People & Places Newsletter for April

Catalysts for change is the common theme running throughout much of this April’s picks.

Now that America’s first black president is serving his second term of office it is hard to realise that half a century ago a humble Afro-American seamstress in the south of the country made history by refusing to give up her seat to a white man in a segregated bus. By so doing she started a revolution. This month we salute brave Rosa Parks.Many of this month’s picks focus on people who have bettered the lives of others – such as Charles Dickens in highlighting the horrors of London workhouses, who earned their living by serving others such as the domestic servants featured here, or who lived life on the margins.

Biography

Syndetics book coverLord of the isle : the extravagant life and times of Colin Tennant / Nicholas Courtney.
“This is the biography of the late Lord Glenconner, the lord born to a rich Victorian industrial family who used his wealth to live an eccentric lifestyle of self-indulgence from the 1940s to his death in 2010.”(www.globalbooksinprint.com)

Syndetics book coverDrinking with men / Rosie Schaap.
“Drinking memoirs generally fall into two categories: Never again and Pour me another. Schaap, who writes the Drink column for the New York Times Magazine, has composed one of the latter, an ode to the great tradition of regularhood advocating equal regularhood rights for women. From her teenage discovery of the bar car on the Metro-North New Haven Line; to her college years at the Pig, in North Bennington, Vermont; to a marriage-ending epiphany at Else’s, in Montreal, Schaap charts her path from adolescence to adulthood, bar by bar, sometimes having a few too many but always finding the sense of community and belonging she clearly craves.”(Provided by publisher).

Syndetics book coverDickens and the workhouse : Oliver Twist and the London poor / Ruth Richardson.
“Medical historian Richardson (The Making of Mr. Gray’s Anatomy) joined the cause to preserve a London building that had once been the Strand Union Workhouse (as the British say) Cleveland Street. She made what she calls “the remarkable finding” that Dickens lived only a few doors away as a toddler and again in his late teens. Never mind that Dickens’s London addresses have long been known and that he placed the Oliver Twist workhouse 75 miles north of London (an area he visited where there was a workhouse)-Richardson wants to make the case for this workhouse as the basis for the famous workhouse scenes in Oliver Twist. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.” (Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverThe rebellious life of Mrs. Rosa Parks / Jeanne Theoharis.
“In her introduction to this biography, Brooklyn College political scientist Theoharis (coauthor of Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles Outside of the South) notes the common perception of Rosa Parks (1913-2005): “hidden in plain sight, celebrated and paradoxically relegated to be a hero for children.” Into that gap, Theoharis submits a lavishly well-documented study of Parks’s life and career as an activist. In tracing her work with the Montgomery NAACP and other groups from the 1930s onwards, and then following her move from Alabama after the 1956 bus boycott to Detroit, Theoharis maps a lifetime devoted to civil rights, thereby destabilizing our notions of Parks as a “tired seamstress” who simply kept her seat on a bus one day in 1955.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly).

Syndetics book coverOutsiders : stories from the fringe of New Zealand society / Gerard Hindmarsh.
“A social history of New Zealand’s outsiders, such as Arawata Bill, The Chaffeys, George Wilder and others – those who choose to live out on the fringes of society, and whose free and unrestricted lives offer an important counterbalance to the structured urban world most of us inhabit”.(Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverThe real Jane Austen : a life in small things / Paula Byrne.
“Just in time for the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (first published in January 1813), comes Paula Byrne’s vivacious new portrait of its author. The approach Byrne (Jane Austen and the Theatre) takes is refreshingly material-based and the book is experimental in structure; each chapter unfolds from the biographer’s description of a small object associated with Austen’s life (chapter titles include “The East Indian Shawl”, “The Cocked Hat” “The Card of Lace”, “The Crimson Velvet Cushions”, and “The Topaz Crosses”). This technique serves two functions: firstly, it honors the precision for which Austen was famed by drawing attention to the material artifacts of her life; secondly, it challenges the “`official’ family biography””. (Publisher Weekly).

Syndetics book coverClimbing the stairs / Margaret Powell.
“Margaret Powell was born in 1907 in Hove, and left school at the age of 13 to start working. At 14, she got a job in a hotel laundry room, and a year later went into service as a kitchen maid, eventually progressing to the position of cook, before marrying a milkman called Albert. In 1968 the first volume of her memoirs, Below Stairs, was published to instant success and turned her into a celebrity. She followed this up with Climbing the Stairs, The Treasure Upstairs and The Margaret Powell Cookery Book. She died in 1984.”(Summary from www/globalbooksinprint.com).

Syndetics book coverLiterary outlaw : the life and times of William S. Burroughs / Ted Morgan.
“Another dazzling literary portrait from the author of Maugham [BKL F 15 80]. This time Morgan has chosen a subject whose life and work are so inextricable that, unlike the effort required to unravel Maugham’s attempts to disguise his real nature, what is required here is a candor and openness to match the subject’s notoriety and vulnerability. A homosexual and drug addict, Burroughs pursued an individual course in his life and art with a purpose and intensity that would set him apart from other members of the countercultural circle that he helped make famous– let alone from more orthodox intellectual and artistic circles.Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist).

Syndetics book coverOn Helwig Street : a memoir / Richard Russo.
“In its heyday Gloversville, New York was a prosperous beacon of the leather-goods industry, famously producing nine out of ten pairs of American gloves. But by the time Richard Russo was growing up there in the 1950s, the only son of a largely absent father and a mother, Jean, who suffered from ‘nerves’, Gloversville had fallen victim to changing fashions and gone bust. A better life elsewhere was the dream Jean instilled in her son and strived to secure for them both. Vividly recalling the road trips and adventures that took them far from Gloversville but always led them back home, Russo describes how childhood segued into adulthood and parenthood in the company of his restless mother. At the same time he recounts with touching honesty how the literary success that enriched his own life was at odds with the disappointment that punctuated hers.” (Summary from www.globalbooksinprint.com).

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Travel stories & guides

New travel stories. Love with a chance of drowning.

Syndetics book coverLove with a chance of drowning : a memoir / Torre DeRoche.
“Love can make a person do crazy things… A city girl with a morbid fear of deep water, Torre DeRoche is not someone you would ordinarily find adrift in the middle of the stormy Pacific aboard a leaky sailboat – total crew of two – struggling to keep an old boat, a new relationship and her floundering sanity afloat. But when she meets Ivan, a handsome Argentinean man with a humble sailboat and a dream to set off exploring the world, Torre has to face a hard decision: watch the man she’s in love with sail away forever, or head off on the watery journey with him. Suddenly the choice seems simple. She gives up her sophisticated city life, faces her fear of water (and tendency towards seasickness) and joins her lover on a year-long voyage across the Pacific.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJungleland : a mysterious lost city, a WWII spy, and a true story of deadly adventure / Christopher S. Stewart.
“”… Stewart’s chronicle relates his 2008 odyssey to Honduras. He sought a place of rumored existence called the White City, with which he became obsessed upon learning that, in 1940, colorful adventurer Theodore Morde announced its discovery, though he kept proprietarily circumspect about its exact location. Morde then became an OSS agent but never returned to Honduras. With the assistance of Morde’s journal, an experienced American archaeologist, and local Honduran guides, Stewart sallied forth for the tropical forest where lurked the White City. ….–Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist) (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBearback : the world overland / Pat Garrod.
“‘Inspired’, ‘enthralling’ and ’stylish’ are just some of the words used to describe the first edition of Bearback. Now in paperback, Pat Garrod’s remarkable story is set to be discovered by even more travellers.. Imagine jacking it all in, packing your life into a 41-litre pannier and riding into the sunset. Bearback is the story of two GPs who did just that, downing stethoscopes to take off on their motorcycle, The Bear, to see the world. Across the deserts of Africa, over the mountains of the Andes, deep into the jungles of Indochina, and beyond the Arctic Circle; 100,000 miles through six continents and 64 countries. A circumnavigation of epic proportion and entirely unsupported, it was to become one of the longest journeys ever undertaken by a couple on one motorcycle, a journey destined to change their lives forever.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFarewell, Fred Voodoo : a letter from Haiti / Amy Wilentz.
“Describes the author’s long and painful relationship with Haiti before and after the 2010 earthquake, tracing the country’s turbulent history and its status as a symbol of human rights activism and social transformation.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe golden shore : California’s love affair with the sea / David Helvarg.
“”In this ambitious work, journalist and conservationist Helvarg (Saved by the Sea) successfully relates the myriad ways in which Californians engage with their beloved Pacific. …Unsurprisingly, Helvarg starts with surfing, specifically the Mavericks big-wave contest at Half Moon Bay. He covers California’s Native population from the earliest arrivals to a recent victory requiring the removal of dams on the Klamath River to return it and its fishing to a more natural state. Environmental issues appear throughout, though Helvarg also devotes entire chapters to shipping. …In two late chapters Helvarg describes a coastal drive from Mexico to Oregon, and then concludes with thoughts on how Californians will face ongoing environmental trials, such as a projected sea level rise of three feet or more. 12 b&w photos. Agent: Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyons Literary Agency. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly)” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKorea / this edition written and researched by Simon Richmond, Timothy N Hornyak, Shawn Low.Korea
“”The Korean Peninsula is a true travel gem: the South, a high-tech nation with a reverence for tradition and the ways of old Asia; the North, a challenging, geopolitical enigma.”Simon Richmond, Lonely Planet Writer .” (Amazon.co.uk.)

Syndetics book coverBack roads Ireland / contributors, Donna Daily … [et. al].
“Unearth the real soul of this magical region with all the practical information you could need, from road conditions and length of drive to parking information and opening hours. Twenty-five themed drives, each lasting one to seven days, reveal breathtaking views, hidden gems and authentic local experiences that can only be discovered by road. Each tour is bursting with insider knowledge and loaded with ideas for varied activities from walks to days on the beach and children’s attractions, to wine and cycling trips.” (Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverTokyo on foot : travels in the city’s most colorful neighborhoods / text and illustrations by Florent Chavouet.
“In this first English edition of a graphic memoir of a young French graphic artist of his stay in Tokyo in 2006, Chavouet presents his sketches evidently inspired by Japanese cartoon styles, hand-drawn maps, and impressions of the sights, sounds, and cultural quirks of the neighborhoods of what he notes has been called “the most beautiful of ugly cities.” The book was originally published in 2009 by Editions Philippe Picquier, and awarded a prize that year at the International Festival of Geography. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Kombi trail : across three continents in a VW van / Robert Cox, Roger Sherwin, Tony Thompson.
“Cambridge, 1961. A group of students set off on the trip of a lifetime. Against the backdrop of the Cold War they travel through the Soviet Union to the Middle East, South Asia and on to Africa. Their mode of transport? The iconic VW Kombi.This book tells the story of that trip, not just the people they met and the places they saw, but the many experiences – sometimes nerve-wracking, sometimes bizarre – that they encountered along the way. It provides a fascinating insight into a world on the brink of change – seen through the eyes of nine young men fresh from university. ….” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHere, there, elsewhere : stories from the road / William Least Heat-Moon.
“”It’s collected-works time for the renowned author of such outstanding travel literature as Blue Highways (1983) and River-Horse (1999). Thirty magazine pieces comprise this assembly, with some articles ranging abroad, such as the author’s depictions of his ventures to New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, and Britain. Most, however, amble around America or radiate from the author’s home states of Missouri and Kansas. ….–Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist)” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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History

Below is a selection of the latest history books we have received in March. It is an ecclectic mix that deserves your attention!

Syndetics book coverIke and Dick : portrait of a strange political marriage / Jeffrey Frank.
“Examines the relationship between Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, from the politics that divided them to the marriage that united their families. Despite being separated by age and temperament, their association evolved into a collaboration that helped to shape the nation’s political ideology, foreign policy, and domestic goals.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe birth of the West : Rome, Germany, France, and the creation of Europe in the tenth century / Paul Collins.
“The tenth century dawned in violence and disorder. Charlemagne’s empire was in ruins, most of Spain had been claimed by Moorish invaders, and even the papacy in Rome was embroiled in petty, provincial conflicts. To many historians, it was a prime example of the ignorance and uncertainty of the Dark Ages. Yet according to historian Paul Collins, the story of the tenth century is the story of our culture’s birth, of the emergence of our civilization into the light of day. The Birth of the West tells the story of a transformation from chaos to order, exploring the alien landscape of Europe in transition. It is a fascinatingnarrative that thoroughly renovates older conceptions of feudalism and what medieval life was actually like. The result is a wholly new vision of how civilization sprang from the unlikeliest of origins, and proof that our tenth-century ancestors are not as remote as we might think.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe presidents club : inside the world’s most exclusive fraternity / Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy.
“The Presidents Club, established at Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration by Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover, is a complicated place: its members are bound forever by the experience of the Oval Office and yet are eternal rivals for history’s favor. Among their secrets: How Jack Kennedy tried to blame Ike for the Bay of Pigs. How Ike quietly helped Reagan win his first race in 1966. How Richard Nixon conspired with Lyndon Johnson to get elected and then betrayed him. How Jerry Ford and Jimmy Carter turned a deep enmity into an alliance. The unspoken pact between a father and son named Bush. And the roots of the rivalry between Clinton and Barack Obama.
Timemagazine editors and presidential historians Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy offer a new and revealing lens on the American presidency, exploring the club as a hidden instrument of power that has changed the course of history.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Hopkins touch : Harry Hopkins and the forging of the alliance to defeat Hitler / David L. Roll.
“The Hopkins Touchoffers the first portrait in over two decades of the most powerful man in Roosevelt’s administration.
David Roll shows how Harry Hopkins, an Iowa-born social worker who had been an integral part of the New Deal’s implementation, became the linchpin in FDR’s–and America’s–relationships with Churchill and Stalin, and spoke with an authority second only to the president’s. Gaunt, nearly spectral, and malnourished following an operation to remove part of his stomach, the newly widowed Hopkins accepted the president’s invitation to move into the White House in 1940 and remained Roosevelt’s closest advisor, speechwriter, sounding board, and friend nearly to the end. Between 1940 and 1945, with incomparable skill and indefatigable determination, Hopkins organized the Lend-Lease program and steered the president to prepare the public for war with Germany. He became FDR’s problem-solver and fixer, helping to smooth over crises, such as when the British refused to allow an invasion of Europe in 1943, enraging Stalin, who felt that the Soviet Union was carrying the military effort against the Nazis. Lacking an official title or a clear executive branch portfolio, Hopkins could take the political risks his boss could not, and proved crucial to maintaining personal relations among the Big Three. Beloved by some–such as Churchill, who believed that Hopkins “always went to the root of the matter”–and trusted by most–including the paranoid Stalin–there were nevertheless those who resented the influence of “the White House Rasputin.”
Based on newly available sources,The Hopkins Touchis an absorbing, substantial new work that offers a fresh perspective on the World War II era and the Allied leaders, through the life of the man who kept them on point until the war was won.” (Syndetics summary)

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New Zealand

This month the New Zealand Collection features history of Antarctica and also some great new and revised New Zealand history. This includes an item that focuses on teaching history to secondary school students. The last book is a study of issues faced by whānau in Māori education.

Syndetics book coverA history of Antarctica / Stephen Martin.
“This revised and expanded book – first published in 1996 – traces the patterns of human activity in Antarctica, from the southern journeys of the 16th century to the modern expeditions of adventurers and tourists. Using material from diaries, letters, and fresh research, the book illuminates the main themes of Antarctic history with the personal stories and images of the men and women who explored, worked, and lived in this frozen and remote continent. The book examines such topics as the early Polynesian explorers, the amazing diversity of flora and fauna, the detailed geological features, etc. A History of Antarctica is about the people of Antarctica – those who have chosen to endure the risks and enjoy the rewards of conquering the world’s most forbidding land.”(Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSurveying the Antarctic : the New Zealand Geological Survey Antarctic Expedition 1957-1958 / Eugene Brian Fitzgerald.
“This volume is the story of the first New Zealand Official Government Expedition to Antarctica. It is based on the diary, notes and memory of the author, together with the letters and accounts written by other members of the expedition.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverImages from Albertland : Harold Marsh, 1876-1948 / Paul Campbell.
“William Harold Marsh, farmer, father and adventurous photographer captured a time of enchantment, when life was lived at a slower place, governed by a different set of values and priorities and ambitions. One of the first generation of those immigrants who sailed around the world to settle in Albertland, 70,000 coastal acres on the Kaipara Harbour, in Northland, New Zealand, he has left a legacy of those times, a window into the past for those yet to come.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Heaphy Track / Chris Petyt.
“Heaphy he never actually followed the whole route. He along with Thomas Brunner and Kehu, their Maori guide, travelled down the coast in 1846 from the north and only traversed the coastal section of the track from the Heaphy River to the Kohaihai River. The first Europeans to traverse the route are only recorded as “Aldridge and his mate”. Following the discovery of gold in the Aorere Valley in late 1865, the route of the Heaphy Track was used by gold miners to traverse between the Aorere Goldfield and those that were subsequently discovered on the West Coast. Author Chris Petyt has dug deep and wide to assemble this first comprehensive account of the human history of the Heaphy Track. Today, the Heaphy is one of New Zealand’s premier walking tracks and the longest of the multi-day tracks designated by the Department of Conservation as Great Walks. Those contemplating a trip over the track will also find it useful as the final chapter is a guide to walking the track.” (Syndetics summary)

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People & Places Newsletter for March

In this month’s People & Places: the tumultuous life of Margaret Mitchell, ‘Gone with the Wind”s Scarlett O’Hara; Karl Pilkington continues to travel to exotic locations – hating every minute – for our amusement; and ‘Listening In’ provides the closest thing to a JFK autobiography – phone conversations, meetings and reflections recorded in the Oval Office.

