Brief answers to the big questions

Brief Answers book cover

The popular science section is always fun to peruse — it’s interesting to see what topics are being thought about and considered, and whose legacy is being remembered and promoted.

Below we’ve included just a few of our picks of the new popular science books over the last few months. Our absolute favourite is a collection of answers to questions Stephen Hawking was asked across his long career as a public figure and popular science communicator — Brief answers to the big questions, but there’s lots more on a range of topics, including books on the history of the periodic table, the development of thinking about the atom, and how ancient DNA has changed our understanding of human history. Enjoy!

Brief answers to the big questions / Hawking, Stephen
“Professor Hawking was a brilliant theoretical physicist, an influential author and thinker, and a great popular communicator. Throughout his career he was asked questions by business leaders, politicians, entrepreneurs, academics and the general public on a broad range of subjects, from the origins of the universe to the future of the planet. Brief answers to the big questions brings together his thinking on the most timeless and the most-timely questions in science” (Catalogue)

Who we are and how we got here : ancient DNA and the new science of the human past / Reich, David
“David Reich describes how the revolution in the ability to sequence ancient DNA has changed our understanding of the deep human past. This book tells the emerging story of our often surprising ancestry – the extraordinary ancient migrations and mixtures of populations that have made us who we are. A groundbreaking book about how ancient DNA has profoundly changed our understanding of human history. Geneticists like David Reich have made astounding advances in the field of genomics, which is proving to be as important as archeology, linguistics, and written records as a means to understand our ancestry” (Catalogue)

Caves : exploring New Zealand’s subterranean wilderness / Thomas, Marcus
“New Zealanders as a collective share a deep connection with the outdoors. Our rivers, forests, and mountains are part of our national identity but our caves are less well-known and often misunderstood. Though nearly every corner of the country has been explored and mapped, exploration beneath our land is still in its infancy. This book takes readers on a journey into New Zealand’s longest and deepest caves. In Caves: Exploring New Zealand’s Subterranean Wilderness, Marcus and Neil share their passion for caving with well-researched narrative and dramatic photos – it’s as close as you’ll get to real caving without getting your socks wet” (Catalogue)

The book of why : the new science of cause and effect / Pearl, Judea
“Correlation does not imply causation.’ This mantra was invoked by scientists for decades in order to avoid taking positions as to whether one thing caused another, such as smoking and cancer and carbon dioxide and global warming. But today, that taboo is dead. The causal revolution, sparked by world-renowned computer scientist Judea Pearl and his colleagues, has cut through a century of confusion and placed cause and effect on a firm scientific basis. Now, Pearl and science journalist Dana Mackenzie explain causal thinking to general readers for the first time, showing how it allows us to explore the world that is and the worlds that could have been” (Catalogue)

Cracking the elements / Mileham, Rebecca
“Get back to basics with Cracking the Elements, and learn all about the building blocks of life as we know it. From the earliest-known elements to those named in 2016, this book takes a comprehensive look at the development of the periodic table – and reveals untold stories, unsung pioneers and plenty of fascinating science along the way. “(Catalogue)

Atom : the building block of everything / Challoner, Jack
“Until now, popular science has relegated the atom to a supporting role in defining the different chemical elements of the periodic table. This bold new title places its subject center stage, shining the spotlight directly onto the structure and properties of this tiniest amount of anything it is possible to identify. The book covers a huge range of topics, including the development of scientific thinking about the atom” (Catalogue)

Spotlight on new Classical music CDs

Maria Callas CD cover

We have recently received new compilations of works from two French greats: Hector Berlioz and Claude Debussy. To accompany these, we found a selection of digitally remastered recordings of the great Maria Callas. We hope you enjoy them!

Les Trois Sonates: The Late Works, Debussy. Various performers.
“A century after his death on 25 March 1918, many Harmonia Mundi artists are eager to pay tribute to Claude Debussy, the magician of melody and timbre, the great ‘colourist’ and father of modern music. In the three chamber sonatas, here combined with the composer’s final pieces for solo piano, we attain the purity, the absolute concision, the distant and mysterious world that give these works a testamentary dimension.” (Cover)

Harold en Italie, Les Nuits d’été, Hector Berlioz. Performed by Les Siècles and François-Xavier Roth.
“A new aesthetic calls for new forms: such is the challenge the composer set for himself in the two works presented here. In Les Nuits d’été Berlioz pioneered, well before Mahler and Ravel, a song cycle for voice and orchestra. In Harold in Italy, scored for large orchestra and solo viola, he experimented with the symphonic genre. These period-instrument performances by Les Siècles, led by François-Xavier Roth, with violist Tabea Zimmermann, also feature Stéphane Degout in the vocal cycle, heard here in the composer’s own version for baritone. File under: out of the ordinary.” (Cover)

The New Sound of Maria Callas.
“Unforgettable arias sung by the most iconic diva of all time – for the first time remastered in high-definition sound from the original tapes, for an unprecedented sound quality that shines new light on the voice of Maria Callas.” (Cover)

Simple quilting & stitching – New Craft books at your library!

