It’s all about me – Recent Literature picks

This month’s picks feature two books about memoir writing, a genre which has grown exponentially in the last few years. British novelist and critic David Lodge has produced an excellent collection of essays on the topic by prominent writers, and American academic Mary Karr examines what fuels the impulse to reveal all. We also feature a seminal biography on Maurice Gee and a fascinating look at famous writers at the end of their lives.

Syndetics book coverLives in writing : essays / David Lodge.
“This thoughtful and enlightening collection by one of our best-loved and most highly respected novelists and critics includes essays on Graham Greene, Kingsley Amis, Terry Eagleton, Muriel Spark and Alan Bennett, as well as pieces on John Boorman and the death of Princess Diana. It also gives insight into Lodge’s own writing processes and novels. Full of anecdotes and wonderful observations, Lives in Writing is the perfect literary companion.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe seasons.
“An anthology of poems that moves with the seasons, following the turning year from John Clare’s ‘Early buttercups’ and Wendy Cope’s ‘Festive tree’ to John Keat’s ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ and Larkin’s ‘Young leafed June’.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhy we write about ourselves : twenty memoirists on why they expose themselves (and others) in the name of literature / edited by Meredith Maran.
“Why are memoirs so popular? And why write one? Indeed, who are these tell-alls, and what makes them tell? This collection reporting why writers write about themselves hops from the fascinating to the clarifying to the downright inspirational.” (Booklist)

Syndetics book coverThe violet hour : great writers at the end / Katie Roiphe.
“From one of our most perceptive and provocative voices comes a deeply researched account of the last days of Susan Sontag, Sigmund Freud, John Updike, Dylan Thomas, Maurice Sendak, and James Salter–an arresting and wholly original meditation on mortality.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe art of memoir / Mary Karr.
“Credited with sparking the current memoir explosion, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club spent more than a year at the top of the New York Times list. She followed with two other smash bestsellers: Cherry and Lit, which were critical hits as well. For thirty years Karr has also taught the form, winning teaching prizes at Syracuse University.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThen it was now again : selected critical writing / Murray Edmond ; introduction by Scott Hamilton.
Then It Was Now Again: selected critical writing tells the story of a range of controversies, innovations, revolutions and disputes in New Zealand poetry, theatre and drama over the 40 years between 1973 and 2013. To do this 24 individual pieces from Murray Edmond’s critical writings have been selected and arranged.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMoranifesto / Caitlin Moran.
I’ve lived through ten iOS upgrades on my Mac and that’s just something I use to muck about on Twitter. Surely capitalism is due an upgrade or two?
When Caitlin Moran sat down to choose her favourite pieces for her new book she realised that they all seemed to join up. This is Caitlin’s engaging and amusing rallying call for our times.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMaurice Gee : life and work / Rachel Barrowman.
“Maurice Gee is one of New Zealand’s greatest fiction writers. His long literary career began in the 1950s and includes seventeen adult novels, thirteen novels for children, a short story collection, and screenplays for television and film. His work is loved by generations of readers and has earned him many awards. [This is] a revelatory new work, by an acclaimed biographer.” (Syndetics summary)

And a good one in another part of the library:

Syndetics book coverUnpacking my library : architects and their books / edited by Jo Steffens ; featuring an essay by Walter Benjamin.
“What does a library say about the mind of its owner? How do books map the intellectual interests, curiosities, tastes, and personalities of their readers? What does the collecting of books have in common with the practice of architecture? Unpacking My Library provides an intimate look at the personal libraries of twelve of the world’s leading architects, alongside conversations about the significance of books to their careers and lives.” (Syndetics summary)

1606 – a significant year – Recent Literature picks

1606 was a momentous year in both the history of Britain and of English literature. One had a direct influence on the other. Read exactly how and why in our star pick this month – the widely acclaimed The year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606. Also on offer this month is a sequel to the much-loved Reading Lolita in Tehran and two new poetry books.

Syndetics book coverThe year of Lear : Shakespeare in 1606 / James Shapiro.
“Preeminent Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro shows how the tumultuous events in England in 1606 affected Shakespeare and shaped the three great tragedies he wrote that year– King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCollected poems / Vikram Seth.
“Widely celebrated as the author of the worldwide bestselling novels A Suitable Boy and An Equal Music, Vikram Seth is also a highly acclaimed poet with a substantial body of work. Here, for the first time in one volume, readers can appreciate the beauty and scope of his poetic imagination.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBy the book : writers on literature and the literary life from The New York Times Book Review / edited and with an introduction by Pamela Paul ; foreword by Scott Turow ; illustrations by Jillian Tamaki.
“Sixty-five of the world’s leading writers open up about the books and authors that have meant the most to them.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe republic of imagination : a case for fiction / Azar Nafisi ; illustrations by Peter Sís.
“From the author of the bestselling memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran comes a powerful and passionate case for the vital role of fiction today. Ten years ago, Azar Nafisi electrified readers with her million-copy bestseller, Reading Lolita in Tehran, which told the story of how, against the backdrop of morality squads and executions, she taught The Great Gatsby and other classics to her eager students in Iran. In this exhilarating follow-up, Nafisi offers an impassioned, beguiling and utterly original tribute to the vital importance of fiction in a democratic society.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe book of the people : how to read the Bible / A. N. Wilson.
“A. N. Wilson has been thinking about the Bible, and reading it, since he read theology for a year at university. Martin Luther King was ‘reading the Bible’ when he started the Civil Rights movement. When Michelangelo painted the fresco cycles in the Sistine Chapel, he was ‘reading the Bible’. In The Book of the People A. N. Wilson explores how readers and thinkers have approached the Bible, and how it might be read today.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBoundaries : people and places of central Otago / Brian Turner ; photography by Steve Calveley.
“This handsome collection is charged with evocative and candid prose and poetry and an inspiring alternative vision. Boundaries is illustrated throughout with stunning photographs by Steve Calveley.” (Random House website)