Library News

Biography

Scarlett O’Hara is probably one of the best -known heroines in modern fiction.What is less well-known is that the author’s life was almost as tumultuous as that of her fictional creation.. Mitchell’s life mirrored Scarlett’s in that she rejected a conventional suitor and chose a wild outsider instead. But unlike Scarlett she was given a second chance, and that union gave birth to ‘Gone with the wind’.
Two other books selected this month feature second chances. Many will have seen the moving French film ” The Intouchables“.- ‘A second wind’ is the true story behind it. Phillipe Pozzi de Borgo was a wealthy champagne magnate who became a quadraplegic after a hang-gliding accident. Abdel was the tough, streetwise Algerian immigrant who reluctantly became his carer. His bucaneering approach to life gave fun and freedom to Philippe and ultimately helped him to find his life partner. In a neat juxtaposition looking after Philippe led to a new life for Abdel.
Award-winning writer Elie Weisel was given the gift of a new life after heart surgery. In “Open heart’ he reflects on his life – his successes and dispappointments and his hope that he had made the world a better place.

Syndetics book coverWives and stunners : the Pre-Raphaelites and their muses / Henrietta Garnett.
“Essentially a domestic biography whose main concern is the tragicomedy of manners enacted by a closely knit group of friends and lovers,’ Wives and Stunners’ tells the story of Janey Morris, Georgie Burne-Jones, Lizzie Siddall, Effie Gray and–less well-known–Marie Spartali, Aglaia Coronio and Mary Zambacco.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverMargaret Mitchell & John Marsh : the love story behind Gone with the wind / a biography by Marianne Walker.
“Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949), author of Gone With the Wind , jilted her kind, protective suitor, John Marsh, and instead married Red Upshaw, an unstable bootlegger who physically abused her. Even after she divorced Upshaw, Mitchell, according to Walker, was a confused romantic who in many ways resembled her heroine, Scarlett O’Hara. A “classic demanding-dependent personality,” Mitchell found more than a supportive fatherly mate in public relations executive Marsh, whom she finally married in 1925. Walker, a professor of English and philosophy at the University of Kentucky-Henderson Community College, reveals that Marsh played a vital role in the creation of Mitchell’s classic Civil War saga. He offered key ideas and advice, continuously edited the manuscript as his wife wrote it, and helped with the revision. Walker quotes liberally from the couple’s letters and also draws on interviews, family papers and archival research to tell a moving love story of a symbiotic union that lasted 24 years. A remarkable piece of detective work.” (Summary from www.globalbooksinprint.com).

Syndetics book coverA second wind / Philippe Pozzo di Borgo ; translated by Will Hobson.
“Philippe Pozzo di Borgo was not in the habit of asking for help. Then, in 1993, a paragliding accident left him a quadriplegic. The only person who wasn’t bothered by Philippe’s condition was Abdel, the unemployed Algerian immigrant from the outskirts of society who would become Philippe’s unlikely caretaker.”(Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverOpen heart / Elie Wiesel ; translated by Marion Wiesel.
“A profoundly and unexpectedly intimate, deeply affecting summing up of his life so far, from one of the most cherished moral voices of our time. Eighty-two years old, facing emergency heart surgery and his own mortality, Elie Wiesel reflects back on his life. Emotions, images, faces and questions flash through his mind. His family before and during the unspeakable Event. The gifts of marriage and children and grandchildren that followed. In his writing, in his teaching, in his public life, has he done enough for memory and the survivors? His ongoing questioning of God—where has it led? Is there hope for mankind? The world’s tireless ambassador of tolerance and justice has given us this luminous account of hope and despair, an exploration of the love, regrets and abiding faith of a remarkable.”(Summary from www.globalbooksinprint.com).

Syndetics book coverWilliam Colenso : printer, missionary, botanist, explorer, politician : his life and journeys / by A.G. Bagnall and G.C. Petersen ; [edited by Ian St George].
“Colenso, a Church Missionary Society missionary, printer and botanist, established the first printing press in New Zealand and printed the first book, 5000 copies of the New Testament in Māori, in 1837. He also printed the Treaty of Waitangi. His Authentic and genuine history of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi (1890) is regarded as the most reliable European account from the time. Throughout his life, he defended the rights and equality of Māori. Posted to Hawke’s Bay and determined to expand the activities of the mission, Colenso undertook major journeys to reach isolated Māori villages on the east coast of the North Island and inland.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverMoranthology / Caitlin Moran.
“British journalist Moran’s (How To Be a Woman) award-winning columns for The Times are available here for an American audience for the first time. In the introduction, she declares her intentions to write “a collection of instances of how brilliant the world often is.” To that end, she covers topics that range from her personal history (being homeschooled in a housing project in the industrial city of Wolverhampton, her work interviewing musicians including Keith Richards and Lady Gaga), social issues (benefit reform, the welfare state, the importance of libraries, particularly to poor communities; she describes them as places “where the wealthy’s taxes pay for you to become a little more extraordinary”. (Summary from www.globalbooksinnprint.com).

Syndetics book coverThe watchmaker’s daughter / Sonia Taitz.
“From the time Taitz was small, her parents’ stories about the Holocaust were like telling me about the secrets of the cosmos. Parts of this refugee family’s dynamics were competitions about which parent’s family had suffered most my life was worse than yours . . . you don’t know from suffering and, more happily, affection. When Sonia’s adored father pulled her toward him, my joy was boundless I had been – selected.’ Only then, chosen, did I feel fully alive. Her Jewish home, where even the walls were sighing, makes her eager for an outside world and education. She realizes, however, that her promised land is not Yale Law School, and finally becomes her own true self while studying literature at Oxford”.(Booklist)

Syndetics book coverRaffles and the golden opportunity 1781-1826 / Victoria Glendinning.
“This is the first biography in decades of the ‘Father of Singapore’. Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781-1826) was the charismatic and persuasive founder of Singapore and Governor of Java. An English adventurer, disobedient employee of the East India Company, utopian imperialist, linguist, zoologist and civil servant, he carved an extraordinary (though brief) life for himself in South East Asia. The tropical, disease-ridden settings of his story are as dramatic as his own trajectory – an obscure young man with no advantages other than talent and obsessive drive, who changed history by establishing – without authority – on the wretchedly unpromising island of Singapore, a settlement which has become a world city”.(Wellington City Libraries’ catalogue note).

Syndetics book coverRobespierre : a revolutionary life / Peter McPhee.
“Historian and professor McPhee (Living the French Revolution, 1789-1799) adds to his volumes on French history with a comprehensive biography of the controversial, diminutive, outspoken, and ambitious man who overcame adversity to become a lawyer, who argued for the rights of children born out of wedlock and freedom of the press in 18th-century France, and whose name is inextricably linked with the French Revolution-for better or worse. McPhee maintains that Maximilien Robespierre “was seeking to make sense of the chaos of a world in revolutionary upheaval and to use his talents to create stability and certainty for a new order”-but at the end of his short life, he was “reviled as thoroughly as he had once been idolized.” (Book jacket).

Syndetics book coverMemé : the three worlds of an Italian-Chinese New Zealander / Memé Churton.
“Memé is half-Italian and half-Chinese and this unusual combination has coloured her personality and the course of her life. Growing up in Italy, she lived through the rise of Fascism and the Second World War. Next she went to China and found herself in the midst of the Chinese Revolution. Then she travelled to the other side of the world at the invitation of a New Zealand soldier whom she had met at the end of the war. Memé was shocked by the curiously old-fashioned and provincial way of life she found in 1950s New Zealand, but for various reasons she stayed, got married, and became involved in a variety of campaigns to enlarge its culture. She managed one of the first dealer art galleries, started one of its first European-style coffee bars, championed international cuisine, promoted fashion for women.”(Publisher Weekly).

Syndetics book coverAn extraordinary theory of objects : a memoir of an outsider in Paris / Stephanie LaCava ; with illustrations by Matthew Nelson.
“Fashion writer Lavaca’s childhood and teenage years were strange and confounding. The author’s family moved from New York to a Parisian suburb in 1993 when she was 12; the next year she suffered a breakdown. Always considered a bit strange as a child, she found solace and a sense of order in collecting objects. She had a passion for ancient mythologies: “I was obsessed with cabinets of curiosities, historical efforts to catalog and control nature’s oddities,” Lacava writes. As an adult Lacava began looking back over her life “through a narrative illuminated with objects and their respective stories.”(Publisher Weekly).

Syndetics book coverLife is a gift : the zen of Bennett / Tony Bennett ; foreword by Mitch Albom.
“Relaxed and comfortable but full of vigor, Bennett’s voice has charmed audiences for more than 60 years. Writing in the same style as he sings, in this new work he shares meditative lessons culled from his amazing life. Having learned the value of hard work during the Great Depression, the pointlessness of war during WWII, and the importance of being true to yourself during a career that has seen musical fads come and go over and over, Bennett (The Good Life, with Will Friedwald) has developed a loose set of rules by which he lives. Whether he is suggesting people “Only Sing Good Songs” or “Everything Should be Done with Love,” Bennett explains how these tenets have shaped his success and makes suggestions about how others can apply them to their lives”. (Publisher Weekly).

Syndetics book coverThe varnished untruth : my story / Pamela Stephenson.
“This is the autobiography of Pamela Stephenson, the wife of Billy Connelly and renowned writer and actress in her own right.”I am darn good at getting under other people’s skin, but opening up about my own life is quite a different matter. So how shall I portray myself? There are choices, you know: Wife, mother, psychologist, writer, comedian, actor, dancer, diver, gypsy, dreamer, rich girl, poor girl, beggar girl, thief. I am all of those and more. Tell you what, you decide. You decide exactly what I am.” A complicated childhood in Australia, a bold move to London, being a woman in a man’s world on Not the Nine O’Clock News, becoming Mrs Billy Connolly, motherhood, career changes and then Strictly Come Dancing – told in her own inimitable style”.(Wellington City Libraries catalogue note).

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Travel stories & guides

New travel books, taking you from Antarctica to Japan, Europe, China, Africa and ‘Around India in 80 Trains’.

Syndetics book coverTokyo on foot : travels in the city’s most colorful neighborhoods / text and illustrations by Florent Chavouet.
“In this first English edition of a graphic memoir of a young French graphic artist of his stay in Tokyo in 2006, Chavouet presents his sketches evidently inspired by Japanese cartoon styles, hand-drawn maps, and impressions of the sights, sounds, and cultural quirks of the neighborhoods of what he notes has been called “the most beautiful of ugly cities.” The book was originally published in 2009 by Editions Philippe Picquier, and awarded a prize that year at the International Festival of Geography. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHere, there, elsewhere : stories from the road / William Least Heat-Moon.
“”It’s collected-works time for the renowned author of such outstanding travel literature as Blue Highways (1983) and River-Horse (1999). Thirty magazine pieces comprise this assembly, with some articles ranging abroad, such as the author’s depictions of his ventures to New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, and Britain. Most, however, amble around America or radiate from the author’s home states of Missouri and Kansas. ….–Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist)” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLeave the lipstick, take the iguana : funny travel stories and strange packing tips / edited by Marcy Gordon.
“The ninth book in the best-selling Travelers’ Tales humor series. This laugh-out-loud collection will resonate with experienced travelers and novices alike and includes hilarious misadventures with packing, travel fashion, border crossings, language faux pas, weird encounters with exotic cuisine, and romantic overtures abroad.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGypset travel / Julia Chaplin.
“Gypsy+Jet Set = Gypset. In the follow-up to her best-selling Gypset Style, Julia Chaplin explores the little-known enclaves of gypsetters around the globe, from the Aeolian Islands in Italy to Lamu, Kenya; North Goa, India; and Jose Ignacio, Uruguay. Chaplin coined the term ‘gypset’ to describe a new lifestyle that fuses the carefree ethos of a gypsy nomad with the sophistication of the jet set. Gypset Travel delves into this glamorous bohemian world of artists, designers, and bons viivants through intimate photography and first-person anecdotes.” (Book jacket)

Syndetics book coverAround India in 80 trains / Monisha Rajesh.
“To understand India you have to see it, hear it, breathe it and feel it. Living through the good, the bad and the ugly is the only way to know where you fit in and where India fits into you. In 1991 Monisha and her family uprooted from Sheffield to Madras in the hope of making India their home again. But fed up with soap-eating rats, severed human heads, paying bribes, and the creepy colonel across the road, they soon returned to England, determined never to go back again. But twenty years later, Monisha takes a page out of Jules Verne’s classic tale, turns to a map of the Indian railways and embarks on an adventure around India in 80 trains connecting 80 cities, covering 40,000km – the circumference of the Earth. …” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEmpire Antarctica : ice, silence & emperor penguins / Gavin Francis.
“It is said to be one of our oldest stories: a young man goes to a far-off land in search of a mythical and wondrous beast. For years, Gavin Francis yearned to go to the remotest place on our planet, to see one of the strangest beasts alive. This is how he came to spend fourteen months living alongside emperor penguins as the base-camp doctor at Halley, a profoundly isolated British research station on the Caird Coast of Antarctica. …Combining an evocative and enchanting narrative with a sublime sensitivity to the natural world, this is travel writing at its very best.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCooks, clowns and cowboys : 101 skills and experiences to discover on your travels / [written by Andrew Bain … [et al.]].
“101 experiences, courses and lessons into classical skills and talents from around the world ; Tips on becoming the next molecular gastronomy genius, an intrepid archeologist, a Paris-based artist and more; The ultimate reference book for making the most of your travels – and gaining new skills along the way.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover The further adventures of an idiot abroad / Karl Pilkington ; photography by Freddie Claire ; illustrations by Dominic Trevett.
“…Taking the Bucket List of ‘100 Things to Do Before You Die’ as his starting point, Karl combines brilliant stories from his recent adventures to Alaska, Siberia and beyond with entertaining, highly-opinionated views on what other people aspire to do with their lives. * Why on earth would anybody want to run with the bulls in Pamplona? * Go ’storm chasing’ through Tornado Alley? * Have lunch with the Queen? * Or touch hands with the Pope? The Further Adventures of An Idiot Abroad is a fitting finale to two years of eventful globe-trotting. Frank, funny and strangely inspiring, this is Karl’s final word on travel.”–amazon.com. (Syndetics summary)

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History

We hope you enjoy the selection of recent history books for February 2013. Countries featured are Australia, Great Britain and America. We also have the story of a man looking for his ancestors. Fascinating!

Syndetics book coverBatavia : betrayal, shipwreck, murder, sexual slavery, courage, a spine-chilling chapter in Australian history / Peter FitzSimons.
“Batavia is the greatest story in Australia’s history. The Shipwreck of the Batavia combines in just the one tale the birth of the world’s first corporation, the brutality of colonisation, the battle of good vs evil, the derring-do of sea-faring adventure, mutiny, ship-wreck, love, lust, blood-lust, petty fascist dictatorship, criminality, a reign of terror, murders most foul, sexual slavery, natural nobility, survival, retribution, rescue, first contact with native peoples and so much more. Described by author Peter FitzSimons as “a true Adults Only version of Lord of the Flies, meeting Nightmare on Elm Street,” the story is set in 1629, when the pride of the Dutch East India Company, the Batavia, is on its maiden voyage en route from Amsterdam to the Dutch East Indies, laden down with the greatest treasure to leave Holland…” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBritain’s empire : resistance, repression and revolt / Richard Gott.
“This revelatory new history punctures the still widely held belief that the British Empire was an enlightened and civilizing enterprise of great benefit to its subject peoples. Instead, Britain’s Empire reveals a history of systemic repression and almost continual violence, showing how British rule was imposed as a military operation and maintained as a military dictatorship. For colonized peoples, the experience was a horrific one-of slavery, famine, battle and extermination.
Yet, as Richard Gott illustrates, the empire’s oppressed peoples did not go gently into that good night. Wherever Britain tried to plant its flag, there was resistance. From Ireland to India, from the American colonies to Australia, Gott chronicles the backlash. He shows, too, how Britain provided a blueprint for the genocides of twentieth-century Europe, and argues that its past leaders must rank alongside the dictators of the twentieth century as the perpetrators of crimes against humanity on an infamous scale. In tracing this history of resistance, all but lost to modern memory, Richard Gott recovers these forgotten peoples and puts them where they deserve to be: at the heart of the story of Britain’s empire.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPrairie fever : British aristocrats in the American West, 1830-1890 / Peter Pagnamenta.
“From the 1830s onward, a succession of well-born Britons headed west to the great American wilderness to find adventure and fulfillment. They brought their dogs, sporting guns, valets, and all the attitudes and prejudices of their class. Prairie Fever explores why the West had such a strong romantic appeal for them at a time when their inherited wealth and passion for sport had no American equivalent.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverReunion : a search for ancestors / [Ryan Littrell].
“Where do I come from? That question sets Ryan Littrell on a fascinating journey that crosses centuries. An anonymous letter reveals the first clues about his family story, and soon those clues lead to country graveyards, long-lost cousins, and a shocking DNA discovery. And as one hint follows the next, he uncovers his place in a tragic struggle–a tale of heartbreak, betrayal, and unfailing strength. A real-life account, Reunion shows how our ancestors are still a part of us, and how our story began long before we were even born”. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRasputin : the untold story / Joseph T. Fuhrmann.
“Using material from newly opened Soviet archives, particularly the correspondence of Czar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra, Fuhrmann, an emeritus professor of history at Murray State University in Kentucky, extends the range of his Rasputin: A Life (1990). He shows how an obscure Russian Orthodox monk became a close adviser to the czar and czarina, particularly after he predicted the recovery of their son, Alexis, from a possibly fatal illness in 1909. Alexandra turned to him for advice on Russia’s WWI military campaign, and he influenced the appointment of high officials. This outsize influence, and rumors that Rasputin was pro-German, impelled a cabal of members of the nobility to assassinate him in December 1916. Fuhrman provides graphic details of the murder and weighs the evidence that the British Secret Intelligence Service participated in the plot. Fuhrmann draws a complex portrait of a dissolute alcoholic figure who allegedly raped at least one woman, yet he was seen by his many followers as a starets (charismatic holy man). Fuhrmann does not provide a final appraisal of Rasputin’s significance in the immediate prerevolution period. Still, this vivid, briskly written biography brings to life one of the most colorful and sinister figures in modern Russian history. Illus. Agent: Andrew Lownie, Andrew Lownie Literary Agency. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverListening in : the secret White House recordings of John F. Kennedy / John F. Kennedy Library Foundation ; selected and introduced by Ted Widmer ; foreword by Caroline Kennedy.
“Everyone knows Nixon had tape recorders running in the Oval Office, but most Americans aren’t aware that FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower experimented with audio recording and that JFK installed taping systems in 1962 that he could activate to record significant meetings and phone conversations and, occasionally, his own reflections. All 265.5 hours of those tapes (with redactions, however) are now available at the Kennedy Presidential Library. This volume, accompanied by two CDs, gathers several dozen of the most interesting conversations. In addition to obvious subjects Cuba, civil rights, space, and Vietnam the collection also includes many remarks on history, politics, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and other foreign-policy developments. Because the tapes’ quality varies, some transcripts include too many skips and unclears to convey much meaning. Quite helpful, on the other hand, are the book’s illustrations, which range from photographs to contemporaneous documents and handwritten notes. Despite its limitations, Listening In lives up to Widmer’s descriptions, a portrait of a president being president, and the closest to an autobiography we will ever get.–Carroll, Mary Copyright 2010 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist)

