Into the unknown: New popular non-fiction

We have some top-notch journalism in this month’s picks. Matthieu Aikins writes about the refugee experience as he accompanies his friend Omar from Afghanistan to Europe. Hayley Campbell investigates the lives of those who work in and amongst the dead, while George Monbiot tackles the plight of our agricultural systems and explores how farming might be done otherwise. These are all well-researched, impactful books with deep connections to the subjects and communities they depict, while still being accessible entry-points for those new to the topic. As to the other highlights, down below you’ll find both true crime and tree crime, some nineties nostalgia, an exploration of non-human intelligence and an ode to the beloved objects in our lives.

The naked don’t fear the water / Aikins, Matthieu
“In 2016, a young Afghan driver and translator named Omar makes the choice to flee his war-torn country, saying goodbye to Laila, the love of his life, without knowing when they might be reunited again. He is one of millions of refugees who leave their homes that year. Matthieu Aikins, a journalist living in Kabul, decides to follow his friend. Their odyssey across land and sea from Afghanistan to Europe brings them face to face with the people at heart of the migration crisis. As setbacks and dangers mount for the two friends, Matthieu is also drawn into the escape plans of Omar’s entire family, including Maryam, the matriarch who has fought ferociously for her children’s survival.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Regenesis : feeding the world without devouring the planet / Monbiot, George
“People talk a lot about the problems with intensive farming. But the problem isn’t the adjective. It’s the noun. Around the world, farming has been wiping out vast habitats, depleting freshwater, polluting oceans, and accelerating global heating, while leaving millions undernourished and unfed. Increasingly, there are signs that the system itself is beginning to flicker. But, as George Monbiot shows us in this brilliant, bracingly original new book, there is another way. Regenesis is an exhilarating journey into a profoundly hopeful, appetising and exciting vision of food: of revolutionary cultivation and cuisine that could nourish us all and restore our world of wonders.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The widow of Walcha : a true story of love, lies and murder in a small country town / Partridge, Emma
“All farmer Mathew Dunbar ever wanted was to find love and have a family of his own. That’s why, just months after meeting Natasha Darcy, the much-loved grazier didn’t hesitate to sign over his multi-million-dollar estate to her. When Mathew died in an apparent suicide soon afterwards, in a stranger-than-fiction twist, Natasha’s estranged husband – who she was once charged with trying to kill – was the first paramedic on the scene. The Widow of Walcha is about one of the most extraordinary criminal trials in Australia’s history and reveals Natasha’s sickening crimes against those she claimed to love, fuelled by her obsession with money.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Ways of being : beyond human intelligence / Bridle, James
“Recent years have seen rapid advances in ‘artificial’ intelligence, which increasingly appears to be something stranger than we ever imagined. At the same time, we are becoming more aware of the other intelligences which have been with us all along, unrecognized. These other beings are the animals, plants, and natural systems that surround us, and are slowly revealing their complexity and knowledge – just as the new technologies we’ve built are threatening to cause their extinction, and ours. What can we learn from these other forms of intelligence and personhood, and how can we change our societies to live more equitably with one another and the non-human world? We have so much to learn, and many worlds to gain.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The things we love : how our passions connect us and make us who we are / Ahuvia, Aaron
“Why is it that we so often feel intense passion for objects? What does this tendency tell us about ourselves and our society? Dr. Aaron Ahuvia presents astonishing discoveries that prove we are far less “rational” than we think when it comes to our possessions and hobbies. In fact, we have passionate relationships with the things we love, and these relationships are driven by influences deep within our culture and our biology. Packed with fascinating case studies, scientific analysis, and takeaways for living in a modern and ever-so-material world, The Things We Love offers a truly original and insightful look into our love for inanimate objects.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

All the living and the dead : a personal investigation into the death trade / Campbell, Hayley
“We are surrounded by death. It is in our news, our nursery rhymes, our true-crime podcasts. Yet from a young age, we are told that death is something to be feared. How are we supposed to know what we’re so afraid of, when we are never given the chance to look? Journalist Hayley Campbell searches for answers from the people who see death every day. Why would someone choose a life of working with the dead? And what does dealing with death every day do to you as a person? A dazzling work of cultural criticism, All the Living and the Dead weaves together reportage with memoir, history, and philosophy, to offer readers a fascinating look into the psychology of Western death.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The nineties / Klosterman, Chuck
“It was long ago, but not as long as it seems: The Berlin Wall fell and the Twin Towers collapsed. In the beginning, almost every name and address was listed in a phone book, and everyone answered their landlines because you didn’t know who it was. By the end, exposing someone’s address was an act of emotional violence, and nobody picked up their new cell phone if they didn’t know who it was. The ’90s brought about a revolution in the human condition we’re still groping to understand. Chuck Klosterman makes a home in all of it, writing a multi-dimensional masterpiece, a work of synthesis so smart and delightful that future historians might well refer to this entire period as Klostermanian.” (Adapted from Amazon UK)

Tree thieves : crime and survival in North America’s woods / Bourgon, Lyndsie
“The tree was poached in a two-part operation. It was felled one night and taken another. Here was a murder mystery in the deep woods: who had taken the cedar, how had they done so, and – most importantly – why? Featuring excellent investigative reporting, fascinating characters, logging history, political analysis and cutting-edge tree science, Tree Thieves takes readers on a thrilling journey into the intrigue, crime and incredible complexity sheltered under the forest canopy. It is a gripping account of the billion-dollar timber black market – and how it intersects with environmentalism, class, and culture. (Adapted from Amazon UK)

Marvellous Maps, Amazing Atlases & Charming Cartography

Who else loves gorgeous maps and atlases?  We know kids love them, but how many of us never lose that love as we grow up?  Poring over huge books of maps, learning about the world, history, people and animals is lots of fun, and there is something particularly beautiful about quality cartography.

If you’re a map lover, or you’d like to explore some atlases to see just what they’re all about, check out these from our collection:

An atlas of extinct countries : the remarkable (and occasionally ridiculous) stories of 48 nations that fell off the map / Defoe, Gideon
“Prisoners of Geography meets Bill Bryson: a funny, fascinating, beautifully illustrated and timely history of countries that, for myriad and often ludicrous reasons, no longer exist.” (Catalogue)

 

 

Brilliant maps : an atlas for curious minds / Wright, Ian
“Which nations have North Korean embassies? What percentage of young people live with their families? Which country lists volleyball as its national sport? How much does it cost to get a pint around the world? And where can you find lions in the wild? Revelatory, thought-provoking and fun, Brilliant Maps is a unique atlas of culture, history, politics and miscellanea, compiled by the editor of the iconic Brilliant Maps website.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Amazing world atlas : bringing the world to life / Ward, Alexa
“Bringing planet earth to life, this colourful and fun addition to Lonely Planet Kids takes you on a trip around the world that you’ll never forget. Filled with continental and regional maps, lively text, an entry for every country on the planet, plus mind-blowing facts, and an emphasis on the species that live on our planet, this is an essential resource for young readers wanting to learn about the world.” (Catalogue)

Philip’s atlas of New Zealand and the world
“Finally we’re included on the maps!  This updated edition of the bestselling Atlas contains: 16 pages of fully revised maps and statistical information; statistical information presented in a clear and accessible graphical format; a page dedicated to the islands of the South-West Pacific; separate New Zealand and Pacific index for easy access, latest world mapping; 200 country flags.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Atlas of everything : maps that help you make sense of the world
“Navigate the world like never before. Featuring over 50 maps of the world – one on every page – this unique atlas includes facts and figures on almost everything you’d want to know. From Nobel Prize winners and popular names, to endangered species and active volcanoes, the combination of maps and infographics makes this the perfect book for children to find out information in a quick and easy way, and remember it. Includes information on the origins of humans, ancient civilisations, the fashion industry, music around the world, film, sport, art and design, politics, the natural world, architecture, animal migration, oceans, natural disasters and space, to name just a few topics in this fact-filled book.” (Catalogue)

Strange maps : an atlas of cartographic curiosities / Jacobs, Frank
“An intriguing collection of more than 100 out-of-the-ordinary maps, blending art, history and pop culture to create a unique atlas of humanity.” (Catalogue)

 

New Zealand historical atlas : ko papatuanuku e takoto nei
“Surveys New Zealand history through a dazzling array of maps and graphics, covering the story of life on these islands from their origins through East Polynesian settlement, the building of pa in the Bay of Islands, the colonial era in the nineteenth century through to the present.” (Catalogue)

 

Atlas of the invisible : maps & graphics that will change how you see the world / Cheshire, James
“An unprecedented portrait of the hidden patterns in human society–visualized through the world of data.  In this triumph of visual storytelling, they uncover truths about our past, reveal who we are today, and highlight what we face in the years ahead.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 

An atlas of geographical wonders : from mountaintops to riverbeds : a selection of comparative maps and tableaux / Bailly, Jean-Christophe
“This is the first book to catalog comparative maps and tableaux that visualize the heights and lengths of the world’s mountains and rivers. Produced predominantly in the nineteenth century, these beautifully rendered maps emerged out of the tide of exploration and scientific developments in measuring techniques.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

These are just a selection of what we have on offer. For more atlases in our collection, click here.

