13/10/2017 11:50 PM

Which of the short list for the 2017 Man Booker Prize have you read so far? Which will be next?
Come along on NZ Bookshop Day (28 October @ 2 PM) to discuss (or to listen to others discuss) the relative virtues of the finalists.
The winner will be announced on 17 October. 
4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster        $28
Paul Auster’s first book in seven years, 4 3 2 1, follows the life of Archibald Isaac Ferguson born March 3, 1947. It’s not one life though: this Jewish boy born in Newark has 4 lives. Auster tells the story in four strands - in sliding door style. In each part a fateful event at Archibald's father’s business (a burglary, a fire, a tragic accident and a buyout) leads to a change in circumstances for the family, and Archie’s life is determined by how his immediate family respond. Fate plays her part and Archie’s life is altered. The minutiae of Ferguson’s life are delightfully told and, despite the variations in his circumstances, his characteristics along with those of his immediate family keeps the four strands linked together. Auster keeps many things the same, the characteristics, likes and dislikes, interests and talents of the main characters are constant. Circumstance dictates the roles they take and the choices they make. This is excellent writing, taking you into the mind of one life in all its fragmented realities, and capturing a time and place - the American mid-twentieth-century - in all its tumultuous glory. {S}
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund        $33
Linda, 14, and her parents are the last remaining members of a dying commune in the American mid-west. When she becomes attached to the family who move into the cottage across the lake, she begins to sense what has been missing from her life, but when the father of that family arrives, the relationships she had built there are quickly destroyed. 
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid         $37
Can love stand against the threat of war? When lovers must flee as refugees, where can they find a safe have for their relationship? Is it ever possible to outrun a feeling of displacement? What hope is there for those who have nowhere that they can belong? Can decency prevail against prejudice and xenophobia? Are we all "migrants through time"?
Elmet by Fiona Mozley           $35
Fiona Mozley’s Elmet is an unsettling portrayal of family and loss, of violence and deep love. Daniel is looking for someone following the path north - following the railway tracks across the moor and through the townships of Yorkshire, taking in the layers of time, of history, in a subtle, almost unconscious manner. It’s as though Daniel carries with him not only his own past, but the stories of all those wandering and searching. Mozley’s narrator is a gentle loving boy, a young man who lives for his sister, Cathy and to please his Daddy. The family have returned to the land eking out a life, their home built by Daddy’s hands from the woods that surround them, with odd jobs, trades of goods and services and hunting for food. Cathy and Daniel live a solitary life, no longer attend school, yet have an understanding of their environment and a care for the wilderness that surrounds them. Yet all is far from serene. Daddy is known for his fighting prowess and a violence that brews within him. Simmering under the surface are hurts and unsettled scores, pride and suffering.  The setting is beautifully described, almost dreamlike at times, yet the prose always fizzes with an underlying tension, a sense of something dreadful to come, and of secrets, of things unsaid. The violence is raw and brutal, it has a gothic element reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, and the work is seething with history alongside its clearly contemporary setting.  {S}
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders       $33
George Saunders is an astounding writer whose gift for story-telling makes Lincoln in the Bardo a pleasure to read and thoroughly absorbing. Using first-hand accounts and a cacophony of voices (from the spirit world) this is predominately a dialogue-driven novel. The year is 1862, the Civil War rages in America and Abraham Lincoln's son Willie dies of a fever. Lincoln is inconsolable and this is the story of his grief and his visits to the young boy's grave. Willie is in the Bardo and it is here that his father comes, stricken with grief. In this place, the cacophony of voices telling this story and their fascination with the living one who enters their world, are intriguing. Not only do these voices give an insight into the times, but their stories of woe are both tragic and entertaining. Saunders gets the pitch just right. A story of grief and familial love against a backdrop of tragedy and crisis, Lincoln in the Bardo is a gem for its stylistic endeavours and the interplay between lightness and dark. {S}
Autumn by Ali Smith       $28
The first of Smith's projected seasonal quartet, set in post-Brexit Britain, addresses the subjective experience of time and the consequences this may have on personal and political relationships. Smith deftly weaves past and present, age and youth, desire and loss, hop and regret into something like the verbal equivalent of the torrent of modern life in all its contradictions, possibilities and limitations. Smith's use of language, both playful and precise, is hugely energetic and always a pleasure to read. 

27/09/2017 03:30 PM

Actually, ten books about trees. Come and wander. There are plenty of other tree books in the shop, too. 

The Man Who Climbs Trees: A memoir by James Aldred       $35
Nature writing from a professional tree-climber whose work has taken him into the upper strata of forests around the world. Beautifully written.
Little Tree by Jenny Bowers      $29
A tiny seed grows into a pear tree. Lift the flaps to find our what animals live in the garden. 
Wise Trees by Diane Cook and Len Jensel       $60
How have 59 trees around the world been the foci of human history? From Luna, the Coastal Redwood in California that became an international symbol when activist Julia Butterfly Hill sat for 738 days on a platform nestled in its branches to save it from logging, to the Bodhi Tree, the sacred fig in India that is a direct descendant of the tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment, Cook and Jenshel reveal trees that have impacted and shaped our lives, our traditions, and our feelings about nature.
Eagle's Complete Trees and Shrubs of New Zealand by Audrey Eagle       $250
A beautiful slip-cased edition of this masterpiece of botanical art. 
The Wood for the Trees: A long view of nature from a small wood by Richard Fortey      $25
This biography of an English 'beech-and-bluebell' wood through the seasons and through history both natural and human, is a portrayal of the relationships of humans to nature and a demonstration that poetic writing can be scientifically precise. 
"'His remarkable scientific knowledge, intense curiosity and love of nature mean entries erupt with the same richness and variety as the woods they describe. Fortey's enthusiasm for his new wonderland is infectious and illuminating, deep and interesting." - Guardian 
The Songs of Trees: Stories from nature's great connectors by David George Haskell       $38
A tree is part of a biological network involving other trees, fungi, bacteria, animals and other plants. The ability to widen the organism-model beyond the individual is rewarded with insights and warnings. 

One Thousand Trees by Kyle Hughes-Odgers         $30
Deep in the heart of the treeless city, Frankie dreams of one thousand trees. In her imagination she moves around, between and among them. An excellent introduction to prepositions. 

Trees by Lemniscates       $28
"Trees cannot change their place in the world so they are patient and learn to live where they are."

Witness Tree: Seasons of change with a century-old oak by Lynda V. Mapes      $35
How has history touched a single tree, both in an intimate and cyclical way, and in an epochal, linear way? 
The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees by Robert Penn        $30
Robert Penn  cut down an ash tree and decided to see how many things he could make from it. As he did so, he developed an understanding of our cultural reliance upon trees. 

Tōtara: A natural and cultural history by Philip Simpson            $75
Among the biggest and oldest trees in the New Zealand forest, the heart of Maori carving and culture, trailing no. 8 wire as fence posts on settler farms, clambered up in the Pureora protests of the 1980s: the story of New Zealand can be told through totara.

18/09/2017 01:50 PM

In 1893 New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world to grant all women the right to vote. 19 September is Suffrage Day. You might like to mark the occasion by considering these half-a-dozen books on the politics of women in New Zealand: 
A History of New Zealand Women by Barbara Brookes       $70
Professor Barbara Brookes' achievement is phenomenal, spanning two centuries from 1814-2015. Looking at our society through the stories of women, the book tells the political and social history of New Zealand from a female perspective. In the early chapters Brookes covers Maori women’s place within Maoridom and early Paheka contact, early settler roles as missionary wives and traders, the colonial era where roles for both Maori and Pakeha women were altered by the circumstances of a new country, the tensions that arose and the changes to female roles either by design or necessity. The tone is perfectly set - readable, interesting history with enough analytical depth and a wealth of knowledge that places this work among our best histories. The overarching themes are dotted with specific examples of women and their lives in early New Zealand, giving both a depth of analysis and fascinating insights on a personal level, bringing history alive. These vivid accounts are well-illustrated with photographs, sketches, paintings, and maps on most pages.
He Reo Wahine: Maori women's voices from the nineteenth century edited by Lachy Paterson and Angela Wanhalla         $50
"This book presents a rich and ranging collection of Maori women speaking from the nineteenth-century archive. The hopes, the persistence, the effort to set down a cause are all apparent in the words of women presented in these pages. It is in various measures an inspiring, instructive and agonising read." - Charlotte Macdonald, Victoria University of Wellington
>> Disrupting the narrative of our colonial history
Polly Plum, A firm and earnest woman's advocate: Mary Ann Colclough, 1836-1885 by Jenny Coleman          $40
Coleman argues that Colclough was just as important as Kate Sheppard for the New Zealand women's movement in New Zealand.

The Women's Suffrage Petition / Te Petihana Whakamana Poti Wahine (1893)       $30
A full facsimile of the 270-metre long petition, with biographies of many of the 24000 signatories. 
The Whole Intimate Mess: Motherhood, politics and women's writing by Holly Walker         $15
"I began to pull the threads of my experience back together. Instead of divergent stories about public failure, private torment, and postnatal distress, I started telling myself a united story: the truth, or as close as I could get to it." A Rhodes scholar and former Green MP, Holly Walker tells the story of how she became one of New Zealand's youngest parliamentarians, how motherhood intervened, and how she found solace and solidarity in the writings of women. 
The Secret Diary of Charlotte Gatland by Patricia Charlotte Dennis        $39
In 1847, Gatland left London high society and travelled first to California during the gold rush, and then to New Zealand, about the social conditions of which (and the prevalent attitude towards women) she makes some very fresh observations. 

Risking Their Lives: New Zealand abortion stories, 1900-1939 by Margaret Sparrow         $40
No Country for Old Maids? Talking about the 'Man Drought' by Hannah August         $15
Does New Zealand's demographic gender disparity provide an opportunity to reconsider prejudices against singleness and nontraditional relationships? 
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 tales of extraordinary women edited by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo    $40
Kate Sheppard is one of the 100 outstanding women featured in this inspiring book. 

