendary career. Together Audrey and Givenchy were a brilliant meeting of minds.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe lonely city : adventures in the art of being alone / Olivia Laing.
“Writer and critic Laing searches for answers to the puzzles of her life in the experiences and creative endeavors of others. In The Trip to Echo Spring (2014), she explores the impact alcoholism has had on various American writers. In her newest imaginative and poignant quest she looks to visual art for illumination of the true nature of loneliness.” (Booklist)

Syndetics book coverLes Parisiennes : how the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation in the 1940’s / Anne Sebba.
“Sebba (That Woman), a former Reuters foreign correspondent, burrows into the lives of women in the City of Light during WWII to reveal their captivating and complicated stories. Rather than simply presenting the women as collaborators or resisters, Sebba shows the impossible choices they faced, which hardly seemed like choices at all. This is the book’s heart, and it pulsates from start to finish.”(Publisher Weekly)

An Olympic display with a family connection

Olympics display

Come and see a very special display on the first floor of the Central Library in celebration of the 2016 Olympic Games. Staff member Fraser Carter has kindly lent some of the items from the uniform of his grandfather, Nick Carter, a cyclist who was a member of the New Zealand team in the 1948 Olympiad in London.

See photographs of the (very small) team, Nick’s blazer, jersey, diary, the New Zealand flag he proudly carried in the closing ceremony and other memorabilia. As a touching reminder of a more innocent age we can also see the Bible with which he was presented and took with him. A video of the 1948 Olympic Games plays continuously and books on the Olympics, sports and games augment the display.
The display will run until the end of September and everyone is welcome to take a look.

Fraser, together with Wellington City Libraries, wish to thank the New Zealand Olympic Committee Museum, who agreed to release items for this exhibition.

olympics

More on Waugh – Biography picks for August

There have been several seminal biographies of Evelyn Waugh but Philip Eade may have fresh insights to offer. Those who enjoyed Florence Foster Jenkins and The man who knew infinity will now be able to enjoy the books of the films. The name Helen Gurley Brown will resonate with female baby-boomers who well remember the fuss caused by Sex and the single girl. Here are a few nice books to snuggle down with now that winter has started to bite.

Syndetics book coverEvelyn Waugh : a life revisited / Philip Eade.
“Evelyn Waugh was described by Graham Greene as ‘the greatest novelist of my generation’, yet reckoned by Hilaire Belloc to have been possessed by the devil. Waugh’s literary reputation has continued to rise since Greene’s assessment in 1966. Fifty years on from his death, Philip Eade takes a fresh look at this famously complex character and tells the full story of his dramatic, colourful and frequently bizarre life.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFlorence Foster Jenkins : the remarkable story of America’s best-known and least-talented soprano / biography by Jasper Rees ; screenplay by Nicholas Martin.
‘People may say that I couldn’t sing. But no one can say that I didn’t sing.’ Despite lacking pitch, rhythm or tone, Florence Foster Jenkins became one of America’s best-known sopranos, celebrated for her unique recordings and her sell-out concert at Carnegie Hall.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMy father and Atticus Finch : a lawyer’s fight for justice in 1930s Alabama / Joseph Madison Beck.
“As a child, Joseph Beck heard the stories–when other lawyers came up with excuses, his father courageously defended a black man charged with raping a white woman. Now a lawyer himself, Beck reconstructs his father’s role in State of Alabama vs. Charles White, Alias, a trial that was much publicized when Harper Lee was twelve years old.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNot pretty enough : the unlikely triumph of Helen Gurley Brown / Gerri Hirshey.
“When Helen Gurley Brown published Sex and the Single Girl in 1962, it sold more than two million copies in just three weeks, presaging the self-help boom and helping to usher in the unapologetic self-affirmation of second wave feminism.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe good shufu : finding love, self, and home on the far side of the world / Tracy Slater.
“The brave, wry, irresistible journey of a fiercely independent American woman who finds everything she ever wanted in the most unexpected place.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDavid Astor : a life in print / Jeremy Lewis.
“Few newspaper editors are remembered beyond their lifetimes, but David Astor of the Observer is a great exception to the rule. He converted a staid, Conservative-supporting Sunday paper into essential reading, admired and envied for the quality of its writers and for its trenchant but fair-minded views.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMy journey with Maya / Tavis Smiley, with David Ritz.
“Maya Angelou gave Tavis Smiley the glorious gift of friendship. They met when he was twenty-one and she was fifty-eight, and for the next twenty-eight years they talked often, of art and beauty, politics and history, music, religion, and race. Smiley stumbled into this relationship that shaped his future and affected the man he became.” (Syndetics summary)

And two good ones in other parts of the library:

Syndetics book coverThe man who knew infinity : a life of the genius Ramanujan / Robert Kanigel.
“A biography of the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. The book gives a detailed account of his upbringing in India, his mathematical achievements, and his mathematical collaboration with English mathematician G. H. Hardy. The book also reviews the life of Hardy and the academic culture of Cambridge University during the early twentieth century.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBarbara Pym : a passionate force / Ann Allestree.
Barbara Pym – A Passionate Force is a fine portrait of such an intriguing woman. In this book Ann Allestree delves into Barbara Pym’s life and her works with zeal. From the acknowledged early classic Excellent Women to the universally rejected (and later resurrected) An Unsuitable Attachment, so out of kilter with the gritty social realism of the 1960s, all are held up to affectionate scrutiny.” (Book Guild Publishing review)

A literary miscellany – Recent Literature picks

There is no connecting thread in this month’s picks – just a jolly good mix. You will absolutely love our outside pick, a modern version of The taming of the Shrew by Anne Tyler.

Syndetics book coverWriting your legacy : the step-by-step guide to crafting your life story / Richard Campbell M.Ed., Cheryl Svensson, Ph.D.
“Craft a meaningful life story! A written legacy of your life–one that encompasses experiences, lessons learned, failures and triumphs–is a gift your family and friends will cherish for years to come. Writing this story may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Writing Your Legacy is a step-by-step guide to chronicling a life story that reflects your true self. Leave an eloquent record of your life for future generations.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe hatred of poetry / Ben Lerner.
“No art has been denounced as often as poetry. It’s even bemoaned by poets: “I, too, dislike it,” wrote Marianne Moore. “Many more people agree they hate poetry,” Ben Lerner writes, “than can agree what poetry is. I, too, dislike it and have largely organized my life around it and do not experience that as a contradiction because poetry and the hatred of poetry are inextricable in ways it is my purpose to explore.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJay to Bee : Janet Frame’s letters to William (Bill) Theophilus Brown, 1969-1971 / edited by Denis Harold.
“This moving and enlightening correspondence opens up the hopes, fears, joys, and inner machinations of one of New Zealand’s most renowned authors, and offers a side of her dramatic personal history often ignored or misunderstood by the public.” (Provided by publisher)

Syndetics book coverBarbara Pym : a passionate force / Ann Allestree.
A Passionate Force is a fine portrait of an intriguing woman. In this book Ann Allestree delves into Barbara Pym’s life and her works with zeal. From the acknowledged early classic Excellent Women to the universally rejected (and later resurrected) An Unsuitable Attachment, so out of kilter with the gritty social realism of the 1960s, all are held up to an affectionate scrutiny.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIn search of Anne Brontë / Nick Holland.
“Anne Brontë, the youngest and most enigmatic of the Brontë sisters, remains a bestselling author nearly two centuries after her death. The brilliance of her two novels and her poetry belies the quiet, truthful girl who often lived in the shadow of her more outgoing sisters. Yet her writing was the most revolutionary of all the Brontës, pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable. This revealing new biography opens Anne’s most private life to a new audience.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBellow’s people : how Saul Bellow made life into art / David Mikics.
“Saul Bellow was the most lauded American writer of the twentieth century–the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, and the only novelist to be awarded the National Book Award in Fiction three times.Literary historian and critic David Mikics explores Bellow’s life and work through the real-life relationships and friendships that Bellow transmuted into the genius of his art.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEnglish voices : lives, landscapes, laments, 1985-2015 / Ferdinand Mount.
“Ferdinand Mount has spent many years writing articles, columns and reviews for prestigious magazines, newspapers and journals. Whether reviewing great published works by some of England’s finest authors and poets (both alive and dead) including Kingsley Amis, John Osborne, John le Carré, Rudyard Kipling, E.M. Forster and Alan Bennett.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover¡No pasarán! : writings from the Spanish Civil War / chosen and introduced by Pete Ayrton.
“Hope, resignation, despair, sadness, humour, confusion, ruthlessness, compassion, kindness, generosity and love inhabit Pete Ayrton’s anthology of writings from the Spanish Civil War: there is little sense of certainty and still less of triumphalism among the bewilderingly diverse Republican and Nationalist coalitions, all shades of which are represented here.” (Syndetics summary)

And a good one in another part of the library:

Syndetics book coverVinegar girl : The taming of the shrew retold / Anne Tyler.
“Pulitzer Prize winner and American master Anne Tyler brings us an inspired, witty and irresistible contemporary take on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies. Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.” (Syndetics summary)

A winter cornucopia – Recent Biography picks

Well the shortest day has just passed and we are now heading back towards the sun, but there are still plenty of dark and wild days and nights to get through on the way. Luckily we have a bumper crop of great books this month to help you on the journey!