Bizarre book clubs and pigeon kings: New non-fiction

The star of this month’s new non-fiction is the essay! Short, specific, and wonderfully creative, essay collections allow you to dip in and out of a book without having to commit to hundreds of pages on one topic (let’s be honest, this is often one of the most intimidating things about a hefty non-fiction tome). Of course, for the collections we’ve highlighted here, we’re certain that by the time you start reading you won’t want to skip a single chapter.

First we have How to Be a Bad Muslim, a rich and illuminating book that draws on author Mohamed Hassan’s own experience as a Muslim man in Aotearoa and elsewhere, written with a poet’s deft skill. There’s a bit of a queue for this one, but it’s worth the wait – you can place a reserve by following the link below. As to the other essay collections, we also have Elena Ferrante’s new book In the Margins, where she explores what it means to break through the margins in both literature and in life, and Serious Face by Jon Mooallem, where you’ll find the titular Pigeon King amongst other eccentric tales.

If essays aren’t your thing, some other items of interest for this month include the story of a state-sponsored book club in The Stasi Poetry Circle, the captivating and wide-ranging history of textile art in Fabric, and The Secret of Emu Field which explores the deadly and often-overlooked British nuclear tests in AustraliaYou can read more about each of these below.

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.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Stasi poetry circle : the creative writing class that tried to win the Cold War / Oltermann, Philip
“Morale is at rock bottom in East Germany, thrown into chaos by the new Berlin Wall. The Ministry for State Security is hunting for a new weapon in the war against capitalism, but rather than guns, tanks, or bombs, the Stasi resolve to fight the enemy through rhyme and verse – and the result is the most bizarre book club in history. The ‘Working Group of Writing Chekists’ met monthly from 1962 until the Wall fell. The regime hoped that poetry would sharpen the Stasi’s ‘party sword’, but as the agents became steeped in poetry, revelling in its imaginative ambiguity, the result was the opposite. Rather than entrenching state ideology, they began to radically question it. Both a gripping true story and a parable about creativity in a surveillance state, this is history writing at its finest.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

In the margins : on the pleasures of reading and writing / Ferrante, Elena
“From the internationally acclaimed author of My Brilliant Friend and The Lying Life of Adults, come four revelatory pieces offering rare insight into the author’s formation as a writer and life as a reader. Ferrante warns us of the perils of “bad language” and advocates for a collective fusion of female talent as she brilliantly discourses on the work of her most beloved authors.” (Adapted from Amazon UK)

Fabric : the hidden history of the material world / Finlay, Victoria
“From our earliest ancestors to babies born today, fabric is a necessary part of our everyday lives, but it’s also an opportunity for creativity, symbolism, culture and connection. Travelling across the world and bringing history to life, bestselling author Victoria Finlay investigates how and why people have made and used cloth. A century ago in Wales, women would sew their own funeral clothes over tea with friends. In Papua New Guinea, bark is stripped from trees and beaten into cloth. Harris Tweed has a particular smell, while Guatemalan weavers use dazzling colours. Uncovering the stories of the fabrics people wear and use from sacking to silk, Fabric combines science, history, tradition and art in a captivating exploration of how we live, work, craft and care.” (Catalogue)

The secret of Emu Field : Britain’s forgotten atomic tests in Australia / Tynan, Elizabeth
“Emu Field is overshadowed by Maralinga, the larger and much more prominent British atomic test site about 193 kilometres to the south. But Emu Field has its own secrets. Only at Emu Field did a terrifying black mist speed across the land after an atomic bomb detonation, bringing death and sickness to Aboriginal populations in its path. The area was difficult and inaccessible – so why did the British go there at all, when they knew that they wouldn’t stay? What happened to the air force crew who flew through the atomic clouds? And why was Emu Field abandoned quickly after the expense and effort of setting it up? Tynan reveals the story of a cataclysmic collision between an ancient Aboriginal land and post-war Britain.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Serious face : essays / Mooallem, Jon
“Beneath the self-assured and serious faces we wear, every human life is full of longing, guesswork, and confusion – a scramble to do the best we can and make everything up as we go along. In these wide-ranging essays, Jon Mooallem chronicles the beauty of our blundering and the inescapability of our imperfections. He investigates the collapse of a multimillion-dollar bird-breeding scam run by an aging farmer known as the Pigeon King, intimately narrates a harrowing escape from California’s deadliest wildfire, visits an eccentric Frenchman building a town at what he claims is the centre of the world, shadows a man through his first day of freedom after twenty-one years in prison, and more – all with a deep conviction that it’s our vulnerability, not our victories, that connect us.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The unusual suspect : the remarkable true story of a modern-day Robin Hood / Machell, Ben
“It is 2007, a time of recession and impending climate crisis, and one young man decides to change the world. Meet Stephen Jackley, a British geography student with Asperger’s Syndrome. Aged just twenty-one, obsessed with the idea of Robin Hood, and with no prior experience, he resolved to become a bank robber. Jackley used disguise, elaborate escape routes and replica pistols to successfully hold up a string of banks, making away with thousands of pounds. Bank notes marked with ‘RH’ – ‘Robin Hood’ – began finding their way into the hands of the homeless. The police, despite their concerted efforts, had no idea what was going on or who was responsible – until Jackley’s ambition got the better of him.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Being you : a new science of consciousness / Seth, Anil
Being You is not as simple as it sounds. Somehow, within each of our brains, billions of neurons work to create our conscious experience. How does this happen? Why do we experience life in the first person? After over twenty years researching the brain, world-renowned neuroscientist Anil Seth puts forward a radical new theory of consciousness and self. His unique theory of what it means to ‘be you’ challenges our understanding of perception and reality and turns what you thought you knew about yourself on its head.” (Adapted from Amazon UK)

Resilience and superstition: New non-fiction

In the spirit of Out on the Shelves, this month we’re highlighting The Love That Dares, a thoughtful and moving collection of letters on LGBT+ love and friendship. The authors Rachel Smith and Barbara Vesey have carefully chosen which pieces of correspondence to include, presenting each letter alongside information about the writer and the historical context, and the result is a wonderful little book that opens a window onto the past – in this case, a past that hasn’t often been easily accessible. The additional context adds a lot of value, but as you would expect it is the letters themselves which make up the heart and soul of this book. We recommend checking it out! 

As for the other non-fiction picks for this month, if you’re after something a little spooky and superstitious, why not try The Premonitions Bureau or The Ruin of All Witches? The first is about John Barker, a psychiatrist who attempted to collate premonitions of disaster in the 1960s, while the latter looks into the colonial-era witch hunts in Massachusetts, focusing on the experiences of one family. We’re also particularly excited to check out Soundings, a lyrical blend of nature writing and memoir, which tells the tale of a mother and her son as they follow migrating whales in the Arctic.

