Controversial creations: New non-fiction

Do you prefer paperback or hardback? Soft, flexible pages or crisp glossy ones? A book that flops open with ease or a book that tempts you, in its rigidity, to crack the spine? The truth is we can be rather picky about the physical feel of the books we read. But amongst all these variables, at least some things are certain: there will be paper and words and sometimes images. Right? 

Occasionally, something comes along with the audacity to call itself a book despite defying all expectations and instinct. Take, for example, the cheese book. It is made entirely of wrapped slices of processed cheese and it’s in the collection of a number of libraries around the world. The mere fact of its existence riles people up.

Emma Smith explores such controversies and more in Portable Magic, a delightful history of the book-as-object. She also focuses on our relationship with these objects, on the way they have entranced us and changed us. We recommend it for all book-lovers out there! As for the rest of the picks below, not only do they promise to be just as fascinating, we can also confirm that they are assuredly, unequivocally paper-based.

Portable magic : a history of books and their readers / Smith, Emma
“Most of what we say about books is really about the words inside them: the rosy nostalgic glow for childhood reading, the lifetime companionship of a much-loved novel. But books are things as well as words, objects in our lives as well as worlds in our heads. And just as we crack their spines, loosen their leaves and write in their margins, so they disrupt and disorder us in turn. Portable Magic unfurls an exciting and iconoclastic new story of the book in human hands. Gathering together a millennium’s worth of pivotal encounters with volumes big and small, Smith reveals that, as much as their contents, it is books’ physical form that lends them their distinctive and sometimes dangerous magic. Ultimately, our relationship with the written word is more reciprocal – and more turbulent – than we tend to imagine.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The marmalade diaries : the true story of an odd couple / Aitken, Ben
“Recently widowed, Winne, 84, was in need of some companionship. Ben, 34, was looking for a new housemate. As the UK was locked down in 2020, Ben and Winnie’s lives interwove, forming an unlikely friendship, where lessons were learnt (heat the red wine in the oven with the plates; preserve or pickle whatever you can; never throw anything away) and grief, both personal and that of a nation, was explored. Charting both their time together, The Marmalade Diaries is a very human exploration of home, of the passage time, of the growing relationship between an odd couple, told with warmth, wit and candour.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The facemaker : a visionary surgeon’s battle to mend the disfigured soldiers of World War I / Fitzharris, Lindsey
“From the moment the first machine gun rang out over the Western Front, one thing was clear: mankind’s military technology had wildly surpassed its medical capabilities. In the midst of this brutality, however, there were also those who strove to alleviate suffering. The Facemaker tells the extraordinary story of pioneering plastic surgeon Harold Gilles, who dedicated himself to reconstructing the burned and broken faces of the injured soldiers under his care. The result is a vivid account of how medicine can be an art, and of what courage and imagination can accomplish in the presence of relentless horror.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Nomads : the wanderers who shaped our world / Sattin, Anthony
“Humans have been on the move for most of history. Even after the great urban advancement lured people into the great cities of Uruk, Babylon, Rome and Chang’an, most of us continued to live lightly on the move and outside the pages of history. But recent discoveries have revealed another story. Wandering people built the first great stone monuments, they tamed the horse, fashioned the composite bow, fought with the Greeks and hastened the end of the Roman Empire. Reconnecting with our deepest mythology, our unrecorded antiquity and our natural environment, Nomads is the untold history of civilisation, told through its outsiders.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A natural history of the future : what the laws of biology tell us about the destiny of the human species / Dunn, Rob
“Biologist Rob Dunn grew up listening to stories of the Mississippi River, how it flooded his grandfather’s town, leaving behind a muddy wasteland. Years later, Dunn discovered the cause: the Army Corps of Engineers had tried to straighten the river to allow for the easy passage of boats. But as Dunn argues in A Natural History of the Future, nature has its own set of rules, and no amount of human tampering can rewrite them. He reveals the surprising complexities of the natural world and offers plenty of simple lessons in how we can make the lifestyle changes necessary to ensure our own species’ survival. At once hopeful and practical, this book offers a vision of our future in which humans and the natural world coexist symbiotically.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The family Roe : an American story / Prager, Joshua
“Despite her famous pseudonym, “Jane Roe,” no one knows the truth about Norma McCorvey, whose unwanted pregnancy in 1969 opened a great fracture in American life. Drawing on a decade of research, Prager reveals the woman behind the pseudonym, writing in novelistic detail of her unknown life from her time as a sex worker in Dallas, to her private thoughts on family and abortion, to her dealings with feminist and Christian leaders, to the three daughters she placed for adoption. An epic work spanning fifty years of American history, The Family Roe is a masterpiece of reporting on the Supreme Court’s most divisive case: Roe v Wade.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The science of murder : the forensics of Agatha Christie / Valentine, Carla
“A mortician and forensic expert explores the real-life cases that inspired Agatha Christie, showing how the great mystery writer might have kept current with the latest advancements in forensic science.” (Catalogue)

