Shakespeare in Swahililand – Recent Literature picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And two inspirational speeches:

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

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

Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf ? Recent literature picks

Many people it would seem. While widely admired for her beautiful writing style, her work puzzles a lot of people – it is complex and open to liberal interpretation. Virginia Woolf thought she could involve her readers in the creative process, but not all have felt equal to the task. This interesting new book should make things easier for them.
Also on offer this month is an unexpected collection of love poems by Charles Bukowski, a humorous new play about the succession of King Charles 111, a new study of Maya Angelou and an anthology of writing about walking.

Syndetics book coverWoolf : a guide for the perplexed / Kathryn Simpson.“Virginia Woolf is one of the best-known and most influential modernist writers; an iconic figure, her image and reference to her work and life appear in the most varied of cultural sites. Her writing is, however, in many ways kaleidoscopic and has given rise to a diverse and, sometimes, conflicting body of critical work.There is much to perplex any reader approaching her writing, especially for the first time. This guide untangles some of the difficulties and perplexities that can prove a barrier to understanding the work”.(Wellington City Libraries’ catalogue note).

Syndetics book coverKing Charles III / Mike Bartlett.“Mike Bartlett’s provocative ‘future history play’ explores the people beneath the crowns, the unwritten rules of our democracy, and the conscience of Britain’s most famous family.
Queen Elizabeth II is dead. After a lifetime of waiting, her son ascends the throne. A future of power. But how to rule? The play draws on the style and structure of a Shakespearean history play, with much of the dialogue written in blank verse, a comic subplot, and even the occasional appearance of a significant ghost.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverOn love / Charles Bukowski ; edited by Abel Debritto.“Bukowski is brilliant on love–often amusing, sometimes playful, and fleetingly sweet. On Love offers deep insight into Bukowski the man and the artist; whether writing about his daughter, his lover, his friends, or his work, he is piercingly honest and poignantly reflective, using love as a prism to see the world in all its beauty and cruelty, and his own fragile place in it.”Brutally honest, flecked with humor and pathos, On Love reveals Bukowski at his most candid and affecting.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverThe goshawk / T.H. White ; with a foreword by Helen Macdonald.“First published in 1951, T.H. White’s memoir describes with searing honesty his attempt to train a wild goshawk, a notoriously difficult bird to master. With no previous experience and only a few hopelessly out-of-date books on falconry as a guide, he set about trying to bend the will of his young bird Gos to his own. Suffering setback after setback, the solitary and troubled White nonetheless found himself obsessively attached to the animal he hoped would one day set him free.”(Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverA bus pass named desire / Christopher Matthew ; illustrations by Tony Ross.“A Bus Pass Named Desire is book of warm, witty and charming poems about everything from negotiating Tinder in your sixties to the dubious flattery of being stalked on the Internet by your old flame from the 1970s; from the dangers of the Bridge party invitation to the joys of the Senior Citizen City Break.All life – and love – is here!” (Syndetics summary).

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

Syndetics book coverM train / Patti Smith.Proxy Error“An unforgettable odyssey of a legendary artist. It begins in the tiny Greenwich Village café where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook. Woven throughout are reflections on the writer’s craft and on artistic creation. Here, too, are singular memories of Smith’s life in Michigan and the irremediable loss of her husband, Fred Sonic Smith”.(Wellington City Libraries’ catalogue note).