Syndetics book coverFormer people : the final days of the Russian aristocracy / Douglas Smith.
“The wide discrepancy between the Russian peasant class (who made up 80 percent of Russia’s 19th-century population) and the nobility helped precipitate the Russian Revolution and the subsequent methodical elimination of the educated aristocratic class. Independent historian Smith (The Pearl: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in Catherine the Great’s Russia) has meticulously researched the revolutionary and Soviet eras, focusing on two noble families: the Sheremetevs and the Golitsyns. Using archival resources and both primary and secondary works, Smith gives us what he calls the first work to detail the nobles’ everyday lives, as well as the consequences to the country of their elimination. By focusing on these two families, Smith brings to life another aspect of Russian and Soviet history in the first half of the 20th century. The profiled families embody what many of the Russian nobles endured, and their choices attest to the resiliency of the human spirit. VERDICT This work will be enjoyed by Russophiles and historians of the tsarist era, as well as those studying this period of Soviet history. Those who enjoy studying the Romanovs will appreciate learning more about the Russian aristocracy as a whole. As such, an important addition to Russian history collections.-Maria C. Bagshaw, Elgin Comm. Coll. Lib., IL (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.” (Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverVikings / Neil Oliver.
“The Vikings famously took no prisoners, relished cruel retribution, and prided themselves on their bloody-thirsty skills as warriors. But their prowess in battle is only a small part of their story, which stretches from their Scandinavian origins to America in the west and as far as Baghdad in the east. As the Vikings did not write their history, we have to discover it for ourselves, and that discovery, as Neil Oliver reveals, tells an extraordinary story of a people who, from the brink of destruction, reached a quarter of the way around the globe and built an empire that lasted nearly two hundred years. Drawing on the latest discoveries that have only recently come to light, Neil Oliver goes on the trail of the real Vikings. Where did they emerge from? How did they really live? And just what drove them to embark on such extraordinary voyages of discovery over 1000 years ago? VIKINGS will explore many of these questions for the first time in an epic story of one of the world’s great empires of conquest.” (Fishpond)

Syndetics book coverChurchill’s angels : how Britain’s women secret agents changed the course of the Second World War / Bernard O’Connor.
“Over 70 female agents were sent out by Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War. These women – as well as others from clandestine Allied organisations – were flown out and parachuted or landed into occupied Europe on vital and highly dangerous missions: their job was to work with resistance movements both before and after D-Day. Bernard O’Connor relates the experiences of these agents of by drawing on a range of sources, including many of the women’s accounts of their wartime service. There are stories of rigorous training, thrilling undercover operations evading capture by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied France, tragic betrayals and extraordinary courage.” (Global Books In Print)

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New Zealand

From the mountains to the oceans, the urban forest to an island, this month’s collection features a look at New Zealand’s diverse natural and urban environments. There is also a timeline of key events in our history in “Nation Dates” and the last book “Sinai Journal” looks at 30 years of New Zealand’s involvement in multinational foces.

Syndetics book coverAbove the treeline : a nature guide to alpine New Zealand / Alan F. Mark ; contributions by David Galloway, Rod Morris, David Orlovich, Brian Patrick, John Steel and Mandy Tocher.
“This first ever field-guide to New Zealand’s rich and diverse alpine environment includes: an informative introduction on alpine habitats and ecology; detailed descriptions of more than 675 species of flowering plants; a visual guide to easily recognised flowering-plant genera ; sections on conifers, ferns, mosses and liverworts, lichens and fungi; coverage of alpine fauna, including birdgs and lizards, butterflies and moths, grasshoppers, beetles and other invertebrates.–Cover”. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCoastal fishes of New Zealand / Malcolm Francis.
“Coastal Fishes of New Zealand provides a comprehensive, informative and up-to-date identification guide to the fishes likely to be encountered by New Zealand divers and fishers. Illustrated with over 275 superb colour photographs of live fish in their natural habitats, this book includes all of New Zealand’s common reef fishes, and also many of those that live in other habitats. Using the latest research, marine scientist Malcolm Francis also provides a wealth of other information about identifying features, geographical distribution, habitat and size for 221 species of fish. Other interesting biological features, such as feeding, growth, spawning and behaviour are also discussed. If you were to have one book on the abundant fish life found around our coasts, this is the one to own.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAuckland’s remarkable urban forest / Mike D. Wilcox.
“Auckland’s Remarkable Urban Forest provides a comprehensive account of the trees and forests of Auckland. It covers trees to be found in the parks, reserves, campuses, school grounds, cemeteries and historic homesteads of the city; public native bush reserves within the urban Auckland area; native revegetation projects undertaken by community groups; exotic woodlands; street trees; trees of suburban home gardens; notable trees; flowering trees; tree health, forest climbers weeds; utilisation and management of the urban forest”. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNation dates : significant events that have shaped the nation of New Zealand / [Wendy McGuinness & Miriam White].
“Nation Dates presents a timeline of 440 key events, spanning the years 1770-2011, that have shaped the development of New Zealand as a nation. The Sustainable Future Institute has compiled this timeline as an important record of our nation’s past and a valuable resource for establishing a context for our future”. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSinai journal : 30 years of Kiwis serving with the Multinational Force and Observers.
“It’s the world’s most successful peace keeping mission – which hardly anyone’s heard of!” So says one of the many New Zealand Defence Force personnel interviewed for Sinai Journal: 30 Years of Kiwis serving with the Multinational Force and Observers. 2012 marked the thirtieth year of New Zealand’s significant contribution to the successful, if not widely known, Multinational Force and Observer (MFO) peace keeping mission in the Sinai, set up in 1982 to monitor the Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel. Working with 11 other countries to preserve a cold peace between two once warring nations, New Zealanders have distinguished themselves at the MFO with their sense of humor and can-do attitude. Sinai Journal documents the adventures of around eighty personnel who have served at the MFO since 1982 through personal anecdotes, essays and some wonderful photos. Contributions of note include those from the two kiwi Force Commanders; Don McIver and Warren Whiting; as well as colourful characters such as former MP and current Carterton Mayor, Ron Mark. This book is a fascinating social history that celebrates both the thirty year milestone and recognises New Zealand’s long standing, unique, contribution to peace in an unpredictable and volatile part of the world”. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKiwi prefab : cottage to cutting edge : prefabricated housing in New Zealand / Pamela Bell & Mark Southcombe.
“Until recently New Zealanders thought of prefabs as drab, cheap, temporary, poorly designed school classrooms. Prefab houses tended to be thought of as cheap, small, relocatable, standard homes. However, today’s prefab home is design rich, high-quality, and readily customised to individual sites and needs. It is likely to be state of the art, an innovative blend of architecture, design, manufacturing and construction. This book documents and contextualises a history of kiwi prefabrication, our prefab architecture, its present state, some prefab characters and characteristics, and emerging and possible prefab futures”. (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDiplomatic ladies : New Zealand’s unsung envoys / Joanna Woods.
“This book tells the inside story of New Zealands diplomatic wives and daughters over a hundred years of diplomacy. Based on private letters, MFAT archives and personal interviews, it records many unknown episodes in New Zealands diplomatic history, including the part played by the spouses in Baghdad during the first Gulf War, and the perils faced by diplomatic wives in Saigon and Tehran. It also gives a unique insight into the workings of diplomatic life and the role of the diplomatic hostess”. (Syndetics summary)

The New Zealand Hobbit crisis : how Warner Bros. bent a government to its will and crushed an attempt to unionize The hobbit / Jonathan Handel ; with Pip Bulbeck.
“All was not well in Middle-earth . . .After the third Lord of the Rings movie premiered in 2003, fans of the series eagerly anticipated production and release of its prequel, The Hobbit. It turned out they had a while to wait, as a series of troubles delayed production for years.Then, in September 2010, when almost everything seemed resolved, U.S. and international actors unions issued a pub-lic alert advising their members “not to accept work on this non-union production.” Warner Bros. threatened to rip the troubled production from the country and events quickly spiraled out of control. New Zealand plunged into crisis. Saving the Hobbit was do or die for the local film industry, and the government scrambled to avoid disaster. Director Peter Jackson vowed to “fight like hell” to keep the shoot in New Zealand. But then studio executives flew in from Los Angeles like colonial masters ready to bring down the hammer. This short book (70 pp. plus bibliography, etc.) tells the tale”.(adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe New Zealand boxing scrapbook / Dave Cameron with Paul Lewis.
“From the 1800s to the second decade of the new millennium, New Zealand boxers have made a mark on the national and international stages – from the days of Bob Fitzsimmons and ‘Torpedo’ Billy Murphy through to David Tua’s quest for a world title today. The New Zealand Boxing Scrapbook offers an insight into ‘the sweet science’ of boxing and the men involved. A collection of boxing history, memorabilia and artefacts”–Publisher information.

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People & Places Newsletter for December

How time flies. With the Christmas break just around the corner, you’ll be wanting to sort out your holiday reading pronto. Luckily, there’s plenty of ideas in this month’s People & Places newsletter. Highlights include: “Mortality”- fearless, uncompromising writing from Christopher Hitchens in his final days; “Joseph Anton” recounts Salman Rushdie’s journey from fugitive target of the Ayatollah Khomeini to the present; Will Schwalbe’s poignant memoir and frequent pick for Best of 2012 lists “The End of Your Life Book Club” and 100 objects that take you behind the scenes at Te Papa.

Biography

The phrase ” good British biography’ has a certain resonance and most biography-lovers will know what it means. This month’s subjects are all well-known English figures – most of historic importance – and they have been researched and written up by experts in the field or established scribes. Of particular interest is a new study of John Keats – the author was recently the guest-speaker at a seminar on the English Romantic poets at Victoria University and gave a public lecture and newspaper and radio interviews on his subject. We also feature a new work on the Bronte sisters, on Darwin – and Artemis Cooper’s new book on the writer and explorer Patrick Leigh Fermor. Look at the many great books on offer this month and take your pick!!

Syndetics book coverJohn Keats : a new life / Nicholas Roe.
“This landmark biography of celebrated Romantic poet John Keats explodes entrenched conceptions of him as a delicate, overly sensitive, tragic figure. Instead, Nicholas Roe reveals the real flesh-and-blood poet: a passionate man driven by ambition but prey to doubt, suspicion, and jealousy; sure of his vocation while bitterly resentful of the obstacles that blighted his career; devoured by sexual desire and frustration; and in thrall to alcohol and opium. Through unparalleled original research, Roe arrives at a fascinating reassessment of Keats’s entire life.” (Summary by www.globalbooksinprint.com).

Syndetics book coverThe Brontës / Juliet Barker.
“The story of the tragic Brontë family is familiar to everyone: we all know about the half-mad, repressive father, the drunken, drug-addled wastrel of a brother, wildly romantic Emily, unrequited Anne, and “poor Charlotte.” Or do we? These stereotypes of the popular imagination are precisely that – imaginary – created by amateur biographers such as Mrs. Gaskell who were primarily novelists and were attracted by the tale of an apparently doomed family of genius.(Summary from www.globalbooksinprint.com).

Syndetics book coverIs it just me? / Miranda Hart.
“In ‘Is it Just Me?’, Britain’s best loved comedienne, Miranda Hart, laments on the horrors of growing up and offers her younger self some essential advice on grappling with life’s unexpected perils and blunders”.(Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverDarwin : portrait of a genius / Paul Johnson.
“Darwin’s revolutionary career is the perfect vehicle for historian Paul Johnson. Marked by the insightful observation, spectacular wit, and highly readable prose for which Johnson is so well regarded, Darwin brings the gentleman-scientist and his times brilliantly into focus. From Darwin’s birth into great fortune to his voyage aboard the Beagle, to the long-delayed publication of his masterpiece, Johnson delves into what made this Victorian gentleman into a visionary scientist and into the tragic flaws that later led Darwin to support the burgeoning eugenics movement”.(Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverCounting one’s blessings : selected letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother / edited and with a preface by William Shawcross.
“One of the revelations of William Shawcross’s official biography of the Queen Mother was her private correspondence. Indeed the Sunday Times described her letters as ‘wonderful … brimful of liveliness and irreverence, steeliness and sweetness.Queen Elizabeth was a prolific correspondent from her earliest childhood and her letters offer readers a vivid insight into the person behind the public face. They reveal – in her own words – the little girl writing to her family; the young woman who, eventually, accepted Prince Albert’s proposal; the Duchess of York, embracing the public role demanded of her, on royal tours both at home and abroad.”(Summary from www.globalbooksinprint.com).

Syndetics book coverMortality / Christopher Hitchens.
“On June 8, 2010, while on a book tour for his bestselling memoir, Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens was stricken in his New York hotel room with excruciating pain in his chest and thorax. As he would later write in the first of a series of award-winning columns for Vanity Fair, he suddenly found himself being deported “from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady.” Over the next eighteen months, until his death in Houston on December 15, 2011, he wrote constantly and brilliantly on politics and culture, astonishing readers with his capacity for superior work even in extremis. Throughout the course of his ordeal battling esophageal cancer, Hitchens adamantly and bravely refused the solace of religion, preferring to confront death with both eyes open”. (Summary from www.globalbooksinprint.com).

Syndetics book coverCountry girl / Edna O’Brien.
“Edna O’Brien’s family encouraged her to attend pharmacy school, but she left before finishing to marry an older writer, give birth to two sons, and publish, in 1960, her first novel.The Country Girlsso scandalized the O’Briens’ local parish that the book was burned by the priest, her family disgraced. COUNTRY GIRL comes twenty-one books later, a rich and heady accounting of the events, people, emotions, and landscape that imprint upon and enliven one lifetime.” (Summary from www. globalbooksinprint.com).

ALSO RECEIVED THIS MONTH :

Read all of “Joseph Anton,” then, for its lessons in how books are used, and whether they matter

For a lighter but by no means lightweight reading experience, try Kaffe Fassett’s Dreaming in colour. Kaffe is a master of beautiful designs in patchwork, knitting, needlework and mosaics. It is no exaggeration to say that he has revolutionised these crafts and breathed new life into them. He was the first living textile artist to have a one-man exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He has also had a most interesting life and tells a very good story. Take your pick of our new offerings. Happy reading!!

Syndetics book coverJoseph Anton : a memoir / Salman Rushdie.
“The extraordinary story of how a writer was forced underground, moving from house to house, with the constant presence of an armed police protection team. He was asked to choose an alias that the police could call him by. He thought of writers he loved and combinations of their names; then it came to him: Conrad and Chekhov – Joseph Anton.
How do a writer and his family live with the threat of murder for over nine years? How does he go on working? How does he fall in and out of love? How does despair shape his thoughts and actions, how and why does he stumble, how does he learn to fight back? In this remarkable memoir Rushdie tells that story for the first time; the story of one of the crucial battles, in our time, for freedom of speech. He talks about the sometimes grim, sometimes comic realities of living with armed policemen, and of the close bonds he formed with his protectors; of his struggle for support and understanding from governments, intelligence chiefs, publishers, journalists, and fellow writers; and of how he regained his freedom.” (Summary from http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0224093975/ref=ase_wellingtoncit-21.)

Syndetics book coverThe House of Hancock : the rise and rise of Gina Rinehart / Debi Marshall.
“Gina Rinehart is the richest woman in the world – but at what cost? From an early age Gina Rinehart knew she was heir to one of Australia’s largest fortunes. Her father, Lang Hancock, loved her dearly and groomed her to take over the company. Then along came Rose, the Filipina housekeeper Lang married in 1985, and the obsessively private House of Hancock was changed forever. Hancock’s death in 1992 opened floodgates of litigation, with Rose and Gina fixtures in the courts fighting it out for their share of Lang’s mining assets. The Pilbara Princess has now become the Queen of Litigation, taking on her children and anyone else who dares to challenge her through countless court battles.” (Summary from http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1742756743/ref=ase_wellingtoncit-21).

Syndetics book coverThe Black Count : glory, revolution, betrayal and the real Count of Monte Cristo / Tom Reiss.
“The inspiration for some of the great adventure tales of Alexandre Dumas has long been a subject of curiosity and debate. According to Reiss, the inspiration for the great novel of intrigue, betrayal, and revenge, The Count of Monte Cristo, was Dumas’ own father, General Alexandre Alex Dumas. In this often thrilling and often sad chronicle, Reiss makes clear that Alex lived a life as full of adventure, triumph, and tragic loss as any of his son’s literary creations.” (Summary from Global Books).