Syndetics book coverMore letters of note / compiled by Shaun Usher.
“The follow-up to Letters of Note delivers the same mix of the heartfelt, the historically significant, the tragic, the comic and the unexpected. Discover Richard Burton’s farewell note to Elizabeth Taylor, Helen Keller’s letter to The New York Symphony Orchestra about “hearing” their concert through her fingers, the final missives from a doomed Japan Airlines flight in 1985, David Bowie’s response to his first piece of fan mail from America.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBrowsings : a year of reading, collecting, and living with books / Michael Dirda.
“Dirda’s latest volume collects fifty of his witty and wide-ranging reflections on literary journalism, book collecting, and the writers he loves.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe art of X-ray reading : how the secrets of 25 great works of literature will improve your writing / Roy Peter Clark.
“Where do writers learn their best moves? They use a technique that Roy Peter Clark calls X-ray reading, a form of reading that lets you penetrate beyond the surface of a text to see how meaning is actually being made. In The Art of X-ray Reading, Clark invites you to don your X-ray reading glasses and join him on a guided tour through some of the most exquisite and masterful literary works of all time.” (Syndetics summary).

And a good one in another part of the library:

Syndetics book coverMore than words : illustrated letters from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art / Liza Kirwin ; with a foreword by Richard J. Wattenmaker.
More Than Words features correspondence with wives, lovers, friends, patrons, clients, and confidants by such revered artists as Winslow Homer, Frida Kahlo, Andrew Wyeth, Man Ray,and Andy Warhol. Picturing the world around them in endearing vignettes, landscapes, portraits, and caricatures, these gorgeous letters reveal the joys and successes, loves and longings, disappointments and frustrations of their legendary lives.” (Syndetics summary)

Saying it nicely on the internet – Recent Literature picks

The internet is now the most widely-used form of communication so the ability to write for it clearly and pleasantly is of paramount importance. Nicely Said will show you how.
This month sees the receipt of a posthumous collection of essays by the celebrated Christopher Hitchens and Taking my mother to the opera – a New Zealand book of poems about landmark occasions in the author’s life. And for those of us of A Certain Age – a lovely little book on all the covers of the beloved Ladybird books – still going strong after 60 years.

Syndetics book coverAnd yet … : essays / Christopher Hitchens.And Yet: Essays
“The death of Christopher Hitchens in December 2011 prematurely silenced a voice that was among the most admired of contemporary writers. For more than forty years, Hitchens delivered to numerous publications on both sides of the Atlantic essays that were astonishingly wide-ranging and provocative.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNicely said : writing for the web with style and purpose / Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee.
“Whether you’re new to web writing, or you’re a professional writer looking to deepen your skills, this book is for you. You’ll learn how to write web copy that addresses your readers’ needs and supports your business goals. Lessons are drawn from real-world examples and interviews with people who put these ideas into action every day.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTaking my mother to the opera / Diane Brown.
“Piquant, frank, open, wistful, tender, funny … this personal memoir by Diane Brown is deftly ‘marbled’ throughout with social history. From carefully chosen anecdotes it slowly unfolds a vivid and compelling sense of character and the psychological dynamics within the family. Many readers will recognize the New Zealand so vividly portrayed here, as Brown marshals deeply personal events and childhood memories in a delightfully astute, understated poetic form.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Roman search for wisdom / Michael K. Kellogg.
“Though Rome conquered much of the world and established an empire that lasted more than a millennium, its citizens sometimes expressed a sense of inferiority to the intellectual accomplishments of ancient Greece. The notion that Roman philosophers, thinkers, and writers were just pale imitations of Greek originals has persisted to this day. Michael K. Kellogg puts this notion to rest in this lively, very readable overview of Roman literature.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPlotted : a literary atlas / by Andrew DeGraff ; with essays by Daniel Harmon.
“This incredibly wide-ranging collection of maps–all inspired by literary classics–offers readers a new way of looking at their favorite fictional worlds. Andrew DeGraff’s stunningly detailed artwork takes readers deep into the landscapes from The Odyssey, Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, Invisible Man, A Wrinkle in Time, Watership Down, A Christmas Carol, and more. Sure to reignite a love for old favourites and spark fresh interest in more recent works as well.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJames K. Baxter, complete prose / edited and introduced by John Weir.
“James K. Baxter was a great twentieth-century poet. He once declared, ‘In contradiction . . . I was born.’ His Complete Prose chronicles his life and times, his preferences and prejudices, his crises and turbulent occasions. Its contents are remarkable for their range, coherence and passionate integrity. This four-volume set contains over a million words, in the form of reviews, essays, lectures, journal articles, interviews etc, covering Baxter’s entire career.” (Syndetics summary)