>> Read more about women's suffrage in New Zealand <here

06/09/2017 03:16 PM

These thirteen excellent books have been long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. The short list will be announced on 13 September. 
4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster       $37
Paul Auster’s first book in seven years, 4 3 2 1, follows the life of Archibald Isaac Ferguson born March 3, 1947. It’s not one life though: this Jewish boy born in Newark has 4 lives. Auster tells the story in parts - four strands - in sliding door style. In each part a fateful event at Archibald's father’s business (a burglary, a fire, a tragic accident and a buyout) leads to a change in circumstances for the family, and Archie’s life is determined by how his immediate family respond. Fate plays her part and Archie’s life is altered. The minutiae of Ferguson’s life are delightfully told and, despite the variations in his circumstances, his characteristics along with those of his immediate family keeps the four strands linked together. 

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry        $37
After signing up for the US army in the 1850s, aged 17, Thomas McNulty and his brother-in-arms, John Cole, go on to fight in the Indian wars and, ultimately, the Civil War. They find these days to be vivid and filled with wonder, despite the horrors they both witness and are complicit in. Their lives are further enriched and endangered when a young Shawnee woman crosses their path, and the possibility of lasting happiness emerges. 
"Days Without End is a work of staggering openness; its startlingly beautiful sentences are so capacious that they are hard to leave behind, its narrative so propulsive that you must move on. In its pages, Barry conjures a world in miniature, inward, quiet, sacred; and a world of spaces and borders so distant they can barely be imagined." - Guardian
History of Wolves by Emily Fridland        $33
Linda, age 14, lives on a dying commune on the edge of a lake in the Midwest of America. She has grown up isolated both by geography and her understanding of the world, and is an outsider at school, regarded as a freak. One day she notices the arrival of a young family in a cabin on the opposite side of the lake. She starts to befriend them, and for the first time she feels a sense of belonging that has been missing from her life. Leo, the father, is a university professor and an enigmatic figure, perpetually absent. When he returns home, Linda is shunned by the family unit. Desperate to be accepted again, she struggles to resume her place in their home and fails to see the oncoming consequences. 
"So much is accomplished here, not least a kind of trust that this writer will make everything count, including the kind of data that is usually left for dead in a story." - Ben Marcus
Exit West by Moshin Hamid          $37
What place is there for love in a world torn by crisis? From the author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist
"Exit West is a novel about migration and mutation, full of wormholes and rips in reality. It is animated by a constant motion between genre, between psychological and political space, and between a recent past, an intensified present and a near future." - The Guardian

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor                 $35
A teenage girl on holiday has gone missing in the hills at the heart of England. The villagers are called up to join the search, fanning out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on their usually quiet home. Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, sermons written, a pantomime rehearsed. The search for the missing girl goes on, but so does everyday life. One tragedy affects the lives of many people. 
"Absolutely magnificent; one of the most beautiful, affecting novels I've read in years. The prose is alive and ringing. There is so much space and life in every sentence. I don't know how he's done it. It's beautiful." - Eimear McBride 
"McGregor writes with such grace and precision, with love even, about who and where we are, that he leaves behind all other writers of his generation." - Sarah Hall
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack          $23
Written in one long sentence (in which line breaks perform as a higher order of comma), McCormack’s remarkable and enjoyable book succeeds at both stretching the formal possibilities of the novel (for which it was awarded the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize) and in being a gentle, unassuming and thoughtful portrait of a very ordinary life in a small and unremarkable Irish town. The flow of McCormack’s prose sensitively maps the flow of thought, drawing feeling and meaning from the patterning of quotidian detail as the narrator dissolves himself in the memories of which he is comprised. This wash of memory suggests that the narrator may in fact be dead, the narrative being the residue (or cumulation) of his life, the enduring body of attachments, thoughts and feelings that comprise the person. Few novels capture so well the texture of a person’s life, and this has been achieved through a rigorous experiment in form. 
Elmet by Fiona Mozley         $35
A beautifully written novel about the relationship between a family and a landscape after the father's decision to withdraw from society.  
"An impressive elemental, contemporary rural noir steeped in the literature and legend of the Yorkshire landscape and its medieval history." - Guardian
"I already feel like I've won.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy         $38
"How to tell a shattered story? By slowly becoming everybody. No. By slowly becoming everything." Twenty years after The God of Small Things, Roy's second novel braids together many lives and strands as they pass through harm and healing. 
>> "Fiction takes its time."
>> Where do old birds go to die? (an extract from the novel).
>> Roy speaks with Kim Hill.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders      $33
Is this The American Book of the Dead? Abraham Lincoln's 11-year-old son Willie died of typhoid in 1862. This inventive and much-anticipated novel from the author of the Folio Prize-winning Tenth of December has a president, "freshly inclined toward sorrow," driven by grief into communion with the disembodied spirits of the dead in what becomes a meditation on the force of death in personal and collective histories, notably the American Civil War. 
>> Read the review in The New York Times
>> Saunders speaks.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie         $27
Family, society, love and religion clash in this modern reworking of the themes of Antigone
"Home Fire left me awestruck, shaken, on the edge of my chair, filled with admiration for her courage and ambition. Recommended reading for prime ministers and presidents everywhere." - Peter Carey 

Autumn by Ali Smith          $26
In a nation divided against itself, who is looking to the future and who to the past, and how is love won and lost?
"Transcendental writing about art, death and all the dimensions of love. It's not so much 'reading between the lines' as being blinded by the light between the lines - in a good way." - Deborah Levy 
"Smith is more valuable than a whole parliament of politicians." - Financial Times 
"Undoubtedly Smith at her best. Puckish, yet elegant; angry, but comforting." - The Times
Swing Time by Zadie Smith          $26
Two brown girls dream of being dancers – but only one has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It's a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early 20s, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.
"Brilliant." - Guardian
"Superb." - Financial Times 
"Virtuosic and breathtaking." - Times Literary Supplement 
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead        $25
A young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia takes the opportunity to escape to the North and freedom aboard the Underground Railroad, which, in this Pulitzer-prize winning novel, is a boxcar railway literally under the ground. A meditation on race and the way that history is perceived. 
"A brutal, vital, devastating novel. This is a luminous, furious, wildly inventive tale that not only shines a bright light on one of the darkest periods of history, but also opens up thrilling new vistas for the form of the novel itself." - Observer

Come and tell us which book you would choose to win the 2017 Man Booker Prize. 

10/08/2017 10:17 PM

(A selection)
Night Horse by Elizabeth Smither       $25
"W. H. Auden once defined poetry as 'a game of knowledge, a bringing to consciousness, by naming them, of emotions and their hidden relationships'. This definition suits Smither's poetry, too, with its sophistication, its wit and humour, its playfulness, its candour, its tenderness, its exploration through simile and metaphor of the unexpected relations between things." - Peter Simpson
The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd, illustrated by Levi Pinfold        $23
December 1941. Britain is at war. Emmaline has been evacuated away from the bombs to Briar Hill Hospital in Shropshire. When she gets there she discovers a secret. It's not to be shared, not to be told to anyone, even her friend Anna. There are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill. 

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin        $23
A young woman lies dying in hospital. The boy at her bedside asks some questions which unleash the most terrifying of stories.
"Terrifying but brilliant, this dangerously addictive novel in which a woman’s life speeds towards doom is haunted by the bleak landscape of rural Argentina. Schweblin remorselessly cranks up the tension until every sentence seems to tremble with threat. Fever Dream’s ambiguities, and the intricate psychologies with which Schweblin invests her characters, mean that rereading proves rewarding even when the suspense is removed. Wherever you decide the truth lies, aspects of Amanda’s story will continue to puzzle and haunt you long after she stops being able to tell it." - Guardian

The Boy Who Stole Attila's Horse by Ivan Repila       $23
“It looks impossible to get out,” he says. And also: “But we’ll get out.” This is a compellingly unpleasant little book. Two brothers, Big and Small, are trapped down a well in the forest. Calling, climbing and leaping are to no avail. As the days pass (the chapters are numbered with a sequence of prime numbers), we witness the brothers’ desperation, their physical and mental decline, their diet of worms and maggots (they will not touch the bag of food belonging to their mother), their suffering from both thirst and flooding, the cruelty and tenderness that constitute their deformed relationship. “Life is wonderful, but living is unbearable.” There are no horses in this book, and no reference to Attila beyond the title. 
Farewell to the Horse: The final century of our relationship by Ulrich Raulff          $65
"Any reader interested in horses, history, art, literature or language will love this book, and be stunned by its scope and stylish intellect. This is about the end of a relationship between man and horse that Raulff likens to the dissolution of an idiosyncratic workers’ union, and what is thrilling is that the horse becomes a subtext – a new way of considering history via the stable door. The book is beautifully and idiosyncratically illustrated, in keeping with the text." - Guardian

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo       $18
One horse witnesses the brutality of the First World War from both sides of the trenches.
The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan         $35
"This novel is about horse racing the way Moby-Dick is about a whale; it has a similarly expansive scope, spiritual seriousness and density of grand themes. Morgan’s epic work builds to a climactic series of dramatic race scenes featuring a star filly named Hellsmouth. Along the way, Morgan wrestles with subjects including the history of Kentucky, slavery and its legacies, the iniquities of American healthcare, Darwinism, geology and relations between the sexes." - Guardian

The Fire Horse: Children's poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky, Osip Mendelstam and Daniil Kharms, illustrated by Lidia Popova, Boris Ender and Vladimir Konashevich       $37
Three classic Soviet-era children's books by leading avant-garde writers and illustrators, newly translated. 

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy         $25
John Grady Cole is the last bewildered survivor of long generations of Texas ranchers. Finding himself cut off from the only life he has ever wanted, he sets out for Mexico with his friend Lacey Rawlins. Befriending a third boy on the way, they find a country beyond their imagining: barren and beautiful, rugged yet cruelly civilized; a place where dreams are paid for in blood.
"A darkly shining work executed with consummate skill and much subtlety - the effect is magnificent.: - John Banville, "Observer"

Orange Horses by Maeve Kelly         $38
Short stories from women's perspectives set around the 1917 Easter Rising against British rule in Northern Ireland and depicting the misogyny and violence rife in society at the time. 