Syndetics book coverThe end of your life book club / Will Schwalbe.
“Mary Anne Schwalbe is waiting for her chemotherapy treatments when Will casually asks her what she’s reading. The conversation they have grows into tradition: soon they are reading the same books so they can have something to talk about in the hospital waiting room. Their choices range from classic (Howards End) to popular (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), from fantastic (The Hobbit) to spiritual (Jon Kabat-Zinn), with many in between. We hear their passion for reading and their love for each other in their intimate and searching discussions. A profoundly moving testament to the power of love between a child and parent, and the power of reading in our lives.” (Summary from http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1444706381/ref=ase_wellingtoncit-21).

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Travel stories & guides

A book about the sixteenth century Portuguese navigators: did they really sail and chart coastlines in New Zealand? And did you know that there are many ‘Mom and Pop’ shops still in the Big Apple…. these and other travel answers are to be found in this month’s round-up of new Travel books.

Syndetics book coverScary monsters and super creeps : in search of the world’s most hideous beasts / by Dom Joly.
A brilliantly bizarre and hilarious travelogue from the audacious comedian, and TV star, Dom Joly.(Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRetire and live the dream : our long journey to la dolce vita / Annette Edis.Retire and Live the Dream: Our Long Journey to la Dolce Vita has been written to inspire and encourage readers to travel, especially those recently retired; urging them to disregard any fears they might have, take the plunge and have an experience of a lifetime. Included are an abundance of travel tips for both affordable and enjoyable travel, the importance of life goals and staying young in your outlook on life. Also included are fascinating anecdotes, myths and histories of the many towns, cities and countries visited by Annette.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAlmost somewhere : twenty-eight days on the John Muir Trail / Suzanne Roberts.
“While wilderness memoirs have been coming fast and furious lately, Roberts dares to combine a hiking adventure with a healthy dose of humor and female bonding in all its complicated and turbulent best. Nearly 20 years ago she joined two girlfriends on a monthlong postcollegiate hike of the John Muir Trail. … With wit, laughter, and longing, she writes of the trip not as an attempt at wilderness salvation but rather a desire to do something, anything, that proved the future would not be so daunting. An utterly refreshing outdoors memoir free of the seemingly manufactured drama so many similar titles contain. A delightful and quite literary diversion.–Mondor, Colleen Copyright 2010 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist) (adapted)

Syndetics book coverPre-Tasman Portuguese down under? / John Tasker. “For more than 200 years, scholars and amateurs alike have wrestled with the problem — did sixteenth century Portuguese navigators sail down the east coast of Australia and along the shores of New Zealand, charting the coastlines as they went? Employing endless speculation, all kinds of people have proposed all kinds of theories, not one of which resulted in a resolution over those two centuries. This book is different. Forsaking the speculation and guesswork model, it finally lays the matter to rest beyond all reasonable doubt.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Condé Nast traveler Book of unforgettable journeys : great writers on great places. Volume II / edited with an introduction by Klara Glowczewska.
“…Anthologies of travel writing abound, most of them like a pirate’s chest filled to the brim with gems. This one, the second gathering of articles published originally in Conde Nast Traveler magazine, has mostly diamonds for contents. The strongest pieces here among all strong pieces, that is include famous food critic Calvin Trillin’s Some Like It Not Hot, in which he shares experiences visiting the Ecuadorean city of Cuenca, calling it a walking around city (which he characterizes as often short on well-known sights but having small-item appeal nevertheless)….–Hooper, Brad Copyright 2010 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist) (adapted)

Syndetics book coverEstonia : a ramble through the periphery / [Alexander Theroux].
“Any journey with Alexander Theroux is an education. Endowed with a razor-sharp and hyper-literate mind, he stands beside Thomas Pynchon as one of the sharpest cultural commentators of our time. For Theroux, the country of Estonia and its people became a puzzle as he accompanied his wife there for a nine-month stay. Estonia is as biting and satirical as it is witty and urbane; as curious and lyrical as it is brash and irreverent. It marks a new highlight in an already stellar career and a book that continues Fantagraphics’ exceptional line of prose works.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTwo guys on the road ; walking backwards across the world / Steve Chandler & Terrence N. Hill. “In TWO GUYS ON THE ROAD, Steve Chandler and Terry Hill write e-mails, postcards, and letters to each other as they travel the world. Terry mostly takes lengthy travels for pleasure abroad with his wife Miranda while Steve takes short business trips around the country, at times with his wife Kathy. In their usual style, Steve and Terry often launch into digressions to discuss whatever piques their interest in the moment resulting in a collage of places, people, opinions, travel tips, and sometimes tenuously-related memories.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverClassic hikes of North America : 25 breathtaking treks in the United States and Canada / Peter Potterfield. “Included in the book is helpful information, such as: level of difficulty, trail conditions, recommended seasons, potential hazards and difficulties, resource information, and detailed maps of hiking routes. …. These are journeys to dream on, and Potterfield puts them within reach of any aspiring hiker.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover360 degrees longitude : one family’s journey around the world / John Higham. “In June 2005, John Higham, his wife September, daughters Jordan and Katrina packed-up and began a 52 week global adventure, visiting 30 countries on five continents. They stayed with friends, strangers, college girls on spring break and Polish shipyard workers with a penchant for striped boxer shorts and little else. The Highams learnt more than just the food and cultures of their destinations; fish can mistake nipples for a snack, a Chilean mall isn’t the best place to get ears pierced and that elephants love receiving flowers; and they learnt all about each other.” (Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverNew York originals : a guide to the city’s classic shops & mom-and-pops / by Jamie McDonald. “Some of the last classic mom-and-pop businesses in the US are in the Big Apple: despite the fast-moving, ever-changing nature of the City and the recent onslaught of chain stores, many small businesses in New York and its five boroughs have survived and thrived year after year, generation after generation. ….a unique tour through all five boroughs introduces readers to 75 of these unique shops, restaurants, services, and manufacturers….” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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History

Our new history books this month have something to interest everyone: Norse exporers, lady spies, retro Sydney, what it was to live when Shakespeare was about, and more. Happy reading!

Syndetics book coverVikings / Neil Oliver.
“The Vikings famously took no prisoners, relished cruel retribution, and prided themselves on their bloody-thirsty skills as warriors. But their prowess in battle is only a small part of their story, which stretches from their Scandinavian origins to America in the west and as far as Baghdad in the east. As the Vikings did not write their history, we have to discover it for ourselves, and that discovery, as Neil Oliver reveals, tells an extraordinary story of a people who, from the brink of destruction, reached a quarter of the way around the globe and built an empire that lasted nearly two hundred years. Drawing on the latest discoveries that have only recently come to light, Neil Oliver goes on the trail of the real Vikings. Where did they emerge from? How did they really live? And just what drove them to embark on such extraordinary voyages of discovery over 1000 years ago? VIKINGS will explore many of these questions for the first time in an epic story of one of the world’s great empires of conquest.” (Fishpond)

Syndetics book coverChurchill’s angels : how Britain’s women secret agents changed the course of the Second World War / Bernard O’Connor.
“Over 70 female agents were sent out by Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War. These women – as well as others from clandestine Allied organisations – were flown out and parachuted or landed into occupied Europe on vital and highly dangerous missions: their job was to work with resistance movements both before and after D-Day. Bernard O’Connor relates the experiences of these agents of by drawing on a range of sources, including many of the women’s accounts of their wartime service. There are stories of rigorous training, thrilling undercover operations evading capture by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied France, tragic betrayals and extraordinary courage.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverRetro Sydney / Ian Collis.
“Sydney in the 1950s and 1960s…This unique collection of vintage shots from amateur family photographers includes rare and never-before-seen material. It features timeless photographs of the stunning harbour and the creation of the Opera House, classic Royal Easter Show shots, the Queen’s visits and the pastimes the city loves – sport, recreation and fashion”–Back cover.

Syndetics book coverShakespeare’s restless world / Neil MacGregor.
“From Neil MacGregor, the acclaimed creator of A History of the World in 100 Objects and the Director of the British Museum, comes a unique, enthralling exploration of the age of William Shakespeare to accompany a new BBC Radio 4 series.Shakespeare lived through a pivotal period in human history. With the discovery of the New World, the horizons of Old Europe were expanding dramatically – and long-cherished certainties were crumbling. Life was exhilaratingly uncertain. What were Londoners thinking when they went to see Shakespeare’s plays? What was it like living in their world? Here Neil MacGregor looks at twenty objects from Shakespeare’s life and times, and uncovers the fascinating stories behind them. The objects themselves range from the grand (such as the hoard of gold coins that make up the Salcombe treasure) to the very humble, like the battered trunk and worn garments of an unknown pedlar. But in each case, they allow MacGregor to explore issues as diverse as piracy and Islam, Catholicism and disguise. MacGregor weaves the histories of objects into the words of Shakespeare’s plays themselves to suggest to us where his ideas about religion, national identity, the history of England and the world, human nature itself, may have come from. The result is a fresh and thrilling evocation of Shakespeare’s world.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverThe revenge of history : the battle for the twenty-first century / Seumas Milne.
“From the outset, Seumas Milne’s Guardian essays on the West’s war on terror provoked angry denunciations on both sides of the Atlantic. A decade on, the advocates of violent capitalism have been silenced. From class to religion, Blair to Obama, Palestine to Pakistan, bank bailouts to the Arab uprisings, the rise of China to the wave of change in Latin America, Milne exposes the breakdown of the new world order – and draws out the prospects for the emerging politics of the future. In a media culture dominated by eager apologists, Milne has consistently written against the grain. This book offers a compelling perspective on the convulsions that have brought us to today’s crisis – and a powerful indictment of a global and corporate empire in decline.” (Fishpond)

Syndetics book coverA free man / Aman Sethi.
“Like Dave Eggers’s Zeitoun and Alexander Masters’s Stuart, this is a tour de force of narrative reportage. Mohammed Ashraf studied biology, became a butcher, a tailor, and an electrician’s apprentice; now he is a homeless day laborer in the heart of old Delhi. How did he end up this way? In an astonishing debut, Aman Sethi brings him and his indelible group of friends to life through their adventures and misfortunes in the Old Delhi Railway Station, the harrowing wards of a tuberculosis hospital, an illegal bar made of cardboard and plywood, and into Beggars Court and back onto the streets. In a time of global economic strain, this is an unforgettable evocation of persistence in the face of poverty in one of the world’s largest cities. Sethi recounts Ashraf’s surprising life story with wit, candor, and verve, and A Free Man becomes a moving story of the many ways a man can be free.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book cover100 amazing tales from Aotearoa / [Museum of New Zealand Te Papa].
“Te Papa stores more than 2 million pieces in trust for the nation. New Zealand through 100 Objects takes readers on a tour behind the scenes of the museum to discover more about 100 of these treasured items. Readers will learn the secrets of the first dinosaur fossil ever discovered, see new and unique spider species, be inspired by famous paintings and quirky jewellery, encounter fearsome weapons and armour from the Pacific and uncover the deep and personal stories of Maori taonga. Based on ‘Tales from Te Papa’, the fascinating series of mini documentaries from TVNZ, this book includes a DVD of the complete series, with a bonus 20 episodes.” (Global Books in Print)

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People and Places Newsletter for October

Welcome to our picks for October’s People & Places. Highlights this month include: a ‘Birdseye’ view of the origins of refrigeration; the enigma that was Alan Turing; a comic look at the underwhelming attractions of the British Isles and a book set to ruin our ability to poke fun at Australia’s criminal past.

Biography

Anyone who has reached into the frosty recesses of the freezer to put her paw on on a packet of frozen peas or a ready-made meal should throw up a prayer of thanksgiving to Clarence Birdseye. This humble fur-trapper working in the wilds of Northern Canada in the early part of the twentieth century invented the freezing process still associated with his name. This was not his only innovation, nor his only field of interest – he was also a noted explorer. He is described in the publisher’s notes as “a tinkerer in the classic Yankee mode,” and “one of a group of men who relied on native intelligence more than education and who’s principal laboratories were garages and basements”. His biography is a most interesting and unusual read.
Also featured in this month’s picks are more marvellous women, including Marie Curie and her daughters and Helena Rubinstein. Happy reading !!

Syndetics book coverBefore I forget / Jacqueline Fahey.
“Jacqueline Fahey brought the curtain down at the end of her first memoir, Something for the Birds, after her marriage to Fraser McDonald. In Before I Forget she continues the story from this happy-ever-after moment, charting her life since 1960.”(Wellington City Libraries catalogue note).

Syndetics book coverMarie Curie and her daughters : the private lives of science’s first family / Shelley Emling.
“Freelance writer Emling (The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World) tells the story of science icon Marie Sklodowska Curie, a name familiar to most readers from elementary school days. The only person to have received Nobel prizes in two different sciences, Curie remains a hero to many. Emling writes here of Curie’s later years and of her relationships with her daughters, topics not previously as well documented as the flashier (not to mention more radioactive) aspects of her life and scientific research. Curie’s trips to the United States and her relationship with magazine editor and socialite Missy Meloney, who started a fund to buy radium for Curie, are covered here in both personal and professional terms. Emling presents a Curie defined not only by her scientific activities but also by her personality and by her relationships with family and friends after she gained international recognition. VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in the history of Western science, scientific biographies, and women in science, as well as those who regard Marie Curie as a hero”.-Eric D. Albright, Tufts Univ. Lib., MA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.(c) Copyright 2010. Library

Syndetics book coverBirdseye : the adventures of a curious man / Mark Kurlansky.
“Although frozen foods made Birds Eye a household name, few were familiar with Clarence Birdseye (1886-1956), developer of the fast-freezing process that became a multibillion-dollar international industry. In the first biography of the eccentric Brooklyn-born inventor, award-winning food author Kurlansky (’Cod’ and ‘Salt”) brings Birdseye to life as he outlines the twists and turns of his unusual career. In a 1945 interview Birdseye stated that G.A. Henty’s 1891 novel Redskin and Cowboy “first influenced him to live the outdoor life.” Yearning for adventure, he dropped out of Amherst College in 1908 and worked in the southwest as a U.S. Biological Survey naturalist, collected ticks in Montana to research Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and became interested in food preservation in the frozen wilderness of Labrador”. Agent, Charlotte Sheedy. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverAlan Turing : the enigma / Andrew Hodges. Alan Turing: The Enigma
“It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) saved the Allies from the Nazis, invented the computer and artificial intelligence, and anticipated gay liberation by decades–all before his suicide at age forty-one. This classic biography of the founder of computer science, reissued on the centenary of his birth with a substantial new preface by the author, is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life. A gripping story of mathematics, computers, cryptography, and homosexual persecution, Andrew Hodges’s acclaimed book captures both the inner and outer drama of Turing’s life.”(Abridged summary from www.globabooksinprint.com).

Syndetics book coverThe kings’ mistresses : the liberated lives of Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna, and her sister Hortense, Duchess Mazarin / Elizabeth C. Goldsmith.
“This title presents the adventures of two, privileged sisters raised in the court of the French King Louis XIV, who fled their husbands and children to travel throughout Europe, gaining notoriety for their escapades as gamblers, cross-dressers, mistresses to various kings, and pioneering women writers. Elizabeth Goldsmith has written a vibrant biography of two pioneering free spirits, feminists long before the term existed, who refused to be constrained by the morals, mores, and hypocrisies of their age.” (Abridged summary from Amazon.co.uk).

Syndetics book coverDiaries / George Orwell ; edited by Peter Davison ; introduction by Christopher Hitchens.
“Collecting a dozen of Orwell’s personal diaries from the Depression until his final days, this selection offers a glimpse of the great writer observing the world around him. Early entries include accounts of Orwell’s immersive investigations into the hardscrabble routines of coal miners, hop-pickers, and the working poor, and later entries chronicle the first years of WWII. But the majority of his observations and, one senses, the rhythms of his days involve notes and tabulations of more quotidian activities of the agricultural sort: planting crops, milking goats, watching the weather, and, perhaps most significant, counting his hens’ eggs. Although it’s perhaps tempting to probe such material for a new perspective, its real merit may be in allowing readers a close and factual (if only rarely emotionally intimate) view of Orwell’s life, mostly free of biographical narration. As Christopher Hitchens notes in his introduction, Orwell’s determination to seek elusive but verifiable truth, however minor, is on constant display throughout. Thickly annotated, this selection will be appreciated by historical researchers as well as curious browsers”.–Driscoll, Brendan Copyright

Syndetics book coverHelena Rubinstein : the woman who invented beauty / Michèle Fitoussi.
“Helena Rubinstein was an extraordinary pioneering woman who gave her name to a cosmetics empire and revolutionised modern beauty. She understood women. She understood beauty. And she started a revolution. Helena Rubinstein was born into a poor Polish family at the end of the nineteenth century; by the time of her death in 1965 she had built a cosmetics empire that spanned the world. When Rubinstein opened her first salon in Melbourne, her scientific approach to beauty was an instant sensation. Women just couldn’t get enough of her innovative advice on skincare, and her beauty products were constantly sold out. Having conquered Australia, Rubinstein went on to open salons in Europe and America, at a time when women were barely seen in business, let alone running their own multinational companies. For this visionary entrepreneur lived and breathed her work and nobody – lover, husband or child – was allowed to get in the way of business success. Helena Rubinstein was a total original, and her legacy can still be seen today in the methods used to market and manufacture cosmetics. This is her amazing life story”.(Summary from Amazon.co.uk).

Syndetics book coverDear Lupin– / Charlie and Roger Mortimer.
“Roger Mortimer’s generous letters to his son are packed with anecdotes and sharp observations, with a unique analogy for each and every scrape Charlie Mortimer got himself into. This title includes 150 letters written to his son as he left school, and lived in places such as South America, Africa, Weston-super-Mare and eventually London.These letters form a memoir of their relationship, and an affectionate portrait of a time gone by.” (Summary from www.globalbooksinprint.com.)

