Rugby, recipes and our history reflected : Recent New Zealand non-fiction

January NZ Nonfic

Back from holidays and looking to read more New Zealand books this year? If you’re looking to re-orient in 2023, now might be the perfect time to pick up Dr Hinemoa Elder’s latest book, ‘Wawata : moon dreaming’, full of insights to lead you through this (and any) month of reflection. Or, choose to explore New Zealand history through 100 objects in Jock Phillips’ latest — delve into and connect with items of quiet significance and great personal meaning. Plus, ‘The RNZ Cookbook’, Ruby Tui’s autobiography, queer history, poetry, parenting and more. Have a browse!

Straight up / Tui, Ruby
“After a childhood filled with neglect Ruby yearned for another path. Determined not to let her upbringing limit her, she survived abuse, drugs and tragedy to become one of the most successful women’s rugby players in the world. The explosion of women’s rugby on the global stage has matched the rise of Ruby’s stellar career, as she has grown with the game from amateur to professional. In Straight Up Ruby looks herself in the eye, understanding that she can turn pain into purpose. It’s time to be straight up.” (Catalogue)

The RNZ cookbook : a treasury of 180 recipes from New Zealand’s best-known chefs and food writers
“An authoritative and above all useful cookbook from New Zealand’s favourite broadcaster, featuring 180 trusted (and tested) recipes hand-picked from the thousands of delicious recipes that have featured on RNZ shows such as Nine to Noon, Afternoons, and Saturday Morning in recent decades. […] Featuring recipes from key personalities from down the years — from Alison Holst and Julie Biuso to Martin Bosley, Nadia Lim, and Peter Gordon — it’s a terrific way to track our food history. Afternoons host and foodie Jesse Mulligan provides the foreword.” (Catalogue)

Wawata : moon dreaming : daily wisdom guided by Hina, the Māori moon / Elder, Hinemoa
“Hina, the Maori moon goddess, has 30 different faces to help illuminate life’s lessons – a different face and a different energy for each day of the month. And with her changing light, new insights are revealed. This book gives us the chance to connect to the ancient wisdom of the old people, who reach forward into our lives, with each of the moon’s names as their offerings. Their reminders are a source of strength in our strange modern world, where we have been stripped of much of the connection and relationships we need for our wellbeing through successive lockdowns. We now see just how important these things are! This book leads you through a full cycle of the moon, to consider 30 aspects of life.” (Catalogue)

How to be a bad Muslim : and other essays / Hassan, Mohamed
“This is the breakout non-fiction book from award-winning New Zealand writer Mohamed Hassan. From Cairo to Takapuna, Athens to Istanbul, How To Be A Bad Muslim maps the personal and public experience of being Muslim through essays on identity, Islamophobia, surveillance, migration and language. Traversing storytelling, memoir, journalism and humour, Hassan speaks authentically and piercingly on mental health, grief and loss, while weaving memories of an Egyptian immigrant fighting childhood bullies, listening to life-saving ’90s grunge and auditioning for vaguely-ethnic roles in a certain pirate movie franchise. At once funny and chilling, elegiac and eye-opening, this is a must-read book from a powerfully talented writer.” (Catalogue)

Downfall : the destruction of Charles Mackay / Diamond, Paul
“In 1920 New Zealanders were shocked by the news that the brilliant, well-connected mayor of Whanganui had shot a young gay poet, D’Arcy Cresswell, who was blackmailing him. They were then riveted by the trial that followed. Mackay was sentenced to hard labour and later left the country, only to be shot by a police sniper during street unrest in Berlin during the rise of the Nazis. Mackay had married into Whanganui high society, and the story has long been the town’s dark secret. The outcome of years of digging by historian Paul Diamond, ‘Downfall: The destruction of Charles Mackay‘ shines a clear light on the vengeful impulses behind the blackmail and Mackay’s ruination.” (Catalogue)

