Welcome to this month’s People & Places eNewsletter, with our picks for the best in biography, travel, history and all things New Zealand.
Amongst the towering figures – Tolstoy, Kennedy and HRH Elizabeth II – this month’s biographies offer insights from lesser known yet no less fascinating folk. Mick Conefrey mixes advice with adventure through the exploits of female explorers; Charley Boorman continues his apparent desire to travel absolutely everywhere on a motorbike and we feature several accounts of life in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake.
As much as we might yearn to tidy Tolstoy up – cut that hair, trim that beard – it has to be recognised that he was one of the most significant writers of the nineteenth century and his influence is still very widely felt today. Rosamund Bartlett, who has also written a fine biography of Anton Chekhov, has done much to explain this difficult and quarrelsome man, to examine his life and analyse his work, although the book is not heavy on literary criticism. She sees the key to all these things in his quintessential ‘Russianness’. For something light-hearted and fun try “The confessions of a prep-school mommy-handler” by Wade Rouse. Only in America!!
Forbidden lessons in a Kabul guesthouse : the true story of a woman who risked everything to bring hope to Afghanistan / Suraya Sadeed with Damien Lewis.
“Set amidst some of the most inhospitable conditions in war-torn, Taliban-seized Afghanistan, “Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse” is an adventure story with heart that tells Sadeed’s inspiring fight to bring aid, education, and peace training to Afghan citizens.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The castrato and his wife / Helen Berry.
“The tale of Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci, 18th century castrato, celebrity, and heart-throb, and his elopement and love affair with his teenage pupil Doroethea Maunsell, a story that opens up a new history of attitudes towards sex and celebrity in Georgian Britain, and explores questions about the meaning of marriage that resonate in our own time.” – (adapted from Globalbooksinprint.com summary)
Confessions of a prep school mommy handler : a memoir / Wade).Rouse.Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler: A Memoir
“David Sedaris meets “The Nanny Diaries” in this hilarious and deliciously catty chronicle of critically acclaimed author Rouse’s tenure as the mommy handler at one of the country’s top prep schools.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Tolstoy : a Russian life / Rosamund Bartlett.
“Born into an aristocratic family, Tolstoy had spent his life rebelling not only against conventional ideas about literature and art but also against traditional education, family life, organized religion, and the state. In this exceptional biography, Bartlett delivers an eloquent portrait of the brilliant, maddening, and contrary man who has been discovered by a new generation of readers. 544 pp. 20,000 print.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
On Gold Mountain : the one-hundred-year odyssey of my Chinese-American family / Lisa See.
“This account of a Chinese family’s adventures in America over the course of a century offers a tapestry of immigrant life. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.” – (adapted from Publisher Weekly summary)
What the grown-ups were doing : an odyssey through 1950s suburbia / Michele Hanson.
“Michele Hanson grew up an ‘oddball tomboy disappointment’ in a Jewish family in Ruislip in the 1950s – a suburban, Metroland idyll of neat lawns, bridge parties and Martini socials. This hilarious and wonderfully evocative memoir charts Michele’s childhood and coming of age in a Britain that was emerging from post-war austerity.” – (adapted from Globalbooksinprint.com summary)
Under the baobab tree : a memoir of two great loves / Jane Chidgey.
“From Melbourne career woman to ‘Lady of the Lodge’ in Africa … A heartwarming memoir about having the courage to follow love and change your life, no matter what your age.” – (Wellington City Libraries catalogue note)
Charlotte au chocolat : memories of a restaurant girlhood / Charlotte Silver.
“Like Eloise growing up in the Plaza Hotel, Charlotte Silver grew up in her mother’s restaurant. Located in Harvard Square, Upstairs at the Pudding was a confection of pink linen tablecloths and twinkling chandeliers, a decadent backdrop for childhood. Over dinners of foie gras and Dover sole, always served with a Shirley Temple, Charlotte kept company with a rotating cast of eccentric staff members. After dinner, in her frilly party dress, she often caught a nap under the bar until closing time. Her one constant was her glamorous, indomitable mother, nicknamed “Patton in Pumps,” a wasp-waisted woman in cocktail dress and stilettos who shouldered the burden of raising a family and running a kitchen. Charlotte’s unconventional upbringing takes its toll, and as she grows up she wishes her increasingly busy mother were more of a presence in her life.” – (adapted from Globalbooksinprint.com summary)
Travel stories & guides
In this month’s travel picks: Johnny West journeys through the Arab Spring, Charley Boorman explores the varied terrain of Canada on (what else?) a motorbike and Paul Carter bikes around Australia on used cooking oil. Plus, stories of life-changing trips and personal development, as well as an insight into the often-overlooked world of female explorers. Enjoy!
How to climb Mont Blanc in a skirt : a handbook for the lady adventurer / Mick Conefrey.