A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman         $28
This taut depiction of a stand-up comedian falling apart on stage in front of an audience wanting entertainment won Grossman the 2017 Man Booker International Prize. Why are we so transfixed by tragedy, our own and others'? In reading literature, are we like Dovaleh's audience, seeking entertainment from the miseries of others? 
"Unrelentingly claustrophobic. The violence that A Horse Walks into a Barexplores is private and intimate. Its central interest is not the vicious treatment of vulnerable others but the cruelty that wells up within families, circulates like a poison in tight-knit groups, and finally turns inward against the self. Searing and poignant." - New York Review of Books 

The Mare by Mary Gaitskill      $23
A childless couple, a troubled inner-city kid and a volatile horse are the ingredients in a complex story of love, guilt and attachment.
"Gaitskill's work feels more real than real life." - Boston Globe
The Age of the Horse: An equine journey through human history by Susanna Forrest         $45
A hunk of meat, an industrial and agricultural machine, a luxury good, a cherished dancer, a comrade in arms, a symbol of a mythical past: the horse has meant many things to humans, most of them revelatory more of human mores than of anything about horses themselves. An interesting examination of the role played by horses in the endless spasm of human history. 
Thought Horses by Rachel Bush      $25
Rachel Bush's poetry is remarkable for the amount of meaning, feeling and wry humour it pivots on the ordinary details of life, and by the verbal lightness of touch brought to even the heaviest of subjects. This, her last collection, contains some of her very best work. It shows the breadth of her poetic range and the quiet skill with which she assembled and polished her language, from the conversational asides to the deep fugual patterns which tie meaning to the particular and the ordinary.  

Fullblood Arabian by Osama Alomar       $28Exquisite, by turns disconcerting, funny and revelatory, these very short short stories from a Syrian refugee author read like a cross between Aesop, The Arabian Nights and Lydia Davis.
"The stories' distinctive flavour comes from Alomar's masterful shifts of character perspective within extremely tight parameters. The book is full of these moments which trip you up, swing bluntly from one psyche to another, rapidly decelerate time and play with scale, all of it exposing the delicate balance of our presumptions and allegiances; the small dictatorships that we foster second by second." - Asymptote

[There are no puns in this list.]

27/07/2017 07:04 PM

A few books currently in stock notable for containing stories often considerably less than a page long. 