A history of New Zealand in 100 objects / Phillips, Jock
“The sewing kete of an unknown 18th-century Māori woman; the Endeavour cannons that fired on waka in 1769; the bagpipes of an Irish publican Paddy Galvin; the school uniform of Harold Pond, a Napier Tech pupil in the Hawke’s Bay quake; the Biko shields that tried to protect protestors during the Springbok tour in 1981; Winston Reynolds’ remarkable home-made Hokitika television set, the oldest working TV in the country; the soccer ball that was a tribute to Tariq Omar, a victim of the Christchurch Mosque shootings, and so many more – these are items of quiet significance and great personal meaning, taonga carrying stories that together represent a dramatic, full-of-life history for everyday New Zealanders.” (Catalogue)

Needs adult supervision : lessons in growing up / Emily
Needs Adult Supervision is Emily Writes’ take on growing up and feeling like a real adult. This book looks at the growing pains of kids and their parents and their attempts to navigate a world that’s changing by the minute. Emily paints a vivid picture of all the feelings, fortunes and failures that come with trying to parent when you don’t always feel up for the task. What it feels like to be learning at the same time your kids are. What happens when we get radically honest about the challenges parents are facing. In Emily’s inimitable way it’s incredibly insightful and hilarious, and leads to the odd tear being shed along the way.” (Catalogue)

Houseplants and design : a New Zealand guide / Carlson, Liz
“Houseplants have never been hotter. They have the power to instantly turn a house into a home and to create a feeling of peace and calm, transforming both your physical space and your headspace. Bringing nature inside is a simple way to maintain a connection to the outdoors. To nurture an indoor garden is to nurture ourselves. Award-winning lifestyle and travel writer Liz Carlson of Young Adventuress and NODE has created the complete guide to growing, propagating and caring for indoor plants. Offering a comprehensive catalogue of our most beloved and rare species, along with unique ways to style houseplants and troubleshoot common issues – and showcasing some of the most stylish indoor spaces in New Zealand – Houseplants and Design is the ultimate modern guide to tending a thriving indoor space.” (Catalogue)

Local standouts: New non-fiction

The warm days of raumati are here! There’s a wonderful selection of local non-fiction this month, perfect for those of you looking to deepen your knowledge of Aotearoa over the summer. First, we have the luminous Wawata by Hinemoa Elder, author of Aroha. Mātauranga Māori is at the core of Elder’s writing, and here she explores the maramataka, guiding us through the phases of the moon and showing us how we might live by its ever-shifting face. Our copies are in high demand, but it’s worth the wait.

Another local book is Cult Trip by journalist Anke Richter, where you can read about New Zealand’s most notorious groups and communities, while Dylan Reeve’s Fake Believe looks at the conspiracy theories running rife in this country. If while sunbathing at the seaside you fancy learning more about the life in the moana, look no further than Secrets of the Sea (a follow up to bestseller The Meaning of Trees). This beautifully illustrated book focuses on Aotearoa’s marine creatures, and traces the impact they have had on our history and culture. 

There’s plenty more of interest below for those of you sorting out your summer reading pile (ours is always optimistically hefty) so take a look and get reserving. We’ll be back with more non-fiction picks in the new year, but until then – happy reading!

