Labours of Love: New popular non-fic

There’s nothing quite like a super niche non-fiction book written by a passionate author. We love finding them – it might start with a little double-take, a moment spent frowning at the title, thinking there’s no way someone wrote a whole book on this. You might not even be interested in the topic, yet somehow your attention has been snagged by the opening paragraph, and all of a sudden you’re wandering over to a chair so you can set aside whatever armful you’re carrying and properly turn the page…

For every niche book out in the world there is a reader who cannot wait to get into it. Sometimes that’s how those books get written in the first place; that’s what happened to Tove Danovich, in any case. She’s the author of Under the Henfluence, a book all about chickens: chickens in history, chickens as food, chickens as pets, chickens as quirky little beings of their own. It’s the book she wanted to read but couldn’t find, so she wrote it instead – and honestly we love the commitment! Such passion is certainly inviting to prospective readers, so whether it’s chicken lore, literary history, ancient archaeology or personal memoir that catches your attention, we hope you find something special to read from this list today (and perhaps a new obsession or two).

Under the henfluence : the world of chickens and the people who love them / Danovich, Tove
“Since first domesticating the chicken thousands of years ago, humans have become exceptionally adept at raising them for food. Yet most people rarely interact with chickens or know much about them. Tove Danovich explores the lives of these quirky, mysterious birds, revealing their hidden cleverness, quiet sweetness and irresistible personalities, as well as the complex human-chicken relationship that has evolved over centuries. She also casts light back on ourselves and what we’ve ignored throughout the explosive growth of industrial agriculture. Woven with delightful and sometimes heartbreaking anecdotes from Danovich’s own henhouse, Under the Henfluence proves that chickens are so much more than what they bring to the table.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Searching for Juliet : the lives and deaths of Shakespeare’s first tragic heroine / Duncan, Sophie
“Juliet Capulet is the heartbeat of the world’s most famous love story. She is an enduring romantic icon. And she is a captivating, brilliant, passionate teenage girl who is read and interpreted afresh by each new generation. Searching for Juliet takes us from the Renaissance origin stories behind William Shakespeare’s child bride to the boy actor who inspired her creation onstage. Sophie Duncan draws on rich cultural and historical sources and new research to explore the legacy and reach of Romeo and Juliet far beyond the literary sphere. With warmth, wit, and insight, she shows us why Juliet is for now, for ever, for everyone.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The undertow : scenes from a slow civil war / Sharlet, Jeff
“One of America’s finest reporters and essayists explores the powerful currents beneath the roiled waters of a nation coming apart. Across the country, men “of God” glorify materialism, while citing Scripture and preparing for civil war–a firestorm they long for as an absolution and exaltation. Political rallies are as aflame with need and giddy expectation as religious revivals. Framing this dangerous vision, Sharlet remembers and celebrates the courage of those who sing a different song of community, and of an America long dreamt of and yet to be fully born, dedicated to justice and freedom for all.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Labour of love : a personal history of midwifery in Aotearoa / Skinner, Joan
“Joan Skinner has been a midwife since 1976 and has seen extraordinary change, both in the way women are supported to give birth and in the social and political context in which they become mothers. Labour of Love weaves her own experiences as a midwife into the story of childbirth in Aotearoa. It also describes her work supporting the development of midwifery internationally. Warm, engaging and important, this is a story of a woman at her work, holding together the complexity of living and the growth of skill and wisdom. It is a reflection on what it means to be a midwife and a story of the fundamental connections that are made where living begins.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Defiant dreams : the journey of an Afghan girl who risked everything for education / Mahfouz, Sola
“At age eleven, Sola Mahfouz was told she could no longer attend school. Confined to the walls of her home, Sola watched as the few freedoms of childhood were stripped away. Realising that she would have to either succumb to this life or find a way out, she decided on the latter. She taught herself theoretical physics and philosophy, and against all odds moved to America to study quantum computing. It is a radical act to tell the story of an Afghan woman. Too often, they are portrayed only as victims, their identities erased by thick veils and blanket reporting. Defiant Dreams will change the narrative. It’s the story of an Afghan girl who dared to ask for more.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Quartet : how four women changed the musical world / Broad, Leah
“In their time, these women were celebrities. They composed some of the century’s most popular music and pioneered creative careers; but today, they are ghostly presences, surviving only as muses and footnotes to male contemporaries – until now. Leah Broad’s magnificent group biography resurrects these forgotten voices, recounting lives of rebellion, heartbreak and ambition, and celebrating their musical masterpieces. Lighting up a panoramic sweep of British history over two World Wars, Quartet revolutionises the canon forever.” (Adapted from Amazon UK)

Cave of bones : a true story of discovery, adventure, and human origins / Berger, Lee R
“In the summer of 2022, Lee Berger and his team began unearthing the remains of Homo naledi, a proto-human that lived some 250,000 years ago, from the Rising Star cave complex in South Africa. The discoveries they made stand to alter our fundamental understanding of what makes us human. Depressions appear to be burial graves; charcoal and blackened rock ceilings point to the use of fire; a stone has a shape similar to Neanderthal tools. All have been previously known as uniquely defined characteristics of Homo sapiens ―but these finds force a rethinking of human evolution. Berger calls it ‘the Rosetta stone of the human mind.'” (Adapted from Amazon UK)

The art thief : a true story of love, crime, and a dangerous obsession / Finkel, Michael
“For centuries, works of art have been stolen in countless ways from all over the world, but no one has been quite as successful at it as the master thief Stéphane Breitwieser. Carrying out more than two hundred heists over nearly ten years – in museums and cathedrals all over Europe – Breitwieser stole more than three hundred objects, until it all fell apart in spectacular fashion. Unlike most thieves, he never stole for money, keeping all his treasures in a single room where he could admire them to his heart’s content – until one final act of hubris brought everything crashing down.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Young queens : three Renaissance women and the price of power / Chang, Leah L.
“Renaissance masters paint the ceilings of Florentine churches, kings battle for control of the Continent, and the Reformation forever changes the religious organisation of society. Amidst it all, three young women come of age and into power. Catherine de Medici, Mary Queen of Scots and Elisabeth de Valois lived at the French court together for many years before scattering to different kingdoms. These years bound them to one another; bonds that were tested when the women were forced to part and take on new roles. To rule, they would learn, was to wage a constant war against the deeply entrenched misogyny of their time. A crown could exalt a young woman. Equally, it could destroy her.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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