What’s hot, what’s not: Summer Reading Adventure reviews

Summer Reading Adventure - 1 December 2023 to 30 January 2024

Full information - Summer Reading Adventure 23/24

Have you ever harboured secret dreams about being a world-famous New York Times literary critic?

Or read a book that you simply must share with the world?

Or, conversely, want to spread the word about a tome that simply just wasn’t up to scratch?

One of the most popular activities in our Summer Reading Adventure, both with children and adults alike, are the reviews.

We’ve received over ten thousand reviews to date as part of this year’s Summer Reading Adventure. These range from twelve words or so long (short and sweet!), to pages in length; can be funny or serious or right on the money — it’s really up to you! (But please no straight copies of book cover reviews as we have to reject these.)

And whilst the prestige of a review well-written is reward enough, we also have some spot prizes to give out!

So, if being an ace book reviewer appeals to you, find details below about getting started with Summer Reading at the link below, and send us your reviews!

Summer Reading Adventure – All the info

To whet your appetite, below are just a few of the thousands of reviews we’ve already received. Have a read, and send us your reviews! Remember, it’s not just physical books — don’t forget to log your eBooks or audiobooks and help us reach our 20,000 collective target!

Night tribe / Butler, Peter
“YA fiction is not normally my thing, but I was compelled to check it out after hearing Kim Hill interview the author. The tag line is “Deep in a cave off the Heaphy Track an epic adventure unfolds” and the Heaphy Track and environs featured large in my childhood. The premise is that two rangitahi – Millie and Toby – become lost after setting out to find help when their mother breaks her leg in a side track on the Heaphy. They are then “rescued” by a group of people call themselves Night tribe, who dwell within the cave network that riddles the limestone country beneath the North-west Nelson region, yet remain hidden from the outside world. The tribe are supposedly the descendants a bunch of convicts escaped from Botany Bay and eventually shipwrecked on the remote coast above the Heaphy river after a skirmish with local iwi 200 years ago. Throughout the story line blends factual events with imaginary ones, the author having worked on the Heaphy and still lives in the Golden Bay region. His knowledge of the region shines through the work. His previous works were non fiction and this is his first YA book. While it wasn’t my thing overall, I feel it would appeal to its intended audience, and its great to see a New Zealand themed adventure story come to the YA market.” (Review by Linda)

One Piece Omnibus 67-68-69 : New World / Oda, Eiichirō
“Another fantastic volume, thank you Oda sensei. I particularly enjoyed the part just after Luffy ate a dragon, when that decapitated chauvinist Samurai kept scaring all those giant children held captive on the 50/50 punk island with his Marlin from Nemo “have you seen my son!?” schtick. Nice also to see Captain Smoker back in the fray, that guy’s so cool. Smoking TWO cigars at the same time? Inspired.” (Review by Ethan)

Everyone in my family has killed someone / Stevenson, Benjamin
“A fun whodunit with quirky characters, a humorous narrator, relatable family drama (without any murder thus far in my family ), all while maintaining a sense of danger. My favorite book that I’ve read in the last 6 weeks. I’ll look out for new books from the author.” (Review by Tali )

Bowerbird blues / Parker, Aura
“OH MY GOODNESS! What a stunning book with the sweetest story. The artwork is breath-taking and deeply soothing in shades of blue, and the story is delicious poetry. This would be a lovely book to read aloud to little ones, have them read to you or to just enjoy on ones own, no matter the age. The depictions of Sydney are particularly wonderful.” (Review by Kath)