How to speak whale : a voyage into the future of animal communication / Mustill, Tom
“In 2015, wildlife filmmaker Tom Mustill was whale-watching when a humpback breached onto his kayak and nearly killed him. He became obsessed with trying to find out what the whale had been thinking and sometimes wished he could just ask it. In the process of making a film about his experience, he discovered that might not be such a crazy idea. This is a story about the pioneers in a new age of discovery, whose cutting-edge developments in natural science and technology are taking us to the brink of decoding animal communication – and whales, with their giant mammalian brains and sophisticated vocalisations, offer one of the most realistic opportunities for us to do so. Enormously original and hugely entertaining, How to Speak Whale is an unforgettable look at how close we truly are to communicating with another species – and how doing so might change our world beyond recognition.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Cult trip / Richter, Anke
“Anke Richter is one of the world’s leading journalists on cults. She has researched the aftermath of Centrepoint and exposed other groups like Agama Yoga and Gloriavale. This book can be compared to Stasiland in style: a deep dive into New Zealand’s most notorious present and former high-control groups, told in a personal journalism style. Richter will describe her challenges of working in the field of cult reporting, of coming under attack by perpetrators and sometimes getting too close to victims and their trauma – and the lessons she learned. The book will explain the dynamics that can turn any yoga group or scheme into a cult, and why we are all susceptible to undue influence.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Earth : a biography of life : the story of life on our planet through 47 incredible organisms / Panciroli, Elsa
“It is difficult to conceive of the vast scale of the history of life on Earth, from the very first living organisms sparking into life in hydrothermal deep-sea vents to the dizzying diversity of life today. The evolution of life is a sweeping epic of a tale, with twists and turns, surprising heroes and unlikely survivors. The Earth beautifully distils this complex story into a meaningful scale. Prepare to be confounded by the ingenuity of evolutionary biologies, humbled by our own brief part in this epic history, and disquieted by our disproportionate impact on the world we call home.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Wawata : moon dreaming : daily wisdom guided by Hina, the Māori moon / Elder, Hinemoa
“Hina, the Māori moon goddess, has 30 different faces to help illuminate life’s lessons – a different face and a different energy for each day of the month – and with her changing light, new insights are revealed. This book gives us the chance to connect to the ancient wisdom of the old people, who reach forward into our lives, with each of the moon’s names as their offerings. Their reminders are a source of strength in our strange modern world, where we have been stripped of much of the connection and relationships we need for our wellbeing. This book leads you through a full cycle of the moon, to consider 30 aspects of life. And lessons we thought we had learned come back around with each month’s cycle and remind us of deeper layers and blind spots.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Survival of the richest : escape fantasies of the tech billionaires / Rushkoff, Douglas
“Five mysterious billionaires summoned Douglas Rushkoff to a desert resort for a private talk. The topic? How to survive The Event: the societal catastrophe they know is coming. Rushkoff came to understand that these men were under the influence of The Mindset, a Silicon Valley-style certainty that they can break the laws of physics, economics, and morality to escape a disaster of their own making – as long as they have enough money and the right technology. This mind-blowing work of social analysis shows us how to transcend the landscape The Mindset created – a world rewarding our most selfish tendencies – and rediscover community, mutual aid, and human interdependency.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Secrets of the sea / Vennell, Robert
Secrets of the Sea is a fascinating introduction to New Zealand’s fish and shellfish, weaving together history, biology and culture to reveal how these unique and intriguing creatures have shaped our lives. Ranging from sandy shores and rocky reefs to the open ocean and its cavernous depths, Robert Vennell celebrates the magic and mystery of the world beneath the waves. Lavishly illustrated with stunning photographs and fascinating historical illustrations.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The life of crime : detecting the history of mysteries and their creators / Edwards, Martin
The Life of Crime is the result of a lifetime of reading and enjoying all types of crime fiction, old and new, from around the world. In what will surely be regarded as his magnum opus, Martin Edwards has thrown himself undaunted into the breadth and complexity of the genre to write an authoritative – and readable – study of its development and evolution. With crime fiction being read more widely than ever around the world, and with individual authors increasingly the subject of extensive academic study, his expert distillation of more than two centuries of extraordinary books and authors into one coherent history makes for compelling reading.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Fake believe : conspiracy theories in Aotearoa / Reeve, Dylan
“Conspiracy theories: What do people believe, and why? How have they come to this place, and what does it mean for us all? By speaking to experts and those with personal experience of conspiracy culture, Dylan Reeve conveys what it means to believe and their relation to modern Aotearoa. Fake Believe should leave you feeling informed about our current time, and some of what’s come before. It should offer an understanding of what others believe, and it should deliver a fairly consistent series of ‘WTF’ moments.” (Catalogue)

‘Wild Weather’ Author Talk at Johnsonville this Thursday

Author photo of Lisa Murray, linked to Facebook event

Join us at Waitohi Johnsonville Library on Thursday November 3rd, 5:30pm for a talk with meteorologist Lisa Murray of MetService NZ, co-author of the new book New Zealand’s Wild Weather.

Cyclones, heatwaves, snow and drought… as a long, narrow group of islands Aotearoa New Zealand has always found itself at the mercy of wild weather, and that’s before accounting for the mounting impacts of climate change.

Come hear meteorologist Lisa Murray of MetService NZ present an invigorating hour, delving into the fascinating facts behind some of this country’s most dramatic weather.