Fullblood Arabian and The Teeth of the Comb by Osama Alomar
Unless he has been incarcerated or deported by the current US administration, Osama Alomar is working as a taxi driver in New York. Before moving to the US as a refugee, he was an acclaimed author in Syria, especially as a practitioner of al-qisa al-qasira jiddan (very short short stories). The two collections of his that we have in English translation place him somewhere in a rough triangle apexed by the fables of Aesop, the personification tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (albeit an ‘Omar Khayyam’ arising from a world of state-sponsored torture and media-fuelled anti-Arab prejudice). These micro-fables, few longer than a few sentences, rail against injustice, are socially and politically most acute at the point where they are seemingly most ludicrous, and acknowledge despair without being without hope. A man climbs out of a narrow metal tunnel to find himself emerging from the gun barrel now pointed at his chest, a rubbish bag becomes swollen with pride at finding itself at the top of the heap of rubbish bags, a man finds a question mark in his eye when looking in the mirror. The stories often have an aphoristic feel, and are fables in that they do not intimate any further story lying beyond them (compared, for instance, with Sarah Manguso’s 500 Arguments, which are like the nuggets sieved out of novels).
The Voice Imitator by Thomas Bernhard
“The courtroom correspondent is the closest of all to human misery and its absurdity and can endure the experience only for a short time, and certainly not his whole life, without going crazy. The probable, the improbable, even the unbelievable, the most unbelievable are paraded before him every day in the courtroom, and, because he has to earn his bread by reporting on actual or alleged but in any case shameful crimes, he is no longer surprised by anything at all.” Bernhard’s brief spell as a crime reporter before becoming an author was the ideal preparation for the writing of these 104 one-page stories, which, in the perfect deadpan style of journalism or of jokes, record the miseries, cruelties and disasters that fester beneath the surfaces of human lives, surfaces that open from time to time to receive more hurt and then close over again until they can be contained no longer and make the news, so to speak, overwriting the lives with 'stories'. The book contains 26 murders, 18 suicides (Austria’s national pastimes, according to Bernhard, are committing suicide and resisting committing suicide (it could be said that much of Bernhard’s writing arises from a sublimation of his own inclination towards this pastime)) and six other painful deaths, but these only as the mechanisms by which the unresolved and unresolvable tragedies beneath the mundanity of lives manifest themselves and turn those lives inside out so that the tragedy is on the outside and the mundanity is revealed at the core. Accidents lead to tragedies, ill intentions lead to tragedies, good intentions also lead to tragedies. Nothing is made better or repaired or created in accidents. Although this book is structurally unlike any of his others, Bernhard’s perfect sentences, with their nested clauses-within-clauses, with their fugual repetitions, with their self-mocking pedantry, with their sudden shifts of tone as they respond to their terrain, explore in miniature the material more fully developed in his novels. Different facets of authenticity (‘authenticity’) arise from the plots and from the details, set against each other, as are the tragic and the quotidian, to comic effect. It is this ambivalence, this at-once-one-thing-and-its-opposite, this at-once-intimacy-and-distance, this at-once-sympathy-and-hatred that makes all Bernhard’s work so revelatory. Whether telling of the voice imitator incapable of imitating his own voice, ‘newspaper’ accounts of the attribution, misattribution, malattribution and nonattribution of guilt, first person plural anecdotes of persons met when travelling, second-hand reports of the statements of others, such as the dancer who cannot dance if thinking about dancing, the stories are free from narrators able to initiate either action or response. Many of the stories appear to have arisen from actual events (Bernhard was a devoted reader of newspapers in cafes), sometimes distorted or reshaped, reality both observed and denied, such as the account of the burns suffered by Bernhard’s here unnamed friend Ingeborg Bachmann, recognisable despite the ‘incorrect’ facts in the story. Part of the reason for this is the impossible relationship between reality and language, between experience and its representation, between proceedings and reportage. Each makes demands of its other but each moves too differently to conform. What is known and what is said are always in conflict in even the most seemingly straightforward account, even though their trajectories may be twinned. One story here tells of a playwright who, just like Bernhard, had great success “because he was honest enough to pretend [sic] that his comedies were always tragedies and his tragedies comedies,” because, at base, he hated the theatre altogether.
The Collected Stories and Can't and Won't by Lydia Davis
The narrower the aperture, the greater the depth of field. Many of Lydia Davis’s stories are little more than a detail or an image or a wry observation presented without a misplaced word or superfluous comma, precise enough to suggest that great slabs of life hinge about her words, without these slabs being fiction as such. Perhaps the distinction between actuality and fiction is too coarse to be relevant to such literature of the infra-ordinary and should be left to the literatures of the ordinary (for which this distinction is constantly contestable if ultimately unimportant) and of the extra-ordinary (for which it is pre-established in the effective contract between author and reader). Thrifty with her language, characterisation and narrative to the point of asceticism, Davis’s work attains a whittled acuity subtle enough to glance off the surfaces they address without (generally) becoming embedded in them. Davis is a master of the concise, the precise and the incisive: each sentence she writes is a scalpel wielded at the life of the emotions, removing scar tissue and all the while exposing the operations of minds under pressure and the inner gravel of ordinary life. 
Calamities by Rene Gladman
I began the day remembering, or what for me passes for remembering, or at least attempting to perform what passes for me for remembering, the book I had just read, a torrent of short essays written by Renee Gladman, each of which begins with, I began the day. The essays, or what pass for Gladman as essays, start out being about not very much, small ordinary particulars of Gladman’s life, or small observations such as a poet might make about the ordinary particulars of life, but really they are not so much about these things as they are about the writing about these things, that is to say about the relationship of a writer to her experience and to her work and about her trying to decide what sort of relationship there might be, both actually and ideally, between this experience of hers and this work. The essays that start out being about not very much end up being about even less or rather more, depending on your point of view, depending on whether you think the universals that open from particulars lie within them or beyond them. Gladman is concerned not so much with the signified, or even with the signifier, as she is with the act of signification, the act of conduction which causes, or allows, a spark to sometimes leap across. Gladman’s touch is light, and she constructs some beautiful sentences, and the sparks leap often, and she usually avoids being precious. In the final, numbered, section of the book, Gladman ties the compositional knot as tight as it can be tied, removing content almost entirely from her writing other than the act itself of writing. “I was a body and it was a page, and we both had our proverbial blankness.” What is her relationship to the text she produces, irrespective of the content of that text? “ I didn’t know whether at some point in my past, perhaps at the very moment that I set out to write, the page had fallen out of me or I had risen out of it.” She relates her prolonged rigours in attempting to find the essence, so to call it, of writing, to reduce writing to the irreducible, the making of a mark, the drawing of writing. “Language was beautiful exposed; it was like a live wire set loose, a hot wire, burning, leaving a trace. The wire was a line, but because it was electrified it wouldn’t lie still: it thrashed, it burned, it curled and uncurled around itself. … I was amazed that I was talking about wires when really I was talking about prose.” I’m not sure that the making of a mark is the irreducible essence of writing, but it is the irreducible essence of something, something which may perhaps be taken for some aspect of writing, at least in the physical sense. But maybe this is what Gladman is trying to isolate and understand, or to split, the duality between content and form, literature’s version of the mind-body problem (or, rather, the mind-body calamity). Although writing is all her art, Gladman wants to reach the limits of this art, of narrative, of words, of the act of writing, “writing so as not to write, so to find the limit (that last line) beyond which the body is free to roam outside once more.”
Newspaper by Édouard Levé
Édouard Levé and I drew our first breaths almost simultaneously, and we have been similarly concerned with the problematics of authorial presence in (or absence from) texts, although Levé concluded his struggles in this regard by killing himself immediately after delivering the manuscript for his novel Suicide in 2007. In Newspaper (first published in French in 2004), Levé succeeds in removing himself from the text almost entirely. Though presented as a book, the work takes the form of a newspaper, divided into the standard various sections, complete with articles, advertisements and so forth, from which all specificity has been removed (names, places, currencies, dates, identities), leaving only the patterns of information and the linguistic structures which support them. Shorn of referents, a newspaper is shown to be not so much outward-looking as inward-looking, a portrait of the obsessions and underlying anxieties of the society of which it is an organ. Subjects are shown to be incidental to stories, created and consumed by them. I am pretty sure I remember some of the stories here so treated and I suspect Levé has been rigorous throughout in his experiment upon written media (he achieved something similar in his photographic practice (in Actualitésand Quotidien (2001-2003)) by restaging press photographs using anonymised actors and a blank backdrop). It is only in the ‘Arts’ section that some slight residue of the personal can perhaps be detected, some indication that for Levé at that time the arts still slightly resisted the personally obliterative interchangeability that had engulfed the rest of existence.
300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso
“Think of this as a short book composed entirely of what I hoped would be a long book’s quotable passages,” states Manguso in one of the 300 aphorisms and ‘arguments’ (as in ‘the argument of the story’ rather than a disputation) that comprise this enjoyable little book. Indeed the whole does feel as if it bears some relation to another considerably longer but nonexistent text, either as a reader’s quotings or marginalia, or as a writer’s folder of sentences-to-use-sometime or jottings towards a novel she has not yet written (“To call a piece of writing a fragment, or to say that it’s composed of fragments, is to say that it or its components were once whole but are no longer”). Many of the aphorisms are pithy and self-contained, often dealing with awkwardness and degrees of experiential dysphoria (so to call it), and other passages, none of which are more than a few sentences long, are distillates or subsubsections of stories that are not further recorded but which can be felt to pivot on these few sentences. Some of the ‘arguments’ reveal unexpected aspects of universal experiences (“When the worst comes to pass, the first feeling is relief” or “Hating is an act of respect” or “Vocation and ambition are different but ambition doesn’t know the difference”) and others are lighter, more particular (and, I'm afraid, a few do belong on calendars on the walls of dentists’ waiting rooms). Some of the arguments are just singular observations: “The boy realises that if he can feed a toy dog a cracker, he can just as easily feed a toy train a cracker” or “Many bird names are onomatopoeic - they name themselves. Fish, on the other hand, have to float there and take what they get.” To read the whole book is to feel the spaces and stories that form the invisible backdrop for these scattered points of light, and the reader is left with a residue similar to that with which you are left having read a whole novel.
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
“We love to contemplate blue, not because it advances to us but because it draws us after it,” wrote Goethe. Maggie Nelson’s book, comprised of 240 short numbered, mostly beautifully written passages, describes her life-long affinity for and attraction to (what she calls ‘love’ for) the colour blue in all its literal and figurative senses, along with describing a period of mourning after the end of an intense relationship (also called ‘love’). She is, she says, not interested in learning “what has been real and what has been false, but what has been bitter, and what has been sweet.” To this end, and with the assistance of a range of co-opted “blue correspondents” reporting from art, literature and history, she intimates a field of nuanced responses to the colour blue, even though subjective colour response is almost impossible to communicate. Indeed, blue’s attraction is almost its absence of meaning, or its relief from meaning. “Blue has no mind. It is not wise, nor does it promise wisdom. It is beautiful, and despite what the poets and philosophers and theologians have said, I think beauty neither obscures truth nor reveals it. It leads neither towards justice nor away from it.” More than colour, blue is also merely colour, altering the cast of whatever it is seen upon. Although she attempts to draw correlations between the two (“I have found myself wondering if seeing a particularly astonishing shade of blue, for example, or letting a particularly potent person inside you, could alter you irrevocably, just to have seen or felt it. In which case, how does one know when, or how, to refuse? How to recover?”), there is an apparently unbridgeable gap in Nelson’s life, at least in the period treated in this book, between, on the one side, her intellectual passions and, on the other, her physical passions, between, as she would term it, thinking and fucking. Each side yearns towards the other, but encounters only the seductively nullifying colour of the void between them: blue.
This Is the Place to Be by Lara Pawson
What do you report when you become uncertain of the facts, of the notion of truth and of the purpose of writing? What can you understand of yourself when you are uncertain how or if your memories can be correlated with known 'facts'? Is your idea of yourself anything other than the sum of your memories? Lara Pawson was for some years a journalist for the BBC and other media during the civil wars in Angola, and on the Ivory Coast. In this book, her experiences of societies in trauma, and her idealism for making the 'truth' known, are fragmented (as memory is always fragmented) and mixed with memory fragments of her childhood and of her relationships with the various people she encountered before, during and after the period of heightened awareness provided by war. It is this intermeshing of shared and personal perspectives, sometimes reinforcing and sometimes contradicting each other, always crossing over and back over the rift that separates the individual and her world, that makes this book such a fascinating description of a life. By constantly looking outwards, Pawson has conjured a portrait of the person who looks outwards, and a remarkable depiction of the act of looking outwards. Every word contributes to this pointillist self-portrait, and the reader hangs therefore on every word.
Fine Fine Fine Fine Fine by Dane Williams
If it is necessary to move out to the very edge of ourselves, to the part of ourselves that is least ourselves, to be near another person, another person who has also moved out to the very edge of themselves, to the part of themselves that is least themselves, in order to be near us, what value can there be in any communication that takes place, if any communication can take place, between parties who are therefore almost strangers even to themselves? Diane Williams’ short, energetic, hugely disorienting short stories pass as sal volatile through the fug of relationships, defamiliarising the ordinary elements of everyday lives to expose the sad, ludicrous, hopeless topographies of what passes for existence. This is not a nihilistic enterprise, however, for Williams has immense sympathies and her stories themselves demonstrate the possibility of connection through the very act of delineating its impossibility. With the finest of needles, the most ordinary of details, Williams picks out the unacknowledged, unacknowledgeable but familiar hopeless longing that underlies our unreasoned and unreasonable striving for human relations, a longing that makes us more isolated the harder we strive for connection. So much is left unsaid in these stories that they act as foci for the immense unseen weight of their contexts, precisely activating pressure-points on the reader’s sensibilities. These are some of the finest stories you will read.
99 Stories of God by Joy Williams
Joy Williams is a devastating observer of social vacuities, yet shows great sympathy for the ways in which her characters attempt to shore up their dissolving realities, and a sharp eye for the tiny details which form the pivots upon which great weights of existence turn. A few years ago The Visiting Privilege introduced many of us to four decades’ worth of work from the underknown Williams, one of America’s finest short story writers, and 99 Stories of God shows her now becoming even sharper, stranger, more despairing and compassionate. The stories, few more than a page long, many a single paragraph or even a sentence, are each written such sharpness and lightness of touch that they draw blood unexpectedly and without pain. Sparely, flatly written, using the language of the newspaper report or the encyclopedia entry, trimmed utterly of superfluities, the stories read like jokes that make us cry instead of laugh, or like laments that make us laugh instead of cry. Comparison may be made with Thomas Bernhard’s The Voice Imitator, the scalpel-work of Lydia Davis or the Franz Kafka of the Zurau Aphorisms, but Williams’ sensibilities and turns of phrase are very much her own: she comes upon her subjects at unexpected angles, giving insight into the strangeness hung on the most ordinary of details (and, conversely, making the strangest of details seem necessary and familiar). The 99 stories have the texture of Biblical parables or Aesopian fables but they are not parables or fables due to the indeterminacy of their meanings (unless they are parables or fables which eschew lessons and morals and return the reader instead to the actual). The title of each follows the story and often sits at odds with the reader’s experience of the story, forcing a further realignment of sensibilities. Brevity, sparsity, clarity: these are distillates of novels, tragedies told as jokes, aqua vitae for anyone who reads, observes, thinks or writes.


17/07/2017 02:48 PM

Cultivate your mind with these 10 GARDENING BOOKS. 
Lives of the Great Gardeners by Stephen Anderton         $70
Traces the development of thinking about the design, purpose and meaning of gardens from the 18th to the 21st century by focusing on such luminaries as Capability Brown, Le Notre, William Kent, Russell Page, Gertrude Jekyll and Christopher Bradley-Hole. Very nicely presented.
Practical Latin for Gardeners: More than 1500 essential plant names and the secrets they contain by James Armitage       $28
Attractively presented and full or revelations. 
The Thoughtful Gardener: An intelligent approach to garden design by Jinny Blom           $80
Blom is remarkable at being able to design very different gardens for very different situations. Each, though, shares Blom's sensitivity to both the plants and her clients. This book gives a deep insight into the workings of a garden designer's mind. 
The Rose: The history of the world's favourite flower in 40 captivating roses with classic texts and rare prints by Brent Elliott       $75
A solander box containing 40 frameable prints and a book exploring the cultural history of the 40 featured roses. 
Evergreen: Living with plants           $120
Meet city dwellers who are bringing nature to their urban habitats in appealing and often unexpected ways. Just dipping into this beautifully illustrated book will leave you inspired and feeling positive about renaturing your life. 
A Garden Eden: Masterpieces of botanical illustration by H. Walter Lack        $45
A stunning collection of botanical art from the collection of the National Library of Vienna. 
The Botanical Wall Chart: Art from the golden age of scientific discovery by Anna Laurent         $60
The late nineteenth century was both a period of intense and exciting discovery of plant species around the world and a period of significant advances in printing techniques. The books and wall charts produced in this period are both replete with information and hugely attractive. 
The Botanical Treasury: Celebrating 40 of the world's most fascinating plants with rare prints and classic texts by Christopher Mills       $75
A solander box containing frameable prints and a book providing facsimile texts concerning the featured plants. 

Plant: Exploring the botanical world        $95
A stupendous and stupendously beautiful collection of 300 botanical illustrations showing the diverse ways the plants have been depicted throughout history. 
Botanicum by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis         $42
A beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully selected collection in the large-format 'Welcome to the Museum' series. 
The Gardener's Companion to Medicinal Plants: An A-Z of healing plants and home remedies by Monique Simmonds, Melanie Jane Howes and Jason Irving        $33
Nicely presented, with clear instructions for preparations. 

