Late summer leads to late Autumn and we feel the leaves circling our feet. Time for another Autumn newsletter, brimming with good books to read by the light of a cold hard five o’clock sunset.
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C.K. Stead (AUP) pb $25.00
A formidable force in New Zealand literature, C.K. Stead’s latest poetry collection arrives in his 80th year. These lively and reflective poems include elegies for friends, and Dylan Thomas, Vincent O’Sullivan and Katherine Mansfield are among some of the literary characters who appear in person, dream and conversation. Also included are translated versions of poems by Montale, Vita and Jaccottet.
The Lifeguard: New Poems 2008-2013
Ian Wedde (AUP) pb $28.00
In 2011 Ian Wedde was appointed a two year term as New Zealand’s poet laureate and this is a welcome new collection of poems. Combining rhapsody, fear and humor, The Lifeguard opens with a major new series ‘The Lifeguard’, and finishes with a long sequence, ‘Shadow Stands Up’.
The Secret Life of James Cook: a novel
Graeme Lay (Harper Collins) pb $37.00
Imagining Captain James Cook’s life through his first circumnavigation of the world, Lay explores Cook the explorer. A candid side-journal written by the Captain for his remarkable wife, Elizabeth, creates piercing side portraits of many, including Joseph Banks and translator Tupaia. Lay draws on deep knowledge of the South West Pacific and successfully personalises the man and the journey.
In the Memorial Room
Janet Frame (Text) hb $35.00
Janet Frame wrote this book in Menton, France as a Katherine Mansfield Fellow. Drawing on her own experience, this biting satire is about Harry Gill, a writer who is awarded a fellowship in Menton but finds the writing room completely unsuitable. Frame did not allow publication of this manuscript in her lifetime in case real life people recognised themselves in these characters.
The Writing Class
Stephanie Johnson (Vintage) pb $38.00
Merle Carbury teaches Creative Writing and as the final semester of the year approaches, her students prepare to submit their manuscripts. While she mentors their ambitions, she observes the romantic entanglements of her colleagues, worries about her husband and is fascinated by their mysterious German lodger, she both imparts and embodies how to write a novel. An intriguing mix of love story and writing manual.
Who Was That Woman Anyway?: Snapshots of a Lesbian Life
Aorewa McLeod (VUP) pb $35.00
Aorewa McLeod’s debut novel is a series of fascinating vignettes, traversing the thin, often insubstantial line between autobiography and fiction. From covens and coming out, to rehab, this funny and daring book is not only an engrossing read, but a fascinating glimpse into a vital part of our social history.
Woody Guthrie (Fourth Estate) pb $35.00
Newly discovered, and with an introduction by Johnny Depp, this is legendary American folk singer Woody Guthrie’s only finished novel: a compelling portrait of two hardscrabble farmers struggling during the Dust Bowl. Filled with the homespun lyricism that made Guthrie’s songs unforgettable, this is the story of an ordinary couple’s dream of a better life in a corrupt world.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Fourth Estate) pb $35.00
From the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun comes a tender tale which explores modern attitudes to race while spanning three continents. Childhood sweethearts in Nigeria, Ifemelu and Obinze grew up with romanticised notions of the West, shaped by Graham Greene and James Baldwin novels. Their lives take different paths when they seek new lives in America and England.
Kate Atkinson (Doubleday) pb $37.00
Kate Atkinson’s stunning new novel is about a woman who lives through the most turbulent events of the 20th century, including the London Blitz, and asks: What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right? Swot up before Atkinson’s appearance at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival in May.
Adam Johnson (Black Swan) pb $27.00
While sensationally, no Pulitzer Prize was awarded for fiction in 2012, this year it has been awarded to this thrilling and epic novel which delves into the depths of totalitarian North Korea.
Francesca Segal (Vintage) pb $27.00
A superb modern love story which examines traditional values and security versus following passions and individualism. Childhood sweethearts Adam and Rachel have married and live a pristine life in a close-knit Jewish community in London. But their lives are shaken with the arrival of Rachel’s beautiful cousin Ellie. Executed with wit and finely tuned observation, this is an impressive and poised debut novel.
George Saunders (Bloomsbury) pb $37.00
George Saunders is the master craftsman of the short story, up there with Raymond Carver and John Cheever. The powerful and exhilarating stories in this spirited collection are tales of the human experience, exploring themes of class, power and tragedy, buffeted by cheerful humour. Six of these ten stories have been published in the New Yorker.