What: ‘Wild Weather’ talk with Lisa Murray
When: Thursday 3 November, 5:30pm
Where: Waitohi Johnsonville Library

Event on Facebook

About Lisa

Meteorologist Lisa Murray is MetService NZ’s Head of Weather Communication. Lisa specialises in science communication and education, to ensure people’s safety during severe weather events. She recently enjoyed success as a speaker at the Auckland Writers Festival.

New Zealand’s wild weather
“This book explores the drama of New Zealand’s changeable weather, explained by a range of MetService experts. A compelling, informative and highly illustrated series of investigations into the different types of weather events that occur in New Zealand. MetService has compiled the scientific expertise, insight and weather data across New Zealand and the globe, to communicate the intricacies of our extreme weather events.New Zealand’s Wild Weather weaves meteorology with dramatic stories of everyday people impacted by the country’s mercurial climate.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Our own backyard: Books on local flora and fauna

Despite the recent cold snap, spring has most definitely sprung in Wellington. The birds are singing their songs of love and building their nests, blossoms are blooming all over the city and keen gardeners are getting out in the sunshine to bring life back after a cold, wet winter.

Aotearoa has a rich natural environment which you can explore it right here in Wellington, as close as your own back yard. We have many books on the flora and fauna of Aotearoa and Wellington, some of which we have chosen to share with you here.

100 best native plants for New Zealand gardens / Eadie, Fiona M“Since its first publication, this book has been an indispensable guide for gardeners wishing to use New Zealand plants. Now extensively revised, it features inspirational and practical advice on 100 species that are easy to grow and maintain, across a range of climates. It lists each plant’s likes and dislikes and gives sage advice for care and maintenance and for combatting pests and problems. It suggests how your soil can be best prepared for maximum growing results and gives creative landscaping tips for combining textures and forms to maximum effect. Engagingly written by the head gardener at Larnach Castle, whose gardens are world-renowned, it deserves a place on every gardener’s book shelf.” (Catalogue)

Biology Aotearoa : unique flora, fauna and fungi “As a large, isolated and relatively ancient landmass, New Zealand occupies a unique place in the biological world, with distinctive terrestrial biota and a high proportion of primitive endemic forms. Biology Aotearoa covers the origins, evolution and conservation of the New Zealand flora, fauna and fungi. Each chapter is written by specialists in the field, often working from different perspectives to build up a comprehensive picture. Topics include: the geological history of our land origins, and evolution of our plants, animals and fungi current status of rare and threatened species past, present and future management of native species the effect of human immigration on the native biota. Colour diagrams and photographs are used throughout the text. This book is suitable for all students of biology or ecology who wish to know about the unique nature of Aotearoa New Zealand and its context in the biological world.” (Catalogue)

Birds of New Zealand : collective nouns = Ngā manu o Aotearoa : ngā kupuingoa tōpū / Boardman, Melissa“This “illustrated book of collective noun names for our native birds reveals something unique about their character, so we can get to know them better. It also includes information on how they live, so we can help protect them better” (Catalogue)

Know your New Zealand : native insects & spiders / Early, J. W.“New Zealand’s insects include some of the world’s most remarkable, such as the giant weta (one of the world’s heaviest insects, dating from dinosaur days) and the world’s longest weevil. The most iconic, important and prominent species and families feature in this title.” (Catalogue)

Know your New Zealand– native plants / Metcalf, L. J.“New Zealand has a unique and attractive native plant life that is of interest to everyone from gardeners and trampers to students of botany and ecology. In Know Your New Zealand Native Plants Lawrie Metcalf introduces a selection of the most interesting, iconic and important New Zealand plants, spanning latitudes from subtropical to temperate, and altitudes from sea level to alpine mountaintop, describing their natural history and distinguishing features.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Māori agriculture : the cultivated food plants of the natives of New Zealand : with some account of native methods of agriculture, its ritual and origin myths / Best, Elsdon“Originally published: Wellington, N.Z.: Dominion Museum, 1929. Includes bibliographical references and index. The cultivated food plants of the natives of New Zealand with some account of agriculture, its ritual and origin myths.” (Catalogue)