“Whether a seasoned adventurer or a want-away office worker, How to Climb Mont Blanc in a Skirt is an essential purchase. From using camel fat to improve your love-life to climbing Everest without oxygen, Mick Conefrey offers a vivid insight into the often-overlooked world of female explorers. Discover who dressed up as a Tibetan peasant to explore Asia and why you shouldn’t let a gorilla near your bedroom. Pairing inspiring stories of famous female explorers with hilarious tips on being an adventurer – such as what to do when attacked by a crocodile – this book is fascinating and entertaining in equal measure.” (Library Catalogue)
Drink the bitter root : a search for justice and healing in Africa / Gary Geddes.
“Internationally acclaimed travel writer Geddes confesses a long fascination with Africa, deeply affected by literature such as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and troubling news accounts of unrest, violence, and instability. At 68, he finally realized a youthful dream to experience Africa and offers a very personal first-person diary of his travels. He begins at the International Criminal Court in The Hague…” (Booklist)
Henna for the broken-hearted / Sharell Cook.
“How far would you go to change your life? Sharell Cook is 30 years old and living a privileged life in Melbourne’s wealthy suburbs. She has it all: the childhood-sweetheart husband, the high-powered job and plenty of cash to splash. And it is not destined to last” (Syndetics)
Karama! : journeys through the Arab spring / Johnny West.
“Johnny West has lived in this area for the past decade and speaks fluent Arabic… Travelling on public buses, visiting with families, hanging out in shops and cafes, he brings out for all of us what made ordinary people erupt, what happened to them during those days and now, what their hopes, fears and dreams are, how they see us in the West, how each country is different but how they see themselves as part of a joint Arab culture, before Islamists.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Loves, kerbsides and goodbyes : a backpacker’s road / David McNamara.
“Kerbsides are backpackers’ theatres to meet, re-connect, share their lives, fall in love, say goodbye. They are their platforms to perform – strumming outside China tea houses to crowds venerating them like rock stars, gathering an international troubadour on Kuala Lumpur sidewalks to busk for drinks, or outside a 7-11 on that ultimate backpacker kerbside Kaoh San Road, Bangkok. Kerbsides are where backpackers manifest uncomplicated love – treating every day as a minute and a lifetime. It may be a farewell, but it’s no big thing. There’s no lost luggage, cancellations, reservation errors, bad wine or slighted courtesies – just toting backpack, camera and guitar.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Extreme frontiers : racing across Canada from Newfoundland to the Rockies / Charley Boorman with Jeff Gulvin.
“Travelling mainly on his much-loved bike, Charley will explore the world’s second largest country – home to some of the most stunning and challenging terrain known to man. Along the way he will work with Alberta’s famous ‘Bear Whisperer’; travel with Native Canadians and learn more about their mythology and shamanic rituals; get involved in the world famous National Lumberjack competition; work with the Mounties search and rescue team and visit the world’s smallest jail in Ontario…. EXTREME FRONTIERS is vintage Boorman, packed with all the excitement, adventure – and bikes! – of his previous bestselling books.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Is that bike diesel, mate? : one man, one bike and the first lap around Australia on used cooking oil / Paul Carter.
“Green fuel, white knuckles: Paul Carter is forty years old, a successful writer, husband and father, no longer toiling on offshore drilling rigs….want(s)… to be the first guy to ride around Australia on an underpowered experimental motorcycle that runs on used chip fat…. starts on an environmentally friendly motorcycle built on a shoestring budget by students, and ends with a mad-cap plan to break the world land speed record for a biofuel-powered motorbike.” (Book jacket)
This, please : the tourist picture dictionary.
“Language guide, with a twist ; this is a fully illustrated tool for getting what you want in a country where you don’t speak the language. Whether traveling for pleasure or on a business trip, we have all experienced the frustration of being unable to communicate our needs. This incredibly useful little book takes the hassle out of not being able to “speak the language.” Covering all manner of potential scenarios and questions: Does the hotel have a gym? Where can one rent a bike? Is there a pharmacy nearby? You name it, there’s a clear image of it in here.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Bali & Lombok / [contributors, Andy Barsky … [et al.]]. “DK Eyewitness Bali & Lombok travel guide will lead you straight to the best attractions these beautiful islands have on offer. Packed with photographs, illustrations and clear maps the guide explores these Indonesian islands in detail; from the noisy, colorful and glamorous bustle of Bali to the quiet and tranquil retreats of Lombok. The guide provides all the insider tips every visitor needs including the best beaches, volcanoes diving and snorkeling destinations and comprehensive listings of the best places to stay in Bali and Lombok from hotels and spa resorts to local homestays.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
A walk in old Sydney / Michael Tatlow.