J.M Coetzee (Harvill Secker) pb $37.00
A middle-aged man and a young boy, Simon and David, who are unrelated, arrive in a new country by boat. David has been separated from his parents, and has lost the piece of paper that reveals his identity. This fable about childhood, destiny and being an outsider delves into visions of a Buddhist utopia and re-imagines the nativity story.
Adam Mansbach (Viking) hb $37.00
From the author of Go the Fuck to Sleep comes a novel set in a subterranean world of hip-hop culture. Dondi Vance is the son of two graffiti artists from New York’s golden era of street art. Kicked out of school for selling drugs, things for Dondi are further disrupted with the arrival of his long-lost father after a 16 year absence.
Claire Messud (Virago) pb $37.00
Nora Eldridge is a reliable and adored but bland woman who works as a teacher in Massachusetts. When a new pupil, Reza Shahid, appears in her classroom, Nora is beguiled by his sophisticated parents who are on a year-long visit from Paris. When they warmly invite Nora into their glamorous world, she has no idea of the betrayal that lies ahead.
Mohsin Hamid (Fig Tree) pb $37.00
A biting and satirical look at opportunity and profit in modern Asia, this spectacular novel is wryly written in the style of a business self-help book. Set in an un-named country in Asia, it charts the rise and fall of an Asian entrepreneur as he is elevated from his poor rural life to success as a corporate tycoon.
Patrick Ness (Canongate) pb $35.00
An imaginative reworking of a Japanese folk tale, this is a magical and bittersweet story that shows how the extraordinary can happen every day. In his garden, George finds a crane with an arrow pierced through its wing. After he removes the arrow, the bird flies away. Then a mysterious woman arrives, and introduces love and art into George’s life.
John Freeman (Ed) (Granta) $35.00
Granta always has its finger on the pulse of hot new writing. This is the fourth instalment of its once-a-decade list of the 20 most promising British writers under 40. Julian Barnes, Alan Hollinghurst, Salman Rushdie and Jeanette Winterson have previously been on the list. They are now joined by Zadie Smith, Kamila Shamsie, Taiye Selasi and others.
Jane Gardam (Little Brown) pb $37.00
This eagerly awaited final volume in Jane Gardam’s addictive Old Filth trilogy is the vivid and supremely witty Last Friends. Diving into the background of Sir Terence Veneering, the third party of an end-of-Empire romantic triangle which spans 50 years, this sparkling novel shifts from Malaya to the UK and Hong Kong to a village in Dorset.
Justin Torres (Granta) pb $23.00
A dynamite coming-of-age story, We the Animals is a poetic and sensitive portrait of the three sons of a young Puerto Rican father and a white mother as they grapple their way through a chaotic and dysfunctional childhood in upstate New York. A poetic novel set in a wild landscape of turmoil, neglect and imagination.
Manil Suri (Bloomsbury) pb $37.00
Armed with only a pomegranate, Sarita ventures into the sparse streets of Mumbai on the eve of its threatened nuclear annihilation. Sarita journeys though a dystopic landscape, searching for her physicist husband who has gone missing. This vibrant and majestic story paints a startling vision of an India on the brink of collapse.
Lionel Shriver (Fourth Estate) pb $35.00
This intelligent novel examines food and guilt in Lionel Shriver’s trademark high voltage style. When Pandora picks up her older brother Edison at the airport, she doesn’t recognise him. It’s been four years since they last saw each other, and in that time, the once slim and hip New York jazz pianist has gained a staggering amount of weight.
James Salter (Picador) pb $38.00
James Salter is a beautifully precise and masterful storyteller. This exquisite novel spans forty years and charts the life of Philip Bowman, starting in post-World War II America and through to his career as a book editor in the heady literary world of struggling writers and hustling publishers. Marriages fail, alcohol is awash and affairs blossom.
Ruth Ozeki (Text) pb $40.00
A young Tokyo girl Nao writes a diary before she kills herself. School bullies and depresses parents feature, but it’s the story of her great-grandmother Jiko, a Buddhist nun, that she is most compelled to document. Later, on the Pacific Coast of Canada, the diary is washed up in a Hello Kitty lunchbox and found by Ruth. A sweeping and meditative novel.