Syndetics book coverThe walker’s anthology / compiled by Deborah Manley.The Walker’s Anthology“Several millennia ago two people – possibly an adult and a child – walked in soft, muddy ground in the Olduvai Gorge in present day Kenya, leaving their footprints for archaeologists to discover. And, still walking, the descendants of people like these two went on to walk right across our world. Walking is as natural to us as breathing and almost every author who has ever written has had something to say on the subject.
In this fascinating anthology, Deborah Manley has drawn on writings of more than 50 literary figures from around the world.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverArtful / Ali Smith.
“Adapted from four lectures given by Ali Smith at Oxford University, Artful is a tidal wave of ideas in four thematically organised bursts of thought: ‘On Time’, ‘On Form’, ‘On Edge’ and ‘On Offer and On Reflection’.Refusing to be tied down to either fiction or the essay form, Artful is narrated by a character who is haunted – literally – by a former lover, the writer of a series of lectures about art and literature”.(Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverPlaying with books : a study of the reader as child / John Morgenstern.“This ambitious study of the textual characteristics of children’s literature examines its history and stylistics, analyzes the modern conception of childhood, and dissects the rhetoric of selected children’s novels. Underlying it all is the author’s interest in children’s play and what it reveals about their nature and the literature intended for them.” (Syndetics summary.)

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)

The art of war: the First World War in paintings, photographs, posters and cartoons

By 1916 Britain, Australia and Canada had each established official war art programmes to document their country’s activities in the First World War and to use for propaganda purposes. Muirhead Bone was appointed Britain’s first official war artist in May of that year in an unprecedented act of government sponsorship for the arts. New Zealand lagged behind its allies on this issue because its wartime government considered war art unnecessary and expensive, but in April 1918 Nugent Welch was taken on as New Zealand’s divisional war artist.

Syndetics book coverArt from the First World War.
“Throughout World War I, the British government employed a diverse group of artists to produce a rich visual record of wartime events. But the art from this important collection often far exceeds this objective, giving voice to both the artist and the soldiers who are depicted. Art from the First World War contains more than fifty images chosen from among the Imperial War Museum’s impressive collection of works by war artists. Art from the First World War features some of the most well-known British artists of the twentieth century, from the brothers John and Paul Nash to William Orpen, Stanley Spencer, and John Singer Sargent, whose Gassed shows a line of wounded soldiers blinded by a mustard gas attack. On the occasion of the centenary, the Imperial War Museum is bringing this book out in a new edition.” (Syndetics summary)

Historically portraits of military leaders were more common then the portraits of the ordinary serviceman. The depictions of other aspects of war such as the suffering of casualties and civilians has taken much longer to develop.

Syndetics book coverThe Great War in portraits / Paul Moorhouse ; with an essay by Sebastian Faulks.
“In viewing the Great War through the portraits of those involved, Paul Moorhouse looks at the bitter-sweet nature of a conflict in which valour and selfless endeavour were qualified by disaster and suffering, and examines the notion of identity – how various individuals associated with the war were represented and perceived.” (Syndetics)

Women artists:
There were no officially commissioned women war artists in the First World War. Women artists were excluded from the front line – the fields of domesticity and social and industrial subjects were considered to be their metier. However women served as nurses, nurse aides and ambulance drivers. Many of them were accomplished informal artists and were able to record their experiences in several mediums.


photo 2photo 1
Left: ‘A Grenadier Guardsman’ by William Orpen, 1917. Right: ‘A bus conductress’ by Victoria Monkhouse, 1919.

Syndetics book coverBeyond the battlefield : women artists of the two World Wars
“World Wars I and II changed the globe on a scale never seen before or since, and from these terrible conflicts came an abundance of photographs, drawings, and other artworks attempting to make sense of the turbulent era. In this generously illustrated book, Catherine Speck provides a fascinating account of women artists during wartime in America, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and their visual responses to war, both at the front lines and on the home front. In addition to following high-profile artists such as American photographer Lee Miller, Speck recounts the experiences of nurses, voluntary aides, and ambulance drivers who found the time to create astonishing artworks in the midst of the conflict.” (Syndetics)

Posters were recognised as a powerful recruiting tool with simple slogans and strong graphic imagery designed to appeal to the working class who fuelled so much of the machinery of war. They were also used to stir up patriotic feeling, influence women to send their menfolk to the front and to take up positions in service, farms and factories. They were also used to justify the war, raise money, procure resources and to promote good standards of behaviour.