Discover how to make the quilting process simple and enjoyable! Visit the world of embroidery and find useful ideas and tips how to make your projects come together!

Garden stitch life : 50 embroidery motifs & projects to grow your inspiration / Aoki, Kazuko
“In Garden Stitch Life, embroidery artist Kazuko Aoki invites you into her enchanting world of garden-themed embroidery. You’ll get a glimpse into her creative process, from sketching and selecting thread colors to stitching tips and techniques, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at her atelier, garden, and other inspiring locales. In addition to dozens of botanical motifs, you’ll also find designs based on the author’s favorite things in life: food, travel, and design. Projects include samplers, collages, patches, bags, table linens, and more!”-(Cover).

Mary Thomas’s dictionary of embroidery stitches : the classic guide / Eaton, Jan
”First published in 1934, this indispensable handbook has long been a well-loved favourite of novice and experienced embroiderers alike. This new, redesigned edition includes the internationally-renowned embroiderer Jan Eaton’s revisions to the original text, and a preface by famed embroiderer Mary Corbet.” – (Publisher’s description).

Modern memory quilts : a handbook for capturing meaningful moments : 12 projects + the stories that inspired them / Paquette, Suzanne
“Create modern heirloom quilts! 12 exciting designs for memory keeping, with the stories that inspired them. Learn tips for sewing with clothing to preserve the past and celebrate the future. Make gifts for children, honour a lost loved one, and celebrate your family’s legacy.”–Back cover.

The Kansas City star quilts sampler : 60+ blocks from 1928 to 1961
“Explore the archives of the Kansas City Star newspaper’s quilt-block patterns with the best designs from 1928- Meet the women who brought quilting to the newspaper, as profiled by best-selling author and quilt historian Barbara Brackman.1961”–Back cover.

Simple quilts for the modern home / Soebbing, Stephanie
Bright, fun, and simple-to-stitch quilts for beginning sewers–and everyone who loves modern style. Twelve projects range from lap to king-sized quilts.” “–Back cover.

Austin A40, Teslas and more: New Cars and Transport books

From old cars to the super technological Tesla and various expeditions through space. We have them all for this month’s new books.

Missions to the moon : the story of man’s greatest adventure brought to life with augmented reality / Rod Pyle ; foreword by Gene Kranz.
“With dozens of stunning photographs and fascinating memorabilia track the birth of the space race and Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight, to the many successes and failures of the Apollo mission, all the way to that boots-on-the-ground moment we have come to know so well.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

We had one of those too! / Barnett, Stephen
We Had One of Those Too! celebrates even more motoring memories from New Zealand’s golden age of motoring. Filled with a beautifully illustrated collection of cars, from the 1950s through to the 1970s, that Kiwis loved and drove during that period, this book is literally a nostalgic drive down memory lane.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Electric motorcycles and bicycles : a history including scooters, tricycles, segways and monocycles / Desmond, Kevin
“Since 1881, isolated prototypes of electric tricycles and bicycles were patented and sometimes tested. Limited editions followed in the wartime 1940s, but it was not until the lithium-ion battery became available in the first decade of this century that urban pedelecs and more powerful open-road motorcycles became possible and increasingly popular. The author covers the lives of the innovative engineers who have developed these e-wheelers.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Interplanetary robots : true stories of space exploration / Pyle, Rod
“Exploring the planets has been a goal of America’s space program since the dawn of the space race. This insider’s perspective examines incredible missions of robotic spacecraft to every corner of our solar system and beyond. Award-winning science writer Rod Pyle profiles both the remarkable spacecraft and the amazing scientists and engineers who made them possible.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Kaikoura job : rebuilding KiwiRail’s main north line / Merrifield, A. L. R.
“The sea-level mountain railway has a long story of dramatic moments and events. The men who completed it in the 1930s and 1940s always referred to it as ‘The Kaikoura Job’. This is the story of the scenic coastal line, from its early beginnings through to the reconstruction efforts following the devastating 2016 earthquake.” (Catalogue)

Insane mode : how Elon Musk’s Tesla sparked an electric revolution to end the age of oil / McKenzie, Hamish
“Tesla is a car company that stood up against not only the might of the government-backed Detroit car manufacturers, but also the massive power of Big Oil and its benefactors, the infamous Koch brothers. The award-winning Tesla Model 3, a premium mass-market electric car that went on sale in 2018, has reconfigured the popular perception of Tesla and continues to transform the public’s relationship with motor vehicles.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Don’t make me pull over! : an informal history of the family road trip / Ratay, Richard
“In the days before cheap air travel, families didn’t so much take vacations as survive them. Between home and destination lay thousands of miles and dozens of annoyances, and with his family Richard Ratay experienced all of them–from being crowded into the backseat with noogie-happy older brothers, to picking out a souvenir only to find that a better one might have been had at the next attraction, to dealing with a dad who didn’t believe in bathroom breaks.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Penguin book of outer space exploration : NASA and the incredible story of human spaceflight
“From Sputnik to SpaceX, the story of that journey is told as never before in The Penguin Book of Outer Space Exploration. Renowned space historian John Logsdon traces the greatest moments in human spaceflight by weaving together essential, fascinating documents from NASA’s history with his expert narrative guidance.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverWally Funk’s race for space : the extraordinary story of a female aviation pioneer / Sue Nelson.
“In 1961, Wally Funk was among the Mercury 13, the first group of American pilots to pass the ‘Women in Space’ programme. Wally sailed through a series of rigorous physical and mental tests, her scores beating many of the male candidates’, including those of John Glenn, the first American in orbit. But just one week before she was due to enter the final phase of training, the programme was abruptly cancelled. A combination of politics and prejudice meant that none of the women ever flew into space.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Driven : the men who made Formula One / Eason, Kevin
“This colourful and compelling account of the extraordinary flourishing of Formula One explores the quirks and extravagances of the men who converged – in one generation – to shape their sport; disparate characters with a common impulse: they were racers – and they were driven.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Recent DVDs from December & January