Fledgling / Bourne-Taylor, Hannah
“When lifelong bird-lover Hannah Bourne-Taylor moved with her husband to Ghana seven years ago she couldn’t have anticipated how her life would be forever changed. Fledgling is a portrayal of adaptability, resilience and self-discovery in the face of isolation and change, fuelled by the quiet power of nature and the unexpected bonds with animals she encounters. Bourne-Taylor encourages us to reconsider the conventional relationships people have with animals through her inspiring glimpse of what is possible when we allow ourselves to connect to the natural world. She shows that even the tiniest of birds can teach us what is important in life and how to embrace every day.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Bordering on miraculous: New poetry collections

It’s an exciting time to be reading poetry, but don’t just take our word for it; people are saying it’s “the year of poetry”. It seems like a great time to remind everyone that we have a decent poetry collection, featuring many bestselling titles from both Aotearoa and overseas.

Below, you’ll find a selection of new additions to our collection, a lot of which are already in hot demand! Some highlights include; essa may ranapiri’s Echidna (which we are huge fans of, we shared an interview with ranapiri recently), Ocean Vuong’s Time is a mother (from the author who brought us the heart breaking/building novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous) and Night School by Michael Steven (Winner of the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award 2021). You can reserve all of these items via our online catalogue. 

This is also a great time to mention our new YouTube playlist – Poet Interviews. Check out our most recent interview with writer Khadro Mohamed below. If you are a local poet with a book coming out soon, let us know! We’d love to chat with you! 


Anomalia / Chung, Cadence
“Populated with strange specimens, cicada husks and glittering gems, these poems explore the love and cruelty of human nature. Chung is in conversation with her literary ancestors, from Sappho to Byron, bringing their work into the world of sparkly eyeshadow and McDonald’s bathrooms”–Gatefold cover.” (Catalogue)

Night school / Steven, Michael
“Winner of the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award 2021, poet Michael Steven’s Night School explores the gap between fathers and sons, the effects of toxic masculinity, how power corrupts and corrodes, and whether weed, art and aroha can save us in a godless world.” (Catalogue)

We’re all made of lightning / Mohamed, Khadro
“Khadro Mohamed expertly navigates the experience of being a Muslim women in Aotearoa, bringing us along on her journey of selfhood. Shifting between Aotearoa, Egypt and Somalia, we get a glimpse into her worlds, which are rich and full of life. Mohamed has a sense of wonder for the world around her, exploring nature, food, family and identity. This book is a love letter to her homeland, her whakapapa, and herself.” (Catalogue)

Echidna, or The many adventures of Hinenākahirua as she tries to find her place in a colonised world : including throught is the story of Māui-Pōtiki & Prometheus / Ranapiri, Essa May
“Echidna is a dangerous animal; she pokes holes in men just to remind them what kind of monster she is wakes up every single morning and chooses violence cos what choice does she really have? essa may ranapiri’s second poetry collection follows the story of Echidna, their own interpretation of the Greek Mother of Monsters, as she tries to figure out life and identity living in a colonised world. “–Publisher’s information.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Time is a mother / Vuong, Ocean
“Ocean Vuong’s second collection of poetry looks inward, on the aftershocks of his mother’s death, and the struggle – and rewards – of staying present in the world. Time Is a Mother moves outward and onward, in concert with the themes of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, as Vuong continues, through his work, his profound exploration of personal trauma, of what it means to be the product of an American war in America, and how to circle these fragmented tragedies to find not a restoration, but the epicenter of the break”– Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)

Bordering on miraculous / Edmeades, Lynley
“A frame of clouds a slice of sky a window full of doubt-soaked borders. Here we are listening to the hypernated sound of clouds and it is miraculous”–Back cover.” (Catalogue)

The acts of oblivion / Batchelor, Paul
“The ‘Acts of Oblivion’ were a series of seventeenth-century laws enacted by both Parliamentarian and Royalist factions. Whatever their ends — pardoning revolutionary deeds, or expunging revolutionary speech from the record — they forced the people to forget. Against such injunctions, Paul Batchelor’s poems rebel. This long-awaited second collection, The Acts of Oblivion, listens in on some of England’s lost futures, such as those offered by radical but sidelined figures in the English Civil War, or by the deliberately destroyed mining communities of North East England, remembered here with bitter, illuminating force. The book also collects the acclaimed individual poems ‘Brother Coal’ and ‘A Form of Words’, alongside visions of the underworld as imagined by Homer, Lucian, Lucan, Ovid, and Dante.” (Catalogue)

The difference is spreading : fifty contemporary poets on fifty poems
“Since its inception in 2012, the online introduction to modern poetry known as ModPo has engaged tens of thousands of readers, listeners, teachers, and poets with its focus on a modern and contemporary American tradition that runs from Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson up to some of today’s freshest and most experimental written and spoken verse.”– Provided by publisher.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine (it’s not) : poems / Alam, Taz
“A raw, honest and heartfelt poetry collection from Taz Alam – for the tough times, the great times, and everything in between.” (Catalogue)