And three good ones in other parts of the library:

Syndetics book coverThe granny alphabet / by Tim Walker.
“Artist-photographer Tim Walker brings his unique brand of very British fantasia to a subject close to all our hearts: grandmothers. The first volume of this very special twinset offers a collection of characterful photographs of grannies and the things nearest to each of them, arranged alphabetically and accompanied by a humorous poem.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLadybird by design / Lawrence Zeegen.
Ladybird By Design is a fascinating look at the social and design history of the well-known publisher Ladybird Books, released to celebrate 100 years since the familiar ladybird was first registered as a logo in 1915. Ladybird by Design charts the rise of the company from its origin as a small Loughborough printer through to its growth into a global publisher beloved by millions of children, teachers and parents.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKnitting pearls : writers writing about knitting / edited by Ann Hood.
“In Knitting Pearls, two dozen writers write about the transformative and healing powers of knitting.” (Syndetics summary)

A most important poem – Literature picks for October

Beowulf is possibly the oldest surviving long poem in Old English and is commonly cited as one of the most important works of Old English literature. It was written in England some time between the 8th and the early 11th century. The author was an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet. J.R.R Tolkien, an acknowledged expert in Old and Middle English, devoted much of his scholarly career to translating the work and writing a commentary on his translation. In 1936 he gave a famous lecture on it. His own high-fantasy novels The HobbitThe Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion were heavily influenced by it. Read this month’s star pick to become better versed in this famous epic work.

Syndetics book coverBeowulf : a translation and commentary : together with Sellic spell / by J.R.R. Tolkien ; edited by Christopher Tolkien.
“The translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien was an early work, very distinctive in its mode, completed in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication. This edition is twofold, for there exists an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given at Oxford in the 1930s; and from these lectures a substantial selection has been made.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLondon : a history in verse / edited by Mark Ford.
“London has long been understood through the poetry it has inspired. Mark Ford has assembled the most capacious and wide-ranging anthology of poems about London to date, from Chaucer to Wordsworth to the present day, providing a chronological tour of urban life and of English literature. The volume includes an introductory essay by the poet.” (Publisher description)

Syndetics book coverHemingway on war / Ernest Hemingway ; edited and with an introduction by Seán Hemingway ; with a foreword by Patrick Hemingway.
“Ernest Hemingway witnessed many of the seminal conflicts of the 20th century, as a Red Cross ambulance driver during the First World War and during his twenty-five years as a war correspondent. This work offers a portrayal of the physical and psychological impact of war and its aftermath. It contains extracts from ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOn further reflection : 60 years of writing / Jonathan Miller.
“Actor, doctor, sculptor, TV personality, director of both film and opera–Sir Jonathan Miller’s career covers a vast range of artistic endeavors and intellectual pursuits. Common amongst all of these trades, though, is Miller’s exceptional talent for writing about them. Because his work has been published in locations as numerous and diverse as his interests, On Further Reflection is the necessary gathering-together of excerpts from Miller’s best and most memorable pieces from the last six decades.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWindows on the world : fifty writers, fifty views / Matteo Pericoli ; with a preface by Lorin Stein.
“In Windows on the World, architect and artist Matteo Pericoli explores the idea of staring out a window, searching for inspiration by pairing his own line drawings alongside fifty writers from around the globe. From Orhan Pamuk in Istanbul and Daniel Kehlmann in Berlin, to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Lagos and Xi Chuan in Beijing, the views from each window resonate with each other.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe ancient Greek hero in 24 hours / Gregory Nagy.
“The ancient Greeks concept of the hero was very different from what we understand by the term today, Gregory Nagy argues and it is only through analyzing their historical contexts that we can truly understand Achilles, Odysseus, Oedipus, and Herakles. In Greek tradition, a hero was a human, male or female, of the remote past, who was endowed with superhuman abilities by virtue of being descended from an immortal god. Despite their mortality, heroes, like the gods, were objects of cult worship. Nagy examines this distinctively religious notion of the hero in its many dimensions” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverPuna wai kōrero : an anthology of Māori poetry in English / edited by Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan.
“Two leading Māori scholars collect Māori poetic voices in English and let flow a wellspring of poetry. From both revered established writers as well as exciting new voices, the poems in Puna Wai Korero offer a broad picture of Maori poetry in English. The voices are many and diverse: confident, angry, traditional, respectful, experimental, despairing and full of hope, expressing a range of poetic techniques and the full scope of what it is to be Māori.” (Publisher’s website)

And two good books in other parts of the library:

Syndetics book coverMay I quote you on that? : a guide to grammar and usage / Stephen Spector.
“In May I Quote You on That? Stephen Spector offers a new approach to learning Standard English grammar and usage. The product of Spector’s forty years of teaching courses on the English language, this book makes the conventions of formal writing and speech easier and more enjoyable to learn than traditional approaches usually do.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAdventures in stationery : a journey through your pencil case / James Ward.
“From Bronze Age India to a Surrey Stationers via pencil wars and accidental inventions: a hilarious insight into the familiar yet unexpectedly bizarre world of stationery.” (Syndetics summary)

I see red – Recent Literature picks for August

Coincidentally, many of this month’s picks have red covers. Red is the colour of passion, life and energy and these are the books to get you going, whether writing, reading or better understanding literature.