The love that dares : letters of LGBTQ+ love & friendship through history/ / Smith, Rachel
“A good love letter can speak across centuries, and reassure us that the agony and the ecstasy one might feel today have been shared by lovers long gone. In The Love That Dares, queer love speaks its name through a wonderful selection of surviving letters between lovers and friends, confidants and companions. Alongside the more famous names coexist beautifully written letters by lesser-known lovers. Together, they weave a narrative of queer love through the centuries, through the romantic, often funny, and always poignant words of those who lived it.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Soundings : journeys in the company of whales / Cunningham, Doreen
“Doreen first visited Utqiagvik, the northernmost town in Alaska, as a young journalist reporting on climate change among indigenous whaling communities. Years later, plunged into sudden poverty and isolation after becoming a single parent, Doreen embarks on an extraordinary journey: following the grey whale migration all the way north to the Iñupiaq family that took her in. Soundings is the story of a woman reclaiming her life, mile by mile; a child growing to love an ocean that is profoundly endangered; and a mother learning from another species how to parent in a time of unprecedented change.” (Adapted from Amazon UK)

Indigenous women’s voices : 20 years on from Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing methodologies
“This collection celebrates the breadth and depth of how Indigenous writers are shaping the decolonizing research world today. With contributions from Indigenous female researchers, this collection offers the much needed academic space to distinguish methodological approaches, and overcome the novelty confines of being marginal voices.” (Catalogue)

The ruin of all witches : life and death in the New World / Gaskill, Malcolm
The Ruin of All Witches tells the dark, real-life folktale of witch-hunting in a remote Massachusetts plantation. These were the turbulent beginnings of colonial America, when English settlers’ dreams of love and liberty gave way to paranoia and terror, enmity and rage. Drawing on uniquely rich, previously neglected source material, Malcolm Gaskill brings to life a New World existence steeped in the divine and the diabolic, in curses and enchantments, and precariously balanced between life and death.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The premonitions bureau : a true account of death foretold / Knight, Sam
“On the morning of October 21, 1966, Kathleen Middleton, a music teacher in suburban London, awoke choking and gasping, convinced disaster was about to strike. An hour later, a mountain of rubble containing waste from a coal mine collapsed above the village of Aberfan. Psychiatrist John Barker became convinced there had been supernatural warning signs of the disaster, and decided to establish a “premonitions bureau” to collect dreams and forebodings from the public. Middleton was one of hundreds of seemingly normal people, who would contribute their visions to Barker’s research in the years to come, some of them unnervingly accurate.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The uncaged sky / Moore-Gilbert, Kylie
“On September 12, 2018 British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert was arrested at Tehran Airport by Iran’s feared Islamic Revolutionary Guards. Incarcerated in Tehran’s Evin and Qarchak prisons for 804 days, this is the full and gripping account of her harrowing ordeal. After more than two years of struggle, Kylie was finally released in a high stakes three-nation prisoner swap deal orchestrated by the Australian government, laying bare the complex game of global politics in which she had become a valuable pawn.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Recovery : the lost art of convalescence / Francis, Gavin
“When it comes to illness, sometimes the end is just the beginning. Recovery and convalescence are words that exist at the periphery of our lives – until we are forced to contend with what they really mean. Here, GP and writer Gavin Francis explores how – and why – we get better, revealing the many shapes recovery takes, its shifting history and the frequent failure of our modern lives to make adequate space for it. Characterised by Francis’s beautiful prose and his view of medicine as ‘the alliance of science and kindness’, Recovery is a book about a journey that most of us never intend to make.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Dogs in early New Zealand photographs
“This entertaining selection of over 100 photos of New Zealand dogs reveals some of the more curious ways in which they have appeared in photographic collections from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The photographs take the reader across the towns and landscapes of Aotearoa New Zealand, and the text profiles many of the photographers and studios that flourished prior to the First World War. It also pays tribute to the museums and galleries that now care for these delightful collections.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Beyond the comfort zone: New non-fiction

May has snuck up on us! We’re mourning the daylight and breaking out the coats and scarves, but the dwindling autumn months come with some benefits too. Just picture it: rain lashing the windows and steam curling from your favourite mug; you’ve got nowhere to be except here, curled up in a cosy spot, a captivating book resting on your knee.

While we’re definitely advocates for comfort when it comes to our favourite reading nooks, we also love what Azar Nafisi has to say in her latest book Read Dangerously. Written as a series of letters to her late father, she uses the lens of literature to make sense of recent world events. Nafisi invites us to challenge ourselves through the books we read, to face our preconceptions head on and to seek out texts that foster connection rather than division. It’s a mix of literary analysis and memoir, in conversation with the work of James Baldwin, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie and Ta-Nehesi Coates to name just a few. It’s well worth checking out! 

On the theme of literary analysis, local poet Anna Jackson’s has a new book out. It’s called Actions and Travels, and in it she looks at 100 different poems with the goal of showing us how poetry works. It’s perfect for people who are new to poetry but unsure where to begin, while the poetically-confident will enjoy Jackson’s expert analysis.

Other picks for this month include the timely Last Call at the Hotel Imperial, which looks at a group of American reporters whose work in the lead up to WWII has had a huge impact on war journalism, shaping the industry to this day. In The Man Who Tasted Words, neurologist Guy Leschziner explores a selection of unusual sensory experiences through case studies of his patients, introducing us to people who feel no pain, who smell phantom smells, and who are no longer able to hold a picture in their mind’s eye. Then in Sounds Wild and Broken, David Haskell celebrates the sounds of our world – from cicada symphonies to human song – exploring the origins of this sonic diversity and showing us why it must be protected.

Read dangerously : the subversive power of literature in troubled times / Nafisi, Azar
“What is the role of literature in an era when one political party wages continual war on writers and the press? What is the connection between political strife in our daily lives, and the way we meet our enemies on the page in fiction? How can literature, through its free exchange, affect politics? Drawing on her experiences as a woman and voracious reader living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, her life as an immigrant in the United States, and her role as literature professor in both countries, Nafisi crafts an argument for why, in a genuine democracy, we must engage with the enemy, and how literature can be a vehicle for doing so.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Last call at the Hotel Imperial : the reporters who took on a world at war / Cohen, Deborah
“They were an astonishing group: glamourous, gutsy, and irreverent to the bone. Last Call at the Hotel Imperial is the extraordinary story of John Gunther, H.R. Knickerbocker, Vincent Sheean, and Dorothy Thompson: a close-knit band of wildly famous American reporters who, in the run-up to World War II, took on dictators and rewrote the rules of modern journalism. They committed themselves to the cause of freedom: fiercely and with all its hazards. The fault lines that ran through a crumbling world, they would find, ran through their own marriages and friendships too. Told with the immediacy of a conversation overheard, this revelatory book captures how the global upheavals of the twentieth century felt to live through up close.” (Adapted from Amazon UK)

The man who tasted words : a neurologist explores the strange and startling world of our senses / Leschziner, Guy
“Vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch are what we rely on to perceive the reality of our world. But are they really that reliable? Leschziner explores how our nervous systems define our worlds and how we can, in fact, be victims of falsehoods perpetrated by our own brains. In his moving and lyrical chronicles of lives turned upside down by a disruption in one or more of their five senses, he introduces readers to extraordinary individuals he’s worked with in his practice, like one man who actually “tasted” words, and shows us how sensory disruptions like that have played havoc, not only with their view of the world, but with their relationships as well.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Actions & travels : how poetry works / Jackson, Anna
“A brilliant introduction to how poetry works through one hundred poems. Through illuminating readings of one hundred poems – from Catullus to Alice Oswald, Shakespeare to Hera Lindsay Bird – Actions & Travels is an engaging introduction to how poetry works. Ten chapters look at simplicity and resonance, imagery and form, letters and odes, and much more. In Actions & Travels Anna Jackson explains how we can all read (and even write) poetry.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Legacy of violence : a history of the British empire / Elkins, Caroline
“Sprawling across a quarter of the world’s land mass and claiming nearly seven hundred million people, Britain’s twentieth-century empire was the largest empire in human history. For many Britons, it epitomized their nation’s cultural superiority, but what legacy did the island nation deliver to the world? Covering more than two hundred years of history, Caroline Elkins reveals an evolutionary and racialized doctrine that espoused an unrelenting deployment of violence to secure and preserve the nation’s imperial interests. Drawing on more than a decade of research on four continents, Legacy of Violence implicates all sides of Britain’s political divide in the creation, execution, and cover-up of imperial violence, upending long-held myths and shedding new light on empire’s role in shaping the world today.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The status game : on social position and how we use it / Storr, Will
“For centuries, philosophers and scholars have described human behaviour in terms of sex, power and money. Bestselling author Will Storr radically turns this thinking on its head by arguing that it is our irrepressible craving for status that ultimately defines who we are. It’s an unconscious obsession that drives the best and worst of us: our innovation, arts and civilisation as well as our murders, wars and genocides. But why is status such an all-consuming prize? What happens if it’s taken away from us? The Status Game offers a sweeping rethink of human psychology that will change how you see others – and how you see yourself.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Sounds wild and broken : sonic marvels, evolution’s creativity and the crisis of sensory extinction / Haskell, David George
“The Earth’s sounds are wonderfully diverse, complex and beautiful — but they are under threat. Starting with the origins of animal song and traversing the whole arc of Earth history, Haskell illuminates and celebrates the emergence of the varied sounds of our world. We learn that human music and language belong within this story of ecology and evolution. Yet we are also destroyers, now silencing or smothering many of the sounds of the living Earth. Haskell shows that sonic crises are not mere losses of sensory ornament. Sound is a generative force, and so the erasure of sonic diversity makes the world less creative, just and beautiful. Sounds Wild and Broken is an invitation to listen, wonder, belong and act.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Seven games : a human history / Roeder, Oliver
“A group biography of seven enduring and beloved games, and the story of why – and how – we play them. Checkers, Backgammon, Chess, and Go. Poker, Scrabble, and Bridge. These seven games, ancient and modern, fascinate millions of people worldwide. Roeder charts their origins and historical importance, the delightful arcana of their rules, and the behavioural design that make them pleasurable. He delves into the history and lore of each game, and explores why games, seemingly trivial pastimes, speak so deeply to the human soul. Funny, fascinating and profound, Seven Games is a story of obsession, psychology, history, and how play makes us human.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Words and worlds: New non-fiction