The Breaker Upperers DVD cover

December and January saw the addition of all these great DVDs including the 2nd season of the hugely popular The Crown; book adaptations with Crazy Rich Asians, Ladies In Black & On Chesil Beach; as well as an acclaimed documentary, cold case crime, some Sci-Fi adventure & a classic NZ comedy.

McQueen.
“A personal look at the extraordinary life, career, and artistry of Alexander McQueen. Through exclusive interviews with his closest friends and family, recovered archives, exquisite visuals and music, it is an authentic celebration and thrilling portrait of an inspired yet tortured fashion visionary.” (Catalogue)

Ant-Man and the Wasp.
“Set after the events of Captain America: civil war, Ant-Man and the Wasp functions as an origin story. Dr. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, sends Scott Lang on a mission to run down information about Pym’s earliest exploits. Most importantly, Pym wants to know whether his original superhero partner, The Wasp, is still alive. At the same time, Lang, the current Ant-Man, has to make the life balance between being a superhero and a dad work.” (Catalogue)

Unforgotten. Series 2
“When the remnants of a body are found hidden in a river, DCI Cassie Stuart and DI Sunny Khan are faced with an impossible investigation. There are four suspects – they are the pieces of the jigsaw Cassie and Sunny must solve. But the harder they try to put this picture together, the more blurred it becomes. It’s a case that will test their relationship in unexpected ways, and question their assumptions about the most damaged and destructive in society. When a victim becomes a criminal, is punishment the same as justice?” (Catalogue)

The Crown. The complete second season.
“As a new era begins, Queen Elizabeth struggles to navigate her while preserving both the monarchy and her marriage. Beginning with soldiers in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces fighting an illegal war in Egypt, and ending with the downfall of her third Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan after a devastating scandal, the second season bears witness to the end of the age of deference, and ushers in the revolutionary era of the 1960s. This drama follows the political rivalries and romance of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and the events that shaped the second half of the 20th century.” (Catalogue)

Book Club.
“Four friends’ lives are turned upside down to hilarious ends when their book club tackles the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey. From discovering new romance to rekindling old flames, they inspire each other to make their next chapter the best chapter.” (Catalogue)

Crazy Rich Asians.
“A native New Yorker Rachel Chu accompanies her longtime boyfriend, Nick Young, to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Excited about visiting Asia for the first time but nervous about meeting Nick’s family, Rachel is unprepared to learn that Nick has neglected to mention a few key details about his life. It turns out that he is not only the scion of one of the country’s wealthiest families but also one of its most sought-after bachelors.” (Catalogue)

Christopher Robin.
“The young boy, who loved taking adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood with a gang of spirited and lovable stuffed animals, has grown up and lost his way. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into that world and help Christopher Robin remember the loving and playful boy who is still inside.” (Catalogue)

Ladies in Black.
“Set in the summer of 1959, when the impact of European migration and the rise of women’s liberation is about to change Australia forever, Lisa, aged sixteen, takes a holiday job at the prestigious Sydney department store, Goodes. There she meets the “ladies in black,” when she is assigned to assist sales ladies Patty and Fay. Beguiled and influenced by Magda, the vivacious manager of the high-fashion boutique Model Gowns, Lisa is awakened to a world of possibilities. As she grows from a bookish schoolgirl into a glamorous and positive young woman, the impact they have on each other will change all their lives.” (Catalogue)

The Breaker Upperers.
“Fifteen years ago, Mel and Jen discovered they were being two-timed by the same man. Bitter and cynical they became fast friends and formed’ The Breaker Upperers’, a small-time business breaking up couples for cash. Now they’re in their late-thirties and business is booming.” (Catalogue)

On Chesil Beach.
“It is summer 1962, when we first encounter Florence and Edward, a young couple in their early twenties, on their wedding day. Now on their honeymoon, they are dining in their room at a stuffy, sedate hotel near Chesil beach in Dorset. From a series of flashbacks, we learn about the differences between them–their attitudes, temperaments and their drastically different backgrounds. Out on the beach on their fateful wedding day, one of them makes a major decision that will utterly change both of their lives forever.” (Catalogue)