Syndetics book coverPlain words : a guide to the use of English / Ernest Gowers ; revised and updated by Rebecca Gowers.
“‘Be short, be simple, be human.’ This classic work is the quintessential guide to writing good clear English. Now updated in a new edition, but with all its original charm, it provides advice on everything from using the semicolon correctly to avoiding clichés and jargon. It is a vital resource for anyone who recoils from words such as ‘operationalisation’, and who wants to write in a strong, plain style. ‘Vastly informative and indispensable.’ –Bill Bryson ‘Who should read this book? Anyone who writes’.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOn writing / Charles Bukowski ; edited by Abel Debritto.
“Sharp and moving reflections and ruminations on the artistry and craft of writing from one of our most iconoclastic, pivoting, and celebrated masters. Charles Bukowski’s stories, poems, and novels have left an enduring mark on our culture. In this collection of previously unpublished material–letters to publishers, editors, friends, and fellow writers–Bukowski shares his insights on the art of creation. On Writing reveals an artist brutally frank about the drudgery of work and canny and uncompromising about the absurdities of life–and of art. It illuminates the hard-edged, complex humanity of a true American legend and countercultural icon–the ‘laureate of American lowlife’.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to write crime fiction / Sarah Williams.
“Using examples from contemporary specialists in each of the chosen genres, this book provides the reader with practical pointers, clear explanations and step-by-step exercises to develop their skills and understanding, and find their own voice.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAs we speak : how to make your point and have it stick / Peter Meyers and Shann Nix.
“Two of the world’s most sought-after consultants present a revolutionary, empowering guide to public speaking and becoming a more effective, persuasive communicator in all areas of life. Even for the most accomplished, public speaking can be a nerve-racking ordeal. Whether it’s speaking to a large audience, within a group, or in a one-on-one conversation, the way in which we communicate ideas, as much as the ideas themselves, can determine success or failure.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to write your blockbuster : a practical resource for the aspiring novelist : all I’ve learned about writing commercial fiction / Fiona McIntosh.
“To write is a verb. That’s an action word. No more procrastination. Almost everybody thinks they have a book in them or dreams of seeing their name on a front cover, but not everyone knows how to go about it. Sharing all she’s learned so far, Fiona McIntosh, one of Australia’s most successful commercial authors, shows you how to get started and, even more importantly, how to finish. In this practical and lively handbook McIntosh guides you through the stages of writing a novel, from establishing good working habits all the way through to submitting your draft to a suitable publisher.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAdvanced banter : the QI book of quotations / [compiled by] John Lloyd and John Mitchinson.
“Upgrade your small talk instantly with this compendium of crisp one-liners.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhat could possibly go wrong… / Jeremy Clarkson.
“No one writes about cars like Jeremy Clarkson. While most correspondents are too busy diving straight into BHP, MPG and MPH, Jeremy appreciates that there are more important things to life. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the cars. Eventually. But first we should consider: The case for invading France; the overwhelming appeal of a nice sit-down; the inconvenience of gin and tonic; why clothes are no better than ice cream; spot-welding with the Duchess of Kent; why Denmark is the best place in the world. Armed only with conviction, curiosity, enthusiasm and a pair of stout trousers, Jeremy hurtles around the world – along motorway, autoroute, freeway and autobahn – in search of answers to life’s puzzles and ponderings without forethought or fear for his own safety. What, you have to ask, could possibly go wrong . . .” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverUtterly lost in translation : even more misadventures in English abroad / Charlie Croker ; illustrated by Andrew Pinder.
“Watch as the English language gets abused around the world with these weird, hilarious, and strange misspellings and mistranslations. The search for the globe’s funniest language howler continues apace. As with his two previous volumes, Charlie Croker has trawled hotel foyers in Kazakhstan, South Korean supermarkets, and Argentinian airports, plucking from the mistranslation tree only the very choicest of fruits for your delectation.” (Syndetics summary)

And a good one from another part of the library:

Syndetics book coverReading on location : great books set in top travel destinations / Luisa Moncada and Scala Quin.
Reading on Location is a country-by-country guide to the regions and cities that feature in both well known and cult non-fiction and fiction. From the quintessential English city of Bath, featured in Jane Austen’s Persuasion and the New Delhi of Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger to the Amazon of Mario Vargas Llosa’s La Casa Verde and the New York of Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, this book is aimed at: – anyone wanting to learn more about a potential travel destination – anyone desiring to follow in the footsteps of a favourite fictional character, author or travel writer – anyone wishing to discover a particular destination through the eyes of a celebrated writer or protagonist.” (Syndetics summary)

Specialised writing – Literature picks in July

A different style of writing is required for specialised fields such as food, travel, business and the music industry. Although there are books available to help you in all these genres two of our picks this month will help you master the special skills needed for the last two categories.
Other notable picks this month include a New York Times Bestseller by the American professor of Literature Harold Bloom, writing about the literature of his own country this time, a surprising hypothesis about the influence of Shakespeare in the shaping the New World and a cheering book of summer poems by Vikram Seth.