New Non Fiction April

A collage of something speaking into a tin phone and speech bubles

Reord-berend, m.n: ‘speech-bearer’, human.
(REH-ord-BEH-rend)

We came across this Old English phrase on the Twitter account of author Hana Videen, where she posts one Old English word. This has become the basis for her book The Wordhord: Daily Life in Old English. Videen’s book is a delight for anyone who wants to learn more about the origins of the English we speak today. Inside its pages are words that we still recognise (‘word’, for instance, hasn’t changed in hundreds of years) as well as others that are unfamiliar to us now – like the poignant reord-berend. It makes us wonder: what does it mean to be a speech-bearer? To define ourselves as humans by our ability to communicate, by the stories that we tell?

So, on that note, here are some of the other new books we’ve found this month on language and communication. One that stood out to us is The Babel Message, where author Keith Kahn-Harris uses the warning inside a chocolate egg as a starting point to explore the diversity of language, asking us: what gets lost in translation? And what do we discover? There’s also Index, A History of the (which you’ll find right at the end of this post), a fascinating book that reveals the unexpectedly dramatic past of the index. Then we have journalist Van Badham’s Qanon and On, which is about conspiracy theories in the age of the internet, as online communication becomes rife with disinformation. 

The rest of the books we’ve picked for you this month are about our world, and the stories we tell about this planet as we try to understand our place here. There are the afterworlds in The Devil’s Atlas, an illustrated tour of the heavens, hells and in-betweens found in various cultures and religions. Earth’s own strange history is depicted vividly in Otherlands, where palaeontologist Thomas Halliday takes us on a journey backwards through time, from the recent ice age (geologically speaking) all the way to the era of primordial soup. And lastly, there’s the wonderful Warmth: Coming of Age at the End of Our World which deals with the climate crisis in a way that is both honest and intimate, helping us to come to grips with the way our home is changing.

The babel message : a love letter to language / Kahn-Harris, Keith
“Keith Kahn-Harris is a man obsessed with something seemingly trivial – the warning message found inside Kinder Surprise eggs: WARNING, read and keep: Toy not suitable for children under 3 years. Small parts might be swallowed or inhaled. On a tiny sheet of paper, this message is translated into dozens of languages – the world boiled down to a multilingual essence. Inspired by this, the author asks: what makes ‘a language’? With the help of the international community of language geeks, he shows us what the message looks like in Ancient Sumerian, Zulu, Cornish, Klingon – and many more. Overturning the Babel myth, he argues that the messy diversity of language shouldn’t be a source of conflict, but of collective wonder.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Otherlands : a world in the making / Halliday, Thomas
“What would it be like to experience the ancient landscapes of the past as we experience the reality of nature today? Journeying backwards in time from the most recent Ice Age to the dawn of complex life itself, and across all seven continents, Halliday immerses us in sixteen lost ecosystems, each one rendered with a novelist’s eye for detail and drama. In Otherlands, the multi-talented palaeontologist Thomas Halliday gives us a breath-taking up close encounter with worlds that are normally unimaginably distant. To read this book is to time travel, to see the last 550 million years not as an endless expanse of unfathomable time, but as a series of worlds, simultaneously fantastical and familiar.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The wordhord : daily life in Old English / Videen, Hana
“Old English is the language we think we know until we actually see it. Used in England over a thousand years ago, it is rich with words that haven’t changed (word), others that are unrecognisable (neorxnawang – paradise) and some that are curiously mystifying (gafol-fisc – tax-fish). In this beautiful little book, Hana Videen has gathered these gems together to create a glorious trove and illuminate the lives, beliefs and habits of our linguistic ancestors. We discover a world where choking on a bit of bread might prove your guilt, where fiend-ship was as likely as friend-ship, and you might grow up to be a laughter-smith. These are the magical roots of our own language: you’ll never see English in the same way again.” (Catalogue)

Warmth : coming of age at the end of our world / Sherrell, Daniel
Warmth is a new kind of book about climate change – not a prescription or a polemic, but an intensely personal examination of how it feels to imagine a future under its weight, written from inside the youth-led climate movement itself. Weaving sit-ins and snowstorms, synagogues and subway tunnels, Sherrell delves into the questions that feel most urgent to young people at our current crossroads. In seeking new ways to understand and respond to these forces that feel so far out of our control, Warmth lays bare the common stakes we face, and illuminates new sources of faith in our shared humanity.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The devil’s atlas : an explorer’s guide to heavens, hells and afterworlds / Brooke-Hitching, Edward
The Devil’s Atlas is an illustrated guide to the heavens, hells and lands of the dead as imagined throughout history by cultures and religions around the world. Whether it’s the thirteen heavens of the Aztecs, the Chinese Taoist netherworld of ‘hungry ghosts’, or the ‘Hell of the Flaming Rooster’ of Japanese Buddhist mythology, The Devil’s Atlas gathers together a wonderful variety of beliefs and representations of life after death. A traveller’s guide to worlds unseen, this book is a fascinating study of the boundless capacity of human invention, and a visual chronicle of human hopes, fears and fantasies of what lies beyond.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Qanon and on : a short and shocking history of internet conspiracy cults / Badham, Van
“In QAnon and On, Guardian columnist Van Badham delves headfirst into the QAnon conspiracy theory, unpicking the why, how and who behind this century’s most dangerous and far-fetched internet cult. Internet manipulation and disinformation campaigns have grown to a geopolitical scale and spilled into real life with devastating consequences. But what would motivate followers to so forcefully avoid the facts and surrender instead to made-up stories designed to influence and control? It’s a question that has haunted Van, herself a veteran of social media’s relentless trolling wars. In this daring investigation, Van exposes some of the internet’s most extreme communities to understand conspiracy cults from the inside.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The world according to colour : a cultural history / Fox, James
“The subject of this book is mankind’s extraordinary relationship with colour. It is composed of a series of voyages, ranging across the world and throughout history, which reveal the meanings that have been attached to the colours we see around us and the ways these have shaped our culture and imagination. It takes seven colours – black, red, yellow, blue, white, purple and green – and uncovers behind each a root idea, based on visual resemblances or properties so rudimentary as to be common to all societies.” (Catalogue)

Index, a history of the : a bookish adventure from medieval manuscripts to the digital age / Duncan, Dennis
“Most of us give little thought to the back of the book – it’s just where you go to look things up. But as Dennis Duncan reveals in this delightful and witty history, hiding in plain sight is an unlikely realm of ambition and obsession, sparring and politicking, pleasure and play. Here, for the first time, is the secret world of the index: an unsung but extraordinary everyday tool, with an illustrious but little-known past. Charting its curious path from the monasteries and universities of thirteenth-century Europe to Silicon Valley in the twenty-first, Duncan uncovers how it has saved heretics from the stake, kept politicians from high office, and made us all into the readers we are today.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Your Next Niche Read: new non-fiction

There’s truly nothing better than diving headfirst into a new non-fiction book, so if you’re searching for your next niche read – be it a beloved genre or something totally unfamiliar – then look no further! This month’s picks offer a variety of options for you to choose from.

Perhaps you’d like to delve into the intricate relationship between nature and society in On the Necessity of Gardening – a gorgeously produced book that includes its very own garden abecedarium (the fanciest name for the ABCs that we’ve ever heard!) We personally cannot wait to explore the sunken lands that lurk in myths and oral histories in Worlds in Shadow. And for the true crime enthusiasts among us, why not test your knowledge with Neil Bradley’s A Taste for Poison?