Star Trek Discovery. Season one.
“An odyssey that unfolds a decade before the era of Star Trek: The Original Series. Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green – The Walking Dead), formerly one of Starfleet’s most respected first officers – and now its first mutineer. A human raised as a Vulcan, Burnham learned early that “all life is born from chaos”. Her defiance of a direct order resulted in an all-out war with the Klingon Empire and she was sentenced to life in prison – until Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs – Harry Potter) recruits her aboard the U.S.S. Discovery. Joining her on this dramatic, epic journey are First Officer Saru (Doug Jones – The Shape of Water), Chief of Security Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif – Penny Dreadful), Chief Engineer Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp – Rent) and Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman – Longmire). Together, their powers of logic, science and compassion will meld on their quest for victory, survival and ultimately, peace in the universe.” (Catalogue)

Mandy.
“Red, a lumberjack living in the depths of the woods, has sequestered himself and his doting girlfriend, Mandy, from the world. Though Mandy is a gentle woman who spends most of her time immersed in a book, she finds herself in a life-threatening situation after being kidnapped by an ill-intentioned cult leader. When stripped from her home by a group of malicious cult members, Red sets out to avenge Mandy’s abrupt and inexplicable disappearance.” (Catalogue)

A Simple Favour.
“A mommy vlogger seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily’s sudden disappearance from their small town.” (Catalogue)

Staff Picks DVDs: Best of 2018

Some more of our favourite Films & TV Shows from last year. Hopefully you will something you missed the first time around.

Shinji’s Picks:
Faces places.
This is a celebration of people and places as well as creativity. A legend of French new wave cinema, 88 year old Agnes Varda teams up with a photographer and muralist JR, who is 55 years her junior, to hit the road on a tour of rural France. On the way, they learn the histories of communities, some of which are long abandoned, and of people they encounter, and bring new lives to them with gigantic mural photos. This odd couple makes a great team and their friendship, curiosity and vision make it wonderfully charming. Life is beautiful.

Leave no trace.
A remarkable new film from an American indie filmmaker Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone), ‘Leave No Trace’ is a subtle but powerful portrait of a post-traumatic-stress-disorder father and his teenage daughter, who cut themselves off from the world and have been living in the forests. Featuring the superb performances by Ben Forster and our very own Thomasin Mckenzie as the father and the daughter, Granik carefully presents just enough information and gracefully brings out deep emotions between them. This haunting tale will be remembered one of the best father-daughter relationship films in years to come.

The other side of hope
Seeing just one frame of a film, you can tell whose work it is. It doesn’t happen very often but Finnish veteran auteur Aki Kaurismaki is such a filmmaker. ‘The Other Side of Hope’, which nicely integrates stories of a Syrian refugee and a Finnish restaurateur, is his response to the humanitarian crisis in Europe. It treats the serious topic with warm humanism; it’s presented with his distinctive style; deadpan characters, droll humours, unique texture and hue based on blue, bluesy nostalgic rock played by old men etc. This is another memorable work but what is believed to be his final film. What a shame.

Sweet country.
The new Australian auteur Warwick Thornton’s marvellous ‘Sweet Country’ dominated the Australian Academy Awards (AACTA) of 2018, winning 6 awards including the best film, director, cinematography and actor. In the typical western-like setting, this manhunt drama exposes the dark side of Australian history; racism. It’s uneasy to watch at times but taking the majestic outback scenery as a part of narrative, it offers lyrical, mesmerising moments as well. Unique flash-forwards are also very effective. Poignant.

Lady Bird.
Actress-turned-writer/director Greta Gerwig’s first feature is a lovely adolescent tale.
With the mother-daughter relationship as its core, it’s about a17-year-old Christine ‘Lady Bird’ (dazzling Saoirse Ronan) who is eager for an escape to a big city after graduating from a Catholic school. Gerwig’s smart screenplay and unique aesthetic make it a charming, beautifully layered coming-of-age drama. It’s sweet, funny and affecting.

Blackkklansman.
Ironically the current state of the divided America seems to get Spike Lee; arguably the most important African-American filmmakers of our time, back in top form. This, his finest film in years, tells the incredible true story of the first black detective in the Colorado Spring, who infiltrated the KKK in the early 70s. This is heavy stuff and not surprisingly, it contains chilling moments, but Lee masterfully put them into a comedic narrative, and makes it a gripping yet entertaining drama. Denzel Washington’s son John David Washington shines as the detective. Invigorating.

Twin Peaks: a limited event series.
David Lynch’s ground-breaking series is back after 25 years’ absence, and it’s a much larger scaled extraordinary journey, which offers everything Lynch has made for cinema. At times it’s almost impossible to comprehend and mysteries bring more mysteries, but there are always humours. This nearly 1000-hours marathon epic can be challenging and demanding to consume, but gives you a joyous, rewarding watch. It’s another landmark work by this one-and-only filmmaker.

Neil J’s Picks:
Lucky.
Lucky was Harry Dean Stanton’s last work, it’s a wry and very deceptive piece. On the surface nothing that much happens it’s just a couple of days in the life of a fictional Harry Dean Stanton; true they are quirky, laconic and slightly strange days . However whilst the film is slender in narrative it is large in underlying meaning and through this strange domesticity of the main characters life the movie becomes a poignant meditation on life, memory, loss, accepting fate and coming to terms with one’s impending demise, all done in a light offbeat fashion. It is a truly marvellous performance by Harry Dean Stanton it might even just be his career best and all made the more remarkable since he was aware that this would probably be his last film. Which it turned out to be.