Syndetics book coverA house full of daughters / Juliet Nicolson.
“All families have their myths and legends. For many years Juliet Nicolson accepted hers: the dangerous beauty of her flamenco dancing great-great-grandmother Pepita, the flirty manipulation of her great-grandmother Victoria, the infamous eccentricity of her grandmother Vita, her mother’s Tory-conventional background. But then Juliet, a renowned historian, started to ask questions.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverServants’ stories : life below stairs in their own words 1800-1950 / Michelle Higgs.
“Step into the world of domestic service and discover what life was really like for these unsung heroines (and heroes) of society. Between 1800 and 1950, the role of servants changed dramatically but they remained the people without whom the upper and middle classes could not function. Through oral histories, diaries, newspaper reports and never before seen testimonies, domestic servants tell their stories, warts and all.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDinner with Edward : the story of a remarkable friendship / Isabel Vincent.
“When Isabel meets Edward, both are at a crossroads: he wants to follow his late wife to the grave, and she is ready to give up on love. Thinking she is merely helping Edward’s daughter–who lives far away and has asked her to check in on her nonagenarian dad in New York–Isabel has no idea that the man in the kitchen baking the sublime roast chicken and light-as-air apricot soufflé will end up changing her life.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCall of the outback : the remarkable story of Ernestine Hill, nomad, adventurer and trailblazer / Marianne van Velzen.
“Long before Robyn Davidson wrote Tracks, the extraordinary Ernestine Hill was renowned for her intrepid travels across Australia’s vast outback. After the birth of her illegitimate son, Ernestine Hill abandoned her comfortable urban life as a journalist for a nomadic one, writing about this country’s vast interior and bringing the outback into the popular imagination of Australians.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIn gratitude / Jenny Diski.
“From the acclaimed author of Skating to Antarctica comes a breathtakingly honest and original memoir about living with terminal cancer and her relationship with Doris Lessing, the Nobel Prize-winning author who adopted her as a teenager.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA very private diary : a nurse in wartime / Mary Morris ; edited by Carol Acton.
“The newly discovered diary of a wartime nurse – a fascinating, dramatic and unique insight into the experiences of a young nurse in the Second World War.
‘I always seem to be saying good-bye to men whom I might have loved had there been enough time…’
1939: 18-year-old trainee nurse Mary Mulry arrives in London from Ireland, hoping for adventure. Little did she know what the next seven years would bring.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKick : the true story of Kick Kennedy, JFK’s forgotten sister and the heir to Chatsworth / Paula Byrne.
“The remarkable life of the vivacious, clever – and forgotten – Kennedy sister, who charmed the English aristocracy and was almost erased from her family history. Kick was Joe Kennedy’s favourite child and Jack’s favourite sister. Spirited, vivacious and quick-witted, her charm was legendary and with her jokes, effervescence and ease of manner she became a star amongst friends, family and the press.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLove from boy : Roald Dahl’s letters to his mother / edited by Donald Sturrock.
“On the 100th anniversary of his birth comes a revelatory collection of letters from the nation’s favourite storyteller.” (Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverYou never know : an autobiography / Claire Lorrimer.
You Never Know is former WAAF officer and bestselling novelist Claire Lorrimer’s autobiography, containing a graphic description of the six years she spent doing vitally secret work as a WAAF in the Fighter Command Filter Rooms in World War Two. It is the fascinating story of a life overflowing with adventure, humour, tragedy, love, joy and disasters.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHigh Street to homestead / Angela Williams with Deborah Coddington.
“From her Grey Lynn apartment to one of New Zealand’s most historic homesteads and horse studs, this is an inspirational journey from a corporate life working with Louis Vuitton back to the golden hills of the Wairarapa.” (Publisher information)

And a good one you might have missed:

Syndetics book coverMy life as a wife : life, liquor and what to do about the other women / Elisabeth Luard.
“Triumph and tragedy, happiness and despair, joy and sorrow – through love and death and life lived to the full with a man who loved both alcohol and other women – for food-writer Elisabeth Luard, marriage to writer and sometime king of satire Nicholas Luard was never going to be easy.” (Syndetics summary)
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Shakespeare in Swahililand – Recent Literature picks

As we all know so well, this year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, which is being commemorated all over the world. No book could better illustrate his influence than this month’s top pick Shakespeare in Swahililand: adventures with the ever-living poet. Also featured are two volumes of  New Zealand  poetry, a book on the importance of reading even when time-pressed, and two graduation speeches which attracted world-wide attention.