Syndetics book coverSummer requiem : a book of poems / Vikram Seth.
“‘I have so carefully mapped the corners of my mind That I am forever waking in a lost country…’ Summer Requiem traces the immutable shifting of the seasons, the relentless rhythms of a great world that both ‘gifts and harms’. Luminous, resonant and profound, these poems trace the dying days of summer, ‘the hour of rust’, when memory is haunted by loss and decay. But in the silence that follows, as the soul is cast adrift, there is also reconciliation with the transience of all things.”(Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverThe daemon knows : literary greatness and the American sublime / Harold Bloom.
“*NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER* Hailed as “the indispensable critic” by The New York Review of Books, Harold Bloom — New York Times bestselling writer and Sterlin. Professor of Humanities at Yale University — has for decades been sharing with readers and students his genius and passion for understanding literature and explaining why it matters. Now he turns at long last to his beloved writers of our national literature.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to write about music : excerpts from the 33 1/3 series, magazines, books and blogs with advice from industry-leading writers / edited by Marc Woodworth and Ally-Jane Grossan.
“Carefully selected excerpts from the 33 1/3 series, magazines and leading online publications alongside fresh, inspiring advice from influential writers and editors for making your music writing the best it can be.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOut of sheer rage : in the shadow of D. H. Lawrence / Geoff Dyer ; introduction by Maggie O’Farrell.
“Celebrating some of the most original works in recent years, The Canons are titles of enduring quality and importance that will challenge, inspire and be enjoyed by readers in generations to come.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverShakespeare in America : an anthology from the Revolution to now / James Shapiro, editor ; foreword by President Bill Clinton.
“‘The history of Shakespeare in America,’ writes James Shapiro in his introduction to this groundbreaking anthology, ‘is also the history of America itself.’ Shakespeare was a central, inescapable part of America’s literary inheritance, and a prism through which crucial American issues — revolution, slavery, war, social justice–were refracted and understood.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDiscontent and its civilizations : dispatches from Lahore, New York and London / Mohsin Hamid.
“From the author of the novels Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, here is an essential series of dispatches from the East, the West and the In Between. Divided into sections called ‘Life’, ‘Politics’ and ‘Art’, Discontent and its Civilisations collects the very best of Mohsin Hamid’s writing.” (Publisher information)

Syndetics book coverClear & concise : become a better business writer / Susan McKerihan.
“How well do you write? Good communication is a skill required by all professionals. Whether you’re preparing reports, conducting reviews or simply writing emails, expressing your ideas clearly and persuasively is fundamental to your success in the workplace.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWizards, aliens, and starships : physics and math in fantasy and science fiction / Charles L. Adler.
“From teleportation and space elevators to alien contact and interstellar travel, science fiction and fantasy writers have come up with some brilliant and innovative ideas. Yet how plausible are these ideas–for instance, could Mr. Weasley’s flying car in the Harry Potter books really exist? Which concepts might actually happen, and which ones wouldn’t work at all? Wizards, Aliens, and Starships delves into the most extraordinary details in science fiction and fantasy.”(Syndetics summary)

Taking another look – Literature picks for June

In a more liberal and enlightened age James Joyce’s Ulysses is now regarded pretty mainstream. It was not always so, however, as one of this month’s picks A Most Dangerous Book makes clear.
What could seem more innocent and comical than the childhood classic Huckleberry Finn which still sells in thousands of copies? Andrew Levy casts fresh light on social and racial nuances in this well-known book.
Other books featured include the study of a prisoner who considers his life was saved by Shakespeare, the latest collection of poems by Clive James (which has been highly praised) and a literary travelogue which follows the wanderings of D.H. Lawrence.

Syndetics book coverTen windows : how great poems transform the world / Jane Hirshfield.
“Jane Hirshfield offers ten lively and eminently readable explorations into how great poems transform our experience of the world. Touching on everything from the concept of ‘windows’ in poems (the moments where a word, phrase, or shift in tone ‘opens’ something for the reader) to the mechanisms of surprise and uncertainty, Jane uses particular poems to show us how poetry works, word by charged word.” (Global Books summary)

Syndetics book coverWhy not Catch-21? : the stories behind the titles / Gary Dexter.
“Each of its 50 chapters focuses on the origins of one of the great titles of world literature, presenting a bite-sized piece of literary history, with fascinating details of the work’s genesis and composition. The emphasis is on titles that are literally inexplicable without this background knowledge. The origins of 50 great titles in world literature – fascinating bite-size pieces of literary history.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJ.K. Rowling : a bibliography 1997-2013 / Philip W. Errington.
“Rowling’s books are covered in exquisite detail … Many of the notes read like good stories in themselves and there are some fascinating snippets of information to be had.” (Global Books summary)

Syndetics book coverSentenced to life : poems 2011-2014 / Clive James.
“In the course of his collection of poems, Clive James looks back over an extraordinarily rich life with a clear-eyed and unflinching honesty. There are regrets, but no trace of self-pity in these verses, which – for all their open dealings with death and illness – are primarily a celebration of what is treasurable and memorable in our time here.” (Global Books summary)

Syndetics book coverThe fame lunches : on wounded icons, money, sex, the Brontës, and the importance of handbags / Daphne Merkin.
“Daphne Merkin, a former staff writer for The New Yorker, is a regular contributor to ELLE. Her writing frequently appears in The New York Times, Bookforum, Departures, Travel + Leisure, W, Vogue, and other publications. Merkin has taught writing at the 92nd Street Y, Marymount, and Hunter College. Her previous books include Enchantment, a novel, and Dreaming of Hitler, a collection of essays. She lives in New York City.” (Global Books summary)