“Take a trip back in time to the origins of Old Sydney, as author Mike Tatlow takes you on a fascinating journey to the colonial heart of one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Spend an afternoon, a day or more as you discover the history of Sydney, and the characters who made it the city it is today. From the First Fleet, to the hardship and triumphs of convict life and the men of vision including Arthur Phillip and Lachlan Macquarie, A WALK IN OLD SYDNEY is the ultimate tourist guide to a bygone but remarkable era.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Ireland / Fionn Davenport … [et al.].
“A small country with a big reputation, helped along by a timeless, age-caressed landscape and a fascinating, friendly people, whose lyrical nature is expressed in the warmth of their welcome. Fionn Davenport, Lonely Planet Writer. Our Promise: You can trust our travel information because Lonely Planet authors visit the places we write about, each and every edition.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Europe by Eurail 2012 : touring Europe by train / written by LaVerne Ferguson-Kosinski ; edited by C. Darren Price ; rail schedules by C. Darren Price. “Europe by Eurail has been the train traveler’s one-stop source for visiting Europe’s cities and countries by rail for more than thirty-five years. This comprehensive guide, newly revised and updated, provides the latest information on fares, schedules, and pass options, as well as detailed information on more than ninety specific rail excursions. Trips start from one of twenty-six base cities on the Continent––including Vienna, Nice, and Milan––and contain all the details necessary to visit historic cities, romantic villages, and scenic hamlets.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Our picks of the new history books this month includes a beautiful book describing the first encounters Māori had with paper and writing, and the first relationships between Māori and Europeans in the earliest school. Letters to the editor from William Colenso, suggested by some to be an early version of “blogging”. Conspiracy theorists will love the new JFK assination take in “LBJ: the mastermind if the JFK assassination”. Enjoy!
Words between us : first Māori-Pākehā conversations on paper = He Kōrero / Alison Jones and Kuni Jenkins.
This book traces Māori engagement with handwriting from 1769 to 1826. Through beautifully reproduced written documents, it describes the first encounters Māori had with paper and writing and the first relationships between Māori and Europeans in the earliest school. The book tells an image-led story about the earliest relationships between Māori and Pākehā based around the written word and sheds light on a larger story of the first attempts of Māori and Europeans to live together in the early 1800s and the negotiation of the relationship through writing.
Grey’s folly : a history of Howick, Pakuranga, Bucklands-Eastern Beaches, East Tamaki, Whitford, Beachlands and Maraetai / Alan La Roche.
“This is a social, economic and political history written for all residents, students, schools and those interested in this particularly historically attractive part of New Zealand. It includes a full history of Maori, the missionaries, settlers, Fencibles, farmers and the development of our strong local communities persevering through wars, droughts and recent growth welcoming new arrivals to share our heritage.” – (Global Books In Print)
The great divide : history and human nature in the old world and the new / Peter Watson.
“Jared Diamond’s 1999 international bestseller GUNS, GERMS AND STEEL sought to explain the rise of the West; why it was that the ‘Old World’ civilizations reached the point at which they could discover and conquer those of the ‘New World’. Peter Watson develops this a great deal further. For 15,000 years mankind existed on both hemispheres of the planet but with no contact between them. Radically different civilizations produced startlingly different mindsets and cultures. One would wipe out the other in within a generation of first contact. THE GREAT DIVIDE will be the first book to reveal just what was lost in the clash of civilizations that ended thousands of years of separate development. In IDEAS, Peter Watson demonstrated an impressive mastery of every historical discipline. Now he will bring his ability to tell a complex big story in an accessible way to explain how the very different conditions of the Americas affected human civilization, religion, agriculture, technology and above all, thought. Contrasting these strands with the history of the ‘Old World’ is a radical new way to examine the political and intellectual history of mankind.” – (Global Books In Print)
Give your thoughts life : William Colenso’s letters to the editor / compiled by Ian St George.
“‘…you have the Press, both open and free: use it. Give your thoughts life; let all good measures be brought forward, discussed, and well ventilated.’ – William Colenso, writing to the Hawkes Bay Herald in 1859. The provincial newspaper columns were the ‘public spheres’ of their time, places for geographically separated individuals to contribute opinions to the debates of an immature democracy. But equally they were the vehicles for the passionately held views of bigots egged on by unscrupulous editors eager for exciting copy. These letters from Colenso, and their replies, show colonial politics to be argumentative, fervent and nasty – and the rants of opinionated, self-styled experts are thrilling in their vehemence.” – (Global Books In Print)
LBJ : the mastermind of the JFK assassination / Phillip F. Nelson.