Syndetics book coverBritish posters of the First World War
“During the First World War the authorities emulated the simple slogans and strong graphic imagery of advertising posters to create a form of mass communication that was easily and instantly understood by the British public. They were aimed at the mostly illiterate working class who did more than their share to feed the machinery of war. This book looks at the art of these posters and explores the themes that emerged throughout the course of the conflict.” (Syndetics)

Photography in the First World War was made possible by earlier developments in chemistry and in the manufacture of glass lenses, established as a practical process from the 1850s onwards.The ability of photographers to document events was limited to what they could literally see at a certain time, while the quality of their work was hampered by the limited manoeuverability of their equipment. War artists had much greater flexibility as documenters of war, particularly in the difficult conditions of the trenches.

Syndetics book coverWorld War I in colour : the definitive illustrated history with over 200 remarkable full colour photographs
“Up to now, World War I has only been seen in black and white. At the time, it was the only way pictures from the front and scenes recreated for the camera could be filmed. Now, for the first time, rare archive footage in black and white from worldwide sources, including Russia, Germany, France, Italy, the USA and the Imperial War Museum, London, has been recast into colour with the greatest care and attention to detail. The results are breathtaking, bringing a remarkable immediacy and poignancy to the war which consumed the lives of 10 million soldiers and civilians.” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverImages of war : World War One : a photographic record of New Zealanders at war 1914-1918
“In this photographic collection from the archives of the Waiouru Army Museum, renowned military historian Glyn Harper has selected and annotated the story of Kiwis at the front during the First World War.” (Syndetics)

For many confronted with the effects or aftermath of the war’s violence, photos were too graphic for daily consumption. Caricatures and cartoons served as a release valve—allowing citizens to make fun of politicians, or the enemy, to offset the dire realities of the day. The period was a high point for illustrated magazines, and cartoons were contemporary commentaries.

Syndetics book coverWorld War I in cartoons
“Using images from a wide variety of international wartime magazines, newspapers, books, postcards, posters and prints, Mark Bryant tells the history of World War I from both sides of the conflict in an immediate and refreshing manner that brings history alive. The book contains more than 300 cartoons and caricatures, in colour and black and white, many of which are published here in book form for the first time. Artists featured include such famous names as Bruce Bairnsfather, H.M.Bateman, F.H.Townshend, Alfred Leete, E.J. Sullivan, Lucien Metivet and Louis Raemaekers, with drawings from the Bystander, London Opinion, Daily Graphic, Punch, Le Rire, Simplicissimus and Kladderadatsch amongst many others.” (Syndetics)

Art and medicine:
Drawings, portraits and photographs were used to help the four pioneering plastic surgeons of the two world wars to reconstruct the faces of disfigured servicemen and civilians.

Syndetics book coverReconstructing faces : the art and wartime surgery of Gillies, Pickerill, McIndoe & Mowlem
“The two world wars played an important role in the evolution of plastic and maxillofacial surgery in the first half of the 20th century. This book is about four of the key figures involved. Sir Harold Gillies and Sir Archibald McIndoe were born in Dunedin; McIndoe and Rainsford Mowlem studied medicine at the University of Otago Medical School, and Henry Pickerill was foundation Dean of the University of Otago Dental School.” (Syndetics)

How the First World War shaped the future of Western art:
The First World War utterly changed the way artists looked at the world. Throughout Western art, the grim realities of industrial warfare led to a backlash against the propaganda and grandiose nationalism that had sparked the conflagration. Cynicism toward the ruling classes and disgust with war planners and profiteers led to demands for art forms that were honest and direct, less embroidered with rhetoric and euphemism.

Syndetics book coverEsprit de corps : the art of the Parisian avant-garde and the First World War, 1914-1925
“In analyzing the changes in modern art between the outbreak of World War I and the Paris Exposition des Arts Dcoratifs of 1925, Kenneth Silver shows that the Parisian avant-garde was deeply involved in French society and its dominant values and relationships. He radically reinterprets masterpieces of modern art, from Matisse and Picasso to Léger and Le Corbusier, demonstrating how their creators all refer, consciously or not, to the Great War and its aftermath.” (Syndetics)

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

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)