Lady Bird.

 

 

 

The death of Stalin.
Caustic, pitch black humour of the highest calibre is delivered in Armando Iannucci latest comedy. Set around the events and chaos surrounding the death of Stalin this star studded movie was so controversial that the Russian government banned it. Its wicked, hilarious, merciless and definitely not for the faint hearted. However if you enjoy satire of the very darkest and blackest in nature then this movie is a must watch. And the ever wonderful Jason Isaacs is mercurial as Field Marshal Zhukov.

Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.
The starting point and in a strange way the catalyst for all the action in the film are three billboards by a road put up by a grieving mother with messages demanding justice for her murdered daughter. This multi award winning movie is occasionally funny, but more often it’s a bleak, raw look at loss, grief and vengeance. It boasts several fantastic performances from the lead Frances McDormand as well as Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage and several other cast members. It doesn’t take the easy path plot wise and contains several unexpected twists and turns. All in all the plaudits that have been heaped on it are well deserved.

Faces places.

 

 

 

McQueen.
McQueen is a career spanning but intimate documentary exploring the life and work of the iconic British fashion designer Alexander McQueen. Mc Queen rose from humble beginnings to become the enfant terrible of the fashion world his initial rise was I through hard work, native ability, desire to shock and raw talent. ( Though he did get more formal training as he went along ). He was the bright burning super star of the fashion world creating his own fashion house and courting controversy everywhere he showed, His fashion work was often closely inter linked with his own inner demons which were eventually rise up and tragically destroy him. The documentary makes for a fascinating, riveting watch and is a real insight into what drove and created one of the most important and controversial fashion designers of our time.

She shears
It goes without saying that in some areas of New Zealand sheep searing is an obsession, but historically this obsession has always been a very male dominated one. She Sears is a fabulous compelling documentary about a very small group of women shearers trying to break that mould. However what really makes this film work is the fact that it transcends its subject matter the film is far more than just a look at female shearers, it’s more about the shearers as complex individuals, as fully rounded people who shear for a whole range of different reasons, their back stories, their motivations, their drivers both as shears and beyond and the reasons they do what they do. It’s a great watch, a really well-crafted film and like any good documentary less about shearing and more the individuals involved.

Mark’s Picks:
The Good Place. The complete first season.
What actually happens when you die? For Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) she finds the afterlife is a shiny happy friendly neighbourhood of frozen yogurt shops, amazingly accomplished people and pre-determined soulmates, all run by the super nice immortal architect Michael (Ted Danson). However the only problem is that she is the wrong Eleanor Shellstrop, and is in fact a very bad person, who scammed old people for a living and generally lived a completely reprehensible life. As she struggles to hide her true self from all around her and cope with her ‘soulmate’, university ethics professor Chidi, her true nature starts to affect the cosmic balance at play. Currently the funniest show on TV. Just genius.

Radius.
A man (Diego Klattenhoff, Homeland, The Blacklist) wakes from a car crash with no memory. Seeking help he soon discovers that anyone who comes within a certain radius of him instantly drops dead. Retreating to his home he attempts to avoid all contact until a woman (also suffering from amnesia) finds him. She is immune to what is happening and they soon realize that she can nullify the effect he has on others – but ONLY if she remains within 50 feet from him at all times. Together they attempt to get help and find out what has happened to them. The best indie Sci-Fi of the year proves that all you need is a really intriguing idea and a good script. Continue reading “Staff Picks DVDs: Best of 2018”

Raids and Revolutions – History Picks for February

A Rope in the Sky book cover

This month’s history picks feature only ONE book about the United States, to make up for last month. We’re going everywhere else, to Chinese and Cuban revolutions in Making China Modern and Cuba Libre!, Viking-era England in Dragon Lords: The History and Legends of Viking England, South Sudan in A Rope From The Sky, and finally we have Afghanistan: A History from 1260 to the Present.

