Secret lives and untold histories: New popular non-fiction

Wondering what’s new this month in our non-fiction collection? Prolific novelist Phillipa Gregory tries her hand at non-fiction in Normal Women, a huge undertaking that puts so-called “ordinary” women at the front and centre of this British history, rather than the usual array of queens and affluent ladies. Mountains of Fire looks to be an adventurous and entertaining piece from the pen of a volcanologist (can we talk about that cover?), while Everything I Know About Books is a treat for any book lover, giving readers a glimpse into Aotearoa’s flourishing publishing industry with a huge number of contributors from around these literary motu. That’s not all, of course — browse our other picks below!

Mountains of fire : the secret lives of volcanoes / Oppenheimer, Clive
“We are made of the same stuff as the breath and cinders of volcanoes. No matter where we live on the planet, these fiery mountains have long shaped the path of humanity. World-famous volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer has worked at the crater’s edge in the wildest places on Earth. In Mountains of Fire we join him on hair-singeing adventures, close enough to feel the heat of the lava, from Antarctica to Iceland, to learn how deeply our stories are intertwined with volcanoes.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

What we remember will be saved : a story of refugees and the things they carry / Saldana, Stephanie
“Journalist and scholar Stephanie Saldaña, who lived in Syria before the war, sets out on a journey across nine countries to meet refugees and learn what they salvaged from the ruins when they escaped. Now, in the narratives of six extraordinary women and men, from Mt. Sinjar to Aleppo to Lesvos to Amsterdam, we discover that the little things matter a great deal. Saldaña introduces us to a woman who saved her city in a dress, a musician who saved his stories in songs, and a couple who rebuilt their destroyed pharmacy even as the city around them fell apart. Together they provide a window into a religiously diverse corner of the Middle East on the edge of unraveling, and the people keeping it alive with their stories.” (Catalogue)

Normal women : 900 years of making history / Gregory, Philippa
Normal Women is a radical reframing of Britain’s story, told not with the rise and fall of kings and the occasional queen, but through social and cultural transition, showing the agency, persistence, and effectiveness of women in society – from 1066 to modern times. This is a book about millions of women, not just three or four. The ‘normal women’ you meet in these pages rode in jousts, flew Spitfires, issued their own currency and built ships, corn mills and houses as part of their daily lives. They went to war, tilled the fields, campaigned, wrote and loved. They committed crimes, or treason, worshipped many types of gods, cooked and nursed, invented things and rioted. A lot. A landmark work of scholarship and storytelling, Philippa Gregory puts women back where they belong in our history – centre stage.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Rugby league in New Zealand : a people’s history / Bodman, Ryan
Rugby League in New Zealand: A People’s History unveils the compelling journey of a game flourishing against the odds. Beginning with the game’s introduction to the country in 1907, Ryan Bodman reveals the deep-rooted connections between rugby league’s development and the evolving cultural fabric of New Zealand. By questioning the mythic status of rugby union in the nation’s identity, this history highlights how power, politics and people have collectively shaped the country’s sporting scene. The people behind the game share accounts of change, triumph and resilience, while emphasising rugby league’s lasting influence on New Zealanders’ lives.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

White holes : inside the horizon / Rovelli, Carlo
“Let us journey, with beloved physicist Carlo Rovelli, into the heart of a black hole. Let us slip beyond its boundary, the horizon, and tumble – on and on – down this crack in the universe. As we plunge, we’ll see geometry fold, we’ll feel the equations draw tight around us. Eventually, we’ll pass it: the remains of a star, deep and dense and falling further far. And then – the bottom. Where time and space end, and the white hole is born… With lightness and magic, Rovelli traces the ongoing adventure of his own cutting-edge research, of the uncertainty and joy of going where we’ve not yet been. Guiding us to the edge of theory and experiment, he invites us to go beyond, to experience the fever and the disquiet of science. Here is the extraordinary life of a white hole.” (Catalogue)

Strong female character / Brady, Fern
Strong Female Character is a game-changing memoir on sexism and neurodiversity. Fern Brady will use her voice as a neurodivergent, working-class woman from Scotland to bring issues such as sex work, abusive relationships and her time spent in teenage mental health units to the page. It will take a sledgehammer to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope which is mistakenly applied to neurodiverse women. It will also look at how her lack of regard for social expectations ultimately meant she surpassed any limitations of what a Scottish working-class woman can do.” (Catalogue)

Everything I know about books : an insider look at publishing in Aotearoa
“A vibrant anthology that gives a behind-the-scenes peek into the book trade in Aotearoa. With plenty of honest how-to and insider intel, this collection weaves together 70 candid, funny, thought-provoking and powerful pieces from our leading writers, poets, publishers, booksellers, festival makers, artists, reviewers, editors and more, in a taonga for our times. Featuring a foreword by Witi Ihimaera, Everything I Know About Books celebrates 30 years of the Whitireia Publishing course in an insightful and illuminating read for book lovers everywhere.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Great-Uncle Harry : a tale of war and empire / Palin, Michael
“Some years ago a stash of family records was handed down to Michael Palin, among which was a photograph of an enigmatic young man in army uniform. This, he learnt, was his Great-Uncle Harry, who perished at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 aged just thirty-two. The discovery both shocked him and made him want to know more. Michael set out to trace his great-uncle’s journey from the comfort of a middle-class Victorian childhood, via spells working in India and on a farm in New Zealand, to the slaughtering grounds of Gallipoli and Flanders. Great-Uncle Harry is an utterly compelling account of an ordinary man who led an extraordinary life.” (Adapted from Catalogue)