Of course, we know how hard it is to restrict yourself to just one subject alone, so if you’re feeling indecisive then Siri Hustvedt’s collection might be the one for you, with masterful essays on topics that range from neuroscience and literary criticism, to families and feminism. And on that note, if you enjoyed the recent Hilma af Klint exhibit, then definitely check out This Dark Country, a genre-defying book that’s both poetic and informative as it brings to light the stories of painters who might have otherwise been forgotten. 

Worlds in shadow : submerged lands in science, memory and myth / Nunn, Patrick D.
“The traces of much of human history – and that which preceded it – lie beneath the ocean surface. This is fertile ground for speculation, even myth-making, but also a topic on which geologists and climatologists have increasingly focused on in recent decades. This is the first book to present the science of submergence in a popular format. Patrick Nunn sifts the fact from the fiction, using the most up-to-date research to work out which submerged places may have actually existed versus those that probably only exist in myth.” (Catalogue)

Mothers, fathers, and others : essays / Hustvedt, Siri
“Siri Hustvedt’s relentlessly curious mind and expansive intellect are on full display in this stunning new collection of essays, whose subjects range from the nature of memory and time to what we inherit from our parents, the power of art during tragedy, misogyny, motherhood, neuroscience, and the books we turn to during a pandemic. Ultimately, Mothers, Fathers, and Others reminds us that the boundaries we take for granted – between ourselves and others, between art and viewer – are far less stable than we imagine.” (Adapted from Amazon UK)

On the necessity of gardening : an ABC of art, botany and cultivation
“Over the centuries, artists, writers, poets and thinkers have each described, depicted and designed the garden in different ways. In medieval art, the garden was a reflection of paradise, a place of harmony and fertility, shielded from worldly problems. In the eighteenth century this image tilted: the garden became a symbol of worldly power and politics. The Anthropocene, the era in which man completely dominates nature with disastrous consequences, is forcing us to radically rethink the role we have given nature in recent decades.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A taste for poison : eleven deadly molecules and the killers who used them / Bradbury, Neil
“As any reader of murder mysteries can tell you, poison is one of the most enduring – and popular – weapons of choice for a scheming murderer. It can be slipped into a drink, smeared onto the tip of an arrow or the handle of a door, even filtered through the air we breathe. But how exactly do these poisons work to break our bodies down, and what can we learn from the damage they inflict? In a fascinating blend of popular science, medical history, and true crime, Dr. Neil Bradbury explores this most morbidly captivating method of murder from a cellular level. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

This dark country : women artists, still life and intimacy in the early Twentieth century / Birrell, Rebecca
“Lemons gleam in a bowl. Flowers fan out softly in a vase. What is contained in a still life – and what falls out of the frame? For every artist we remember, there is one we have forgotten; who leaves only elusive traces; whose art was replaced by being a mother or wife; whose remaining artworks lie dusty in archives or attics. In this boldly original blend of group biography and art criticism, Rebecca Birrell brings these shadowy figures into the light and conducts a dazzling investigation into the structures of intimacy that make – and dismantle – our worlds.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Conversations on love / Lunn, Natasha
“After years of feeling that love was always out of reach, journalist Natasha Lunn set out to understand how relationships work and evolve over a lifetime. She turned to authors and experts to learn about their experiences, as well as drawing on her own, asking: How do we find love? How do we sustain it? And how do we survive when we lose it? In Conversations on Love she began to find the answers.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A wild idea / Franklin, Jonathan
“In 1991, Doug Tompkins abandoned his comfortable life in San Francisco and flew 6,500 miles south to a shack in Patagonia. Shielded by waterfalls and wilderness, the founder of such groundbreaking companies as Esprit and The North Face suddenly regretted the corporate capitalism from which he had profited from years. As a CEO he had caused much pollution and, “made things nobody needed.” Now, he declared, it was time to reverse the damage to the planet, and maybe even himself. In A Wild Idea, award-winning journalist and bestselling author Jonathan Franklin tells the incredible true story of Douglas Tompkins, who became one of the primary founders of our modern conservation and land protection movement.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Attenborough nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Sir David Attenborough is one of the nominees for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Attenborough has been most famous for his wildlife TV series. He also wrote many books and won numerous awards include BAFTA and Emmy awards, and he was knighted in 1985. Let’s dive through the library books into Attenborough’s world.

David Attenborough : the early years / Attenborough, David
“David Attenborough’s books and broadcasts have opened up the incredible world of natural history to millions of viewers and listeners. Specially recorded for audio, David Attenborough’s earliest adventures are sometimes life-threatening, often hilarious and always totally absorbing. Also included is David Attenborough In His Own Words, a collection of interviews taken from the BBC radio and TV archives.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

Life in the undergrowth / Attenborough, David
“This illustrated book by veteran naturalist Sir David Attenborough offers a rare glimpse into the secret life of invertebrates, “Small by virtue of their lack of backbones, this group of living things plays a surprisingly large role in the evolutionary cycle.” Life in the Undergrowth, part of his innovative series on natural history topics, looks at invertebrates the world over: their arrival on land and mastery of every habitat, and their fantastic variety of hunting and highly organized social behaviors.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

Journeys to the other side of the world : further adventures of a young naturalist / Attenborough, David
“The further adventures of a young David Attenborough – from Madagascar and New Guinea to the Pacific Islands and the Northern Territory of Australia. Following the success of the original Zoo Quest expeditions, in the late 1950s onwards the young David Attenborough embarked on further travels to encounter world’s remarkable cultures, and animals such as paradise birds, chameleons, sifakas and many more animals.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

Living planet : the web of life on earth / Attenborough, David”
“A new, fully updated narrative edition of David Attenborough’s seminal biography of our world, The Living Planet. Single species, and often whole communities adapt to extreme living conditions. These adaptations can be truly extraordinary: fish that walk or lay eggs on leaves in mid-air; snakes that fly; flightless birds that graze like deer; and bears that grow hair on the soles of their feet He also addresses the urgent issues facing our living planet: climate change, pollution and mass extinction of species.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

Drawn from paradise : the discovery, art and natural history of the birds of paradise / Attenborough, David
“‘David Attenborough’s journey through the cultural history of the most exquisite and extravagant, colourful and intriguing families of birds. David Attenborough and Errol Fuller trace the natural history of these enigmatic birds depicted in western art throughout the centuries, featuring beautiful illustrations by such luminary artists as Jacques Barraband, William Hart, John Gould, Rubens and Breughel, to name but a few. ” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

 

Darkness, mātauranga and manu: recent New Zealand non-fiction

As the moths rise up when the sun goes down, nectar rises in the flowers of the plants that will be pollinated by them. Tainui, tarata and raupeka/Easter orchid respond to the onset of darkness by flooding their flowers with sweet strong perfumes…

Annette Lees, After Dark (p.14)

The days are getting longer, the kihikihi-wawā (chorus cicadas) are starting to emerge, and the nights are clear and filled with whetū (stars) ― i tēnei marama we’ve collected a bunch of pukapuka hou (new books) to take you into raumati (summer)!

Watercolour botanical study of tarata in blossom, with sprays of tiny white flowers.
The heavily perfumed tarata (lemonwood); watercolour by Sarah Featon c.1885, collection of Te Papa

First up is Annette Lees’ love letter to the night, After Dark: walking into the nights of Aotearoa. Mixing social history, science and memoir, this pukapuka is structured according to different hours of the night, starting at dusk and finishing just as the sky begins to lighten, at the break of day.

While Lees chronicles a relationship with the night, historian Lucy Mackintosh explores a connection to place in Shifting grounds: deep histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, in particular Pukekawa/Auckland Domain, Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill and the Ōtuataua Stonefields at Ihumātao.

Another recent pukapuka is the very timely He pou hiringa: grounding science and technology in Te Ao Māori, edited by Maria Amoamo, Merata Kawharu, and Katharina Rukstuhl. There are lots of ways to engage with and produce scientific knowledge, and the researchers and scientists who’ve contributed to Te pou hiringa are firmly anchored in mātauranga and Te Ao Māori. Ka mau te wehi! Oh, and it’s also the perfect size for taking on a trip to the awa or moana. 