Beowulf : a verse translation
“This version of the greatest Old English epic poem to be preserved in the Nowell Codex is a simple presentation of the original text with heavy glossing on facing pages. If you want to understand the origins of epic fantasy in English literature, this is the place to start. Much has been made of the difficulty of reading and translating Beowulf, so if you are totally unfamiliar with the story or the language, I might suggest starting with the Seamus Heaney translation, or the great recent graphic novel adaptation by Santiago Garcia and David Rubin. But if you’re keen to jump into the original text, this is as good a place as any to do so. But look, I won’t lie to you. The story is as basic as they come (spoilers ahead). There’s this dude called Beowulf, he’s a big ol’ guy with big ol’ muscles, and he kills a big ol’ monster called Grendel for the crime of eating 30 Danish party-goers… every day for like 20 years (you would think the Danes might have called in the cavalry a little earlier but I guess they didn’t want to look like lil nerds who couldn’t even take down one monster). Then he kills another big ol’ monster who happens to be Grendel’s mum. Then he gets to sit around being king for a while before he has to kill — you guessed it — a third big ol’ monster. Except this one is a dragon and it sets him on fire and bites a hole in his neck, thus ending Beowulf’s story (though being the badass he is, being on fire and bleeding out doesn’t prevent him from killing the dragon anyway — his last words are basically “at least show me the sick loot I got for beating this boss” before dramatically dying all over his new pile of gold-plated dinnerware). So if you like monsters, magic, epic journeys and lots of blood and gore, Beowulf is the story for you! It’s basically LOTR (or like the second half of The Hobbit) but without all the filler. It’s not all doom and gloom though — the sċop (bard) who wrote the original version of the poem down devotes a weird amount of time to dunking on this loser Unferth who keeps trying and failing to talk down to our buddy Beowulf. Not cool, Unferth — in Beowulf’s words, “in helle sċealt werhðo drēogan, þēah þīn wit duge” (basically, “go to hell you big nerd.”) Classy!” (Review by Stephen)

Best of 2023: Our top non-fiction picks!

Our list of the top 100 non-fiction books for 2023 is here! It includes the best in memoirs and biographies, poetry, local history, science, social history, art and more. We’ve highlighted an exciting mix of new books made up of hidden gems, popular bestsellers, literary prize winners and acclaimed local talents. There’s plenty to choose from for every kind of reader.

2023 Non-fiction Highlights — Browse the full list
Browse the full list with all our picks, or browse just the topic you enjoy!

We were thrilled to watch the ongoing success of many homegrown authors who have generously graced our physical and online spaces this year, including Redmer Yska for Katherine Mansfield’s Europe: Station to Station, Arihia Latham (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Waitaha) for her sublime debut poetry collection Birdspeak, and the rousing collection of diverse voices found in the anthology A Kind of Shelter Whakaruru-taha. Here are some more Aotearoa specific highlights that you’ll find within our 2023 best of non-fiction list!

For celebrity biographies there’s no prizes given for which ex-Royal’s book topped most bestseller lists this year, but not far behind a Kiwi talent shone through with Sam Neill’s Did I Ever Tell You This?. We’d recommend listening to the eAudiobook version voiced by the actor for the full experience.

In the world of art there’s plenty of talent to admire in the visually stunning and comprehensive volumes Pacific Arts Aotearoa, and Urgent Moments: art and social change. Then, take an integral look into how Māori artists have adapted age-old techniques in their contemporary practices, forming clay workers collective Ngā kaihanga uku

In Science and Environment, American author John Valiant’s Fire Weather is a must-read and recently won the prestigious Baillie Guifford Prize for Non-Fiction. But for local stories on lifetimes spent in the outdoors and helping conservation efforts, look to Dave Towns’ Ahuahu: a conservation journey in Aotearoa New Zealand and Kennedy Warne’s Soundings: diving stories in the beckoning sea. There’s also The Forgotten Forest by Robert Vennell for those wanting to take an illustrated walk through the bush via the page.

Looking under the health umbrella, local author Kristen Phillips wrote a touching memoir, Dad, You’ve Got Dementia, and Dr Emma Espiner’s (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Porou) There’s A Cure For This highlighted significant problems within our medical system and important improvements that can be made for Māori.

Rugby League in New Zealand by Ryan Bodman sums up a national pride, complete with full page photographs of unforgettable games by legendary players. And don’t miss Our Land in Colour: a history of Aotearoa New Zealand 1860-1960 to see a century’s worth of historic photographs seen for the first time in full colour. Find all these local titles, plus their internationally acclaimed counterparts in our best of 2023 selection. Happy reading!

VERB: Behrouz Boochani’s Book Club Reads

Today VERB Wellington hosted ‘Behrouz’s Book Club’, where a fascinating array of recommended books from authors and panelists Behrouz Boochani, Sasha Francis and Abdul Samad Haidari were discussed. The authors chose these works around the themes of reading adventurously, and the importance of a diverse field of voices.