Syndetics book coverChicago : From Vision to Metropolis
“Chicago has been called the “most American of cities” and the “great American city.” Not the biggest or the most powerful, nor the richest, prettiest, or best, but the most American. How did it become that? And what does it even mean? At its heart, Chicago is America’s great hub. Chicago magazine editor Whet Moser draws on Chicago’s social, urban, cultural, and often scandalous history to reveal how the city of stinky onions grew into the great American metropolis it is today. An affectionate, beautifully illustrated urban portrait, his book takes us from the very beginnings of Chicago as an idea to the global city it has become.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMaking China modern : from the Great Qing to Xi Jinping / Klaus Muhlhahn.
“A panoramic survey of China’s rise and resilience through war and rebellion, disease and famine, that rewrites China’s history for a new generation. It is tempting to attribute China’s recent ascendance to changes in political leadership and economic policy. Making China Modern teaches otherwise. Moving beyond the standard framework of Cold War competition and national resurgence, Klaus Mühlhahn situates twenty-first-century China in the nation’s long history of creative adaptation.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCuba libre! : Che, Fidel, and the improbable revolution that changed world history / Tony Perrottet.
“In this wildly entertaining and meticulously researched account, Tony Perrottet unravels the human drama behind history’s most improbable revolution: a scruffy handful of self-taught revolutionaries – many of them kids just out of college, literature majors, art students and young lawyers, and including a number of women – defeated 40,000 professional soldiers to overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Cuba Libre is an entertaining look back at a liberation movement that captured the imagination of the world with its spectacular drama – and that set the stage for a build-up of Cold War tension that became a pivotal moment in history.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDragon Lords : The History and Legends of Viking England
“Why did the Vikings sail to England? Were they indiscriminate raiders, motivated solely by bloodlust and plunder? One narrative, the stereotypical one, might have it so. But locked away in the buried history of the British Isles are other, far richer and more nuanced, stories; and these hidden tales paint a picture very different from the ferocious pillagers of popular repute. Eleanor Parker here unlocks secrets that point to more complex motivations within the marauding army that in the late ninth century voyaged to the shores of eastern England in its sleek, dragon-prowed longships.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAfghanistan : A History from 1260 to the Present
“Located at the intersection of Asia and the Middle East, Afghanistan has been strategically important for thousands of years. Its ancient routes and strategic position between India, Inner Asia, China, Persia, and beyond has meant the region has been subject to frequent invasions, both peaceful and military. In this magisterial illustrated history, Jonathan L. Lee tells the story of how a small tribal confederacy in a politically and culturally significant but volatile region became a modern nation state.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCode Name: Lise : the true story of World War II’s most highly decorated woman / Larry Loftis.
“The year is 1942, and World War II is in full swing. Odette Sansom decides to follow in her war hero father’s footsteps by becoming an SOE agent to aid Britain and her beloved homeland, France. Five failed attempts and one plane crash later, she finally lands in occupied France to begin her mission. It is here that she meets her commanding officer Captain Peter Churchill. In Code Name: Lise, Larry Loftis paints a portrait of true courage, patriotism, and love – of two incredibly heroic people who endured unimaginable horrors and degradations. ” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA Rope from the Sky : The Making and Unmaking of the World’s Newest State
“South Sudan’s historic independence was celebrated around the world–a triumph for global justice and an end to one of the world’s most devastating wars. But the party would not last long; South Sudan’s freedom fighters soon plunged their new nation into chaos, shattering the promise of liberation and exposing the hubris of their foreign backers. Chronicling extraordinary stories of hope, identity, and survival, A Rope from the Sky journeys inside an epic tale of paradise won and then lost.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSpitfire: Pilots’ Stories
“The Spitfire was perhaps the most successful fighter design of all time. It remained at the forefront of its genre from the biplane era until well into the jet age, a period including the Second World War, which saw a faster rate of technological advance than in any comparable period in history. Yet the Spitfire was more than just a superb flying machine. During the war it carved a unique place in the psyche of the British people, and many believe it played a major part in saving the nation from defeat during the grim days of 1940.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)

All your D.I.Y needs: Recent Home and Garden picks

This month’s blog features innovative and cost-effective DIY ideas for kids furniture, pallet bookshelves, fancy interior, pebble gardens and much more!

Big impact landscaping : 28 DIY projects you can do on a budget to beautify and add value to your home / Bendrick, Sara
“If you’ve ever looked at the weed-filled expanse that passes for your backyard and wondered why your family never uses it, then this book is for you. Sara Bendrick… addresses the most common homeowner requests for affordable ways to bring privacy, shade, dining areas, fire features and manageable plantings into their yards to increase their enjoyment of outdoor spaces and increase the value of their home.” (Catalogue)

Affordable interior design : high-end tips for any budget / Helmuth, Betsy
“Homeowners and renters of all means dream of having a beautiful home. The media makes it look so easy, but many of us have less to work with and still long to live in style. Affordable Interior Design makes luxury an affordable reality. In this DIY home decorating handbook, Helmuth reveals insider tips and her tried-and-tested methods for choosing colors, creating a gallery wall, how to use accent tables, entry benches, rugs, and more!” (Catalogue)

Big ideas for small spaces : creative ideas and 30 projects for balconies, roof gardens, windowsills, and terraces / Maguire, Kay
“Instructions and photographs show to make 30 easy projects for the garden using inexpensive or found materials. Provides practical solutions to greening a small and otherwise barren area including outer walls, tiny patios, balconies, courtyards, terraces, windowsills and rooftops. Also includes instructions on the basics of gardening.” (Catalogue)

Outdoor woodworking : 20 inspiring projects to make from scratch.
Outdoor Woodworking is an impressive new title containing a collection of projects, all ideal for the garden, patio or deck. There are some projects ideal for those just starting out in woodworking and others that will challenge even the experienced woodworker. All of the projects include clear guidance on how best to approach the construction of each piece…”–Amazon.com.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Brickwork projects for patio & garden : designs, instructions and 16 easy-to-build projects / Bridgewater, Alan
“From the decorative to the practical, Brickwork Projects for Patio & Garden offers a range of projects for all levels of expertise. Sixteen original projects range from a simple garden wall to a beautiful raised herringbone patio. Each project has been photographed step-by-step during construction and the finished piece is shown in its garden setting. Clear construction diagrams and concise text accompany every project.” (Abridged Catalogue)