Syndetics book coverThe art of slow reading : six time-honored practices for engagement / Thomas Newkirk.
“”The Art of Slow Reading “Tom Newkirk’s call to appreciate the value of slow reading is both timely and important, especially in an era where skimming and click-and-go reading have become the norm for our students. Newkirk reminds us that our deepest reading pleasures are often found when we slow down and pay close attention, and this book clearly demonstrates how slow reading deepens the thinking of both teachers and students.” (Summary from Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverOut of sheer rage : in the shadow of D. H. Lawrence / Geoff Dyer ; introduction by Maggie O’Farrell.
“This biography of D.H. Lawrence is also a travel book. Geoff Dyer followed in Lawrence’s footsteps, living out of a rucksack, and by retracing Lawrence’s journeys, he learns as much about himself as he does about Lawrence.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe most dangerous book : the battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses / Kevin Birmingham.
“With humour, excitement and conspicuous scholarship, literary historian Kevin Birmingham recounts the creation of the novel, the fight against censorship, and the establishment of a classic that changed the face of literature.” (Global Books summary)

Syndetics book coverHuck Finn’s America : Mark Twain and the era that shaped his masterpiece / Andrew Levy.
“A groundbreaking and controversial re-examination of our most beloved classic, Huckleberry Finn, proving that for more than 100 years we have misunderstood Twain’s message on race and childhood–and the uncomfortable truths it still holds for modern America.” (Provided by publisher)

Syndetics book coverShakespeare saved my life : ten years in solitary with the bard / Laura Bates.
“Larry Newton, one of the most notorious inmates in the prison’s supermax, was trying to break out. But Laura Bates, one of the most persistent teachers the prison had ever seen, was trying to break in. Their meeting triggered a relationship that has lasted more than a decade. This is a starkly engaging tale for anyone who has ever been changed by a book.” (Global Books summary)

Letters love and war – Recent literature picks for April

In this centenary year of the beginning of the First World War what could be more appropriate than that we open this month’s selection with a book of love letters written in during times of conflict, when correspondence assumes such critical importance.
Other books in the mix include reflections on the nature of writing, Clive James’s thoughts on poetry, a new look at Chaucer, a couple of humorous books to cheer us on our way and two good ones from other parts of the library. We hope you find something to take your eye here.

Syndetics book coverWives and sweethearts : love letters sent during wartime / Alastair Massie and Frances Parton.
“What is it like to fall in love with a soldier? What is it like to be a soldier in love? Throughout history, those serving in the British Army have combined romantic relationships with their military duties. In wartime especially, all the usual emotions experienced by men and women in love are felt to a heightened degree. The sense of danger, and the sometimes years of separation imposed by service abroad, make the heartache of loss and the joy of reunion all the greater.” (Global books summary)

Syndetics book coverThings I don’t want to know : on writing / Deborah Levy.
“Blending personal history, gender politics, philosophy, and literary theory into a luminescent treatise on writing, love, and loss, Things I Don’t Want to Know is Deborah Levy’s witty response to George Orwell’s influential essay “Why I Write.” Orwell identified four reasons he was driven to hammer at his typewriter–political purpose, historical impulse, sheer egoism, and aesthetic enthusiasm–and Levy’s newest work riffs on these same commitments from a female writer’s perspective.”  (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverChaucer’s tale : 1386 and the road to Canterbury / Paul Strohm.
“A lively microbiography of Chaucer that tells the story of the tumultuous year that led to the creation of The Canterbury Tales In 1386, Geoffrey Chaucer endured his worst year, but began his best poem. The father of English literature did not enjoy in his lifetime the literary celebrity that he has today–far from it. The middle-aged Chaucer was living in London, working as a midlevel bureaucrat and sometime poet, until a personal and professional crisis set him down the road leading to The Canterbury Tales.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA slip of the keyboard : collected nonfiction / Terry Pratchett.
“A collection of essays and other nonfiction spanning Terry Pratchett’s entire career, from his early years to the present day. A collection of essays and other nonfiction spanning Terry Pratchett’s entire career, from his early years to the present day” (Provided by publisher)

Syndetics book coverAuthorisms : words wrought by writers / Paul Dickson.
“William Shakespeare’s written vocabulary consisted of 17,245 words, including hundreds that were coined or popularized by him. Some of the words never went further than their appearance in his plays, but others-like bedazzled , hurry , critical, and anchovy -are essential parts of our standard vocabulary today.Many other famous and lesser-known writers have contributed to the popular lexicon.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThinking about it only makes it worse : and other lessons from modern life / David Mitchell.
“What’s wrong with calling a burglar brave? Why are people so f***ing hung up about swearing? Why do the asterisks in that sentence make it okay? Why do so many people want to stop other people doing things, and how can they be stopped from stopping them? Why is every film and TV programme a sequel or a remake? Why are we so reliant on perpetual diversion that someone has created chocolate toothpaste? David Mitchell delights us with a tour of the absurdities of modern life.” (Summary from Global books)