Syndetics book coverParis : a love story : a memoir / Kati Marton.
“Saturated with sadness, regret, and Hemingway, Marton’s (Wallenberg: The Incredible True Story) memoir of widowhood after the death of husband Richard Holbrooke recalls how Paris offered her the peace and salve she needed to assuage a broken heart. A refugee from Hungary with her family in 1957, Paris was where Marton attended university during the tumultuous late 1960s; as a foreign correspondent with ABC News in the 1970s, the city served as a base for her work, and was also where she and anchorman Peter Jennings conducted their love affair before marrying in 1979. Fleeing that marriage in 1993 after two children (Jennings is described as cold and manipulative), Marton found a warm, willing relationship with Holbrooke, then U.S. ambassador to Germany, with Paris as the meeting place in their busy lives.” Agent, Amanda Urban. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved(Publisher Weekly)

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Travel stories & guides

From Secret Milan to the Indian Coast and ‘Flamenco’ Spain, these new travel books will guide you around the world and back again to New Zealand.

Syndetics book coverHave mother, will travel : a mother and daughter discover themselves, each other, and the world / Claire and Mia Fontaine.
“Told in alternating voices, a travelogue capturing the changing relationship between a mother and her adult daughter follows their sixteen-city, twelve-country tour during which their adventures and mishaps brought them closer together.” (Library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverSecret Milan / Massimo Polidoro.
“Discover a canal lock designed by Leonardo da Vinci as well as the secrets of his Last Supper, find out where Mussolini’s hidden bunker lies, marry beneath frescoes by Tiepolo, visit artists’ houses usually closed to the public, see exceptional private collections, admire the sculpture of a young girl shaving her pudenda, look for the boxers carved on the roof terraces of the cathedral… An indispensable guide for those wishing to discover another facet of the city.” (Book jacket)

Syndetics book coverWalking home : travels with a troubadour on the Pennine Way / Simon Armitage.
“In summer 2010 Simon Armitage decided to walk the Pennine Way. The challenging 256-mile route is usually approached from south to north, from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm, the other side of the Scottish border. He resolved to tackle it the other way round: through beautiful and bleak terrain, across lonely fells and into the howling wind, he would be walking home, towards theYorkshire village where he was born. Travelling as a ‘modern troubadour’ without a penny in his pocket, he stopped along the way to give poetry readings in village halls, churches, pubs and living rooms… It’s a story about Britain’s remote and overlooked interior – the wildness of its landscape and the generosity of the locals who sustained him on his journey. It’s about facing emotional and physical challenges, and sometimes overcoming them. … Contemplative, moving and droll, it is a unique narrative from one of our most beloved writers.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOnly in Spain / Nellie Bennett.
“A sparky, witty and thoroughly enjoyable memoir of a girl who fell in love with flamenco dance and with Spain. A foot-stamping, full-on firecracker of a travel memoir, crackling with energy, dance, gypsies, love, food and the occasional donkey. Nellie Bennett fell in love with flamenco one hot summer day in a Sydney dance studio. Longing to get closer to the authentic experience, she packed her suede dance shoes and a set of castanets and travelled to the other side of the world, to Seville, to learn flamenco. What she didn’t realise is that flamenco is not a dance, it’s a way of life. In Spain, she fell in love three times – the first time with a smokey-eyed flamenco dance teacher, the second time, with a wild and tempestuous gypsy; and the third with a tall, dark handsome Basque chef – not realising that, all along, it’s really Spain she’s fallen in love with. A witty, passionate story of romance and discovery.” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverHong Konged : one modern American family’s (mis)adventures in the gateway to China / Paul Hanstedt.
“In this alternately hilarious and heartrending memoir, acclaimed writer and editor Paul Hanstedt recounts the true story of his family’s recent sojourn to Hong Kong. Hanstedt and his wife and three children–aged 9, 6, and 3–lived in Hong Kong for a year, a year beset by culture clash, vicious bullies, hospital visits, M&Ms, and the worst traffic jam you’ve ever seen.
Through the eyes of the earnest if sometimes clueless Hanstedt family, you’ll discover a world you’ve never known before. But in the end,Hong Kongedis about place and family and what it is that makes us human–no matter who we are or where we live.” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverFollowing fish : travels around the Indian coast / Samanth Subramanian.
“In a coastline as long and diverse as India’s, fish inhabit the heart of many worlds – food of course, but also culture, commerce, sport, history and society. Journeying along the edges of the peninsula, Samanth Subramanian delivers a kaleidoscope of extraordinary stories…. Pulsating with pleasure, adventure and discovery, and tempered by nostalgia and loss, “Following Fish” reveals a series of unknown Indias in a book as revealing of the subcontinent as any three times its length.” (Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverCrap days out / Gareth Rubin ; with contributions by Jon Parker.
“From Land’s End to John O’Groats, this Sceptred Isle is riddled with what are laughably referred to as ‘attractions’. Rubbish tourism is a proud British tradition, and from Stonehenge to Madam Tussaud’s, Shakespeare’s birthplace to the Harry Potter Tour, and model villages to a museum dedicated to pencils, Crap Days Out is the quintessential collection of places that will ruin a perfectly good bank holiday.” – (adapted from Publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverBonjour! Is this Italy? : a hapless biker’s guide to Europe / Kevin Turner.
Bonjour – Is This Italy? offers a unique and often hilarious insight into the challenges and excitement afforded by a lone motorcycle journey though Europe. In his quest to escape the frantic nature of London life, Kevin Turner heads south across France, crossing the Alps into Italy, and onto Rome, before returning via Germany – and the treacherous Nürburgring. Throughout, the author provides valuable advice to those considering a similar journey, noting the best and most scenic routes, where to stay, and what to see. This is interspersed with a raft of comic anecdotes that demonstrate exactly what NOT to do when lost on a motorbike in Europe.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe oldest post office in the world : and other Scottish oddities / Hamish Brown.
“Scotland has been called a small country with a big story and among its varied riches must be the extraordinary number of surprising, curious, unexpected, odd places that occur from Muckle Flugga to the Mull of Galloway. Nobody knows its length and breadth better than author, lecturer and photographer Hamish Brown and from his decades of wandering he has stitched together this – first -collection of sites and sights to intrigue visitors.” – (adapted from Book jacket summary)

Syndetics book coverThe old ways : a journey on foot / Robert Macfarlane.
“In The Old Ways Robert Macfarlane sets off from his Cambridge home to follow the ancient tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast network of routes criss-crossing the British landscape and its waters, and connecting them to the continents beyond. The result is an immersive, enthralling exploration of the ghosts and voices that haunt old paths, of the stories our tracks keep and tell, of pilgrimage and ritual, and of songlines and their singers. Above all this is a book about people and place: about walking as a reconnoitre inwards, and the subtle ways in which we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move…” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAntarctica : a biography / David Day.
“Antarctica: A Biography draws upon libraries and archives from around the world to provide the first, large-scale history of Antarctica. On one level, it is the story of explorers battling the elements in the most hostile place on earth as they strive for personal triumph, commercial gain and national glory. On a deeper level, it is the story of nations seeking to incorporate the Antarctic into their national narratives and to claim its frozen wastes as their own.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverChronicles of Old London : exploring England’s historic capital / [Kevin Jackson].
“Another in Museyon’s “Chronicles” series (Chronicles of Old New York), in this book London writer Jackson provides 30 stories of the city, starting with Boudicca’s revolt around 60 C.E. and ending with Prince William’s marriage in the present day. …. In addition to the historical sketches, the volume presents nine walking tours with maps, photographs, and descriptions of sights along the way. …The numerous detailed neighborhood maps in the walking tours section will be especially useful. Verdict: A helpful and pleasant read for travelers looking for historical background and a few walking tours for a London trip. Interesting and fun to read, the book mixes light history with contemporary details.” – (adapted from Library Journal summary)

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History

We have some great new history books this month: 150-year-old letters by a young German settler give exciting look at Wellington’s past; the “sexy” lives of the Tudors; American Empire looks at the United States in the last half of the 20th century; and more. Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverAn indescribable beauty : letters home to Germany from Wellington, New Zealand, 1859 & 1862 / Friedrich August Krull.
“The translated letters of Friedrich Krull from Wellington back home to Germany in 1859, at the behest of German naturalist and historian Ernst Boll. Krull details people, landscapes and birds of early Wellington, Wairarapa, Kapiti and surrounds. Included are reports on meetings with Te Rauparaha’s son and nephew as well as other prominent Māori leaders. The book is illustrated with paintings and photographs from the time”–Publisher information.

Syndetics book coverIn bed with the Tudors : the sex lives of a dynasty from Elizabeth of York to Elizabeth I / Amy Licence.
“Illegitimate children, adulterous queens, impotent kings, and a whole dynasty resting on their shoulders. Sex and childbirth were quite literally a matter of life or death for the Tudors – Elizabeth of York died in childbirth, two of Henry VIII’s queens were beheaded for infidelity, and Elizabeth I’s elective virginity signalled the demise of a dynasty. Amy Licence guides the reader through the births of Elizabeth of York’s two sons, Arthur and Henry, Catherine of Aragon’s subsequent marriages to both of these men, Henry VIII’s other five wives and his mistresses, and the sex lives of his daughters. This book details the experiences of all these women, from fertility, conception and pregnancy through to the delivery chamber, on to maternal and infant mortality. Each woman’s story is a blend of specific personal circumstances, set against their historical moment. For some the joys were brief, for others it was a question that ultimately determined their fates”–Cover.

Syndetics book coverThe Queen’s agent : Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I / John Cooper.
Elizabeth I came to the throne at a time of insecurity and unrest. Rivals threatened her reign; England was a Protestant island, isolated in a sea of Catholic countries. Spain plotted an invasion, but Elizabeth’s Secretary, Francis Walsingham, was prepared to do whatever it took to protect her. He ran a network of agents in England and Europe who provided him with information about invasions or assassination plots. He recruited likely young men and ‘turned’ others. He encouraged Elizabeth to make war against the Catholic Irish rebels, with extreme brutality and oversaw the execution of Mary Queen of Scots.The Queen’s Agent is a story of secret agents, cryptic codes and ingenious plots, set in a turbulent period of England’s history. It is also the story of a man devoted to his queen, sacrificing his every waking hour to save the threatened English state. (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverThe road not taken : how Britain narrowly missed a revolution / Frank McLynn.
Britain has not been successfully invaded since 1066; nor, in nearly 1,000 years, has it known a true revolution – one that brings radical, systemic and enduring change. The contrast with her European neighbours – with France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece and Russia – is dramatic. All have been convulsed by external warfare, revolution and civil war – all have experienced fundamental change to their ruling elites or their social and economic structures. In “The Road Not Taken” Frank McLynn investigates the seven occasions when England came closest to revolution: the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, the Jack Cade rising of 1450, the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, the English Civil War of the 1640s, the Jacobite Rising of 1745-6, the Chartist Movement of 1838-48 and the General Strike of 1926. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAmerican empire : the rise of a global power, the democratic revolution at home, 1945-2000 / Joshua B. Freeman.
“Queens College and CUNY Graduate Center history professor Freeman examines a postwar dominant America, and it couldn’t come at a better moment, when its citizens are rethinking its global influence. Covering the glory years of 1945-2000, Freeman is at his best when he turns his critical eye on America’s turbulent internal affairs, delving into Truman’s contested Fair Deal reforms, the McCarthy communist witch-hunts, Eisenhower’s cautious civil rights record, LBJ’s ambitious Great Society programs, Nixon’s Watergate disgrace, the return of “corporate capitalism” and Reagan conservatism. Freeman deals with the Clinton administration’s economic policies, which, he says, gave many Americans a higher standard of living, and global conflicts, followed by the Republican victory in 2000. Though at its peak, America’s power exceeded that of the Roman and British empires in cultural, economic, military, and political terms, the nation’s postwar dreams were never completely fulfilled, says Freeman. “And the 21st century’s “prolonged warfare, fearfulness, and economic troubles… owe more than a little to decisions made in the earlier epoch.” Freeman’s epic survey provides a fuller understanding of America’s postwar achievements and challenges, without the bias, drama, or despair of other books on these important issues. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverThe kissing sailor : the mystery behind the photo that ended World War II / Lawrence Verria & George Galdorisi ; foreword by David Hartman.
“It’s an iconic image, a sailor kissing a nurse in New York City’s Times Square. Photographed on August 14, 1945, by legendary photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt and published in Life, it captures a historic moment, the end of WWII. It’s a safe bet that most of the book’s potential readers have seen the photograph, but who are the people in it? That’s the mystery Verria and Galdorisi attempt to solve in this fascinating piece of detective work. Over the years, there have been numerous theories, and numerous people have come forward saying they are the sailor or the nurse. Verria and Galdorisi offer what they hope is undeniable proof of the unnamed couple’s true identities. They make a persuasive case, assessing the validity of some of the claimants’ stories, using various investigative techniques, including some very clever photographic comparisons, to zoom in on two specific persons who seem to fit the bill. Ultimately, you either accept the authors’ conclusions or you don’t, but you can’t deny that the book provides an intriguing and unique perspective on one of the twentieth century’s most memorable moments.” – (adapted from Booklist summary)

Syndetics book coverConvicts : New Zealand’s hidden criminal past / Matthew Wright.
“New Zealand’s Pakeha origin as a bolt-hole for convicts escaping Australia, a place where former convicts joined whaling and sealing gangs, and where sea captains thumbed their noses at the law, has been quietly forgotten. It has become a hidden part of our past, buried under the convenient fiction that the Treaty of Waitangi is the sole pivot of New Zealand’s colonial story. In Convicts: New Zealand’s Hidden Criminal Past, noted historian Matthew Wright challenges that notion. Our early nineteenth-century Pakeha past is, at least in part, a story of convicts who had found their way past the edge of the law, an age of heroic tales of survival, scurrilous deeds, cannibalism and piracy.Matthew Wright is one of New Zealand’s most published historians and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society of University College, London. ‘Matthew Wright is one of our most prolific social historians, an assiduous researcher and an engaging writer.’” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverShooting Victoria : madness, mayhem, and the rebirth of the British monarchy / Paul Thomas Murphy.
“Queen Victoria’s stature not only attracted throngs of admirers but also seven unstable and incompetent failed assassins, whose attempts led to the creation of England’s detective branch and engendered bursts of popularity for the queen. A Victoriana expert at the University of Colorado, Murphy recounts in a fresh, lively narrative how these deluded subjects managed to channel their mental instability or optimistic naivete into assassination attempts with barely functioning pistols or stout canes, all remaining far removed from the more sophisticated and politically motivated revolutionaries threatening other contemporary European thrones. Instead, they included a depressed hunchback and two poets suffering from head injuries who, rather than gaining notoriety, sank back into obscurity. Murphy deftly weaves their life stories in with the reactions of Victoria and Albert and other notables as the government struggled to define a policy for punishing assassins…” – (adapted from Publisher Weekly summary)

Syndetics book coverMexico : democracy interrupted / Jo Tuckman.
“In 2000, Mexico’s long invincible Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) lost the presidential election to Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN). The ensuing changeoverafter 71 years of PRI dominancewas hailed as the beginning of a new era of hope for Mexico. Yet the promises of the PAN victory were not consolidated. In this vivid account of Mexico’s recent history, a journalist with extensive reporting experience investigates the nation’s young democracy, its shortcomings and achievements, and why the PRI is favored to retake the presidency in 2012. Jo Tuckman reports on the murky, terrifying world of Mexico’s drug wars, the counterproductive government strategy, and the impact of U.S. policies. She describes the reluctance and inability of politicians to seriously tackle rampant corruption, environmental degradation, pervasive poverty, and acute inequality. To make matters worse, the influence of non-elected interest groups has grown and public trust in almost all institutionsincluding the Catholic churchis fading. The pressure valve once presented by emigration is also closing. Even so, there are positive signs: the critical media cannot be easily controlled, and small but determined citizen groups notch up significant, if partial, victories for accountability. While Mexico faces complex challenges that can often seem insurmountable, Tuckman concludes, the unflagging vitality and imagination of many in Mexico inspire hope for a better future.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverThe daring dozen : 12 Special Forces legends of World War II / Gavin Mortimer.
“In this new book by journalist Gavin Mortimer, The Daring Dozen reveals the 12 legendary special forces commanders of World War II. Prior to World War II the concept of ’special forces’ simply didn’t exist. But thanks to visionary leaders like David Stirling and Charles Hunter, our very concept of how wars can be fought and won have totally changed. But these 12 extraordinary men not only reshaped military policy, they led from the front, accompanying their troops into the heat of battle, from the sands of North Africa to jumping on D-Day and infiltrating behind enemy lines. Each embodies the true essence of courage, what Winston Churchill remarked ‘is esteemed [as] the first of human qualities.’ But Mortimer also offers a skilful analysis of their qualities as a military commander and the true impact their own personal actions, as well as those of their units, had on the eventual outcome of the war.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverTitans of history / Simon Sebag Montefiore ; with John Bew … [et al.].
“In The Titans of History, Simon Sebag Montefiore brings together a vivid and compelling selection of the lives of the towering figures that, for better of for worse, have changed the course of history. The 14th-century Mongol warlord Tamerlane, who once ordered the building of a pyramid of 70,000 human skulls from those that his army had beheaded, rubs shoulders with Oskar Schindler, the man whose selfless heroism saved over 1,000 Jews from death at the hands of the Nazis. Inbetween these two extremes are those extraordinary figures, like Henry VIII, in whom good and evil were mixed promiscuously. Inspiring and horrifying in equal measure, in The Titans of History, Simon Sebag Montefiore has created an engaging, innovative and authoritative window into the history of the world.” – (adapted from Global Books In Print summary)

Syndetics book coverWhere they stand : the American presidents in the eyes of voters and historians / Robert W. Merry.
“The rating of American presidents is a popular fascination for scholars and citizens alike. Merry believes that professionals’ opinions are, however, sometimes out of sync with those of the people and, specifically, the electorate that installed or repudiated a president. Therefore, he accords the vox populi weight equal to the verdicts of seven polls of historians conducted over past decades. The professors and the voters exhibit no differences over who were the best presidents Washington, Lincoln, and FDR but they diverge over nominees for the near-great category; electorates liked Jackson and Reagan, but historians have been critical. Likewise, the dons praise Wilson and Truman, whereas the people voted their parties out of power. To bridge such discrepancies, Merry combines fluid commentary on what impresses historians and application of his rule for the populace’s standard of approval, rewarding an incumbent with a second term and succession by his party’s nominee. Anything less plunges a president down the scale to average or failure, with near-great Polk as a conspicuous exception. This election-year debate-starter will enjoy shelf life beyond November.” – (adapted from Booklist summary)

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New Zealand

New to the New Zealand Collection this month you can read some interesting facts about New Zealand in “60 Million Gingernuts, a book of New Zealand records”. “All the Commissioner’s Men” is another look into the New Zealand high profile murder inquiry into the Crewe murders.