A naturalist’s guide to the birds of New Zealand / Thomas, Oscar“This photographic identification guide to 239 bird species in New Zealand, including the most commonly seen, unique and endemic species, is perfect for resident and visitor alike. High-quality photographs from one of New Zealand’s youngest nature photographers are accompanied by detailed species descriptions, which include nomenclature, size, distribution, habits and habitat. The user-friendly introduction covers climate, vegetation, biogeography and the key sites for viewing the listed species. Also included is an all-important checklist of all of the birds of New Zealand encompassing, for each species, its common and scientific name, IUCN status.” (Catalogue)

A photographic guide to insects of New Zealand / Parkinson, Brian“Brian Parkinson recognises the fact that New Zealand is a fascinating arena of study for anyone with an interest in insect life, be it casual or academic. Featuring more than 170 entries, this title will appeal to walkers, nature lovers, educationalists, and photographers wishing to identify their subjects.” (Catalogue)

A photographic guide to mushrooms and other fungi of New Zealand / Ridley, Geoffrey Stephen“This new addition to New Holland’s very popular pocket Photographic Guide series introduces readers to New Zealand’s mushrooms and fungi, which number up to some 19,000 species and include extraordinarily diverse types, from the familiar ‘mushroom’ to brackets, coral and cup fungi and slime moulds. Over a hundred species are presented here, with spectacular close-up colour photographs accompanying each entry. The ideal size for slipping into a backpack when walking through bush and forest, it will appeal to walkers, nature lovers, tour guides and educators, and fungi photographers wishing to identify their subjects.” (Catalogue)

Wellington’s heritage : plants, gardens and landscape / Shepherd, Winsome“When the first European settlers arrived on the beach at Petone in 1840, the land they expected to turn into a city was heavily forested and swampy. After several months, the New Zealand Company decided to develop some flat land at the far end of the harbour, now known as Thorndon, and the settlement of Wellington had begun. Plants and seeds were the most precious things the settlers brought with them. As soon as they could, they began to clear the land and plant. In November 1841, the first Horticultural Society was formed, and after ten days it had 103 members. The Society was seen as a way of bringing settlers and local Māori together, and a means to share seeds, plants, cuttings, produce and expertise. This book tells the story of the Wellington landscape, and its private and public gardens, from colonial times to the present. It looks in detail at key plantsmen and gardeners in the nineteenth century in Wellington and the Hutt Valley, gives a history of gardens of special interest and describes the development of the Botanic Gardens and the Town Belt. Wellington’s distinctive wildflowers are also well illustrated.” (Catalogue)

Announced: the longlist for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction

The longlist for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction (the fiction element of The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards)  has just been announced.  And as always it reflects the rich, diverse, and vibrant literary scene in New Zealand. In this blog we are going to take a very quick look at the ten fiction contenders, but we strongly recommend a close look at the equally excellent Non-Fiction categories.

In the longlist this year we have…

Gigi Fenster’s A Good Winter; a gripping dark and, in some respects, demanding thriller set in an apartment block among a group of women. The novel was initially abandoned by the author who said “The lead character took over the work in not-so-good ways.’ Gigi eventually submitted it to and won the Michael Gifkins prize. Aljce in Therapy Land by Alice Tawhai is the debut novel from the acclaimed short story writer. Online relationships, stoned characters and logic, workplace bullying, quantum physics all overlayed with aspects of Alice in Wonderland in this smart, funny, and complex work.  Entanglement by Bryan Walpert is a multi-layered, multi-faceted work that weaves big ideas about the nature of existence and time into the integral fabric of the plot, whilst also being very personal about the characters’ inner lives. In Stephanie Johnson’s Everything Changes the central characters buy a rundown motel as a way of restarting their lives in this moving and funny work. A brother and sister from a Māori-Russian-Catalonian family negotiate the stormy waters of modern romance, largely from the Auckland apartment they share, in Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly, described by one reviewer as “part Shakespeare, part Wes Anderson”.