John le Carre (Penguin) pb $37.00
A counter-terror operation is being mounted in Britain’s most precious colony, Gibraltar, aiming to capture and abduct a high-value jihadist arms-buyer. So delicate is the operation that even the Minister’s Private Secretary is not cleared for it. A fine spy-writer known for his steely and gripping thrillers, John le Carre is at the top of his game with A Delicate Truth.
Diego Marani (Text) pb $35.00
Growing up on a Gulag, Ivan held his dying father in his arms. Since then he has not uttered a word and lives in the wild, kept company by wolves and his reindeer-skin drum. The last of an ancient Siberian shamanic tribe, the Vostyachs, he is the only person left on earth to know their language. From the author of New Finnish Grammar.
NZ NON FICTION
David Hastings (AUP) pb $45.00
Extra! Extra! is the fascinating story of the fierce rivalry between two Auckland newspaper giants in the nineteenth century, and their battle for supremacy. David Hastings traces the history of The New Zealander and the Southern Cross as they become The New Zealand Herald and The Auckland Star, delving into the underside of the industry and asking the question; do we shape the news, or does the news shape us?
Ron Palenski (Hodder Moa) pb $40.00
Ron Palenski tells the riveting story of New Zealand’s battle for Crete during WWII. Described as “A Second Dunkirk,” NZ forces were forced to withstand a German blitzkrieg, the likes of which had never been seen before. The battle was a disaster, with NZ forces under harsh scrutiny as military officials scrambled to apportion blame. Men of Valour is a compelling read for fans of military history.
Gerald Hensley (AUP) pb $45.00
This intriguing insider’s account of the unravelling of the ANZUS alliance draws on previously classified government records, interviews with key protagonists, and the author’s own personal remembrances to tell the explosive (no pun intended) story of NZ’s anti-nuclear stance and its head on collision with US foreign policy. With a cast of well-known characters, this definitive account is a vital addition to NZ’s history canon.
A. C. Grayling (Bloomsbury) pb $37.00
After tip-toeing around the topic for years, the so-called Velvet Atheist ventures into the religion vs. science fray with his pitch for the virtues of humanism. The God Argument promises to be a compelling and learned addition to the debate from one of the most prominent and well-respected philosophers alive today.
Jared Diamond (Allen Lane) pb $37.00
Jared Diamond creates rich and tightly crafted narratives of discovery. This book is his most rigorous engagement with anthropology and history, exploring the foundations of human development and relating them to our changing world. This book shines new light on his previous works, such as Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse, and is an enlightening read in its own right.
Maria Konnikova (Canongate) pb $37.00
No character is more renowned for his powers of thought than Sherlock Holmes. But is his extraordinary intellect merely a gift of fiction, or can people learn to cultivate these abilities? It is possible says psychologist and journalist Maria Konnikova. To move on from partly-attentive ‘Watson mode’ we merely have to accept that our intuitions are often unfounded, and try single-tasking again.
Susan Cain (Penguin) pb $30.00
‘The fact is whether we’re an introvert or an extrovert,’ explains the introduction to Quiet. Without introverts where would society be? This book serves to illustrate why introverted personalities must not be undervalued. Susan Cain specialises in psychological non-fiction and here revels the chemical, biological, and societal conditions of the introverted.
Theodore Dalrymple (Gibson Square) hb $40.00
Within the pages of this exquisitely produced wee volume are the thoughts of the redoubtable Theodore Dalrymple, which though wide ranging connect in that six degrees of freedom way, which always raises the eyebrow of wonder. Erudite and witty, Dalrymple entertains us while inspiring us tune into our philosophies.
William Dalrymple (Bloomsbury) pb $37.00
Best-selling historian and travel-writer Dalrymple analyses the first Anglo-Afghan war, drawing on sources from both sides of the conflict. In 1842, poorly equipped tribespeople rose up against the imperial British occupiers who had invaded in 1839 and re-installed their choice of Shah Shuja ul-Mulk, to the throne. The violent rebellion resulted in a shock defeat for the colonial power and its allies, while disputes over the territory continue to this day.
Timothy Snyder & Tony Judt (Vintage) pb $37.00
Two explorers set out on a journey from which only one will return. Their unknown land is that often fearsome continent we call the 20th Century. Their route is through their own minds and memories. Both travellers are professional historians still tormented by their own unanswered questions. This is about the life of the mind – and the mindful life.