Syndetics book coverPoetry notebook : 2006-2014 / Clive James.
“Clive James is one of our finest critics and best-loved cultural voices. He is also a prize-winning poet. Since he was first enthralled by the mysterious power of poetry, he has been a dedicated student. In fact, for Clive, poetry has been nothing less than the occupation of a lifetime, and in this book he presents a distillation of all he’s learned about the art form that matters to him most.” (Syndetics summary)

And two good ones in another part of the library:

Syndetics book coverWhere I’m reading from / Tim Parks.
“Should you finish every book you start? How has your family influenced the way you read? What is literary style? How is the Nobel Prize like the World Cup? Why do you hate the book your friend likes? Is writing really just like any other job? What happens to your brain when you read a good book? As a novelist, translator and critic, Tim Parks is well-placed to investigate any questions we have about books and reading.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPublishing : a writer’s memoir / Gail Godwin ; illustrations by Frances Halsband.
“Publishing is a personal story of a writer’s hunger to be published, the pursuit of that goal, and then the long haul–for Gail Godwin, forty-five years of being a published writer and all that goes with it. A student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1958, Godwin met with Knopf scouts who came to campus every spring in search of new talent.” (Syndetics summary)

Poetry for the people – Literature picks for January

This month’s top pick is a book which aims to make poetry accessible and to encourage reluctant readers to explore a literary form which is often perceived as difficult. Also featuring in this month’s selection is Six poets ; from Hardy to Larkin: An anthology by the always wonderful Alan Bennett.
Your mouth will water at the descriptions of memorable meals in Fictitious Dishes and a little light-heartedness is introduced into the mix by a new anthology of articles written for ‘The New Zealand Herald” by our own Bob Jones and a book of household hints collected from great writers.

Syndetics book coverThis is the way of the world : real life poetry / Felix Dennis ; illustrated by Bill Sanderson.
This Is The Way Of The World is a collection of poems specially selected by the author to encourage adults who lack confidence in their reading skills and to introduce new readers to the world of poetry. Easy to read and charting life’s course from birth through to death, the poems deal with real life issues. This Is The Way Of The World is Felix Dennis’s 8th book of verse and includes new poems as well as old favourites. In addition to containing a free spoken-word CD, the book contains many beautiful colour illustrations by Bill Sanderson.” (Globalbooks summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Shakespeare notebooks / text by James Goss [and 8 others] ; illustrations by Mike Collins.
“Many people know about William Shakespeare’s famous encounter with the Doctor at the Globe Theatre in 1599. But what few people know (though many have suspected) is that it was not the first time they met. Drawn from recently-discovered archives, The Shakespeare Notebooks is the holy grail of Bard scholars: conclusive proof that the Doctor not only appeared throughout Shakespeare’s life, but had a significant impact on his writing.” (Wellington City Libraries catalogue)

Syndetics book coverThe Facts on File dictionary of clichés / Christine Ammer.
“This updated and expanded edition of a popular title explains the meanings and origins of almost 4,000 cliches and common expressions. Each entry includes the meaning of the cliche or expression, its origin and early uses, the historical development of the phrase, and its present-day usage. (Globalbooks summary)

Syndetics book coverFictitious dishes : an album of literature’s most memorable meals / Dinah Fried.
“No recipes, but an assortment of photographic interpretations of culinary moments from contemporary and classic literature. Fried pairs each place setting with the text from that book that inspired its creation. She includes food facts and anecdotes about the authors, their work, and their culinary predilections.” (Wellington City Libraries catalogue)

Syndetics book coverNo punches pulled : the best of Bob Jones / Bob Jones.
“Every week Bob Jones delivers an upper cut to the foibles, foolishness and outright fatuousness of contemporary life. In this collection of the best of his columns from the NZ Herald, he lines up the pious, the pitiful and the politically correct – and never pulls his punches. Uncompromising and unexpurgated, this is Sir Bob at his most honest and hilarious.” (Globalbooks summary)

Syndetics book coverThe household tips of the great writers / Mark Crick.
“”As with the commander of an army, or the leader of any enterprise, so it is with a Great Writer and his house.” Household Tips of the Great Writers covers all your household needs, indoors and outdoors, from pruning a rose bush with Pablo Neruda to mending a dripping tap with Jean-Paul Sartre. Throwing a tea-party? Irvine Welsh has the recipe for the perfect chocolate cake, though that’s not all he’s cooking. [This little book] is brilliant, hilarious, and always pitch-perfect.” (Globalbooks summary)

Syndetics book coverSix poets : Hardy to Larkin : an anthology / [edited] by Alan Bennett.
“Writers like to elude their public, lead them a bit of a dance. They take them down untrodden paths, land them in unknown country where they have to ask for directions.In this personal anthology, Alan Bennett has chosen over seventy poems by six well-loved poets, discussing the writers and their verse in his customary conversational style through anecdote, shrewd appraisal and spare but telling biographical detail. Ranging from hidden treasures to famous poems, this is a collection for the beginner and the expert alike.” (Abridged from Globalbooks summary)

Syndetics book coverPhilosophy in children’s literature / edited by Peter R. Costello.
“Editor Costello (Providence College) brings together an excellent sequence of examinations of the philosophical ideas in various children’s literature. The text is split into unequal thirds that discuss picture books (nine chapters), chapter books (five chapters), and multiple readings/interpretations of the same text (four chapters, two per text). The contributors are primarily philosophers.” (CHOICE)

Read literature like a professor – Literature picks for October

It’s time for a little erudition! Add richness to your reading with three of this month’s selections – How to read literature like a professor, Reading poetry and How to be well-read. We also have a handful of instructional manuals for writers, a book of essays on female friendship, and seeing 2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War what could be more fitting than that we include a book of war poetry spanning the last hundred years?
‘Downton Abbey’ has returned to our screens once more, so this month’s light relief takes the form of the delightful little book Downton Tabby. You will be surprised at how closely these moggies resemble their actor counterparts!