Syndetics book cover60 million gingernuts : a book of New Zealand records / Peter Janssen.
This book gathers together New Zealand’s most amazing, inspiring and bizarre records. With chapters on nature, history, people, manmade wonders, popular culture, sport, eating and drinking, this extensive book will captivate both young and old, Kiwi and tourist, from quiz teams to high school students. Did you know: New Zealand’s highest bridge is on the railway line from Napier to Gisborne. The bridge crosses the Mohaka River 97 metres above the water; Auckland s Pasifika festival is the country s largest festival with over 200,000 people attending. It is also the largest Pacific festival in the world; New Zealand s most popular biscuit is the Gingernut with Griffin s Gingernuts selling nearly 3 million packets every year. Toffee Pop Originals (2,394,000 packets) and Superwine (2,393,000 packets) are neck and neck for second and third place; New Zealand s coldest temperature was recorded at Ranfurly on 17 July 1903, the thermometer plummeted to a record -25 degrees. The lowest North Island temperature is -13.6 recorded at the Chateau Tongariro. The coldest temperature recorded in the world was -89.6 at Vostok Station in Antarctica in 1983. There are many, many more fascinating records inside this addictive book.(Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAll the commissioner’s men / Chris Birt. The killing of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe at Pukekawa, South Auckland, is indelibly burnt into the memory of anyone resident in New Zealand at that time. Most Kiwis know that an innocent man was arrested and spent almost 10 years in prison for two murders he did not commit The story of Arthur Thomas has been well told. The subsequent condemnation by a Royal Commission of Inquiry of two former detectives is also well documented. What has never been disclosed however is the extent of the malpractice which occurred in that double homicide inquiry. Not even the Thomas Royal Commission got to examine that, for reasons All The Commissioner’s Men explains in great depth. Written by veteran journalist, researcher and author Chris Birt (The Final Chapter – third NZ best seller for three weeks in 2001) this new book reveals, for the first time ever, that more than two detectives were involved n this corrupt investigation, and that key players in that nasty game suppressed crucial witness statements, any one of which would have proved categorically that Arthur Thomas was not the murderer. (Syndetics summary)

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People & Places eNewsletter for September

This month’s People & Places eNewsletter has a decidedly New Zealand bent: writer James McNeish reflects on his formative influences; John Edgar looks back at the life and career of controversial Auckland mayor Sir Dove-Myer Robinson; Serious fun chronicles the multi-faceted career of entrepreneurial engineer Alan Gibbs; and Joanne Drayton’s The search for Anne Perry delves behind the mask of the reclusive author through interviews and analysis of her writing. All this plus the best in this month’s travel, history and New Zealand releases.

Library News

Biography

Sometimes we think it is all happening elsewhere – Britain, Europe, USA – but quite a lot is going on here in Kiwiland. For a country of such small size and population we produce many talented and innovative people. This month we feature biographies of a noted writer, a quirky businessman, and a much loved former former mayor of Auckland. Anne Perry, the famous writer of detective novels, is not a New Zealander but she spent several formative years here, during which she, together with her best friend, committed a shocking murder. Joan Drayton has done a masterly job of telling her story. Helen Brown, who won our hearts with the story of the liittle cat who saved her family from sorrow and heartbreak, has written another about the animal who succeeeded her. Here’s to New Zealand!! Happy reading.

Syndetics book coverTouchstones : memories of people and place / James McNeish.
“A young man leaves home as a deckhand on a Norwegian freighter, to travel the world. He returns to New Zealand changed almost beyond recognition. Along the way he meets nine people who influence his life and help make him the writer he becomes. James McNeish’s Touchstones has a cast of characters who include ‘the Mother Courage of the English theatre’, an anti-Mafia reformer in Sicily, a Kanak revolutionary who is assassinated, a rejected cousin and ‘Mr Punch in naval uniform’, the New Zealand poet Denis Glover. All are larger than life. Some of them, like the author’s mysterious Maori aunt, are good enough to bottle. The book is witty, poignant and in the words of its editor, Emma Neale, ‘rich in astonishing anecdote’. It is at once a self-portrait, a hymn to a vanishing New Zealand, and the first time James McNeish has written about himself.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA year in the life of a duchess : Catherine, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge / Ian Lloyd.
“This gorgeously illustrated book celebrates Kate Middleton’s triumphal first year as the Duchess of Cambridge. It details her public appearances, her honeymoon in the Seychelles, her first official trip to North America, and much more, showing how the world has embraced her as the people’s duchess. There’s also coverage of William and Kate’s first Christmas as a married couple and other important milestones, and a photographic selection of the most stunning outfits worn by Kate over the past year.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDearie : the remarkable life of Julia Child / Bob Spitz.
“On November 3, 1948, a lunch in a Paris restaurant of sole meuniere, the sole so very fresh with its delicate texture and cooked like an omelet in nothing but a bath of clarified butter, changed Julia Child’s life. In that moment, Child (1912-2004) recognized and embraced food as her calling, setting out initially to learn the finer points of cooking, and French cooking in particular. In this affectionate and entertaining tribute to the witty, down-to-earth, bumptious, and passionate host of The French Chef.” – (adapted from Publisher Weekly summary)

Syndetics book coverAfter Cleo: came Jonah : how a crazy kitten and a rebelling daughter turned out to be blessings in disguise / Helen Brown.
“Many strong minded women have headstrong daughters. But this isn’t supposed to extend to their cats… Some say your previous cat chooses their successor. If so, what in cat heaven’s name was Helen Brown’s beloved Cleo thinking when she sent a crazy kitten like Jonah? Helen Brown swore she’d never get another kitten. But while she was recovering from major surgery an unscheduled visit to a pet shop resulted in the explosive arrival of a Siamese kitten.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUrban legend : Sir Dove-Myer Robinson / John Edgar.
“One of New Zealand’s most popular and colourful local politicians, Dove-Myer Robinson (1901-1989) was the longest-serving mayor of Auckland city, holding office for 18 years between 1959 and 1980. A controversial figure during his time as mayor, Robinson has today taken on iconic status largely because of his ahead of the times vision. In 2011 we often hear the refrain “They should have listened to Robbie”. URBAN LEGEND explores Robinson’s life from his hard days growing up in a working class Jewish family in Sheffield to his reluctant retirement from Auckland local government in 1980.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSerious fun : the life and times of Alan Gibbs / Paul Goldsmith.
“A man who in his twenties dared to take on the cosy club of import licence-holders who controlled the New Zealand car industry by building his own car for commercial production was always going to be someone to watch. Who could have picked, however, back in the early 1970s, that this young engineer would one day persuade Sir Richard Branson to zip across the English channel in his amphibious car, the Aquada? The life of businessman, inventor, merchant banker, philanthropist, art collector, adventurer and inveterate traveller Alan Gibbs has been far from ordinary.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJohn Huston : courage and art / Jeffrey Meyers
“Veteran biographer Meyers steps into the ring with legendary movie director John Huston and proves adept at wrestling the larger-than-life figure onto the page. He does it by achieving a nice balance between the life and the work, playing off the flamboyant Huston’s romantic escapades (five marriages and hundreds of mistresses), world-class drinking (often in the company of good friend Humphrey Bogart), and reckless gambling against his prodigious appetite for work (he directed more than 40 films, including multiple masterpieces, ranging from his first directorial effort, The Maltese Falcon, in 1941, through his finale, James Joyce’s The Dead, in 1987).” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTina Grenville : a life in three acts.
“Tina Grenville always wanted to be an actress. Widowed at the age of 20, in mysterious and still unresolved circumstances, she was forced to find work as a housekeeper on a remote Hawkes Bay farm. Eventually able to move to Auckland with her young son, she became first a radio actress, then a leading photographic and catwalk model, . One of Paddy’s Girls, an elite stable of top models, in 1964 she won ‘Model of the Year’ . Encouraged to move to Australia, she was a resounding success, in demand with leading couturiers and top fashion magazines. Finally achieving her childhood ambition, she became a long-standing cast member on Logie award-winning series ‘The Godfathers’. and a regular guest on television game shows and Paramount telemovies.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)

Syndetics book coverBranson / Tom Bower.
“The sensational critical biography of this phenomenal entrepreneur and his business practices – fully updated to cover Branson’s recent ventures.No British tycoon is more popular, few claim to be richer and none has masterminded a more recognisable brand than Richard Branson. What is behind the success of the buccaneering balloonist, the tabloids’ favourite celebrity nude, the ‘grinning jumper’ and the scourge of corporate goliaths?. Helped by eyewitness accounts of more than 250 people with direct experience of Branson, Tom Bower has a uncovered a different tale to the one so eagerly promoted by Virgin’s publicists. Here is the full story of Branson: his businesses, his friendships, his ambition, his law-breaking, his drug-taking, his bullying. From the cockpit of a balloon in the clouds to the centre of Branson’s operations in his Holland Park home this book is an intimate scrutiny of exactly how Richard Branson created himself and sold himself.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe search for Anne Perry / Joanne Drayton.
“Until 1994, the world knew Anne Perry as the writer of bestselling crime fiction at the peak of her writing career. But following the release of Peter Jackson’s film Heavenly Creatures about the sensational 1954 Parker-Hulme murders, came the shocking revelation that Anne Perry started life as Juliet Hulme, the teenager jointly convicted of murdering her friend’s mother. Life would never be the same for Anne. That a convicted murderer had gone on to become a celebrated crime writer with worldwide sales of over 25 million books was tantalizing enough. But careful analysis of her writing reveals that these were more than simple crime stories; spiritual and philosophical complexities thread the way through Anne Perry’s works and the characters she creates. Was Anne, in fact, revealing more about herself in the characters she was creating? Acclaimed biographer Joanne Drayton takes on the challenge of exploring Anne Perry’s writing to uncover her world view and her compulsion to write.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Travel stories & guides

Syndetics book coverThe voluntourist : a six-country tale of love, loss, fatherhood, fate, and singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem / Ken Budd.
“When Ken Budd was thirty-nine, his father collapsed after eighteen holes of golf. Ken and his wife raced to the hospital–but it was too late. In the weeks that followed, as grieving friends revealed how his father had changed their lives, Ken started questioning his own life–and admitting, after years of denial, that he and his wife would never have children….” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAppointment in Zambia : an African adventure / Sara Dunn. “‘We could always go overland now that we have wheels,’ Ross had suggested out of the blue. I’d pulled out an atlas and we’d traced a route down through Africa via countries still marked with their colonial names. Only two strips of water interrupted the flow of land between Edinburgh and Chingola; the English Channel and the Straits of Gibraltar. Fourteen months had passed since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon so Africa couldn’t be that difficult, could it? A month later we boarded the ferry for Calais…” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAll roads lead to Austen : a yearlong journey with Jane / Amy Elizabeth Smith ; illustrations by Lucia Mancilla Prieto.
“Taking a cue from Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, literature professor Smith decided to set up Jane Austen reading groups in six different Central and South American countries: Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina. She wanted to see how readers in those countries would relate to Austen. Do Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma translate well at all?” – (adapted from Booklist summary)

Syndetics book coverThe last bohemia : scenes from the life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn / Robert Anasi.
“The eternal clash between authenticity, art, and real estate development shapes this bittersweet memoir of New York’s most tragically hip neighborhood. Anasi witnessed Williamsburg’s progress in the 1990s and 2000s from crime-ridden working-class neighborhood overshadowed by crumbling factories – his explorations of the decrepit industrial waterfront are one of the books greatest pleasures – to edgy arts scene and hipster mecca to end-stage self-parody as an unaffordably upscale “Bohemian theme park,” sprouting sterile luxury condos where picturesque ruins once stirred the soul.” – (adapted from Publisher Weekly summary)

Syndetics book coverMeander : East to West, indirectly, along a Turkish river / Jeremy Seal.
“Armed with a canoe, luggage, a box of baklava, and a jar full of water, Seal (The Snakebite Survivors’ Club: Travels Among Serpents) began his canoeing adventure down the Meander River (now known as the Buyuk Menderes River) from its headwaters on Turkey’s Anatolia plateau to its mouth in the Aegean Sea. As he recounts here, things don’t go quite as well as Seal had expected. …VERDICT Readers of history and travel will enjoy this charming book.” – (adapted from Library Journal summary)

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History

Syndetics book coverA guide to Dickens’ London / Daniel Tyler.
“To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, a generously illustrated guide to the city that was perhaps the greatest of his characters. From Newgate Prison to Covent Garden and from his childhood home in Camden to his place of burial in Westminster Abbey, this guide traces the influence of the capital on the life and work of one of Britain’s best-loved and well-known authors. Featuring more than 40 sites, places of worship and of business, streets and bridges, this comprehensive companion not only locates and illustrates locations from works such as Great Expectations and Little Dorrit but demonstrates how the architecture and landscape of the city influenced Dickens’ work throughout his life. Each site is illustrated with substantial quotations from Dickens’ own writing about the city he loved.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverA century of wisdom : lessons from the life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the world’s oldest living Holocaust survivor / Caroline Stoessinger.
“Renowned pianist, music teacher, and Holocaust survivor Herz-Sommer shares intimate memories, harrowing experiences, and valuable life lessons. Recognized as the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor at 107, her legacy and her wisdom extend far beyond the years she spent at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Fellow musician and documentarian Stoessinger became acquainted with Herz-Sommer while working on a film about her life. From countless hours and interviews conducted over the course of several years, she has mined a treasure trove of insight and reflection. Herz-Sommer’s life is a tribute to the purity of artistic endeavor under the most devastating circumstances, and her refusal to be bitterly defined or essentially reshaped by tragedy is a testament to moral and spiritual courage. As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, it becomes increasingly important to capture and communicate their individual stories.” (Booklist)

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People and Places Newsletter for January

Welcome to January’s People and Places eNewsletter, featuring the best of biography, travel and history. No doubt many of you will have returned to work, inspired, re-energised and rearing to go after the holiday season, yes? On the other hand, if you’re already craving your next escape – intellectual or physical – there are plenty of avenues to explore below.

If you’re wanting to follow up on historical figures, or determine whether it’s worth reading 1000 pages about them, try Gale Biography in Context. You’ll just need your library card number and surname to get started. This free online resource has over 600,000 short biographies and links to magazines, newspaper articles and multimedia sources. Helpful for students, researchers, lifelong learners and the idly curious.

Library News

Biography

Most people have a curiosity about the lives of others – we like to twitch the lace curtains and peek into the worlds of those who are those who are famous, in the public eye or just have an interesting story to tell. This is why (sometimes despite protestations to the contrary!) we’re all happy to pick up a New Zealand Woman’s Weekly or other, similar, magazine when we’re at the doctor’s or the dentist’s surgery, and catch up on all our celebrity news!! So, to round out the year, and to satisfy that itch, we have some really fascinating stories for you here – lives ancient and modern and some in between. Have a browse!

Syndetics book coverCleopatra : a life / Stacy Schiff.
“Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt. Though her life spanned fewer than 40 years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverThe horror of love / Lisa Hilton.
“‘I’ve given up everything – my friends, my family, my country, & he simply roared with laughter, and then of course so did I’ — Nancy Mitford. ‘The Horror of Love’ is a story about two middle-aged, not particularly attractive people who conducted a less than ideal love affair in post-war France. [Nancy Mitford and Free French commander Gaston Palewski.] She was febrile, needy and given to ’shrieking’, he was pompous, acne-scarred and an incorrigible philanderer. Both their lives had been blighted by war in a manner which is now almost inaccessible to the contemporary imagination. He inspired and encouraged her to write one of the funniest, most painfully poignant and best-loved novels of the late twentieth century, she supported him through a tumultuous political career. Their mutual life was spent amongst some of the most exciting, powerful and controversial figures of their times in the reawakening centre of European civilization.” (Abridged summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverTitanic love stories : the true stories of 13 honeymoon couples who sailed on the Titanic / Gill Paul ; [introduction by Bruce Beveridge].
“On 10th April 1912, the new RMS Titanic set sail on her fateful voyage from Southampton to New York. Among those on board were 13 newly-wed couples, with dreams of starting a new life together. Titanic Love Stories features haunting portraits of these honeymooners – true stories of love, tragedy, heroism and hope more remarkable than any work of romantic fiction” (Abridged summary Global Books)

Syndetics book coverEva Braun : life with Hitler / Heike B. Görtemaker ; translated from the German by Damion Searls.
“The first comprehensive biography of Eva Braun: an authoritative reassessment of her role in Hitler’s life, which gives us, as well, an astonishingly revealing portrait of Hitler and his inner circle. In this groundbreaking book, German historian Heike B. Gortemaker reveals the real woman behind the myth of the vapid blonde with whom Hitler spent the last eighteen years of his life. Eva Braun’s relationship with the Fuhrer flew in the face of his proclamations that Germany was his only bride. In fact, he and Braun lived a bourgeois existence out of the public eye, and her identity was kept secret by the Third Reich until the final days of the war. Uncompromising and fiercely loyal to Hitler, she committed suicide with him two days after their marriage” (Abridged summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverColumbus : the four voyages / Laurence Bergreen.
“Christopher Columbus’s 1492 voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a trading route to China, and his unexpected landfall in the Americas, is a watershed event in world history. Yet Columbus made three more voyages within the span of only a decade, each designed to demonstrate that he could sail to China within a matter of weeks and convert those he found there to Christianity. These later voyages were even more adventurous, violent, and ambiguous, but they revealed Columbus’s uncanny sense of the sea, his mingled brilliance and delusion, and his superb navigational skills. In all these exploits he almost never lost a sailor. By their conclusion, however, Columbus was broken in body and spirit.” (Library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverHere comes trouble : stories from my life / Michael Moore.
“In this smart, funny, insightful and counterintuitive book, Michael Moore will take on the major issues of our society, one by one, showing with great clarity and persuasiveness, that the two sides are really not as far apart as everyone assumes on what we conventionally view as the most divisive issues of our times. To name a few: Unions, Minimum Wage, Big Business, Immigration, Daycare, Social Security, Crime & Punishment, Taxes, The Military. The book will make us think differently about the term ‘common ground’. It will surprise people. It will make them laugh. And, most importantly, it will get them talking.” (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverPippa Blake : journey / Pippa Blake in collaboration with Trish Clarke.
“On 5 December 2001 New Zealand sporting and adventure hero Sir Peter Blake was killed by bandits at the mouth of the Amazon River. In this intimate account, Pippa Blake offers a private view of Sir Peter the husband and family man. Unpublished photographs from her personal albums, behind the scenes stories of Sir Peter’s sailing adventures and Pippa’s own journal entries and artworks provide a moving insight into a life shared with one of this country’s greatest sporting legends.” (Library Catalogue)

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Travel stories & guides

Our picks of the new travel books this month will transport you from (a very) offbeat London to Scott’s Antarctica. You’ll discover former Soviet Union countries, and take a Summer road-trip around New Zealand. Featuring breathtaking polar panoramas, Kiwi vistas from Cape Reinga to the Bluff, and no little amount of borscht – no matter your taste you’ll find a journey here to enjoy over the Summer break!