If you’re looking for some lavishly illustrated pukapuka you likely can’t go wrong with Cover Story by Steve Braunias or Ray Ching’s New Zealand bird paintings. The former is a wild ride through Aotearoa’s history of amazing album covers (it’s even LP sized!!) while the latter will refresh your karu (eyes) with Ching’s lovingly painted manu. Sadly, we’re assuming the pekapeka-tou-roa won’t be included.

We’re also excited for the landmark publication Hei taonga ma nga uri whakatipu: treasures for the rising generation, about the expeditions initiated by Sir Apirana Ngata to record tikanga and taonga from around Te Ika-a-Māui. For more treasures from across the motu, Te Kupenga was published to mark the centenary of the Alexander Turnbull Library and looks at the history of Aotearoa through 100 objects. Last but certainly not least, Vincent O’Malley’s Voices from the New Zealand Wars brings this conflict to life through the words of those witnessed it.

Kia pai tāu pānui happy reading!

Image from Mighty ApeAfter dark : walking into the nights of Aotearoa / Lees, Annette
“Every 24 hours, the Earth rolls into its own vast shadow and darkness floods across the land and sea. In a 1600-kilometre-long gliding plumb-line down the length of New Zealand, our beaches, towns, cities, farms, forests, lakes and mountains sink into shadow. Annette Lees takes us walking into the night of Aotearoa that follows. In the company of bats, owls, moths, singing crickets and seabirds, After Dark guides us from dusk to dawn through a rich and fascinating trove of night stories.” (Adapted from publisher’s description)

Shifting grounds : deep histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland / Mackintosh, Lucy
“Both natural and human histories have been woven together over hundreds of years in places across Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, forming potent sites of national significance. Approaching landscapes as an archive, Mackintosh delves deeply into specific places, allowing us to understand histories that have not been written into books or inscribed upon memorials.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Image from Bridget Williams BooksHe pou hiringa : grounding science and technology in Te Ao Māori / ed. Maria Amoamo et al.
Māori have a long history of innovation based on mātauranga and tikanga, the knowledge and values passed down from ancestors. Yet Western science has routinely failed to acknowledge the contribution of Indigenous peoples and their vital worldviews. This book raises two important questions: what contribution can mātauranga make to addressing grand challenges facing New Zealand and the world? And in turn, how can Western science and technology contribute to the wellbeing of Māori people and lands?” (Adapted from catalogue)

Image from Mighty ApeCover story : 100 beautiful, strange and frankly incredible New Zealand LP covers. Volume 1 / Braunias, Steve
“From 1957-87 the LP was king of New Zealand music and this book showcases 100 of the best examples of cover art at full LP size. Braunias brings his inimitable wit and empathy to bear on the artistic flair, fashion and occasional gaudiness these album covers represent. Based on interviews and his own experience collecting over 800 albums from op-shops, he reflects on what they say about our popular culture.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Image from FishpondRay Ching : New Zealand bird paintings / Harris-Ching, Raymond
“Ray Ching is internationally recognised as one of the world’s greatest living wildlife artists. Born in New Zealand, he has spent the majority of his career in England. But he has never lost his interest in his roots or the New Zealand birds that inspired him. Over the last 60 years, he has built up a remarkable collection of paintings of our wildlife.” (Adapted from publisher’s description)

Hei taonga ma nga uri whakatipu : treasures for the rising generation : The Dominion Museum ethnological expeditions, 1919-1923 / Wayne Ngata et al.
“From 1919 to 1923, at Sir Apirana Ngata’s initiative, a team from the Dominion Museum travelled to tribal areas across Te Ika-a-Māui The North Island to record tikanga Māori that Ngata feared might be disappearing. These ethnographic expeditions were the first in the world to be inspired and guided by indigenous leaders, recording fishing techniques, art forms, ancestral rituals and everyday life.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Te kupenga : 101 stories of Aotearoa from the Turnbull
“Published to mark 100 years since the establishment of the famous Alexander Turnbull Library, this energetic, comprehensive book approaches the history of Aotearoa New Zealand through 101 remarkable objects. Each tells a story, be it of discovery, courage, dispossession, conflict, invention, creation, or conservation. The objects range from letters and paintings to journals, photographs, posters, banners and books.” (Adapted from publisher’s description)

Voices from the New Zealand wars = he reo nō ngā pakanga o Aotearoa / O’Malley, Vincent
This book takes us to the heart of the New Zealand wars with a series of first-hand accounts from Māori and Pākehā who either fought in or witnessed the wars that ravaged New Zealand between 1845 and 1872. From Heni Te Kiri Karamu’s narrative of her remarkable exploits as a wahine toa, through to accounts from the field by British soldiers and powerful reports by observers on both sides, we learn about the wars at a human level.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Christmas Around the World

Did you know that candy canes are from Germany; model railways that run around Christmas trees are American; turkeys are replaced by KFC in Japan; advent calendars are handmade in Switzerland; and midnight mass are followed by fireworks in Portugal? And of course, the Pohutukawa trees are iconic Christmas trees in New Zealand. Read the interesting selection about the world’s Christmas traditions in this blog.

A very British Christmas : twelve days of discomfort and joy / Marsden, Rhodri
“This is a twelve-stage sleigh ride through the best, worst, strangest and funniest aspects of the Christmas holiday, with cultural icons saluted, national habits dissected and personal reminiscences from those who’ve eaten all the mince pies and lived to tell the tale. The essential Christmas stocking filler for every Brit who’s ever found themselves on a deflating air bed in their parents’ spare room wedged up against the washing machine come Christmas Eve.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)

Christmas : a biography / Flanders, Judith
“In Christmas: A Biography, social historian and best-selling author Judith Flanders casts a revealing eye on the myths, legends and history of the season, from the origins of the holiday in the Roman empire to the emergence of Christmas trees in central Europe, to what might just possibly be the first appearance of Santa Claus in Switzerland! The acclaimed author of The Victorian House and The Victorian City tells the story of the celebration of Christmas.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

American Christmas
“The Christmas season is a time for being with family and friends, for mixing ageless traditions and new ideas. American Christmas will help you discover fresh ways to entertain with festive menus, handmade party favors, and colorful decorations. Eight celebratory occasions—from a New England cookie exchange to a cozy fireside Christmas Eve supper, or a Wine Country Christmas dinner—showcase the true Christmas spirit. Detailed plans help you stay organized.” (Catalogue)

Scandinavian Christmas : over 80 celebratory recipes for the festive season / Hahnemann, Trine
“In Scandinavia the whole period of Christmas, from the first Sunday in Advent to New Year’s Day, is marked by festivals and celebrated in traditional but beautifully contemporary style. Hygge, cosiness in Danish, is about being inside with candles, great comfort food and lots of cakes and sweets. Jars of decorated cookies, gingerbread houses and clogs filled with little presents.”  (Adapted from the Catalogue)

Rick Steves’ European Christmas / Steves, Rick
“Rick Steves, America’s expert on Europe, teams up with co-author Valerie Griffith to explore the rich and fascinating mix of Christmas traditions: Christian, pagan, musical, and edible in Norway, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. Romans cook up eels, Salzburgers shoot off guns, Germans buy “prune people” at markets, Norwegian kids hope to win marzipan pigs, and Parisians ice-skate on the Eiffel Tower.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

A New Zealand Christmas : three centuries of Kiwi Christmas celebrations from the Alexander Turnbull Library / Ell, Sarah
“This sister volume to the successful Map New Zealand is a treasure trove of Christmas Kiwiana from down the years. Drawing on the Turnbull’s extensive collection, the selection of utterly charming Christmas cards, Christmas Day dinner menus, photographs, recipes, advertisements and poster art show the various ways in which we’ve celebrated Christmas and our nation over time..” (Adapted from Fishpond)

Festivals in the Southern Hemisphere : insights into cosmic and seasonal aspects of the whole earth / Samson, Martin
“Many Christian festivals traditionally draw imagery and symbolism from the northern hemisphere seasons. Rudolph Steiner shared cosmic, spiritual imaginations for the northern hemisphere, and in this book Martin Samson develops a useful equivalent guide for the southern hemisphere. He concludes that the essence of Christian festivals works at the same time for the whole earth, but take on nuances through the opposite seasons.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

Local Travel and Staycations

Explore the gems of Wellington and forget about the rest of the planet for a while. Have a browse at these books that help you explore the best of Wellington, since the summer is approaching… or almost.