Ian Morris (Profile Books) pb $50.00
If you are yearning to understand the rise and fall of civilisation this is the book for you. In this masterful work Ian Morris describes the manner in which over millennia societies have consciously adapted and continue to do so, how these patterns remain the same and whether humanity is willing to look clearly at its history.
John Browne (Weidenfeld & Nicholson) pb $40.00
Uranium, Silver, Titanium, Iron, Carbon, Silicon and Gold – in this beguiling book which spans across history, politics and the sciences, Browne uncovers the ambivalent relationships we have with these elements. He also explores the possible future contributions which these elements could make to medicine, manufacturing and technology, but also the resulting mineral depletion and human and environmental casualties resulting from injudicious usage.
Roger Scruton (Atlantic) pb $37.00
On the face of it, Roger Scruton is a rather conservative chap: an avid defender of fox-hunting, village greens and parish churches. But the careful reader of his work will discover a different angle: rational, considered – even modern! In Green Philosophy, Scruton turns his attention to ecological issues and makes a strong moral case for tackling one of humanity’s biggest challenges.
Michael Burleigh (Macmillan) pb $40.00
In Small Wars, Faraway Places, Michael Burleigh traces the bloody intersections of colonialism and nationalism which transformed our world in the years following WWII. This startling book casts fresh eyes over the intertwined destinies of colonial powers and their ex-subjects and how those uneasy relations have resonated through the last century to the present day.
Hugh Aldersey-Williams (Viking) pb $35.00
Almost nothing tells us more about ourselves than our ideas and beliefs about the body. Changing attitudes to how the body works, what it should look like and other concerns are reflected not only in art but also in law, science and almost every creative endeavour humans undertake. Aldersley-Williams shares a mass of remarkable stories about anatomies which will inform and entertain.
Ian Mortimer (Vintage) pb $29.00
The Elizabethan times are touted as a Golden Age of England’s past, but what was it really like to roam the streets and courts of the 1590s? In The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England, Ian Mortimer returns to his successful formula, placing the reader in the heart of the action, letting the Elizabethan world unfold around them.
Michael Pollan (Allen Lane) pb $37.00
In Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, Michael Pollan takes on each of the four elements in turn, in a quest to understand the history of the relationship between us and our food. Part history, part science, part politics and part personal reflection, Michael Pollan’s insightful new book encourages us all to take a good hard look at our pantry.
Paul Hendrickson (Vintage) pb $28.00
Hemingway bought a black-hulled cabin-cruiser in a Brooklyn shipyard and skippered her for 27 years in the waters from Key West to the archipelagos of Cuba. ‘Pilar’ outlasted 3 wives, the Nobel Prize, and Hemingway’s rugged celebrity excess. Paul Hendrickson’s writing is striking and luminous and his reinterpretation of the author has delivered the seemingly impossible: Hemingway in a whole new light.
Julian Barnes (Jonathan Cape) hb $30.00
“The purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down” wrote Julian Barnes in his Booker-winning novella The Sense of an Ending. In Levels of Life – part essay, fiction and memoir – he tells a different truth; loss of love is a far greater challenge. Barnes’ new book is his most personal yet: a tender and deeply moving account of grief.
Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair and Post-Punk from the Middle East to the Lower East Side
Rayya Elias (Bloomsbury) pb $37.00
A post-punk memoir, so raw and uncompromising it’ll shock even the most hardened readers. Rebelling against her Syrian family in Detroit, Elias takes on cultural alienation, homelessness, bisexuality, brushes with fame, prison, rehab, record deals, a million blown second chances, brief death, a dozen broken hearts, and one bloody-knuckled ultimate spiritual redemption, all with an uncommon talent for cutting hair.
Paul Auster & J.M. Coetzee (Faber) pb $35.00
Although Auster and Coetzee had been reading each other’s work for years they didn’t meet until 2008. Here & Now is an epistolary dialogue between two great writers who became great friends. Their letters touched on nearly every subject and offer an intimate and often amusing portrait of two sharp intellects whose pleasure in each other’s friendship is apparent on every page.
David Sedaris (Abacus) pb $37.00
David Sedaris is back again, and this time he’s taking on the world. From taxidermied human remains to French dentistry, this globetrotting collection of essays has all the hallmarks of a Sedaris classic. His eye for the absurd, and his endearing, self-deprecating humour make him the reigning champion of the form.