Syndetics book coverThe ancient Greek hero in 24 hours / Gregory Nagy.
“The ancient Greeks’ concept of the hero was very different from what we understand by the term today, Gregory Nagy argues – and it is only through analyzing their historical contexts that we can truly understand Achilles, Odysseus, Oedipus, and Herakles. In Greek tradition, a hero was a human, male or female, of the remote past, who was endowed with superhuman abilities by virtue of being descended from an immortal god. Despite their mortality, heroes, like the gods, were objects of cult worship. Nagy examines this distinctively religious notion of the hero in its many dimensions.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHelp! for writers : 210 solutions to the problems every writer faces / Roy Peter Clark.
“The craft of writing offers countless potential problems. The story is too long. The story’s too short. Revising presents a huge hurdle. Writer’s block is rearing its ugly head. In Help! For Writers, Roy Peter Clark presents an “owner’s manual” for writers, outlining the seven steps of the writing process and addressing the 21 most urgent problems that writers face. In his trademark engaging and entertaining style, Clark offers ten short solutions to each problem.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJust between us : Australian writers tell the truth about female friendship / foreword by Helen Garner ; edited by Maya Linden, Miriam Sved, Maggie Scott, Natalie Kon-yu and Christie Nieman.
“Empathetic, supportive and respectful… Or competitive, manipulative and downright bitchy? Or somewhere in between? In Just Between Us, a host of Australia’s best-loved female writers bare all on this age-old quandary: Are female friendships all-natural and nurturing? Or are some more damaging than delightful?” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRoget’s thesaurus of words for writers : over 2,300 emotive, evocative, descriptive synonyms, antonyms, and related terms every writer should know / David Olsen, Michelle Bevilacqua, Justin Cord Hayes, and Robert Bly.
“The ultimate tool for writers! Whether you’re crafting the next great American novel or pounding away at a last-minute blog entry, there will come a time in the process when you struggle to find just the perfect word or phrase. Under the time-tested banner of Roget’s Thesaurus, this collection will quickly become the most essential tool on your desk when you’re working on your next piece.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe hundred years’ war : modern war poems / edited by Neil Astley.
“This anthology presents poems from a hundred years of war by poets writing as combatants on opposite sides, as victims, or anguished witnesses. Editor Neil Astley has created this deeply moving testament to humanity caught up in a hundred years of war.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to be well read : a guide to 500 great novels and a handful of literary curiosities / John Sutherland.
“As the annual flow of novels grows ever greater, it’s a hard job to keep up, let alone sort the wheat from the chaff. Fortunately John Sutherland is on hand to do precisely that for you, and in 500 wittily informative essays he introduces you to the very best of the world’s fiction.” (Wellington City Libraries catalogue note)

Syndetics book coverThe digested 21st century / John Crace.
“John Crace’s Digested Read first appeared in in February 2000 and has been running ever since. Each week Crace reduces a new book – anything from a Booker Prize winner to a Nigella cookery book is fair game – to 700 words in a parody of the plot, style, dialogue and themes. Or lack of them. The Digested Read has not just become an institution for readers; it is read and enjoyed by publishers and authors too. So long as it is not their book being digested.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverReading poetry / Peter Barry.
“Witty, direct and articulate, Peter Barry illustrates the key elements of poetry at work, covering many different kinds of verse, from traditional forms to innovative versions of the art, such as ‘concrete’ poetry, minimalism and word-free poems. The emphasis is on meanings rather than words, looking beyond technical devices like alliteration and assonance so that poems are understood as dynamic structures creating specific ends and effects.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to read literature like a professor : a lively and entertaining guide to reading between the lines / Thomas C. Foster.
“A thoroughly revised and updated edition of Thomas C. Foster’s classic guide–a lively and entertaining introduction to literature and literary basics, including symbols, themes, and contexts–that shows you how to make your everyday reading experience more rewarding and enjoyable. While many books can be enjoyed for their basic stories, there are often deeper literary meanings interwoven in these texts.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDownton Tabby : a parody / Chris Kelly.
“Welcome to Downton Tabby. Here, the aristocrats of the animal kingdom dwell in stately splendor, sleeping, grooming, sleeping some more, and being fed by their downstairs cats, unaware that their way of life – providing work for others – is about to be swept away by the tides of history… and runaway cars. The fur will fly. This humorous parody provides essential information for preserving their Golden Age, including How to Keep a Secret at Downton Tabby, How to Argue with Lord Grimalkin About His Most Deeply Held Beliefs, and some Uninvited but Necessary Words from the Dowager.” (Syndetics summary)