How to burn a woman / Askew, Claire
“Claire Askew’s electrifying second collection is an investigation of power: the power of oppressive systems and their hold over those within them; the power of resilience; the power of the human heart. It licks flame across the imagination, and rewrites narratives of human desire.” (Catalogue)

 

The Literary Legacy of Max Cryer

Max Cryer was many things in his life: a television personality, a musician, and a notable author. Some of his favourite topics to write about were cats and the history of words and phrases, especially New Zealand words. In honour of Cryer’s recent passing at the age of 86, here is a round-up of some of his most notable books:

The Godzone dictionary of favourite New Zealand words and phrases / Cryer, Max
“The Godzone Dictionary is a concise A – Z of the words and phrases that make our New Zealand language and speech patterns so different. Language expert Max Cryer examines a wide range of words and phrases, shedding light on their origin and offering helpful definitions. Slang words and expressions feature heavily, while one of the unique features of this book is the large number of Māori words that have become part of our common language in recent years.”–Publisher information.” (adapted from catalogue)

 

Curious English words and phrases : the truth behind the expressions we use / Cryer, Max
“‘Cloud nine’, ‘at the drop of a hat’, ‘spitting image’, ‘mollycoddle’, ‘rigmarole’, ’round robin’, ‘spill the beans’, ‘kick the bucket’, ‘balderdash’ and ‘touch wood’. There are so many curious words and phrases that we often use and yet haven’t you ever wondered why we say them, where they come from and what they mean? Written by language expert Max Cryer, Curious Words and Phrases has all the answers behind some of the most interesting and perplexing words and expressions in the English language.” (adapted from catalogue)

 

The cat’s out of the bag : truth and lies about cats / Cryer, Max
“In this book Max Cryer celebrates cats and all they have given to us. He describes the many words and expressions they have inspired, from ‘catnip’ and ‘catwalk’ to ‘the cat’s whiskers’ and ‘raining cats and dogs’, as well as famous cat characters like Garfield, Felix the Cat, The Cat in the Hat and Puss in Boots, songs as varied as ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ and ‘The Cats’ Duet’, and poems like ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ and ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’. In other chapters he explores cats’ attributes, the strength of their night vision and sense of smell, their sleep requirements, life expectancy and much more.”–Publisher information”. (adapted from catalogue)

 

Is it true? : the facts behind the things we have been told / Cryer, Max
“In this revealing book, Max Cryer explores the truth or otherwise of facts and beliefs we may have always been told are true, but which on closer examination may not be. In a wide-ranging book encompassing social history, language, music, politics, food, sport, the natural world and much more, we discover the truth behind some of our most cherished beliefs. For example: Do St Bernard dogs really carry brandy? Does Santa Claus come from the North Pole? Did Winston Churchill coin the term ‘Iron Curtain’? ‘OK’ is an American expression, right? Tulips come from Holland, don’t they?” (adapted from catalogue)

 

Every dog has its day : a thousand things you didn’t know about man’s best friend / Cryer, Max
“Every Dog Has Its Day’ is a unique collection of extraordinary stories, feats and facts that will both inform and entertain. Written with a delightfully light touch, Max Cryer dispels some myths about dogs and confirms why they occupy such a special place in our lives.” (Catalogue)

 

 

Curious English words and phrases : the truth behind the expressions we use / Cryer, Max
“Have you ever wondered where terms like ‘Angostura bitters’ and the ‘green room’ come from? Or why we call some people ‘lounge lizards’ and others ‘sugar daddies’? These are just a few of the words and phrases that language expert Max Cryer examines in this fact-filled new book. He explains where such colourful expressions come from, what they mean and how they are used. Along the way he tells a host of colourful anecdotes and dispels quite a few myths too.” (adapted from catalogue)

 

Preposterous proverbs : why fine words butter no parsnips / Cryer, Max
“Max Cryer looks at a vast array of proverbs from around the world. He has chosen some of the most interesting and perplexing, and with his characteristic wry wit he analyses their meaning and truth. A great book to dip into, Preposterous Proverbs will take you from Greece (‘A thousand men cannot undress a naked man’) and China (‘A dry finger cannot pick up salt’) to Japan (‘Fools and scissors must be carefully handled’) and India (‘A fat spouse is a quilt for the winter’)”–Publisher information.” (adapted from catalogue)

 

Who said that first? : the curious origins of common words and phrases / Cryer, Max
“We might think we know who first said ‘famous for fifteen minutes’, ‘annus horribilis’, ‘the cold war’ and ‘let them eat cake’, but Max Cryer has a surprise or two in store for you. In this very readable book, Max Cryer explores the origins of hundreds of expressions we use and hear every day – and comes up with some surprising findings.” (Catalogue)

 

In praise of cats / Cryer, Max
“Did you know that the Bible does not mention cats at all? Do you know where the word caterpillar comes from? Why do we think cats have nine lives? How much of our great literature refers to cats–and what do authors say? These are the questions that many cat owners have pondered at one time or another. At last, all the cat references in our language have been gathered in one place to provide a informative, fun, and comprehensive resource on the feline species–it’s the cat’s pyjamas.” (Catalogue)