Pebble mosaics : 25 original step-by-step projects for the home and garden / Schneebeli-Morrell, Deborah
“You can take pebbles and other natural found objects and turn them into beautiful useful and decorative objects for the home and garden. Using easy methods and everyday materials, author Deborah Schneebeli-Morrell demonstrates in full color, step-by-step photographs how to create such beautiful items as a simple teapot stand to a rustic mosaic hearth.” (Abridged Catalogue)

Make : soft robotics : a DIY introduction to squishy, stretchy and flexible robots / Borgatti, Matthew
“Soft robotics is an emerging field that approaches robots in new ways, enabling them to operate in environments that are unstructured or unstable and to perform tasks that require delicacy and malleability.” (Book jacket)

The pallet book : DIY projects for the home, garden, and homestead / Peterson, Chris
“Author Chris Peterson presents everything the enterprising handyperson needs to know to reclaim and reuse pallets in innovative, useful ways. Just some of the projects included are: A handy vertical planter; Coffee table; Spice rack; Serving tray; Compost bin; Dog house; Bookshelves; Wine bottle rack; Side table; Adirondack chair. In addition to dozens of projects, the book includes a variety of pallet-specific knowledge. You’ll find a guide with the basic skills and tools needed to rework pallets, information on where to find and source pallets, a guide to decoding pallet markings, and important pallet-related safety.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The PVC pipe book : projects for the home, garden, and homestead / Peterson, Chris
“Whether you’re a homeowner, gardener, homesteader, prepper, or just a parent looking for some new toy ideas, the projects in The PVC Pipe Book give you plenty of options. For anyone who needs some insight and a few tips on working with PVC, Peterson covers all the basics, as well as finishing techniques.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Easy garden projects : 200+ simple ideas for your yard, garden & home.
“With its simple tutorials that anyone can do to enhance their space, Easy Garden Projects appeals to a wide swath of gardeners. Whether it’s a homemade faux-stone planter filled with succulents or a potting bench made from reclaimed wood, each design features a finished-project photo and step-by-step instructions to guide you on your gardening path. The look and feel of the book reflects the breezy, rustic, and organic style of the Country Gardens brand.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Build a better vegetable garden : 30 DIY projects to improve your harvest / Russell, Joyce
“From simple woodwork projects for tunnels and frames to gadgets that deter slugs and carrot root fly, the results are well-designed as well as decorative.” (Book jacket)

Building unique and useful kids furniture : 24 great do-it-yourself projects / Carlsen, Spike
“Easy-to-build, affordable, beautiful, durable, fun furniture projects kids will love. You don’t need advanced skills. You don’t need specialized tools. You don’t need expensive materials. All of these projects can be built using basic tools and materials from any home improvement store. Step-by-step instructions and color photos show you exactly what to do–and many projects are labeled “Kid Friendly,” so your child can safely help you build it, developing their skills and confidence.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Wandering around the new books of the New Zealand Collection

Kia ora, let’s take a meander through the shelves to see what’s new in the New Zealand Collection this month.

There are numerous water issues being discussed around the country and there is a new book about efforts to save Te Waikoropupū Springs told with poetry and images.

Samoan Queer lives are documented with story and portrait. Memoirs of musician Graeme Jefferies, whose career was spent with bands Nocturnal Projections, This Kind of Punishment and The Cakekitchen as well as being a solo artist, and  one from  poet and author Jeffrey Paparoa Holman.
A collection of recent plays in ‘The recent art of actually caring and other New Zealand plays‘ talks about how new theatre is capturing the stories of increasingly diverse New Zealanders.

There are new editions to the poetry shelf and of course beautiful scenery in ‘Wanaka: lake, mountain, adventure‘.  Our last peek is at ‘Thorny encounters: a history of England v the All Blacks‘ about the first 4o rugby internationals between the All Blacks and England.

Time to pick your favourite new book and sit down to read!

Water protectors : the story of the campaign to save Te Waikoropupū Springs in poetry and images / Moran, Kevin
“The Story of the Campaign To Save Te Waikoropupu Springs in poetry and images. Te Waikoropupu Springs in Golden Bay New Zealand is a national treasure. Crystal clear waters surge to the surface to form a bubbling fount. Over 90,000 people flock to visit each year. Yet Te Waikoropupū is under deadly threat. Nitrate leaching from intensive dairy farms is the culprit. You will read of protests, passionate petitions and about the small Iwi battling to protect Te Waikoropupu through the implementation of a Water Conservation Order.” (Abridged Catalogue)

Samoan queer lives / McMullin, Dan Taulapapa
“Featuring 20 autobiographical stories from fa`afafine and LGBTIQ Samoans based in Samoa, Amerika Samoa, Australia, Aotearoa NZ, Hawai`i and USA. Includes a foreword and introduction by co-editors Yuki Kihara and Dan Taulapapa McMullin. Each story is accompanied by a portrait.” (Catalogue)