Wellington from above / Stewart, Graham
“Wellington is hailed as the best little capital city in the world – it is the southernmost capital and is known for its friendly atmosphere. The heart of the city is compact, walkable and alive with restaurants and cafes that give a welcome with stylish a la carte dining and pavement outdoor casual fare. It boasts more bars, cafes and restaurants per capita than New York. Greater Wellington reaches to Upper Hutt and beyond to the Kapiti Coast.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

Day walks of Greater Wellington / Gavalas, Marios
“Wellingtonians and visitors alike have difficulty choosing a walking area to explore because they are so spoilt for choice. This book lists over 70 walks divided into 5 regional sections – the western coast north to Otaki, Wellington city, the eastern bays, Wainuiomata Valley and the Hutt Valley. With overviews of popular walking areas, each walk is given a track grade, approximate travel time, easy access details, notes on the track itself and points of interest to highlight the most memorable features. ” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

Art & about : a pocket guide to Wellington’s public art / Sutton, Frances
“Wellingtonians and visitors love the city’s profusion of public art. Complete with maps and photos to help you uncover even the most hidden treasures, this book tells you about each work and the artist who made it. From classical statuary and Maori symbolism to wind sculptures and the inspired creations of Weta Workshop, there’s a visual and artistic feast in Wellington waiting for you to discover. Also discover the forgotten underground streams now have an above-ground presence.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

A walk a day : 365 short walks in New Zealand / Janssen, Peter
“Walking is one of the best ways to see a country and in this book there’s a short walk to suit everyone. All 365 walks are three hours or less and will suit those who enjoy walking but do not fancy a long tramp with heavy boots and a pack, or visitors pressed for time, and families with young children. Every walk includes a highlight, whether it’s an historic landmark such as Kerikeri’s Stone Store; a dramatic natural feature, like the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki, on the South Island’s West Coast.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Tart & bitter : four decades of dining nightmares : the best of David Burton in the Dominion Post / Burton, David
“Over his long career as a restaurant critic, David Burton has written approximately 2000 restaurant reviews for The Dominion Post and its predecessor The Evening Post, as well as Cuisine magazine. Of these, the vast majority have been either positive or at least mixed. However, Tart & Bitter is a selection of `absolute scorchers’. These reviews build a highly entertaining picture of the most ground-breaking era of New Zealand’s restaurant history.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Raupo to deco : Wellington styles and architects, 1840-1940 / Mew, G
“This book celebrates a century of architectural achievement in Wellington, linking the style characteristics, from raupo thatching to art deco ornament. It contains biographies of more than 300 architects associated with Wellington plus photos, elevations and rare plans. The authors last collaboration was the prize-winning Ring Around the City, documenting the development of Wellingtons suburbs.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

 

Shamans and Earthworms: New Non-Fiction

A brilliant, inventive and unsettling exploration of our glorious and broken nature. — David Haskell on Being a Human

There are lots of ways to try and understand animals, but not everyone has committed to the process as much as author Charles Foster. When writing his debut book Being a Beast, Foster spent time eating worms like a badger, hunting through bins like a fox and running like a deer. Five years later he’s back with his latest work: Being a Human.

Being a Human covers 40,000 years of history in an attempt to discover why “few of us have any idea what sort of creatures we are”. However, this isn’t a traditional search through artefacts and written records–instead, Foster teams up with his son Tom to live as a hunter-gatherer, exploring the physical (and mystical) world of the Upper Palaeolithic.

Reserve your copy of Being a Human below, or check out other great new titles on offer. For more, visit our New Materials page.


Being a human: adventures in forty thousand years of consciousness / Foster, Charles
“How did humans come to be who we are? Readers will experience the Upper Paleolithic era as a Cro-Magnon hunter-gatherer, living in the rural woods of England. For the Neolithic period, they learn about a Neolithic settlement. To explore the Enlightenment, Foster finds his world and himself bizarre and disembodied, and he rues the atrophy of our senses.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Cultish : the language of fanaticism / Montell, Amanda
“What causes people to join–and more importantly, stay in–extreme groups? The answer, Montell believes, has nothing to do with freaky mind-control wizardry or Kool-Aid. She argues that the key to manufacturing intense ideology, community, and us/them attitudes all comes down to language. In both positive ways and shadowy ones, cultish language is something we hear–and are influenced by–every single day.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The scent of empires: Chanel no. 5 and red Moscow / Schlögel, Karl
“Can a smell bear the traces of history? What can we learn about the history of the twentieth century by examining the fate of perfumes? Piecing together the intertwined histories of these two famous perfumes, which shared a common origin, Schlögel tells a surprising story of power, intrigue and betrayal that offers an altogether unique perspective on the turbulent events and high politics of the twentieth century.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The whale in the living room: a wildlife documentary maker’s unique view of the sea / Ruthven, John
The Whale in the Living Room follows the thrilling adventures of BBC Blue Planet producer, John Ruthven, on a journey of discovery that helped the marine world flow into your living room via the TV. Through each stunning adventure John draws out important insights into what is presently known about how the sea, and our whole blue planet works.” (Catalogue)

Brainscapes: an atlas of your life on earth / Schwarzlose, Rebecca
“Your brain is a collection of maps. That is no metaphor: scrawled across your brain’s surfaces are actual schematic images of the sights, sounds, and actions that hold the key to your survival. Scientists first began uncovering these maps over a century ago, but we are only now beginning to unlock their secrets. The maps in our brain raise important questions about what is real, what is fair, and what is private.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The brainwashing of my dad : how the rise of the right-wing media changed a father and divided our nation, and how we can fight back / Senko, Jen
“Author Jen Senko’s father went from being a non-political, open-minded Democrat to a radical, angry, and intolerant right wing devotee. As politics began to take precedence over anything and everything, Jen was mystified at how these concepts began to insidiously seep into her father’s mood and mindset. How had this happened? When and why had this started?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Plenty: a memoir of food & family / Howard, Hannah
“Hannah Howard is at a pivotal moment in her life when she begins searching out her fellow food people–women who’ve carved a place for themselves in a punishing, male-dominated industry. But amid her travels, Hannah finds herself on a heart-wrenching path. Looking to her food heroes for solace, companionship, and inspiration, she discovers new ways to appreciate her body and nourish her life.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

How dead languages work / George, Coulter H.
“What could Greek poets or Roman historians say in their own language that would be lost in translation? After all, different languages have different personalities, and this is especially clear with languages of the ancient and medieval world. This volume celebrates six such languages – Ancient Greek, Latin, Old English, Sanskrit, Old Irish, and Biblical Hebrew.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Food, Glorious Food

Is there anything quite as comforting to read about than food? Be it the biography of a chef or food critic, a history of a particular food, or just a really good cook book, books about food have been a favourite for generations. Here are some books in our collection that you might like to sink your teeth into:

Scoff : a history of food and class in Britain / Vogler, Pen
“Avocado or beans on toast? Gin or claret? Nut roast or game pie? Milk in first or milk in last? And do you have tea, dinner or supper in the evening? In this fascinating social history of food in Britain, Pen Vogler examines the origins of our eating habits and reveals how they are loaded with centuries of class prejudice. Bringing together evidence from cookbooks, literature, artworks and social records from 1066 to the present, Vogler traces the changing fortunes of the food we encounter today, and unpicks the aspirations and prejudices of the people who have shaped our cuisine for better or worse.” (adapted from catalogue)

A cook’s tour : in search of the perfect meal / Bourdain, Anthony
“Inspired by the question, ‘What would be the perfect meal?’, Anthony sets out on a quest for his culinary holy grail. Our adventurous chef starts out in Japan, where he eats traditional Fugu, a poisonous blowfish which can be prepared only by specially licensed chefs. He then travels to Cambodia, up the mine-studded road to Pailin into autonomous Khmer Rouge territory and to Phnom Penh’s Gun Club, where local fare is served up alongside a menu of available firearms. In Saigon, he’s treated to a sustaining meal of live Cobra heart before moving on to savor a snack with the Viet Cong in the Mecong Delta. A Cook’s Tour recounts, in Bourdain’s inimitable style, the adventures and misadventures of America’s favorite chef.” (adapted from catalogue)

Hungry : a memoir of wanting more / Dent, Grace
“From an early age, Grace Dent was hungry. As a little girl growing up in Currock, Carlisle, she yearned to be something bigger, to go somewhere better. Hungry traces Grace’s story from growing up eating beige food to becoming one of the much-loved voices on the British food scene. It’s also everyone’s story – from treats with your nan, to cheese and pineapple hedgehogs, to the exquisite joy of cheaply-made apple crumble with custard. Warm, funny and joyous, Hungry is also about love and loss, the central role that food plays in all our lives, and how a Cadbury’s Fruit ‘n’ Nut in a hospital vending machine can brighten the toughest situation.” (adapted from catalogue)