Mark Rowlands (Granta) pb $35.00
Ever been defeated by Wittegenstein et al, (and honestly haven’t we all?) spend some time with Mark Rowlands as he hits his mid-life straps. Running is his avoidance ploy when he should be writing but an uncluttered mind is the unlooked for benefit, enabling him to gather and condense his thoughts on those fundamental questions which perplex us all. An illuminating and gratifying read.
David Esterly (Duckworth) hb $40.00
Awestruck at the sight of a Grinling Gibbons wood carving in a London church, David Esterly chose to dedicate his life to the craft. The Lost Carving charts one man’s passion for this oft-overlooked tradition with the intellect of a philosopher and the grace of a poet. A truly beautiful book, this is 2013’s answer to The Hare with Amber Eyes.
Paul Theroux (Hamish Hamilton) pb $37.00
In Last Train to Zona, Paul Theroux revisits Africa for the final time, crossing “the Red Line,” and leaving tourist Africa behind, for “the improvised, slapped-together Africa of tumbled fences and cooking fires, of mud and thatch.” He navigates his way through 2500 miles of African Wilderness with seamless prose, and razor sharp honesty that he turns inward in a final chapter titled “What Am I Doing Here?”
Kristine Barnett (Fig Tree) pb $37.00
At an age where most children are still learning to count, Kristine Barnett’s three year old son Jacob was astounding scholars with his advanced knowledge of astrophysics. The Spark is the extraordinary true story of the joys and pitfalls of being mother to a genius, and a testament to the importance of allowing children to follow their ‘spark.’
Simon Goddard (Ebury) hb $53.00
When Ziggy Stardust, the glam alien messiah fell to Earth, he transformed David Bowie into a superstar who changed the face of music forever. In a work of supreme pop archaeology sandwiched between Simon Pegg’s The Complete David Bowie and Bowie’s own Moonage Daydream, it fortuitously coincides with a new album and a V&A exhibition on the musician’s style.
Wade Davis (Vintage) pb $35.00
The intimidating prospect of climbing the highest mountain on Earth may have paled in comparison to the perils of war witnessed by 20 out of the 26 British climbers who made the attempt between 1921 and 1924. Not just an imperial gesture of conquest, the expeditions of Mallory and his companions came to signify the triumph of hope and endurance over danger and death. Winner of the Samuel Johnson Award 2012.
Charlie Louvin with Benjamin Whitmer (Harper Collins) pb $25.00
Known for their stirring melodies and influential contribution to country and gospel music, brother s Charlie and Ira Louvin’s story is wild. Charlie pulls no punches as he chronicles the Louvin’s colourful story. His recollections will no doubt upset the country music establishment but are true to the spirit of his hell-raising brother, Ira.
Roger Pring (Ilex) pb $26.00
Meet the mad, genius, daring (and sometimes fraudulent) pioneers and practitioners of all things photographic, find out how ravenous soldiers jeopardised the success of pigeon-cam in the first world war, and learn how to take photographs on wood and even apples. An intriguing compendium of photographic fascination and obscurities, packed with arresting images and beautifully typeset by the author himself.
Helen Lloyd (Te Papa Press) pb $30.00
Inspired by paintings, photographs, and prints from the national art collection, as well as freshly commissioned drawings from contemporary New Zealand artists, these projects will let children’s imaginations run wild. Much, much more than just colouring-in or joining-the-dots, this superb 200-page art activity book draws on the latest educational approaches and will appeal to children from 5 to 95.
Lord & Meyer (Eds) (Phaidon) hb $95.00
This new publication is a veritable treasure trove of important works that exist in the space where art history and queer culture intersect. Spanning 125 years, Art & Queer Culture is both an impressive and important resource, archiving everything from that which falls under the rubric of fine art, to crucial works created for underground audiences.
Jeff Bridges & Bernie Glassman (Bantam) hb $38.00
Bridges and Glassman have been friends for more than a decade. Here, we see their conversations on life, movies, and Zen. Attention is paid to the nature of The Dude, the protagonist in the Coen Brothers’ film The Big Lebowski , and how he is considered a Zen Master himself who would rather ‘hug it out than slug it out’.
Chris Ware (Jonathan Cape) hb $80.00
The most talked-about graphic novel of the year depicts the private angst of a lonely woman, a lonely couple and a lonely land-lady; neighbours in a Chicago apartment building. Ware’s panels are perfectly composed and his voice is decidedly literary and the trans-Atlantic literati and graphic art scenes went into in a synonym-frenzy for words that say it better than “genius” and “darkly funny”.