>> Click through or come into the shop to browse our other gardening titles

10/07/2017 04:45 PM

Featured publisher: LES FUGITIVES
Les Fugitives publishes only short books that have been written by award-winning, female, francophone writers who have previously not been translated into English. Founded in 2015, they have published three astoundingly good books so far.    {Reviews by Thomas}

Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Léger          $30
Léger was commissioned to write a short biographical entry on Barbara Loden for a film encyclopaedia but ended up writing a very interesting and quite unusual book. Loden directed one film, >>Wanda (1970), about a woman who leaves her husband and who, passively and therefore pretty much by chance, attaches herself to a man who is planning a bank robbery for which, following his death in a police shoot-out and despite her lack of initiative and her not even being present at the robbery (she took a wrong turn in what was supposed to be the getaway car), she will be sent to jail for twenty years. The book operates on many levels simultaneously: it is ‘about’ Léger’s attempts to excavate information about Loden, principally beneath the ways in which she has been recorded by others, notably her husband the Hollywood director Elia Kazan, who also wrote a novel in which Loden features, thinly disguised; it is ‘about’ Loden’s making of the film Wanda; it is ‘about’ the character of Wanda in that film, a character Loden played herself and with whom she strongly identified personally; it is ‘about’ the tension between the “passive and inert” Wanda character with whom Loden identifies and Loden as writer and director, and about the relationship between author and character more generally in both an literary/artistic and a quotidian sense; it is ‘about’ Léger’s search for and discovery of the true story that inspired Loden to make the film, a botched 1960 bank robbery after which the passive and inert Alma Malone politely thanked the judge for handing her a twenty-year sentence; it is ‘about’, therefore, the relationship between inspiration and execution, and between actuality and  fiction; it is ‘about’ portrayal and self-portrayal and ‘about’ who gets to define whom (“To sum up. A woman is pretending to be another, in a role she wrote herself, based on another (this, we find out later), playing something other than a straightforward role, playing not herself but a projection of herself onto another, played by her but based on another.”); it is ‘about’, cumulatively, the way in which, as she delved more deeply into the specifics of another whom she sought to understand, Léger come up more and more against the unresolved edges of herself so that the two archaeologies became one (she also ended up learning quite a lot about her mother and the imbalanced mechanics of her parents’ relationship). When Wanda was released in 1970, it was disparaged in many feminist circles for its portrayal of a passive woman. Léger shows the film to be a useful mirror in which to recognise passivity as not only an impulse for self-erasure on a personal level but as part of the wider social mechanisms by which women are erased and colonised by projections, and in which the feminist critique and frontline necessarily become internal and self-reflexive. There is also in this book a strong sense of the inescapability of subjectivity, that in all subject-object relationships the subject perceives only and acts only upon a sort of externalised version of itself (the object being passive and without feature (effectively absent, effectively unassailable)); and also that when attempting to be/conceive of/portray oneself one has no option but to use the template of that with which one identifies but which is not in essence (whatever that means) oneself (except to the extent that one’s ‘self’ perhaps exists only in the mysterious act of identification). Oh, and Léger‘s writing is exquisite. (>>Read an extract)

Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi         $30
Devi does an excellent job of inhabiting the heads and capturing the patterns of thought that occur just on the brink of consciousness of the four narrators of this account of young lives in the slums of Port Louis in Mauritius. Just as a plughole communicates its force at all times to the entire contents of a basin, even to the molecules that have not yet begun to circle or descend, there is throughout the book a sense that a hopeless future is pulling upon the characters, that their descent will be at first slow and then sudden, that the world for them is tilted and greased, that their voices are impermanent, that they will become those that now harm them and are caught by harm. “One day we wake up and the future has disappeared.” In a milieu where the energies of sex and violence already run in the same channels, where currency is extracted in rape, beatings and murder, how can the voices of individuals, and how can moments of happiness and beauty, be preserved as more than corruscations swallowed, first slowly and then suddenly, by future shadow? Is to fight against your fate a way of preserving your independence from it, for a short moment at least, or does fighting it draw it more tightly entangled upon you?

Blue Self-Portrait by Noémi Lefebvre         $30
It takes approximately an hour and a half to fly from Berlin to Paris. Upon that hour and a half, a human memory, especially one working at neurotically obsessive speed, can loop a very large amount of time indeed, an hour and a half is plenty of time to go over and go over the things, or several of the things, the unassimilable things, that happened in Berlin, in an attempt to assimilate those things, though they are not assimilable, in an attempt, rather, albeit an involuntary attempt, to damage oneself by the exercise of one’s memories, to draw self-blame and self-disgust from a situation the hopelessness of which cannot be attributed to anything worthy of self-blame or self-disgust but which is sufficiently involved to exercise the self-blame and self-disgust that seethe always beneath their veneer of not-caring, of niceness, the veneer that preserves self-blame and self-disgust from resolution into anything other than self-blame and self-disgust. Upon this hour and a half can be looped, such is the efficacy of human memory, not only, obsessively, the unassimilable things that happened in Berlin but also much else that happened even into the distant past, but, largely speaking, the more recent things that have bearing upon, or occupy the same memory-pocket, not the best metaphor, as the unassimilable things that happened in Berlin, for disappointment and failure seldom happen in a vacuum but resonate with, even if they are not the direct result of, disappointments and failures reaching back even into the distant past, self-blame and self-disgust having the benefit, or detriment, if a difference can be told between benefit and detriment, of binding experiences to form an identity, and, not only this, upon that hour and a half can be looped also an endless amount of speculation and projection as to what may be occurring in the minds of others, or in the mind of, in this case, a specific other, a German-American pianist and composer with whom the narrator, who has been visiting Berlin with her sister, has had some manner of romantic encounter, so to call it, the extent of which is unclear, both, seemingly, to the narrator and, certainly, to the reader, the reader being necessarily confined to the mental claustrophobia of the narrator, on account of the obsessive speculation and projection and also the inescapable escapist and self-abnegating fantasising on the part of the narrator, together with the comet-like attraction-and-avoidance of her endless mental orbit around the most unassimilable things that happened in Berlin, or that might have happened in Berlin, or that did not happen in Berlin but are extrapolative fantasies unavoidably attendant upon what happened in Berlin, untrue but just as real as truth, for all thoughts, regardless of actuality, do the same damage to the brain. Lefebvre’s exquisitely pedantic, fugue-like sentences, their structure perfectly indistinguishable from their content, bestow upon her the mantle of Thomas Bernhard, which, after all, does not fall upon just any hem-plucker but, in this case, fully upon someone who, not looking skyward, has crawled far enough into its shadow when looking for something else. Where Bernhard’s narrators tend to direct their loathing outwards until the reader realises that all loathing is in fact self-loathing, Lefebvre’s narrator acknowledges her self-loathing and self-disgust, abnegating herself rather for circumstances in which self-abnegation is neither appropriate nor inappropriate, her self-abnegation arising from the circumstances, from her connection with the circumstances, from her rather than from the circumstances, her self-abnegation not, despite her certainty, having, really, any effect upon the circumstances. Not at all not-funny, pitch-perfect in both voice and structure, full of sly commentary on history and modernity, and on the frailties of human personality and desire, providing for the reader simultaneous resistance and release, Lefebvre shares many of Bernhard’s strengths and qualities, and the book contains memorable and effective passages such as that in which the narrator recalls playing tennis with her mother-in-law, now her ex-mother-in-law, and finding she is not the type for ‘collective happiness’, or her hilariously scathing descriptions of Berlin’s Sony Centre or of Brecht’s house, now a restaurant, or of the narrator's inability to acknowledge the German-American pianist-composer's wife as anything but 'the accompaniment', or, indeed many other passages, but the excellence of the book is perhaps less in the passages than in the book as a whole. I will be surprised if I read a better book this year. 
>>Read an extract here.

Visit the publisher's website to find out more about Les Fugitives and about these books and authors. 

20/06/2017 02:48 PM

Some books are dissimilar to other books (and a good thing, too). A few examples:

The Diary of Edward the Hamster, 1990-1990 by Miriam Elia      $28
"Wednesday, May 7th: Two of them came today, dragged me out of my cage and put me in some kind of improvised maze made out of books and old toilet tubes. A labyrinth with no escape. They were treating it like some kind of game, laughing and squealing as I desperately scrabbled from blind alley to blind alley, but I knew it was no game. They're trying to crush my will, to grind me down. They can take my freedom, but they will never take my soul."
We Go to the Gallery by Miriam Elia        $22
A pitch perfect spoof both on Ladybird books and on modern art.
"'Is the art pretty?' says Susan. 'No,' says Mummy, 'Pretty is not important.'John does not understand. 'It is good not to understand," says Mummy. John doesn't understand. John sees the painting. 'I could paint that.' says John. But you didn't,' says Mummy." 
Also available in the Dung Beetle Reading Scheme: We Go Out and We Learn at Home. Funny. 
Home-Made Europe: Contemporary folk artefacts by Vladimir Arkhipov       $34
On each page of this book, an object is presented with an accompanying photograph of the maker and text explaining the purpose of the object. The objects themselves as a photo essay are compelling, but it is in the text that the passion for making, for creating from scratch or for cannibalising other objects, and the pleasure and pride in creating a successful and useful object is revealed.The aesthetic of these objects is clumsy, quirky and oddly appealing, reminding us that there is a place for the home-made, for folk art in a time of slick, mass production. 
Archibet by federico Babina       $25
A book of 26 quirky postcards by the outstandingly wry architectural artist, each interpreting an architect's work as the letter of the alphabet with which her or his name begins. Perfect for modern architecturophiles. 
>> Babina's other work is also work is worth perusing.
The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey        $23
An alphabetical phantasmagoria in which a succession of infants meet dreadful ends.
>> Watch! Listen!