We’ve compiled the discussed titles for your next library reading list, available in a range of eBook, eAudiobook and print formats! 

Behrouz Boochani’s Reads:

The yield / Winch, Tara June (Print copy)
Also available as eBook & eAudiobook
“After a decade in Europe August Gondiwindi returns to Australia for the funeral of her much-loved grandfather at Prosperous House, her only real home and also a place of great grief and devastation. The Yield carefully and delicately wrestles with questions of environmental degradation, pre-white contact agriculture, theft of language and culture, water, religion and consumption within the realm of a family mourning the death of a beloved man.” (Adapted from Catalogue).

Overdrive cover Then the Fish Swallowed Him, Amir Ahmadi Arian (eBook)

“Critically-acclaimed Iranian author Amir Ahmadi Arian makes his American debut with this powerful and harrowing psychological portrait of modern Iran. An unprecedented and urgent work of fiction that exposes the oppressive and corrosive power of the state to bend individual lives. Gripping, startling, and masterfully told, Then the Fish Swallowed Him is a haunting story of life under despotism.” (Adapted from Overdrive)

Still Alive : Notes from Australia’s Immigration Detention System / Ahmed, Safdar (Print copy)
“In early 2011, Safdar Ahmed visited Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre for the first time. He brought pencils and sketchbooks into the centre and started drawing with the people detained there. Their stories are told in this book. Interweaving journalism, history and autobiography, Still Alive is an intensely personal indictment of Australia’s refugee detention policies and procedures.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Continue reading “VERB: Behrouz Boochani’s Book Club Reads”

Books from the Vault: Episode 8 DRAFT WAITING FOR AUDIO

Welcome to our latest exciting and scintillating episode of Books from the Vault, to be found on Wellington City Libraries’ very own podcast channel called Kōtare: Wellington City Libraries presents. Books from the Vault is a show in which three intrepid librarian explorers take an in-depth and look at the treasure trove of titles found in our stacks.


They dive deep into the vaults and unearth some wonderfully diverse books. After a brief description, they go on to talk vividly about the wider aspects of these works and, as an added bonus, discuss a range of linked and associated titles.

This latest instalment is a wide-ranging forage, in which one of our CYA Specialists, Mary Barnett, selects the fabulous Amphigorey also by American Gothic cartoonist, Edward Gorey. Next, Zoë Miller, our Ethnic Communities Engagement Specialist, talks about Ethnicity: celebrating Wellington’s cultural diversity. This is a nonfiction book compiled over the course of 52 weeks, using stories originally published in former Evening Post and then The Dominion Post, which feature different ethnic groups living in the Wellington region. The stories bring new ideas and a refreshing diversity, as well as including traditional recipes from each featured group. Finally, our Fiction Specialist Neil Johnstone talks about The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington. First published in 1974, this adult surrealist fantasy novel sadly was for many years was largely forgotten but there has been a huge reappraisal of Leonora Carrington’s work in the last couple of decades. The Hearing Trumpet has subsequently become regarded as a classic of fantasy and surreal writing.

To subscribe, you can find all our podcasts on your favourite podcast player.

Amphigorey also / Gorey, Edward
“An anthology of verse of nonsensical verse and macabre illustrations from Tony Award-winning storyteller Edward Gorey.” (Catalogue)




Ethnicity : celebrating Wellington’s cultural diversity
“”Over 52 weeks the former Evening Post and then The Dominion Post featured a different ethnic group living in the Wellington region. Their stories collated in this book are often intensely personal experiences of loss and hope, of a yearning for former lives and memories and of dreams of new lives and opportunities in a tiny, remote land at the bottom of the world” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The hearing trumpet / Carrington, Leonora
“The Hearing Trumpet is the story of 92-year-old Marian Leatherby, who is given the gift of a hearing trumpet only to discover that what her family is saying is that she is to be committed to an institution. But this is an institution where the buildings are shaped like birthday cakes and igloos, where the Winking Abbess and the Queen Bee reign, and where the gateway to the underworld is open. It is also the scene of a mysterious murder. Occult twin to Alice in Wonderland, The Hearing Trumpet is a classic of fantastic literature that has been translated and celebrated throughout the world.” (Adapted from Catalogue)