In Whiti Hereaka’s Kurangaituku a part bird, part woman central character “the Kurangaituku” retells her life from her inception till her death and beyond. This mythological tale is about love, in both its destructive and creative aspects. Sue Orr’s Loop Tracks is set in two time periods; the late 1970’s in Auckland and 2019 in Wellington, and centres around young sixteen-year-old Charlie’s choices and decisions in 1978, and how they flow into her 2019 future.  She’s a Killer by Kirsten McDougall is set in the very near future in New Zealand where the effects of climate change are really beginning to bite and affect both our physical world but also our society in this sharp and darkly funny work. Confidence tricksters, compulsive liars and jumbled up childhood memories all feature in Emma Neale’s excellent first collection of short stories Pink Jumpsuit: short fictions, tall truths. And to round up the list is Clare Moleta’s Unsheltered; a powerful tale of a woman’s search for her daughter set against a background of destructive weather and social disintegration.

As always there are several novels that might have made the cut but didn’t,  the most notable being  Jacqueline Bublitz’s wonderful Before You Knew My Name.

We have also had the recent pleasure of having Kirsten McDougall in conversation with Rajorshi Chakraborti and interviewing Bryan Walpert  about their nominated books; you can watch these interviews at the end of this blog.

A good winter. / Fenster, Gigi
“I looked after Lara. We both looked after Sophie and her baby. We had to. It’s not like Sophie was going to look after that baby herself. All she was interested in was weeping and wailing for her dead husband. She was so busy weeping and wailing for her dead husband that she rejected his baby who was right in front of her. When Olga’s friend Lara becomes a grandmother, Olga helps out whenever she can. After all, it’s a big imposition on Lara, looking after her bereaved daughter and the baby. And the new mother is not exactly considerate. But smoldering beneath Olga’s sensible support and loving generosity is a deep jealous need to be the centre of Lara’s attention and affection—a need that soon becomes a consuming, dangerous and ultimately tragic obsession.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook. 

Aljce in therapy land / Tawhai, Alice
“On her first day the sky had a salmon tint to it; after the rain, and before the cloud entirely cleared, as if it had been put into a washing machine with roses. Someone was probably really annoyed at the way they had run. Aljce parked in the asphalt car park outside the Therapy Hub. She was looking forward to her new job. It would be an exciting adventure with new challenges.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Entanglement / Walpert, Bryan
“A memory-impaired time traveller attempts to correct a tragic mistake he made in 1977 when, panicked, he abandoned his brother on a frozen lake in Baltimore. Decades later, in 2011, a novelist researching at the Centre for Time in Sydney becomes romantically involved with a philosopher from New Zealand. Another eight years on, and a writer at a lake retreat in New Zealand in 2019 obsesses over the disintegration of his marriage following another tragedy. Are these separate stories, or are they one? Is the time traveller actually travelling? Can the past be changed? As the answers to these questions slowly emerge, the three tales become entangled, along with the usual abstractions: love, desperation and physics.” (Catalogue)

Everything changes / Johnson, Stephanie
Buying a rundown motel to start a new life — what could possibly go wrong? In this funny and moving novel, prize-winning author Stephanie Johnson turns her wry eye on us. ‘What a fabulous read. Stephanie Johnson’s characters choose an old motel with little to offer except an amazing view in order to start a ‘new life’. Their first guests are a classic cast of the sorrowful and dysfunctional that every-day life throws at us these days.  This is her best book ever, and I loved every page of it.’ – Fiona Kidman” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Greta & Valdin / Reilly, Rebecca K
“Valdin is still in love with his ex-boyfriend Xabi, who used to drive around Auckland in a ute but now drives around Buenos Aires in one. Greta is in love with her fellow English tutor Holly, who doesn’t know how to pronounce Greta’s surname, Vladislavljevic, properly. From their Auckland apartment, brother and sister must navigate the intricate paths of modern romance as well as weather the small storms of their eccentric Māori-Russian-Catalonian family” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook. 