Soviet Bus Stops by Christopher Herwig        $50
The fascinating thing about the Soviet era bus stops is their individualistic nature, compared with the larger prescribed buildings of this period. They reflect the whims of their architects and the personalities of their local communities - many incorporate regional folk design in their decorative elements. A perfect book for the Soviet era architecture/design/aesthetic enthusiast. 
Window-Shopping through the Iron Curtain by David Hlynsky          $40
Wonderful examples of how the Soviet scarcity aesthetic lingered even into the 1990s. For a similar book on New Zealand shops: The Shops by Peter Black and Steve Braunias.
Shakespeare Insult Generator: Mix and match more than 150,000 insults in the Bard's own words by Barry Kraft          $25
Hundreds of the bards most powerfully insulting words in a fun, flip book format. Just add 'thou' before any of the 157,464 different insult combinations and you'll be ready to set dullards and miscreants in their place. 
Junket is Nice by Dorothy Kunhardt         $40
Can anyone guess what the old man with the red beard and slippers is thinking about as he eats his bottomless bowl of junket? Many people guess (and what guesses!), but what happens when a young boy on a tricycle gets the right answer? 

The Fire Horse: Children's poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky, Osip Mendelstam and Daniil Kharms, illustrated by Lidia Popova, Boris Ender and Vladimir Konashevich       $37
Three classic Soviet-era children's books by leading avant-garde writers and illustrators, newly translated. 

Texts from Jane Eyre, And other conversations with your favourite literary authors by Mallory Ortberg          $25
Ortberg retrofits the classics with cellphones.Very clever. 
70s Dinner Party by Anna Pallai         $40
Anna Pallai was brought up on 1970s stalwarts of stuffed peppers, meatloaf and platters of slightly greying hardboiled eggs. When she rediscovered her mother's grease-stained 70s cookbooks, she knew she needed to share them with the world. All the illustrations in this nauseating book come from authentic (non-satirical) cook books. 
A Humument: A treated Victorian novel by Tom Phillips         $55
In 1966 the artist Tom Phillips discovered A Human Document (1892), an obscure Victorian romance by W.H. Mallock, and set himself the task of altering every page, by painting, collage or cut-up techniques, to create an entirely new version. Some of Mallock's original text remains in tact and through the illustrated pages the character of Bill Toge, Phillips's anti-hero, and his romantic plight emerges. First published in 1973, A Humument - as Phillips titled his altered book - quickly established itself as a cult classic. Since then, the artist has been working towards a complete revision of his original, adding new pages in successive editions. That process is now finished. This 50th anniversary edition presents, for the first time, an entirely new and complete version of A Humument
>> It is worth visiting the website
Speaking in Tongues: Curious expressions from around the world by Ella Frances Sanders      $37
Sometimes other languages have ways of saying things that come a lot closer to the actual experience of the thing than the language you normally speak is capable of. Luckily, Ella Frances Saunders has collected (and illustrated!) an excellent selection of these. 
Schottenfreude: German words for the human condition by Ben Schott         $26
German is full of wonderful compound words, so it is the obvious language with which to construct new terms for situations that have been crying out for nomenclature (but probably crying rather quietly, as the need for the word is only made evident by its provision (which point is interesting in itself)).      Witzbeharrsamkeit - Unashamedly repeating a bon mot until it is properly heard by everyone present. Scheidungskreidekreisprobe - The distribution of friends after a divorce. Frohsinnsfaschismus - The god-awful mediocrity of organised fun. 
The Clown Egg Register by Luke Stephenson and Helen Champion       $40
For over 70 years, Clowns International - the oldest established clowning organization - has been painting the faces of its members on eggs. Each one is a record of a clown's unique identity, preserving the unwritten rule that no clown should copy another's look. At first they were painted on real eggshells, then later (when they kept breaking) on to ceramic eggs, most of which are now housed at the Wookey Hole Clowns' Museum. Here images from this extraordinary archive are accompanied by the stories of the men and women behind the make-up.
Make Faces by Tupera Tupera         $25
Fifty-two images of everyday and unexpected objects provide the perfect canvases for creating funny, quirky and completely original faces. Just add eyes, noses, mouths, ears, hair and more from 6 vinyl sticker sheets packed with expressive features and other amusing accessories. Exemplary fun. 

Russian Criminal Tattoo: Postcards by Sergei Vasiliev and Danzig Baldaev       $40
An ethnographic portrait of a closed society with its own symbolic language and rituals. The 25 drawings and 25 photographs here have been chosen from the thousands copied from convicts’ skins by prison attendant Danzig Baldaev and photographer Sergei Vasiliev, and give an insight into the aesthetic, political, sexual, ‘tribal’ and spiritual concerns and traditions of Russian criminal culture.
Walt Whitman's Guide to Manly Health and Training        $25
Who better as a guide to the manly life than the man who was every man? These newspaper columns have only recently been identified as being Whitman's work.
Cat Bingo             $42
Brush up on your breeds and have fun at the same time.
Bad Hair Day        $15
Once you start looking at the subjects' hair in artworks, you'll find amusement everywhere. This wee handbook from the collections of the Christchurch Art Gallery will get you started.

15/06/2017 11:53 AM

What is the reason for and what is the effect of writing a book without full stops? Although the production of such a gush of text requires virtuosic skills from a writer, reading it does not necessarily require virtuosic skills from a reader (although it may). Written without full stops, does a text more realistically represent the ceaseless flow of thought (often in many different rivulets at once) or perhaps the unstoppable momentum of time? (if there is a difference between the two). The full stop is an artifice, an arbitrary attempt to represent thought and time as if we could control them by the application of punctuation (perhaps not such a bad idea). Here are four books from our shelves, each written in a single sentence: 
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack         $38
Written in one long sentence (in which line breaks perform as a higher order of comma), McCormack’s remarkable and enjoyable book succeeds at both stretching the formal possibilities of the novel (for which it was awarded the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize) and in being a gentle, unassuming and thoughtful portrait of a very ordinary life in a small and unremarkable Irish town. The flow of McCormack’s prose sensitively maps the flow of thought, drawing feeling and meaning from the patterning of quotidian detail as the narrator dissolves himself in the memories of which he is comprised. This wash of memory suggests that the narrator may in fact be dead, the narrative being the residue (or cumulation) of his life, the enduring body of attachments, thoughts and feelings that comprise the person. Few novels capture so well the texture of a person’s life, and this has been achieved through a rigorous experiment in form.
Phone by Will Self          $37
Self’s great achievement and presumed intention is to create, by the breaking and reconstitution of language, a remarkable study of how thought moves in the mind, looping, moving at any one moment on many parallel tracks, in cul-de-sac curlicues and feedback loops. Thought is constantly assailed by interference, often arising from the mechanisms of language itself but also from the instability of referents, and Self’s text is full of rather funny linguistic jokes and precise ironic observations, and is frequently every bit as irritating as your own thoughts. The identities of the narrators segue into one another, the actual world barely registering on, and having no clear delineation from, the loosely bundled and rebundled memories and urges that hardly pass as personhood, the distance between each stitch of ‘actual’ narrative containing great tangled loops and knots of mental thread. If our thoughts cannot define us, what can be the organising principle of our identities?
The Last Wolf by Laszlo Krasahorkai          $36
Written in one virtuosic 73-page sentence which exerts enormous pressure on language to make it more closely resemble thought and which makes form the primary content of this novella, The Last Wolf tells of an academic who is commissioned to travel to Extremadura in Spain where he seeks to determine the fate of the last wolves in that barren area. We read his relation to a Hungarian bartender in Berlin of the accounts of Extremadurans made to him via a translator (and usually based in any case on further hearsay), nesting the subject of the story in several layers of reportage, rumour and translation, the performative complexity of which is repeatedly punctured by the offhand comments of the bartender. Krasznahorkai, as usual, succeeds in being both comic and morose, this hopeless tale of human destruction and the frustrating impassivity of nature is one in which meaning is both invoked and withheld much like the presence of the last elusive wolf (or, rather, much like the story of the last wolf, for it is  narrative that is the true quarry for the hunter).
Zone by Mathias Enard             $45
Enard's text is like a ball-bearing rolling around indefinitely inside a box over surfaces imprinted with every sort of information about the Mediterranean, from from Barcelona to Beirut, and Algiers to Trieste (the "Zone"), past and present. Enard very effectively uses the necessarily one-directional movement of a sentence to sketch out, through endless repetition and variation, the complexity of the political, cultural, historical, social and physical terrain of the entire Zone, as well effectively inducing the narrator's patterns of thought, mesmeric, irresistible, but containing pieces of painful psychological grit not yet abraded from the his personal history and his involvement in the recent traumas of the Zone, in Croatia and elsewhere. 

29/05/2017 09:10 PM

The Writer's Toolkit

All writers can do with an occasional tune-up. Our 5-week writing course The Writer's Toolkit, led by the inspirational Michelanne Forster, begins on June 8th. Places are limited to ensure individual attention. Click here to find out more

Here a few books from our shelves that would be good additions to any writer's shelf:
Syllabus: Notes from an accidental professor by Lynda Barry       $35
Barry teaches a method of writing that focuses on the relationship between the hand, the brain, and spontaneous images, both written and visual. Collaged texts, ballpoint-pen doodles, and watercolor washes adorn Syllabus 's yellow lined pages, which offer advice on finding a creative voice and using memories to inspire the writing process.
Confabulations by John Berger         $21
"Language is a body, a living creature, and this creature's home is the inarticulate as well as the articulate."
Literature Class by Julio Cortázar           $44
Cortázar's novels and short stories ignited a whole generation of Latin American writers, and had an enthusiastic following through the Americas and Europe. In this series of masterclasses he discusses his approach to the problems and mechanisms of fiction writing: the short story form, fantasy and realism, musicality, the ludic, time and the problem of literary "fate". 
"Anyone who doesn't read Cortázar is doomed." —Pablo Neruda

The Elements of Eloquence: How to turn the perfect English phrase by Mark Forsyth         $23
Why are some ways of saying things better than others? The Elements of Eloquence is a relentlessly entertaining guide to the figures of speech that are the neglected sharp end of rhetoric. Forsyth believes our overconcentration on content has blinded us to the craft of making even banal statements memorable and effective. For example, I now know that when I say, “Get off the computer and ready to go,” I am employing syllepsis, a flower of rhetoric, and am not just being an old nag.
Calamities by Renee Gladman              $30
Gladman's essays start out being about not very much, small ordinary particulars of Gladman’s life, or small observations such as a poet might make about the ordinary particulars of life, but really they are not so much about these things as they are about the writing about these things, that is to say about the relationship of a writer to her experience and to her work and about her trying to decide what sort of relationship there might be, both actually and ideally, between this experience of hers and this work.