Syndetics book coverThe London nobody knows / Geoffrey Fletcher.
“Originally published in 1962, this book has been a must-have for anyone with an interest in London ever since. Geoffrey Fletcher’s offbeat portrayal of London does not focus on the big landmarks, but rather “the tawdry, extravagant and eccentric.” His descriptions will transport readers to an art nouveau pub, a Victorian music hall, a Hawksmoor church, and even a public toilet in Holborn in which the attendant kept goldfish in the cisterns. Drawn to the corners where “the kids swarm like ants and there are dogs everywhere,” Fletcher wrote about parts of the city where few outsiders venture.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSweet as / Garth Cartwright.
“‘I come from Mt Roskill. Somebody has to.’ So says Garth Cartwright of growing up in New Zealand’s largest suburb. It had acres of rugby fields and more churches than anywhere else in the country – but there were no cinemas, music venues or pubs. In search of a little more culture, a young Garth up and moved to London. Twenty years after leaving he returned to revel in a Kiwi summer. That summer was spent travelling the country from top to bottom and observing New Zealand and its citizens in all their eccentric glory. Taking to State Highway 1, he met old friends, cult rockers, aspiring politicians, potters, bikers, visionary artists, hunters, undercover cops and all manner of other Kiwi characters. Surfing, hitching, driving, sailing and tramping across New Zealand allowed him to reflect on how much New Zealand has changed in the last twenty years – and how much it hasn’t.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEight pieces of empire : a 20-year journey through the Soviet collapse / Lawrence Scott Sheets.
“Sheets (former Moscow bureau chief, NPR) writes candidly about eight nations with past connections to the Soviet Union and his personal experiences as a war correspondent in, e.g., Ossetia, Georgia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. Sheets’s experience gives him a singular perspective on many of the conflicts those in the West remember now as vague historical footnotes. His matter-of-fact style never becomes overly political; when he includes his own commentary, he does so in a reserved and rational manner…. VERDICT Journalism students and professors, readers interested in the recent history of a region struggling to redefine itself, or anyone who has ever listened to a war correspondent’s reports with fascination will find Sheets’s new memoir engrossing.-Elizabeth Zeitz, Otterbein Univ. Lib., Westerville, OH (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.” (Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverThe lost photographs of Captain Scott : unseen photographs from the legendary Antarctic Expedition / David M. Wilson.
“The myth of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s South Pole adventure is an enduring one. In the face of extreme conditions and technical challenges, Scott achieved an iconic series of images: breathtaking polar panoramas, geographical and geological formations, and action photographs of the explorers and their animals, remarkable for their technical mastery and poignancy. 192 pp.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBelize / written and researched by Mara Vorhees, Joshua Samuel Brown.
“In-depth features on Belize’s ancient Mayan ruins, wildlife and landscape. Vibrant color spreads showcase the very best of Belize’s attractions and experiences.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCuba / written and researched by Brendan Sainsbury and Luke Waterson. “Cuba is a continuing education. Two authors combine 15 weeks of research to complete this guide featuring more than 300 beaches and 35,000 pre-1959 American cars. Inspirational photos and in-depth background information complete the guide. 528 pp.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMediterranean Europe / Duncan Garwood … [et al.]
“Golden sun-kissed beaches, dreamy seascapes, ancient ruins and awe-inspiring art – Mediterranean Europe is a visual and sensual feast. Visit once, and you’ll be hooked for life. – Duncan Garwood, Lonely Planet Writer.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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History

We have a great list of new books in our picks of the new history books at the library this month, from a pictorial history of Christchurch, to broader overviews of New Zealand history and a bit of world history as well.

Syndetics book coverChristchurch dreaming : yesterday, today and tomorrow / Mary Hobbs.
“The pictorial records after the first Christchurch earthquake seemed appropriate but it now seems timely to remember the beauty of Christchurch with photos from the past, the present and looking towards the future. Ever since the first house was built in Christchurch there have been many challenges, tragedies and triumphs, yet Cantabrians have managed to surmount these challenges and always looked to build a better future. This book encapsulates these sentiments. It is a pictorial gift – a memento of Christchurch for its citizens, for Cantabrians and all New Zealanders. It includes priceless images of the past, wonderful photos of the Christchurch we still have, along with exciting new concepts and dreams for a stunning Christchurch of tomorrow. Inspirational quotes from Christchurch citizens focusing on what they love about their city are included.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverPeople, people, people : a brief history of New Zealand / Stevan Eldred-Grigg.
“A story of New Zealand and its people, from 1200 through to 2000. A short, very accessible snapshot of New Zealand’s history written with tourists and anyone new to the country in mind. Aim is to provide an easy-to-read overview, not an exhaustive chronological history. Written in a lively manner by Christchurch born and bred Stevan Eldred-Grigg one of New Zealand’s leading writers of both history and fiction. Common themes occur throughout: each section looks at the sort of people who influenced the era and where they came from; their politics, their relationships; significant economic happenings and so on.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverNew Zealand in the twentieth century : the nation, the people / Paul Moon.
“As the first history to encompass the entire century, New Zealand in the Twentieth Century can be said to be following on from the survey histories of the last century. However, this epic work is much more than a traditional chronology of events. Rather, it brings to life in vivid detail the social, political, and cultural landscape of New Zealand in this period, and combines it with often intimate portrayals of people, places, ideas, and events that have defined us as a nation. The result is a magnificently panoramic portrait of the country which is both spirited and compelling. Alongside commerce, politics and racial integration sit the less obvious but equally relevant developments in clothing, religion, architecture, and music, together with how we played sports, shopped, drank and entertained ourselves, and how our ideas of families and communities transformed. From temperance to a people’s prime minister, from the welfare state to rock’n’roll, from a dying race to a Maori renaissance, this book follows the growth and evolution of the nation. The result is a superbly researched and highly readable history of life in New Zealand throughout the twentieth century.” — Publisher’s information.

Syndetics book coverTimelines of history / [produced in association with the Smithsonian Institution].
“Beginning with the emergence of our earliest African ancestors and taking readers through the history of cultures and nations around the world to arrive at the present day, “Timelines of History” caters to readers who want a broad overview, a good story to read, or the nitty-gritty of historical events. With easily accessible cross-references that build bite-size pieces of information into a narrative that leads readers back and forth through time, “Timelines of History” makes the past accessible to all families, students, and the general reader.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLady Almina and the real Downton Abbey : the lost legacy of Highclere Castle / by the Countess of Carnarvon.
“The remarkable story behind the real Downton Abbey. Lady Fiona Carnarvon became the chatelaine of Highclere Castle – the setting of the hit series Downton Abbey – eight years ago. In that time she’s become fascinated by the rich history of Highclere, and by the extraordinary people who lived there over the centuries. One person particularly captured Fiona’s imagination – Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon. Almina was the illegitimate daughter of banking tycoon Alfred de Rothschild. She was his only daughter and he doted on her. She married George, the Earl of Carnarvon, at 19 with an enormous dowry. At first, life at Highclere was a dizzying mix of sumptuous banquets for 500 and even the occasional royal visitor. Almina oversaw 80 members of staff – many of whom came from families who had worked at Highclere for generations. But when the First World War broke out, life at Highclere changed forever.” (Global Books In Print)

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New Zealand

This months recent picks from the New Zealand reference collection includes some New Zealand travel guides of interest to walkers, eco tourists and travellers who are interested in the history of the places they are visiting. There is also the Peter Wells biography of William Colenso.

Syndetics book coverA walking guide to New Zealand’s long trail : Te Araroa / Geoff Chapple. “This is the guidebook of Te Araroa Trail: The Long Pathway, a continuous trail running from Cape Reinga to Bluff, 35 years in the making, which will officially open in late 2011. The book maps the 3000-kilometre trail in 40-kilometre sections. Photographs of the trail illustrate each section. Each of the 12 regional sections opens with a stunning 2-page 3D map. This book is an accessible guide both for those who only want to walk parts of the trail and dedicated trampers who intend to walk its entire length.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOrganic explorer : eco-friendly places to eat, stay and explore in New Zealand / [Leonie Johnsen]. “The first guide book to organic food and eco-friendly places to eat, stay and explore throughout New Zealand. Included in the book are over 350 listings of: * Organic food cafes, restaurants, gate sales, places to shop nationwide. * Comprehensive list of Farmers’ Markets throught the country. * Eco-friendly places to stay including straw bale, mud brick and natural timber B&Bs, homestays, selff-contained cottages as well as luxury eco-lodges. * Wellness retreats, yoga retreats, day spas and health packages. * Authentic and intimate Maori tourism experiences with a contemporary perspective. * Nature-based activities and adventures.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWalks to waterfalls : 100 New Zealand waterfalls / Russell Kirkpatrick.
“Highlights a hundred of the best and most accessible waterfalls in New Zealand, including those close to urban areas. Walks for all ages and states of fitness are included and access is described in detail with the routes graded according to ease of use. Ideal to take on journeys and to use when planning holidays.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe hungry heart : journeys with William Colenso / Peter Wells. “I love doubters: of a truly honest doubter I have great hope.” Printer, botanist and missionary, William Colenso was a nineteenth-century maverick, a true original. He protested at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, arguing that Maori did not fully understand its implications. He became a troubled conscience during the white-hot period of colonisation, maintaining his dissident voice throughout his career. Peter Wells refreshes our vision of this awkward, highly talented man, who lost his family after the church expelled him for fathering a child by a Maori woman. Rejected by church, family and friends, Colenso made botany his home and lovingly described the plants of New Zealand. At the same time he wrote a series of remarkable pamphlets that open up our past. ‘I write for future generations,’ he wrote in 1881. The time has come to welcome Colenso back.” – (adapted from cover)

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People and Places Newsletter for November

Summer has arrived, or at the very least is peeking through the clouds on occasion. With this burst of fine weather comes the promise of the holiday season and some relaxed reading. Take some inspiration from the best of November’s People & Places picks.

Biography

Lives told through novels, houses and adventures. This month’s new biographies offer insight into a wide array of remarkable people.

Syndetics book coverAll in one basket : nest eggs / Deborah Devonshire.
“Entertaining, instructive, thought-provoking and hilarious, the unmistakeable voice of Deborah Devonshire rings out of this volume which combines her two collections of ‘occasional’ writings – Home to Roost and Counting My Chickens. The pieces are broad and eclectic in their subjects, ranging from treasures unearthed while the kitchen was being redecorated, musings about the reason for the reworded town sign, tourism at Chatsworth, a ringside view of both John F. Kennedy’s inauguration and funeral, and the value of deportment. No matter what she’s writing about she is always affectionate, shrewd and uproariously funny.” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk description)

Syndetics book coverBligh : master mariner / Rob Mundle.
“It is the eighteenth century, the era when brave mariners took their ships beyond the horizon in search of an unknown world. Those chosen to lead these expeditions were exceptional navigators, men who had shown brilliance as they ascended the ranks in the Royal Navy. They were also bloody good sailors. There’s a lot more to the story of the infamous Captain Bligh than mutiny, rum and convicts – it is also the untold story of one of our greatest sailors.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverVirginia Woolf / Alexandra Harris.
“Alexandra Harris’s hugely acclaimed book Romantic Moderns (winner of the 2010 Guardian First Book Award) overturned our picture of modernist culture during the interwar years. In this, her second book, she brings her attention to one of the towering figures of literary modernism. It is an intensely pleasurable read that weaves together the life and work of Virginia Woolf, and serves as an ideal introduction to both. Following the chronology of Woolfs life, it considers each of the novels in context, gives due prominence to her dazzlingly inventive essays, traces the contentious course of her afterlife and shows why, seventy years after her death,Virginia Woolf continues to haunt and inspire us.” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk description)

Syndetics book coverBlue nights / by Joan Didion.“From one of our most powerful writers, a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter. Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness, and growing old. Blue Nights opens on July 26, 2010, as Didion thinks back to Quintana’s wedding in New York seven years before. Today would be her wedding anniversary. This fact triggers vivid snapshots of Quintana’s childhood — in Malibu, in Brentwood, at school in Holmby Hills. Reflecting on her daughter but also on her role as a parent, Didion asks the candid questions any parent might about how she feels she failed either because cues were not taken or perhaps displaced. ‘How could I have missed what was clearly there to be seen?’ Finally, perhaps we all remain unknown to each other. Blue Nights — the long, light evening hours that signal the summer solstice, ‘the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but also its warning’ — like The Year of Magical Thinking before it, is an iconic book of incisive and electric honesty.” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk desription)

Syndetics book coverLemon sherbet and dolly blue : the story of an accidental family / Lynn Knight.
“150 Station Road, Wheeldon Mill – a short stride across the Chesterfield Canal in the heart of Derbyshire – was home to the Nash family and their corner shop, which served a small mining community with everything from Brasso and Dolly Blue, to cheap dress rings and bright sugary sweets. But just as this was no ordinary home, theirs was no ordinary family. Lynn Knight tells the remarkable story of the three adoptions within it: of her great-grandfather, a fairground boy, given away when his parents left for America in 1865; of her great-aunt, rescued from an Industrial School in 1909, and of her mother, adopted as a baby in 1930, and brought to Chesterfield from London. Full of light, life and colour, spanning three generations and two world wars, this memoir weaves a rich portrait of a community and of family love and loyalty regardless of blood ties.” – (adapted from Amazon.uk description)

Syndetics book coverDiamond Queen : Elizabeth II and her people / Andrew Marr.
“With the flair for narrative and the meticulous research that readers have come to expect, Andrew Marr turns his attention to the monarch – and to the monarchy, chronicling the Queen’s pivotal role at the centre of the state, which is largely hidden from the public gaze, and making a strong case for the institution itself. Arranged thematically, rather than chronologically, Marr dissects the Queen’s political relationships, crucially those with her Prime Ministers; he examines her role as Head of the Commonwealth, and her deep commitment to that Commonwealth of nations; he looks at the drastic changes in the media since her accession in 1952 and how the monarchy – and the monarch – have had to change and adapt as a result. Indeed he argues that under her watchful eye, the monarchy has been thoroughly modernized and made as fit for purpose in the twenty-first century as it was when she came to the throne and a ‘new Elizabethan age’ was ushered in.” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk description)

Syndetics book coverThe address book : a memoir about my homes (all 32 of them) / Jane Clifton.
“Where do you call home?Performer Jane Clifton had a classic army brat upbringing, constantly on the move as the family followed the postings of her English officer father from Gibraltar to England, Germany to Malaysia and eventually to Australia. Always the new kid in town, Jane became adept at fitting in anywhere. As an adult, living in the fast-moving worlds of anti-war demos, women’s lib, experimental theatre, rock ‘n’ roll, and TV, she kept up the family tradition of changing addresses without so much as a backward glance. But her stiff-upper-lipped father and glamorous, restless mother both died tragically young, and Jane was left with many unanswered questions. Where exactly is home? is it your family? Your memories? Or simply bricks and mortar? One day, Jane decided to go back and visit every house she’d lived in all 32 of them to see if she could piece together the jigsaw of her life. A funny, moving and unexpected story about one woman’s search for home, And The universal desire to find the place you truly belong.” – (adapted from Publisher’s description)

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Travel stories & guides

In our picks of the new travel books this month: the wide blue skies of the Otago Trail, a book from National Geographic’s ‘Adventurer in Residence’ Steve Backshall (wherein he tries to answer the question in the title of this post), and a look back at how it all started with a book that treats with the first ever Lonely Planet guidebook. Have a browse!