Kurangaituku / Hereaka, Whiti
“In the void of time, Kurangaituku, the bird-woman, tells the story of her extraordinary Life – the birds who first sang her into being, the arrival of the Song Makers and the change they brought to her world, her life with the young man Hatupatu, and her death. But death does not end a creature of imagination like Kurangaituku. In the underworlds of Rarohenga, she continues to live in the many stories she collects as she pursues what eluded her in life. This is a story of love – but is this love something that creates or destroys?” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Loop tracks / Orr, Sue
“It’s 1978: the Auckland abortion clinic has been forced to close and sixteen-year-old Charlie has to fly to Sydney, but the plane is delayed on the tarmac. It’s 2019: Charlie’s tightly contained Wellington life with her grandson Tommy is interrupted by the unexpected intrusions of Tommy’s first girlfriend, Jenna, and the father he has never known, Jim. The year turns, and everything changes again… written in real time against the progress of the Covid-19 pandemic and the New Zealand General Election and euthanasia referendum” (Adapted from Catalogue)

She’s a killer / McDougall, Kirsten
“The world’s climate is in crisis and New Zealand is being divided and reshaped by privileged immigrant wealthugees. Thirty-something Alice has a near-genius IQ and lives at home with her mother with whom she communicates by Morse code. Alice’s imaginary friend, Simp, has shown up, with a running commentary on her failings. ‘I mean, can you even calculate the square root of 762 anymore?’ The last time Simp was here was when Alice was seven, on the night a fire burned down the family home. Now Simp seems to be plotting something. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Pink jumpsuit : short fictions, tall truths / Neale, Emma
“In Emma Neale’s first collection of short fiction, the tales range from the surreal to the real; from the true to the tall. This collection includes some of her internationally recognised flash fiction and more extended examinations of the eerie gaps and odd swerves in intimate relationships. There are confidence tricksters, compulsive liars, emotional turn-coats, the pulse of jumbled childhood memory still felt in adult life, the weird metamorphosis of fantasy hardening into reality…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Unsheltered / Moleta, Clare
“Against a background of social breakdown and destructive weather, Unsheltered tells the story of a woman’s search for her daughter. Li never wanted to bring a child into a world like this but now that eight-year-old Matti is missing, she will stop at nothing to find her. As she crosses the great barren country alone and on foot, living on what she can find and fuelled by visions of her daughter just out of sight ahead, Li will have every instinct tested. She knows the odds against her: an uncompromising landscape, an uncaring system, time running out, and the risks of any encounters on the road. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Bicycles, money and menopause: Recent New Zealand non-fiction

A selection of our New Zealand Non Fiction Picks

We disappeared together into a world that no longer exists, of forges and lugs and pinstriping. A time when the humble bicycle was not so humble, and everyone knew the name of the craftsman that built the machine they rode.”

Jonathan Kennett, The bikes we built

We hope you’ve enjoyed some time away and have remembered to return all your library pukapuka! I tēnei marama (this month) we have a real lolly scramble of pukapua hou (new books) for you, so there should be something for everyone.

Have you ever heard of the Wallaby full suspension bicycle, built by Frederick Gough in Ōtautahi/Christchurch in 1889? Or did you know that “by the turn of the century New Zealand had around 70 factories manufacturing bicycles […] with 25 in Christchurch alone”? (RNZ) Brush up on your cycling history with The Bikes We Built by Jonathan Kennett.

Image from Te Papa
Man on a Bicycle, 1949, by William Hall Raine. Collection of Te Papa (A.010052)

If movies are more your jam, pick up a copy of The Gosden Years instead a loving tribute to the late Bill Gosden, director of the New Zealand International Film Festival for nearly 40 years. Wellington film buffs will fondly remember his pre-movie speeches and incisive writing. 

We also can’t wait to get our hands on Lana Lopesi’s Bloody Woman. The writer and art critic’s latest pukapuka is beautifully described by poet Tusiata Avia: “Bloody Woman is bloody good writing. It moves between academic, journalistic and personal essay. I love that Lana moves back and forward across these genres: weaving, weaving – spinning the web, weaving the sparkling threads under our hands, back and forward across a number of spaces, pulling and holding the tensions, holding up the baskets of knowledge.

Our next couple of pukapuka look at systemic social and environmental issues. Too Much Money examines the massive wealth gap in Aotearoa; author Max Rashbrooke points out that data collection on wealth is often unreliable, compounded by the strategies used by the rich to keep their wealth secret – which means that inequalities are probably much worse than we think. And in Extinctions, Professor Michael Hannah looks at what characterises a mass extinction event, their consequences, and what it means for us now.