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr       $28
Synthesises her expertise as professor and therapy patient, writer and spiritual seeker, recovered alcoholic and "black belt sinner," providing a unique window into the mechanics and art of the form that is as irreverent, insightful, and entertaining as her own work in the genre.
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahari         $33
Although Lahiri studied Italian for many years afterwards, true mastery had always eluded her. Seeking full immersion, she decided to move to Rome with her family, for 'a trial by fire, a sort of baptism' into a new language and world. There, she began to read and to write - initially in her journal - solely in Italian. In Other Words, an autobiographical work written in Italian, investigates the process of learning to express oneself in another language, and describes the journey of a writer seeking a new voice.
Write to the Centre: Navigating life with gluestick and words by Heen Lehndorf      $35
Create your own series of 'personal books' that provide a home for your mind, savouring life's moments with scissors and gluestick at the ready. 
Juicy Writing: Inspiration and techniques for young writers by Brigit Lowry             $24
Being a writer is good because you get paid to write stuff up, you can stay home and work in your pajamas and you get to travel because it's research. Being a writer is bad when you're sitting all by yourself staring at a blank page. Brigid Lowry knows the highs and lows of being a writer, but she still thinks it's a joy. In this book she takes you on a journey to discover yourself and what you really want to say AND how to make it juicy and original.
Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann         $25
"A lot can be taken from you—even your life—but not your stories about that life. So this, then, is a word, not without love and respect, to a young writer: write." Some considered practical and philosophical advice.
"An intensely literary writer, his prose thrums with echoes of Beckett, Yeats and Joyce." - Sunday Times
The Exercise Book: Creative writing exercises from Victoria University's Institute of Modern Letters edited by Bill Manhire, Ken Duncm, Chris Price and Damien Wilkins          $35
A wonderful array of writing exercises, prompts and constraints that will help writers at any stage in their career.
Writing True Stories: The complete guide to writing autobiography, memoir, personal essay, biography, travel and creative non-fiction by Patti Miller       $40
Provides guidance and inspiration on an array of writing topics, including how to access memories, find a narrative voice, build a vivid world on the page, create structure, use research, and face the difficulties of truth-telling.
The Story Cure: A book doctor's pain-free guide to finishing your novel or memoir by Dinty W. Moore         $35
A collection of cures for writer's block, plotting and characterisation issues, and other ailments writers face when completing a novel or memoir. Includes prescriptions for diagnoses such as character anemia, flat plot, and silent voice.
Release the Bats: Writing your way out of it by D.B.C. Pierre       $33
Dirty-But-Clean burst onto the literary scene from a nonliterary background with publication of Vernon God Little in 2003. Find out how he learned everything the hard way. 
Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau          $25
Take one small banal story about a man on a bus and a remark about a button, and rewrite it ninety-nine times according to different constraints, from sonnet to antiphrasis, from onomatopoeia to metaphor, from Dog Latin to double entry, from the gastronomical to the abusive, and you come up with a book that is inventive, erudite and very funny. Raymond Queneau is a verbal acrobat of the first order. Reading this book is to attend a circus of rigours - be prepared to be exhilarated.
Bleaker House: Chasing my novel to the end of the world by Nell Stevens      $38
When Nell Stevens was given the opportunity to spend three months in a location of her choice in order to write her novel, she was determined to rid herself of all distractions. So Nell decided to travel to Bleaker Island (official population: two) in the Falklands where she would write 2,500 words a day. But Bleaker House is not that novel. Instead this is a book about a young woman realising that the way to writing fiction doesn't necessarily lie in total solitude (though total solitude may well be a good way to write a book about how total solitude is not a good way to write a book).
The Writer's Diet by Helen Sword            $25
Is your writing flabby or fit? >>Take the test. Helen Sword's book is a useful guide to producing clear, crisp, effective prose.

>>> Find out more about The Writer's Toolkit here.

19/05/2017 11:07 PM

A few books from our shelves about the brain, its vagaries and potentials. 

The Brain: The story of you by David Eagleman        $25
The latest discoveries enable neurology to enter the preserves of psychology and philosophy. Eagleman’s descriptions of the behaviour of neurons tell us much about how we generate our idea of reality, our feelings and thoughts, our ideas about ourselves and our capacities. What makes humans so interesting neurologically is that we are born ‘soft-wired’, which means that the function of our brain is formed and reformed by experience. Of the many fascinating things that have been revealed by recent neurology is the fact that we do not attempt to make an idea of the world around us from sensual stimulation but rather that we form an idea of the world around us and only then test it against stimulation, showing our idea of the world to be primarily a creative act, the work of an author (which just happens to be subsequently fact-checked) rather than a piece of reportage. Discoveries like these have profound implications.
A Day in the Life of the Brain: The neuroscience of consciousness, from dawn to dusk by Susan Greenfield          $38
How do our daily activities translate into the pattern of firing neurons and chemical microchanges that we consider somehow analogous to consciousness? Greenfield presents the perfect blend of expertise and compelling writing. 
Patient H.M.: A story of memory, madness and family secrets by Luke Dittrich        $55
In 1953 a neurosurgeon failed to eliminate the seizures that beset Henry Molaison, but the operation did leave Molaison incapable of forming durable memories. Molaison became a celebrated case in the study of neurology, and his profound amnesia gave much to our understanding of memory. Beneath all this neuroscience lies also a tragic human story. 
Do No Harm: Stories of life, death and brain surgery by Henry Marsh       $28
What is it like to be a brain surgeon? How does it feel to hold someone's life in your hands, to cut through the stuff that creates thought, feeling and reason? How do you live with the consequences of performing a potentially life-saving operation when it all goes wrong?
Admissions: A life in brain surgery by Henry Marsh       $38
Why does a person to spend a lifetime handling other people's brains? No other part of the body is more integral to what makes us human and what makes life worthwhile. 
How Emotions are Made: The secret life of the brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett         $38
What correspondence is there between our experiences and our brain chemistry and neural activities. 

The Case of the Missing Body by Jenny Powell       $30

The story of a young New Zealand woman who has no sense of her body. Working with a physiotherapist, this begins to change. 
The Man Who Wasn't There: Tales from the edge of the self by Anil Ananthaswamy        $32
Recent neurological investigation of conditions such as schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer's, ecstatic epilepsy and Cotard's syndrome, as well as out of body experiences and Asperger's, is helping us to think anew about the Self at a level of detail that Descartes ("I think therefore I am") could never have imagined. 
Finding Sanity: John Cade, lithium and the taming of bipolar disorder by Greg de Moore and Ann Westmore        $37
Lithium: the penicillin of mental health, the first effective psychiatric medication, flattening out the lives of bipolar sufferers since 1948. 

The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, And other inspiring stories of pioneering brain transformation by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young          $27
As a child, Arrowsmith-Young read and wrote everything backward, struggled to process concepts in language, continually got lost, and was physically uncoordinated. With iron determination she set about changing her brain function through cognitive exercises she devised herself. Although neuroplasticity is now accepted by the medical mainstream, this has only happened very recently, and Arrowsmith-Young and the other pioneers she treats in this book were operating very much in isolation and against medical resistance. 
The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science by Norman Doidge       $36
A woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole; a woman labelled retarded who cured her deficits with brain exercises; blind people who learn to see; learning disorders cured; IQs raised; ageing brains rejuvenated; lifelong character traits changed: Doidge presents evidence of neuroplasticity that until recently would be labelled as science fiction.  
Override: My quest to go beyond brain training and take control of my mind by Caroline Williams        $38
Williams visits the experts and tries out the latest exercises in plain plasticity, but can she really make a difference to her brain's function? What possibilities and what limitations are there in this area of neuroscience? 

In a Different Key: The story of autism by John Donvan and Carin Zucker      $38
From the first diagnosis 75 years ago to the latest scientific discoveries and difference activism, the history of autism is inseparable from the history of the non-autistic. This book does much to include the experiences of the autistic, parents and doctors, and will help towards a new understanding and acceptance. 
Odd Girl Out: An autistic woman in a neurotypical world by Laura James         $30 
Explores how and why female autism is so under-diagnosed and very different from that seen in men and boys and explores difficulties and benefits neurodiversity can bring.
The Reason I Jump: One boy's voice from the silence of autism by Naoki Higashida         $23
"When we look at nature we receive a sort of permission to be alive in this world." This is a very interesting book, written by a 13-year-old autistic boy using a cardboard ‘keyboard’. In response to a series of questions, he gives insights into the usually unreachable world of someone whose mind is so acutely wired that he is overwhelmed by every impulse and whose body is the locus of a frustrating interface with the world. This book not only intimates the life of an autistic mind, but will enlarge your understanding of what it is to exist and be human. "People with autism have no freedom. The reason is that we are a different kind of human, born with primeval senses. We are outside the normal flow of time, we can't express ourselves and our bodies are hurtling us through life. We want to go back. To the distant, distant past. To a primeval era, in fact, before human beings even existed."  
Delusions of Gender: The real science behind sex differences by Cordelia Fine         $29