Time flowing backwards : a memoir / Jefferies, Graeme
“Time Flowing Backwards is the fascinating and revealing story of Graeme Jefferies–one of the most inventive and influential musicians to emerge from New Zealand’s vibrant independent music scene in the 1980s. This memoir spans over three decades of Jefferies’ career spent with bands Nocturnal Projections, This Kind of Punishment and The Cakekitchen as well as a solo artist.” (Abridged Catalogue)

The intricate art of actually caring, and other New Zealand plays
“Theater in New Zealand began as a tool of the British Empire, imported along with Christianity, seeds, and other commodities as a way of acculturating the indigenous Maori population. In the decades since, it has been turned to different ends, and is now a crucial outlet for the voices of the ever more diverse population of New Zealanders.” (Abridged Catalogue)

Now when it rains : a writer’s memoir / Holman, Jeffrey Paparoa
“Jeffrey Paparoa Holman examines a life lived over 70 years through rapid social changes and personal upheavals, from the 1950s to the 2000s, as he stumbles towards becoming the writer he believed he could be. Growing up on the West Coast in the shadow of his father’s war and later imprisonment, he drops out of university and learns too much about drugs & alcohol while working as a shearer, bin-man and fisherman. Later in life he learns te reo and publishes groundbreaking history and memoir. This is a vital chronicle of our times; a frank and compelling insight into the writer’s mind – and soul.” (Catalogue)

The edge of things / Powell, Anne
“Anne Powell’s poems reach from the soul-baring Waikanae River all the way across the earth to cascades of stars over cold desert sand. At times focusing on the wealth of wisdom nature imparts upon patient observation, at others on the daily realities of those people who live beyond our familiar trajectories, Anne Powell stays grounded in her ability to see the sacred in a world of both stillness and disturbance.” (Catalogue)

One hundred poems and a year / Orr, Bob
“Rucksack Consider this book of mine as if it were a rucksack containing what you might need if you were to step outside your door. There are poems heavily knitted as fishermen’s jerseys in case you should find yourself all at sea. others are like handkerchiefs you can put in your pocket – some of these poems are commonplace as soap – you can stand under the shower with them. Some are casual as jandals – one or two have soles tough as tramping boots. I wrote them while walking down a road with bare feet.” (Catalogue)

A traveller’s history of New Zealand and the South Pacific islands / Chambers, John H.
A traveller’s history of New Zealand and the South Pacific islands gives the curious tourist not only a modern day portrait of New Zealand and the far flung islands, their political systems and economic diversity, but also looks at the early settling of this massive area which covers about a fifth of the entire surface of the earth. The story of the peopling of the South Pacific Islands and NZ is one of the world’s great epics which the author conveys.” (Abridged Catalogue)

Wanaka : lake, mountain, adventure / Peat, Neville
“Neville Peat describes the scenic splendour of Wanaka and the myriad activities and attractions for visitors in this updated edition of a book that serves as both a guide to one of New Zealand’s tourism hotspots, and as a souvenir.The book covers the history of the Wanaka area and its progress into a contemporary centre renowned for an exciting range of outdoor activities and regular events, including the internationally recognized Warbirds Over Wanaka air show. Further material offers a guide to local walking and cycling tracks, local flora and fauna, and Mt Aspiring National Park.” (Catalogue)

Thorny encounters : a history of England v the All Blacks / Elliott, Matt
“In 1905, Vic Cartwright’s England rugby team lined up against Dave Gallaher’s touring All Blacks at Crystal Palace–the first ever meeting of two national teams. Ensuing matches, in both the amateur and professional eras, have been dramatic and controversial, steeped in the historical rivalry of the traditional home of the game for the nation that has claimed rugby as its own. Thorny Encounters chronicles the first 40 rugby internationals between England and New Zealand, spanning 1905 to 2014. Historic encounters between men in white and black have been dramatic, controversial, and steeped in historical rivalry.” (Abridged Catalogue)

Words from Here : Karori Writers in Conversation

How is writing informed by the place in which we live? Where does the boundary lie between non-fiction and fiction, and how do writers tread that fine line between who they are, and what they write?

If you’re interested at all in the inner life of the writer, come along to Karori library on February the 28th between 6 – 7:30 p.m. and listen to three of Wellington finest writers — Sarah Laing, Rajorshi Chakraborti and Leah McFall — discuss their celebrated written works, inspirations and writing process.

Food and drink will be provided, and Marsden Books will be selling books on the night.

Leah McFall is an award-winning columnist for Sunday magazine and published her first collection, Karori Confidential, last year.

Rajorshi Chakraborti is an Indian-born novelist and short story writer whose latest novel, The Man Who Would Not See, takes place largely in Wellington and Karori.

Sarah Laing is a cartoonist, novelist and short story writer. Her most recent book, Mansfield and Me, is a graphic memoir about Karori’s most famous writer.

We look forward to seeing you on the night!

Need more information? Contact Karori library on 476-8413, or email Monty.