In the devil’s garden : a sinful history of forbidden food / Allen, Stewart Lee
“Among the foods thought to encourage Lust, the love apple (now known as the tomato), has become the world’s most popular vegetable. But until the nineteenth century the love apple was considered Satanic by many because of its similarity to the mandrake, a plant believed to be possessed by demonic spirits. Filled with Incredible history and the author’s travels to many exotic locales, In the Devil’s Garden also features recipes like the Matzoh-ball stews outlawed by the Spanish Inquisition and the forbidden “chocolate champagnes” of the Aztecs. This is truly a delectable book that will be consumed by food lovers, culinary historians, amateur anthropologists, and armchair travellers alike.” (adapted from catalogue)

Toast / Slater, Nigel
“TOAST is top food writer Nigel Slater’s eat-and-tell autobiography. Detailing all the food, recipes and cooking that have marked his passage from greedy schoolboy to great food writer, this is also a catalogue of how the British have eaten over the last three decades.” (Catalogue)

 

 

Ultimate food journeys : the world’s best dishes & where to eat them
“[A] book for food-lovers with an interest in travel–and ardent travelers with a passion for food. … [also] has helpful sightseeing itineraries, hotel recommendations, and hundreds of restaurant choices.” (Catalogue)

 

Plenty : a memoir of food & family / Howard, Hannah
“A moving reflection on motherhood, friendship, and women making their mark on the world of food from the author of Feast” (Catalogue)

 

 

 

Chocolate wars : from Cadbury to Kraft : 200 years of sweet success and bitter rivalry / Cadbury, Deborah
“Beginning with an account of John Cadbury, who founded the first Cadbury’s coffee and chocolate shop in Birmingham in 1824, ‘Chocolate Wars’ goes on to chart the astonishing transformation of the company’s fortunes under his grandson George. But while the Cadbury dynasty is the fulcrum of the narrative, this is also the story of their Quaker rivals, the Frys and Rowntrees, and their European competitors, the Nestles, Suchards and Lindts. These rivalries drove the formation of the huge chocolate conglomorates that still straddle the corporate world today, and have first call on our collective sweet tooth.” (adapted from catalogue)

Bread & butter : history, culture, recipes / Snapes, Richard
“A celebration of bread and butter’s divine partnership, covering history, culture and recipes.” (Catalogue)

 

 

 

Special bonus read:

Food isn’t medicine : challenge nutribollocks & escape the diet trap / Wolrich, Joshua
“The first NHS doctor to take a public stand against diet culture and empower you to do the same. Losing weight is not your life’s purpose. Do carbs make you fat? Could the keto diet cure mental health disorders? Are eggs as bad for you as smoking? No, no and absolutely not. It’s all what Dr Joshua Wolrich defines as ‘nutribollocks’ and he is on a mission to set the record straight. As an NHS doctor with personal experience of how damaging diets can be, he believes every one of us deserves to have a happy, healthy relationship with food and with our bodies. His message is clear- we need to fight weight stigma, call out the lies of diet culture and give ourselves permission to eat all foods. Food Isn’t Medicine wades through nutritional science (both good and bad) to demystify the common diet myths that many of us believe without questioning. If you have ever wondered whether you should stop eating sugar, try fasting, juicing or ‘alkaline water’, or struggled through diet after diet (none of which seem to work), this book will be a powerful wake-up call. Drawing on the latest research and delivered with a dose of humour, it not only liberates us from the destructive belief that weight defines health but also explains how to spot the misinformation we are bombarded with every day. Dr Joshua Wolrich will empower you to escape the diet trap and call out the bad health advice for what it really is: complete nutribollocks.” (Catalogue)

Exploring True Crime

Do you love to read true crime? Kath, one of our lovely librarians, has put together this round-up of her true crime picks. Have a read and let us know your favourites in the comments!

It’s no secret that the true crime genre has exploded over the past few years, particularly thanks to a number of podcasts that have not only taken deep dives into significant crime stories, but have even managed to solve a few incredibly intense ones.  Now more than ever, there are many new true crime books to delve into if you’re a fan of the genre.

That said, the genre has been around as long as crime and books have existed, so there are plenty of good books to work your way back through if you’ve caught up with all the recent best sellers.

I’ve selected some that I’ve enjoyed over the years, many of them from my country of origin, Australia.

Murder in Mississippi / Safran, John

This is one of the best true crime books I have ever read.   John Safran, an Australian satirist and documentary maker, played a prank on a white supremacist in Mississippi as part of his TV series John Safran vs God. The footage was canned for legal reasons and he thought that was the last he’d have to do with Richard Barrett.  It came as a shock then to find out a while later that Barrett had been stabbed to death by a black man, one that he owed money to and had allegedly propositioned.  Not content with just researching the story of Barrett’s murder, Safran headed to Mississippi to interview all involved, including the killer… and managed to get himself tangled even further into the story while he was there.  What follows is a riveting exploration into what happened, why it happened and why on earth Safran found himself in the situation he had got into.  An absolute page turner!

A scandal in Bohemia / Haigh, Gideon

In the 1920s Mollie Dean was a young, independent woman, a poet and aspiring novelist who was the lover and muse of acclaimed artist Colin Colahan.  And then one night in 1930 she was brutally murdered by an unknown killer.  When police investigated, they found a tangle of bohemian lifestyles, abusive family and sexual freedom that was to shake Melbourne to the core and inspire music, literature and theatre long into the future.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil / Berendt, John (Audiobook)

A delicious, steamy melange of high society, rednecks, con artists, voodoo, antiques and a stunning black drag queen who metaphorically slays all in her path.  This New York Times bestseller was made into a film starring John Cusack and the Lady Chablis, the actual drag queen featured in the book.  This book reads like fiction, but it’s all true, and like the aforementioned Safran book, the author John Berendt manages to get himself embroiled in the story.  Another riveting story.

His bloody project : documents relating to the case of Roderick Macrae, a historical thriller / Burnet, Graeme Macrae

His Bloody Project is technically fiction, but it has been created from extensive research into a true crime case and the community around it.  A fantastic historical thriller explores a triple murder in a small Scottish farming community around the time of the highland clearances.  There is no question that 17 year old Roderick Macrae committed these brutal murders, but what led him to do so? What secrets were being kept by the villagers of Culdie?  Graeme Macrae Burnet has used the historical documents of the time to piece together the story and speculate on the reasons behind this dramatic occurrence in a tiny village community.

Tamam Shud : the Somerton man mystery / Greenwood, Kerry

Written by Kerry Greenwood, author of the Phryne Fisher and Corinna Chapman novels, this is the story of the most mysterious unsolved murder in Australian history.  In 1948 a body was found on a beach in Adelaide, and even now, it is not known who he was.  But around him, were so many bizarre details.  A tiny scrap of paper with the words “Tamum Shud” sewn into the lining of his suit.  A code written in a book of Persian poetry… the same book that the piece of paper in his suit had been torn from.  All the labels had been cut from his clothing.  Kerry Greenwood delves into this story to try to solve it after all these years, and leaves us with almost as many questions as we have answers!

The tall man / Hooper, Chloe

Chloe Hooper takes a close look at the case of Cameron Doomadgee, the Palm Island man who was found dead in a watch house cell after swearing at a white police officer, Senior Sergeant Christopher Hurly, and the long and difficult efforts to bring him to trial.  Indigenous deaths in custody have long been a contentious issue in Australia and the Palm Island case was a flashpoint in Indigenous rights.  This would have been a very complex case to research and even more difficult to write as sensitively as Chloe Hooper has. A totally engrossing read that literally made me hold my breath in parts.

In cold blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences / Capote, Truman

Let’s face it, In Cold Blood is the OG of the true crime genre as we know it today.  Truman Capote took crime reporting and turned it into literature.  Investigating the 1959 murder of the Clutter family and the men who carried out that murder, Capote himself got embroiled in the community of Holcomb, Kansas and the lives of the two murderers, Perry Smith and Richard Hickock.  There is an intimacy to the way that Capote writes about those involved in this case that set the tone for crime writing well into the future.  As well as a captivating tale, it’s a fantastic way to look at the way the true crime genre was born.

For more great true crime reads, click here.