The pukapuka Te Puna Waiora, published by Christchurch Art Gallery, showcases the stunning raranga (weaving) of the senior weavers of the rōpū (group) Te Kāhui Whiritoi, while Nine Lives brings together the voices of some of Aotearoa’s most accomplished writers and gives them free reign to write about a New Zealander of their choosing. Finally, This Changes Everything provides expert advice on menopause and the less well-known perimenopause (which can begin as early as people’s mid to late 30s) with the aim of providing expert advice and dispelling long-standing myths.

Kia pai tāu pānui ― happy reading!

Image from Kennett BrothersThe bikes we built : a journey through New Zealand made bicycles / Kennett, Jonathan
“Take a ride through the history of 60 New Zealand-made bicycles, from 1869 to the present day. From the velocipede to the penny farthing, to the Chopper and the BMX, discover how Kiwis have reinvented the wheel over the last 150 years. This book brings us the stories of New Zealand-made bikes and the people behind them.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Image from Te Herenga Waka University PressThe Gosden years : a New Zealand film festival legacy / Gosden, Bill
“Conceived by Gosden during the last months of his life, the book comprises his curated film notes, with praise for vital and overlooked New Zealand feature films included; programme introductions that illuminate the changing technologies and politics of film exhibition through the decades; and striking original poster art from every year of his tenure.” (Catalogue)

Image from Bridget Williams BooksBloody woman : essays / Lopesi, Lana
“This wayfinding set of essays, by acclaimed writer and critic Lana Lopesi, explores the overlap of being a woman and Sāmoan. Writing on ancestral ideas of womanhood appears alongside contemporary reflections on women’s experiences and the Pacific. These essays lead into the messy and the sticky, the whispered conversations and the unspoken. As Lopesi writes, ‘In putting words to my years of thinking, following the blood and revealing the evidence board in my mind, I am breaking a silence to try to understand something. It feels terrifying, but right.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Image from Bridget Williams BooksToo much money : how wealth disparities are unbalancing Aotearoa New Zealand / Rashbrooke, Max
“Possessing wealth opens up opportunities to live in certain areas, get certain kinds of education, make certain kinds of social connections, exert certain kinds of power. And when access to these opportunities becomes alarmingly uneven, the implications are profound. Drawing on the latest research, personal interviews and previously unexplored data, this ground-breaking book provides a compelling account of the way that wealth, and its absence, is transforming our lives.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Extinctions : living and dying in the margin of error / Hannah, Michael
“Are we now entering a mass extinction event? What can mass extinctions in Earth’s history tell us about the Anthropocene? What do mass extinction events look like and how does life on Earth recover from them? Humanity’s actions are applying the same sorts of pressures – on similar scales – that in the past pushed the Earth System out of equilibrium and triggered mass extinction events. Analysis of the fossil record suggests that we still have some time to avert this disaster: but we must act now.” (Catalogue)

Te Puna Waiora : The Weavers of Te Kahui Whiritoi / Campbell, Donna
“The story of Māori weaving is one of great skill, determination and survival. When colonisation threatened Māori society, the women continued to weave. When their taonga plant species were threatened, they advocated for their land and resources. Against overwhelming odds, they upheld the mana and traditions of raranga, passing down their skills and knowledge to ensure that this vital practice thrives in our contemporary world.” (Publisher’s description)

Nine lives : New Zealand writers on notable New Zealanders.
A selected group of New Zealand writers have each chosen a favourite New Zealander to write an essay on. These pieces are personal, illuminating and often moving. The writers include Lloyd Jones writing on Paul Melser (potter), Paula Morris on Matiu Rata (politician), Catherine Robertson on Dame Margaret Sparrow (doctor and health advocate), Selina Tusitala Marsh on Albert Wendt (writer), and Malcolm Mulholland on Ranginui Walker (academic). (Adapted from Catalogue)

Image from Mighty ApeThis changes everything : the honest guide to menopause and perimenopause / Bezzant, Niki
“In this engaging, easy-to-read book, expert health writer Niki Bezzant shares the latest specialist research and advice along with personal stories from real women to answer the most important questions women have about the hottest of topics. From bodies to mental health, alcohol to our stressful working lives, fertility to relationships, natural remedies to HRT, she dispels the myths and confusion around menopause – with a healthy side-serve of calling out sexism, snake-oil and bullsh*t along the way.” (Catalogue)