Syndetics book coverTell them to get lost : travels with the Lonely Planet guidebook that started it all / Brian Thacker.
When Tony Wheeler wrote Lonely Planet’s first ever guidebook in 1974, Southeast Asia offered ‘cheap and interesting travel without the constantly oppressing misery of some of the less fortunate parts of Asia’. Certain ‘hotspots’ in the region attracted the ‘tourist crowds,’ but there were many ‘untouched places that only the people who are willing to put in a little effort and withstand some discomfort will really appreciate.’ So how much has Southeast Asia changed since Tony ambled around the region in flared pants?” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMachu my Picchu : searching for sex, sanity, and a soul mate in South America / Iris Bahr ; [maps by Piper Verlag].
“…Feeling more alienated than ever, Iris decides to embark on another backpacking adventure, this time through Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. Between love affairs with locals, clashes with travel companions, and near-death experiences, Iris discovers her ability to feel lost no matter where she goes. But through her struggle to find that elusive combination of healthy love, great sex, and peace of mind, she finally learns to embrace the joys of the search. The zany humor of Amy Sedaris meets the neurotic self-awareness of Woody Allen in this invigorating mix of hair-raising adventure, poignant reflection, and bawdy humor – it’s one hell of a wild ride.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTrail : [riding the Otago Central rail trail] / Paul Sorrell & Graham Warman.
“For the many thousands who have walked or ridden the Otago Central Rail Trail it holds particular, cherished memories. Some impressions will stick for a lifetime: bouncing over bone-rattling bridges, or sailing through sheer-sided canyons of schist. Or simply barrelling along, mile after mile, with the gravel crunching beneath your tyres under endless wide blue skies. In this vivid, beautifully drawn account, author Paul Sorrell and photographer Graham Warman take you on a 150-kilometre journey across the Otago Central Rail Trail, deep into the heart of the South Island’s spectacular interior.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLooking for adventure / Steve Backshall.
“How do you become an explorer? It’s a question every child has asked. And Steve Backshall was no different. But after a rainy-day visit to an exhibition of artefacts from Papua New Guinea, it was a question that began to obsess the seven-year old Backshall. But surely he’d been born a century too late? And yet through boundless enthusiasm, determination and a refusal to accept defeat. Backshall was soon carrying business cards from National Geographic describing him as their ‘Adventurer in Residence’. The vast, untamed wildness of Papua New Guinea was where Backshall forged his unlikely path.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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History

In our picks of the new history books this month: narratives that reveal the real Downton Abbey, the lives of the invisible Romans (the Romans that history forgot), and real stories about pirates of the Caribbean. Plus, the story of the rediscovery of the manuscript of Lucretius and its place in the cultural movement of the Renaissance. Have a browse!

Syndetics book coverLady Almina and the real Downton Abbey : the lost legacy of Highclere Castle / by the Countess of Carnarvon.
“The remarkable story behind the real Downton Abbey. Lady Fiona Carnarvon became the chatelaine of Highclere Castle – the setting of the hit series Downton Abbey – eight years ago. In that time she’s become fascinated by the rich history of Highclere, and by the extraordinary people who lived there over the centuries. One person particularly captured Fiona’s imagination – Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon. Almina was the illegitimate daughter of banking tycoon Alfred de Rothschild. She was his only daughter and he doted on her. She married George, the Earl of Carnarvon, at 19 with an enormous dowry. At first, life at Highclere was a dizzying mix of sumptuous banquets for 500 and even the occasional royal visitor. Almina oversaw 80 members of staff – many of whom came from families who had worked at Highclere for generations. But when the First World War broke out, life at Highclere changed forever.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverSpanish Gold : Captain Woodes Rogers and the pirates of the caribbean / David Cordingly.
“Stories of individual pirates in the Caribbean, from Blackbeard to Calico Jack, have been the stuff of legend since the eighteenth century, but in Spanish Gold pirate expert David Cordingly at last gives us the big picture in all its bold and ruthless truth.” (Library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverThe swerve : how the Renaissance began / Stephen Greenblatt.
“Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late 30s took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. The book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic. This title tells the story of this discovery.” (Library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverInvisible Romans : prostitutes, outlaws, slaves, gladiators, ordinary men and woman … the Romans that history forgot / Robert Knapp.
“Knapp finds traces of the invisible Romans in the nooks and crannies of history; he tracks down and pieces together tell-tale bits of evidence cast aside by the visible mass of Roman history and in doing so he recreates a world lost from view for two millennia. He shows how the invisible Romans sought to survive and control their fates under powers that sometimes controlled and sometimes ignored them and before the afflictions of disease, war and violence that could at any time assail them. Devoting a chapter to each of the main groups he reveals the ways in which their worlds are linked in need, dependence, exploitation, hope and fear. Slaves and ex-soldiers seep into the world of the outlaw; slaves become freed men; the sons of freed men enlist as soldiers; and the concerns of women transcend every boundary. We see them all at last in the seething tumult of a great city that shapes their worlds as it reshapes the wider world around them.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverIf Rome hadn’t fallen : what might have happened if the Western Empire had survived / Timothy Venning.
“This is a fascinating exploration of how the history of Europe, and indeed the world, might have been different if the Western Roman Empire had survived the crises that pulled it apart in the 4th and 5th centuries. Dr Timothy Venning starts by showing how that survival and recovery might plausibly have happened if several relatively minor things had been different. He then moves on to discuss a series of scenarios which might have altered the course of subsequent history dramatically. Would the survival of a strong Western Empire have assisted the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire in halting the expansion of Islam in the Middle East and North Africa? How would the Western Roman Empire have handled the Viking threat? Could they even have exploited the Viking discovery of America and established successful colonies there? While necessarily speculative, all the scenarios are discussed within the framework of a deep understanding of the major driving forces, tensions and trends that shaped European history and help to shed light upon them. In so doing they help the reader to understand why things panned out as they did, as well as what might have been.” (Global Books In Print)

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New Zealand

This months recent picks celebrate the iconic NZ cartoon Footrot Flats. There are also some beautiful new books featuring National parks, scenery and native trees and a travellers guide to birds of New Zealand. The last item is the new book on the Parker – Hulme murder and trial.

Syndetics book coverThe art of Footrot Flats / by Murray Ball. “The Art of Footrot Flats showcases the magnificent body of work of New Zealand’s greatest cartoonist, Murray Ball. This book, however, is not simply a cartoon book. It is, as the title suggests, an art book. The Art of Footrot Flats will be different and very, very special. The cartoons will still be there, but more importantly this book will focus on the art of the strip.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNational parks of New Zealand / photography by Rob Suisted ; text by Alison Dench. “Leading New Zealand photographer Rob Suisted delivers a magnificent portrait of New Zealand’s national parks. Within these treasured parks is diverse wildlife and stunning scenery representing all kinds of unique landscapes from golden sands to snowy mountains, rainforests and rugged coastlines. With five of the parks sitting in World Heritage Areas, this is a celebration of scenic Aotearoa at its best. Alison Dench emphasises the great pride and spiritual connection New Zealanders hold for their land with an introduction to each park.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTrees of New Zealand : stories of beauty and character / Peter Janssen & Mike Hollman. “This is a new kind of tree book, not a guide to species or simply a photographic study, it is a collection of individual portraits of the most remarkable trees in New Zealand. From the 800-year-old pohutukawa that stands at ‘the place of leaping’ at Cape Reinga to the Moriori carved ‘kopi’ (karaka) trees of the Chatham Islands but also trees that have histories that are linked to our own, such as the Gallipoli Pine at Taradale Cemetery, grown as a memorial from the seed of Gallipoli’s Lone Pine Tree.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSo brilliantly clever : Parker, Hulme & the murder that shocked the world / Peter Graham. “In this mesmerising book, lawyer and true crime writer Peter Graham tells the whole story for the first time – giving a brilliant account of the crime and ensuing trial, dramatic revelations about the fate of Juliete Hulme and Pauline Parker after their release from prison, their strange lives today and a penetrating insight into the crime using modern psychology.” (adapted from back cover)

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People and Places Newsletter for September

This month in People & Places we feature the best in biography, travel, history and NZ fiction. Highlights include: double-Duchess delights with the lives of Wallis Simpson and Sarah Ferguson; Last Train to Paradise relives the glory days of NZ rail; and Wellington author Craig Cliff explores a number of novel themes – pregnancy tests, the poetry of Sappho and the artistic potential of photocopiers among others – in his short story collection, A Man Melting.

Biography

Syndetics book coverThat woman : the life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor / Anne Sebba.
“This is the story of the American divorcee notorious for allegedly seducing a British king off his throne. “That woman,” so called by Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, was born Bessie Wallis Warfield in 1896 in Baltimore. Neither beautiful nor brilliant, she endured an impoverished childhood, which fostered in her a burning desire to rise above her circumstances. Acclaimed biographer Anne Sebba offers an eye-opening account of one of the most talked about women of her generation.”(Synopsis from globalbooksinprint.com).

Syndetics book coverMary Boleyn : ‘the great and infamous whore’ / Alison Weir. “Mary Boleyn is remembered by posterity as a ‘great and infamous whore’.She was the mistress of two kings, Francois I of France and Henry VIII of England, and sister to Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife. She may secretly have borne Henry a child and it was because of his adultery with Mary that his marriage to Anne was annulled. It is not hard to see how this tangled web of relationships has given rise to rumours and misconceptions that have been embroidered over the centuries. In this, the first full-scale biography of Mary Boleyn, Alison Weir explodes much of the mythology that surrounds her subject and uncovers the facts about one of the most misunderstood figures of the Tudor age.” (Synopsis from globabooksinprint.com).

Syndetics book coverMatilda : Queen of the Conqueror / Tracy Borman. “Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, was the first woman to be crowned Queen of England and formally recognised as such by her subjects. Beyond this, though, little is known of her life. No contemporary images of her remain, and in a period where all evidence is fragmentary and questionable, the chroniclers of the age left us only the faintest clues as to her life. So who was this spectral queen? In this first major biography, Tracy Borman elegantly sifts through the shards of evidence to uncover an extraordinary story.”(Synopsis from globalbooksinprint.com).

Syndetics book coverNo regrets : the life of Edith Piaf / Carolyn Burke.
“The beloved French chanteuse comes to life in this enthralling biography, which captures Piaf’s charismatic appeal along with the time and place that gave rise to her remarkable international career.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to survive the Titanic : or, The sinking of J. Bruce Ismay / Frances Wilson.
“When the ship hit the iceberg on 14 April 1912 and a thousand men prepared to die, J Bruce Ismay, the ship’s owner and inheritor of the White Star fortune, jumped into a lifeboat with the women and children and rowed away to safety. Accused of cowardice, Ismay became the first victim of a press hate campaign. his reputation never recovered and while other survivors were piecing together their accounts, Ismay never spoke of his beloved ship again. For those who survived the Titanic the world was never the same again. But as Wilson superbly demonstrates, we all have our own Titanics, and we all need to find ways of surviving them.”(Library catalogue summary)

Syndetics book coverFinding Sarah : a duchess’s journey to find herself / Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York.
“The author documents a low period in her life and how she found strength in her struggles with adversity and eventually regained her sense of purpose for her life with the help of friends and several celebrity experts.”(Library catalogue summary).

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Travel stories & guides

This month: journey from a remote Italian mountain village, to a canal boat in World War II England; from the rich farming land of Southern France and Northern Spain, to the banks of the Tigris River. Experience all this and more in our new travel book picks – have a browse!

Syndetics book coverViolin lessons / Arnold Zable.
“From the songs of Arab diva Umm Khultum on the banks of the Tigris to The strains of a young boy playing the violin for his mother in Melbourne, to the swing jazz of the nightclubs and cabarets of 1940s Baghdad, a fisherman playing a flute on the banks of the Mekong, and Paganini in the borderlands of eastern Poland… Music weaves its way through each of these spellbinding stories… Arnold Zable takes the reader on an intimate journey into the lives of people he met on travels over the last forty years…” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThin paths : journeys in and around an Italian mountain village / Julia Blackburn.
“You come across the shell of a ruined house. It could be anywhere in southern Europe where people once lived and then moved away because there was no work to hold them there… The house is remote, but it is surrounded by a tracery of thin paths… Julia Blackburn and her husband moved to a little house in the mountains of northern Italy in 1999. She arrived as a stranger speaking no Italian, but a series of events brought her close to the old people of the village. They began to tell her stories that made the landscape come alive, repopulating it with their vivid memories…” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMaidens’ trip : a wartime adventure on the Grand Union Canal / Emma Smith.
“In 1943 Emma Smith joined the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company under their wartime scheme of employing women to replace the boaters. She set out with two friends on a big adventure: three eighteen-year-olds, freed from a middle-class background, precipitated into the boating fraternity. They learn how to handle a pair of seventy-two foot-long canal boats, how to carry a cargo of steel north from London to Birmingham and coal from Coventry; how to splice ropes, bail out bilge water, keep the engine ticking over and steer through tunnels. They live off kedgeree and fried bread and jam, adopt a kitten, lose their bicycles, laugh and quarrel and get progressively dirtier and tougher as the weeks go by.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLast train to paradise : journeys from the golden age of New Zealand railways / Graham Hutchins.
“‘Last Train to Paradise’ describes the halcyon days of New Zealand rail, some of which the author was fortunate enough to experience personally. The ‘name’ trains and journeys cover a considerable period of New Zealand’s history, from the late 1800s, through the ‘golden’ era of train travel (the first four decades of the 20th century). Among the special journeys covered are the Prince of Wales’ royal progress through New Zealand in 1920, and travelling the ‘Test Match Special’ to enjoy the rugby in 1956. The book also includes a wide variety of fascinating and unfamiliar photographs, not just of the trains themselves but also of the characters who travelled in them.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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History

We have a great list of new books in our History Recent Picks this month. Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverIf Rome hadn’t fallen : what might have happened if the Western Empire had survived / Timothy Venning.
“This is a fascinating exploration of how the history of Europe, and indeed the world, might have been different if the Western Roman Empire had survived the crises that pulled it apart in the 4th and 5th centuries. Dr Timothy Venning starts by showing how that survival and recovery might plausibly have happened if several relatively minor things had been different. He then moves on to discuss a series of scenarios which might have altered the course of subsequent history dramatically. Would the survival of a strong Western Empire have assisted the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire in halting the expansion of Islam in the Middle East and North Africa? How would the Western Roman Empire have handled the Viking threat? Could they even have exploited the Viking discovery of America and established successful colonies there? While necessarily speculative, all the scenarios are discussed within the framework of a deep understanding of the major driving forces, tensions and trends that shaped European history and help to shed light upon them. In so doing they help the reader to understand why things panned out as they did, as well as what might have been.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverTurn right at Machu Picchu : rediscovering the lost city one step at a time / Mark Adams.
“Journalist Adams, whose previous Mr. America was an entertaining rediscovery of the life of early 20th-century fitness guru Bernard Macfadden, explores the weird crevasses of American exploration. In this fascinating history/travelogue, Adams looks at the work of Hiram Bingham III, who became a national sensation after he “discovered” the ancient city of Machu Picchu in July 1911. To celebrate the centennial of Bingham’s discovery, Adams attempts to follow Bingham’s exact footsteps through the Andes Mountains of Peru, with two clear goals: to figure out “how Bingham had gotten to Machu Picchu in the first place” and, in the face of recent claims that he had illegally smuggled artifacts out of the country, to understand the broader story of Bingham’s “all-consuming attempt to solve the mystery of why such a spectacular granite city had been built in such a spellbinding location.” (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverGreat central state : the foundation of the Northern Territory / Jack Cross.
“This book tells the sometimes bizarre story of the founding and precarious existence of the Northern Territory up to its constitution as a separate entity in 1911. Acquired by South Australia in 1863, the early years are a case study in planned colonisation, a world-wide movement in the mid-nineteenth century which, at its most ambitious, aimed at spreading civilisation around the world. This grand vision was marred by human folly, pride and hubris, overarching ambition, petty jealousy and murderous payback. Strange tales abound in this very lively history being published ready for the Territory’s centenary celebrations in 2011, as Jack Cross casts a wry, affectionate eye over a meticulously researched text that also anticipates the day when the Territory’s unique proximity to Asia determines that it becomes the seventh Australian state.” (Global Books In Print)

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New Zealand

From Short Stories to Science Fiction and Fantasy, this selection of new fiction show cases the diversification and skill of New Zealand writers.

cover imageGeist / Philippa Ballantine.
“The first in a new series. Between the living and the dead is the Order of the Deacons, protectors of the Empire, guardians against possession, sentinels enlisted to ward off malevolent hauntings by the geists. Sorcha Faris , a powerful member of the Order of the Deacons, is dispatched to an isolated village to aid a Priory plagued by violent Geist activity.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA man melting : short stories / Craig Cliff.
“This collection of stories moves from the serious and realistic to the humorous and outlandish, each story copying an element from the previous piece in a kind of evolutionary chain. “A Man Melting” was awarded the 2011 Commonwealth Writers Prize Best First Book.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe circus of ghosts / Barbara Ewing.
“New York, late 1840s, and in the wild, noisy, brash and beautiful circus of Silas P. Swift a shadowy, mesmeric woman entrances crowds because she can unlock the secrets of troubled minds. Above them all her daughter sweeps and soars: acrobat and tightrope-walker. The mysterious woman can help so many others, but she cannot unlock dark, literally unspeakable, memories of her own. In London memories fester in the mind of an old and venomous duke of the realm. He plots, with an unscrupulous lawyer (and a huge financial reward) against the mother and the daughter: to kill one, and to abduct the other and bring her across the Atlantic to him”. – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk description)

Syndetics book coverThe conductor / Sarah Quigley.
“In June 1941, Nazi troops march on Leningrad and surround it. Hitler’s plan is to shell, bomb, and starve the city into submission. Most of the cultural elite are evacuated early in the siege, but Dmitri Shostakovich, the most famous composer in Russia, stays on to defend his city, digging ditches and fire-watching. At night he composes a new work. But after Shostakovich and his family are forced to evacuate, only Karl Eliasberg, a shy and difficult man, conductor of the second-rate Radio Orchestra, and an assortment of musicians are left behind in Leningrad to face an unendurable winter and start rehearsing the finished score of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony.” – (adapted from Book cover)

Syndetics book coverThe big kahuna : tax and welfare / [Gareth Morgan and Susan Guthrie].
“The big kahuna takes as its base assumption that we don’t, as a society, accept that huge differences in income are acceptable and that we therefore choose to redistribute wealth. While they are generally regarded as separate, the tax and welfare systems are fundamentally both methods of doing just that – redistributing income from those who have plenty to those who don’t.” –Back cover.

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