“Nelson is not the first to suggest that Lyndon Johnson masterminded JFK’s murder. Readers of Barr McClellan’s Blood, Money & Power (2003) will note that Nelson goes over much of the same ground, casting LBJ as a ruthless, manipulative power-seeker who, in order to avoid being dropped from the reelection ticket (and to avoid the inevitable scandal from past indiscretions), decided his only option was to have the president killed. But Nelson’s boundless enthusiasm, not to mention his (mostly) consistent theory of how it all was arranged and then covered up, should sell the book to conspiracy mavens. Keen-eyed readers will notice that the author’s argument ultimately rests on a simple assertion: LBJ was the only person who could possibly arrange JFK’s assassination, so therefore. axiomatically. he did it. If you buy that, the rest of the author’s arguments flow (mostly) logically; if you don’t, well, the book is still a fascinating read, full of some very clever creative thinking. On the conspiracy-theory plausibility scale, where 1 is crackpot nonsense and 10 is rigorous and persuasive, this one is close to a 7: Nelson definitely hasn’t proven LBJ’s guilt, but he’s built an intriguing and thought-provoking case.” – (Booklist)
Surnames, DNA, and family history / George Redmonds, Turi King, and David Hey.
“This book combines linguistic and historical approaches with the latest techniques of DNA analysis and show the insights these offer for every kind of genealogical research. It focuses on British names, tracing their origins to different parts of the British Isles and Europe and revealing how names often remain concentrated in the districts where they first became established centuries ago. In the process the book casts fresh light on the ancient peopling of the British Isles. The authors consider why some names die out, and how others have spread across the globe. They use recent advances in DNA testing to discover whether particular surnames have a single, dual or multiple origins and whether various forms of a name have a common origin. They show how information from DNA canbe combined with historical evidence and techniques to distinguish between individuals with the same name and different names with similar spellings and to identify the name of the same individual or family spelt in various ways in different times and places. Clearly written and illustrated with hundreds of examples, this book will be welcomed by all those engaged in genealogical research, including everyone seeking to discover the histories of their names and families.” (Global Books In Print)
With the one year anniversary of the devastating Christchurch earthquake recently remembered, our picks of the recent New Zealand books this month include a number of new books on Christchurch – including a beautiful artist’s tribute to the buildings of Christchurch, stories of people trapped during the earthquake, and books that tell of the ordeal of living in the city and dealing with the aftermath of the quake. (Also included -the revised and updated New Zealand Small Business Book.)
Christchurch : an artists’ tribute / compiled by Denis Robinson.
“Denis Robinson has compiled a moving tribute to Christchurch with a collection of paintings of the city as it was before the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. Many artists returned to old sketchbooks, to discover drawings still waiting to be painted, and these new artworks sit alongside paintings completed in earlier days and others sourced especially for inclusion in this book. With a foreword from Mayor Bob Parker, this is a book that will be treasured by Cantabrians and visitors to Christchurch alike.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Shaken, not stirred : family survival in a quake zone / Amanda Cropp.
“Imagine sharing a portable toilet with your neighbours for months on end, showering in a shipping container in the fire station car park, or travelling for three hours a day on six different buses to get to and from school. Such was life in post-quake Christchurch for Amanda Cropp and her family. Quake damaged roads make travel a nightmare. Yet despite all this, life carries on. The quakes have reinforced the importance of family and friends, and a sense of humour is indispensable. This book will make you laugh and cry. It is funny, provocative and poignant, and shows that living in a disaster zone brings communities together, that people do indeed step up and look after one another. This is a story about the resilience of a community suddenly struggling with the simplest of daily chores in a time of crisis.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Trapped : remarkable stories of survival from the 2011 Canterbury earthquake / Martin van Beynen ; foreword by Bob Parker.
“The Canterbury earthquake of February 2011 altered landscape, history, and most importantly, human lives. Many perished and the lives of thousands were upended. In Trapped, Martin van Beynen documents with sensitivity and unerring detail the personal experiences of more than thirty quake survivors – before, during and after the event – in their own words.At once poignant, dramatic and enthralling, their stories record a defining moment in Canterbury’s history and testify to the courage and heroism of everyday people.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Magnitude 7.1 & 6.3 : the people of Christchurch, Canterbury & beyond tell their stories / [compiled by Debbie Roome].
“This book is a compilation of stories from people directly affected by the impact of the earthquakes in Christchurch. They reflect the incredible resiliance the people of Canterbury have shown throughout this devastating time. Some of the stories are poignant, some humorous, some shocking and some sad. All of them are from the heart and deserve to be heard.” (Adapted from back cover)
The small business book : a New Zealand guide for the 21st century / Leith Oliver, John English.
“Completely revised and updated edition of the bestselling guide to starting, managing, and expanding a small business in New Zealand. The Small Business Book is the bestselling, hands-on guide to running your own business in New Zealand. This new edition is up-to-date, easy to understand and simple to use. New ventures are being launched in greater numbers than ever before, and the prospects for success offer hope and a sense of fulfilment to New Zealanders who want to be self-employed. The Small Business Book has been written to help you get into business, successfully stay in business and make a good living from being in business.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)