Syndetics book coverShakespeare in Swahililand : adventures with the ever-living poet / Edward Wilson-Lee.
Shakespeare in Swahihiland explores the Bard’s global legacy like no other book before it. In these pages explorers stagger through Africa’s interior accompanied by Shakespeare; eccentrics live out their dreams on the African savannah with Shakespeare by their side; decadent emigres, railway labourers, Indian settler communities, all turned to Shakespeare and adapted his plays to fit their needs. The book examines how Shakespeare influenced the first African leaders of independent nations, Cold War intrigues and even Che Guevara.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPoems that make grown women cry / edited by Anthony and Ben Holden.
“Following the success of their anthology Poems That Make Grown Men Cry, father-and-son team Anthony and Ben Holden, working with Amnesty International, have asked the same revealing question of 100 remarkable women. What poem has moved you to tears? The poems chosen range from the eighth century to today, from Rumi and Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath, W.H. Auden to Carol Ann Duffy, Pablo Neruda and Derek Walcott to Imtiaz Dharker and Warsan Shire. Their themes range from love and loss, through mortality and mystery, war and peace, to the beauty and variety of nature.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPleasures of nature : a literary anthology / selected by Christina Hardyment.
“From Leonardo da Vinci on the shifting colors of the sky to Charlotte Brontë on the wild moors of Yorkshire, and from DH Lawrence inhabiting the mind of the indomitable tortoise to the intrepid Isabella Bird climbing a Hawaiian volcano, the anthology showcases many voices–lyrical, awestruck, often deeply reflective. The texts gathered here, many accompanied by rarely seen artwork from early editions, are all grounded in close observation and real love of the landscape, and reveal the tradition of nature writing to be deep-rooted and infinitely varied.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Penguin book of English song : seven centuries of poetry from Chaucer to Auden / Richard Stokes.
The Penguin Book of English Song anthologizes the work of 100 English poets who have inspired a host of different composers (some English, some not) to write vocal music. Each of the chapters, arranged chronologically from Chaucer to Auden, opens with a precis of the poet’s life, work and, often, approach to music. Richard Stokes’s notes and commentaries constantly illuminate the language and themes of the poems and their settings in unexpected ways. An awareness of how Ben Jonson based his famous poem ‘Drinke to me, only, with thine eyes’ on a Greek original, for example, increases our enjoyment of both the poem and the traditional song.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe year of reading dangerously : how fifty great books (and two not-so-great ones) saved my life / Andy Miller.
“A working father whose life no longer feels like his own discovers the transforming powers of great (and downright terrible) literature in this laugh-out-loud memoir. Andy Miller had a job he quite liked, a family he loved and no time at all for reading. Or so he kept telling himself. But, no matter how busy or tired he was, something kept niggling at him. Books. Books he’d always wanted to read. Books he’d said he’d read, when he hadn’t. Books that whispered the promise of escape from the 6.44.”  (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThis change in the light : a collection of poems / Fiona Kidman.
“Fiona Kidman’s exquisite and adroit poetry invites the reader into her life, introducing us to her family, friends and places she has loved. In turn it touches our own experiences, offering universal relevance and insight.” (Publisher information)

Syndetics book coverShow me a story! : why picture books matter : conversations with 21 of the world’s most celebrated illustrators / compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus ; with a foreword by David Wiesner.
“In compelling interviews by the acclaimed Leonard S. Marcus, twenty-one top authors and illustrators reveal their inside stories on the art of creating picture books. Max and Mickey; Miss Nelson; Pack, Quack, and Mrs. Mallard; Pigeon; Sylvester; John Henry; and a very hungry caterpillar — these are just a few of the beloved picture book characters discussed in Show Me a Story.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAnd so it is : new poems / Vincent O’Sullivan.
“Hot on the heels of Being Here, O’Sullivan’s capacious selected poems, which many chose as one of the poetry highlights of the year, comes a collection of 75 new poems. They show a mature poet, full of experience, still with the capacity to dazzle.” (Syndetics summary)

And two inspirational speeches:

Syndetics book coverVery good lives : the fringe benefits of failure and the importance of imagination / J. K. Rowling.
“In 2008, J.K. Rowling delivered a deeply affecting commencement speech at Harvard University. Now published for the first time in book form, VERY GOOD LIVES presents J.K. Rowling’s words of wisdom for anyone at a turning point in life. How can we embrace failure? And how can we use our imagination to better both ourselves and others? Drawing from stories of her own post-graduate years, the world famous author addresses some of life’s most important questions with acuity and emotional force.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNow go out there (and get curious) / Mary Karr.
“Being smart and rich are lucky, but being curious & compassionate will save your ass.” Every year there are one or two commencement speeches that strike a chord with audiences far greater than the student bodies for which they are intended. In 2015 Mary Karr’s speech to the graduating class of Syracuse University caught fire, hailed across the Internet as one of the most memorable in recent years, and lighting up the Twittersphere.” (Syndetics summary)