Splendidly debunks the myth that there is a biological difference between the male and female brain and shows how gendered thinking is solely the result of social conditioning. 
Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the myths of our gendered minds by Cordelia Fine         $33
Brings together evolutionary science, psychology, neuroscience and social history to move beyond old 'nature versus nurture' debates, and to explain why it's time to unmake the myth of the 'male' or 'female' brain. 
Pieces of Mind: 21 short walks around the human brain by Michael Corballis        $30
A very personable guide to the facts and myths of the human brain, with explanations of humans' behavioural quirks. 
The Wandering Mind: What your brain does when you're not looking by Michael Corballis          $35
Science has shown that the brain is never idle. When not being goaded towards a particular goal, a lot of interesting things are going on inside our heads. These neural wanderings are important for our personality, creativity and mental health. 
The Truth About Language: What it is and where it came from by Michael Corballis       $40
Corballis argues with both God and Chomsky to persuade us that language is indeed the product of evolution and has its precursors throughout the animal kingdom. How has this development paralleled the evolution of the human brain?
Stammered Songbook: A mother's book of hours by Erwin Mortier       $25
When Erwin Mortier’s mother developed Alzheimer’s Disease at the age of 65, her loss of memory was also a profound loss of personality and Mortier began to find it difficult to associate the memories he had of his once-vivacious mother with the person whose rapid mental and physical diminishment made her more of a lingering absence than a presence. Mortier’s book is beautifully written, intensely sad, unsentimental, unflinching and tender. His ability to use a tiny detail or turn of phrase to evoke a memory of his mother or his childhood or a step in his mother’s loss of memory and language and personality is remarkable. Written while his mother is still alive in an attempt to fix his memories of her lest they get sucked away in the slipstream of her departure, the book expresses the hope that, following her death, these memories will be freed from the mental decline which currently overwhelms them and that, through words, they may come together again to form an idea of the particular person his mother was. 
When We Are No More: How digital memory is shaping our future by Abby Smith Runsey         $37
The human capacity for memory has given the species an evolutionary advantage and the ability to project forward on the basis of those memories. How are these capacities, and the brain that enables them, being affected by the outsourcing of memory to electronic devices? 
The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains by Nicholas Carr       $34
Does Google make us stupid? How is the use of technology to do things formerly done by our brains affecting and reshaping those brains? Carr compares the focus and concentration enabled by a technology such as the printed book with the rapid multi-focused information assault provided by digital media and speculates a far-reaching change in human nature. Is this book the Silent Spring  for our brains?
Deep Thinking: The human future of artificial intelligence by Garry Kasparov       $38
In 1997 the world chess champion Garry Kasparov was beaten at chess by a supercomputer named Deep Blue. This experience led him to consider the vast scope and uses of artificial intelligence and also the human capacities (including the capacity for useful error) beyond the reach of machines. Is AI a threat or an opportunity for the human brain?
To Be a Machine: Adventures among cyborgs, Utopians, hackers and the futurists solving the modest problem of death by Mack O'Connell       $33
Technological transhumanism is causing us to rethink what it means to be human and is enabling us to rethink old problems in new ways. 
"A beautifully written powerhouse of a novel that defies all expectations." - Independent 
Other Minds: The octopus and the evolution of intelligent life by Peter Godfrey-Smith        $30
The remarkable intelligence of the cephalopds evolved quite separately from that of homonids and cetaceans. What does this tell us about the nature and evolution of consciousness, and what would it be like to have the mind of an octopus? 

16/05/2017 09:51 PM

No automatic alt text available.
The winners in the OCKHAM NEW ZEALAND BOOK AWARDS have just been announced.

The Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize: The Wish Child by Catherine Chidgey
Can You Tolerate This?

Royal Society Te Aparangi Award for General Non-Fiction: Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young

A History of New Zealand Women

Illustrated Non-Fiction: A History of New Zealand Women by Barbara Brookes

Fits & Starts

Poetry: Fits & Starts by Andrew Johnston

Best First Book Awards:
Illustrated Non-Fiction: A Whakapapa of Tradition: 100 Years of Ngati Porou Carving, 1830-1930 by Ngarino Ellis
Poetry: Hera Lindsay Bird by Hera Lindsay Bird
General Non-Fiction: My Father's Island by Adam Dudding
Fiction: Black Ice Matter by Gina Cole

04/05/2017 03:42 PM

These three recent novels all retell legends from ancient Greece, often reclaiming viewpoints of suppressed or vilified female characters. 
- BRIGHT BLACK AIR by David Vann (Medea and Jason) 
- THE CHILDREN OF JOCASTA by Natalie Haynes (Oedipus and Antigone)
- HOUSE OF NAMES by Colm Toibin (Clytemnestra, Orestes, Electra and Iphigenia)

24/04/2017 04:36 PM

Usually the wolves turn up in the second week of the school holidays. Here are a few books to help you cope. 
Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault       $30
When Vanessa's sister Virginia is feeling wolfish and frightens the visitors, Vanessa sets out to calm her. Will Vanessa's drawing skills and imagination do the trick? 

Wild Animals of the North by Dieter Braun      $45
A remarkably beautiful book, short-listed for the 2017 Kate Greenaway Medal
>> Just look at this!

(In case you were wondering, South will be available in June.)
The Wolves of Currumpaw by William Grill       $33
This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a wolf, Old Lobo, the wolf that no one could capture. In 1893, a respected naturalist and hunter, Ernest Thompson Seton, left New York in a bid to rid the ranchers of Old Lobo and his pack. This wasn’t as easy as Seton thought it would be and after many failed attempts he noticed another wolf, the beautiful she-wolf Blanca, and this ultimately led to the capturing of Old Lobo. This is a beautifully told story with stunning illustrations, which also reflects on the impact of Seton’s hunt for Lobo, his regret at his success and his growing awareness of wild places and the animals that belong in them. 

I am the Wolf... and Here I Come! by Benedicte Guettier      $20
The wolf is getting dressed. What's he going to do when he is ready? (Clue: he is very hungry). An enjoyable board book to share (clue: it closes with a snap like a wolf's jaws). 
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin       $20
It’s Germany, 1956, and Hitler has won the war. Yael, an eighteen-year-old woman, is part of the Resistance and she has a mission – a dangerous one – she is charged with assassinating Hitler. As a child, Yael was in a camp and experimented on – the experiment, which was successful, has given her a gift that can be used against her enemies. In 1956 a famous motorcycle race, for the creme de la creme of youths, crosses Hitler’s Europe. After years of training, Yael is ready to join this often-dangerous race, where allegiances are necessary to survive and to win is difficult. But win Yael must so she can get to the Victors’ Ball.  This novel draws you in slowly and then grips you with its teeth and doesn’t let up until the end. Followed by Blood for Blood
The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell      $15
Beautifully written, exciting and unusual. Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, in a house full of food and fireplaces. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. Feodora's mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer: it is a person who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, and to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans. When the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run.
Help! The Wolf is Coming! by Cedric Ramadier and Vincent Bourgeau      $20
The wolf is coming and (predictably) he wants to eat us. Perhaps if we tilted the book, he might have a hard job of catching us. With a bit of imagination there are quite a few ways we might make things hard for this wolf.
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk       $23
Annabelle has lived in Wolf Hollow all her life: a quiet place, still scarred by two world wars. But when cruel, manipulative Betty arrives in town, Annabelle's calm world is shattered, along with everything she's ever known about right and wrong. When Betty accuses gentle loner Toby - a traumatised ex-soldier - of a terrible act, Annabelle knows he's innocent. Then Betty disappears...Now Annabelle must protect Toby from the spiralling accusations and hysteria, until she can prove to Wolf Hollow what really happened to Betty. There are no wolves in this book. 
What Dog Knows by  Sylvia Vanden Heede and Marije Tolman    $20
Wolf and Dog are cousins. In some ways they are similar; in some ways very different. When Wolf finds a book of facts in the library, he thinks he can outsmart Dog. But can he?

03/04/2017 11:42 PM


If rationality is not to be the motor of politics (a disconcerting realisation for thinkers across the political spectrum), what forces drive change and whose end does that change serve? We have laid out a few books that might help us get our heads around the current plight of the United States of America.

Hillbilly Elegy: A memoir of a family and a culture in crisis by J.D. Vance      $35
Vance's account of growing up in a Rust Belt town reveals the slow -and then fast- growth of disaffection in the poor white communities which formed the core Trump's support.
"You will not read a more important book about America this year." - Economist

Things That Can and Cannot Be Said by John Cusack and Arundhati Roy     $16
Roy and Cusack discuss the nature of the state, empire, and surveillance in an era of perpetual war, the meaning of flags and patriotism, the role of foundations and NGOs in limiting dissent, and the ways in which capital but not people can freely cross borders.
Evicted: Poverty and profit in the American city Matthew Desmond     $30
A devastating portrait of urban poverty in the US, both of the mechanisms of inequality and its effects.
"Essential. A compelling and damning exploration of the abuse of one of our basic human rights: shelter." -  Owen Jones 
Pussy: A novel by Howard Jacobson       $32
Written in a "fury of disbelief", Jacobson's cathartic satire is the tale of the unlikely Prince Fracassus. Idle, boastful, thin-skinned and egotistic, he has no manners, no curiosity, no knowledge, no idea and no words in which to express them. Could he, in that case, be the very leader to make the country great again?
>> "The consolation of savage satire". 
The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston       $35
The culmination of nearly 30 years of reporting on Donald Trump, Pulitzer Prize- winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston takes a revealingly close look at the mogul's rise to power and prominence. Covering the long arc of Trump's career, Johnston tells the full story of how a boy from a quiet section of Queens, NY would become an entirely new, and complex, kind of public figure.
Direct Action: protest and the reinvention of American radicalism by L.A. Kauffman       $22
A wide survey of disruptive protest in the US in the last forty years, drawing parallels between the efforts of environmentalists, black and indigenous activist, feminists and radical queers. What effect has protest had on shaping society, and what are the potentials for protest now?
It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis          $28
A vain, outlandish, anti-immigrant, fearmongering demagogue runs for President of the United States - and wins. Sinclair Lewis's chilling 1935 bestseller is the story of Buzz Windrip, 'Professional Common Man', who promises poor, angry voters that he will make America proud and prosperous once more, but takes the country down a far darker path.

"They Can't Kill Us All": The story of Black Lives Matter by Wesley Lowery     $28
"A devastating front-line account of the police killings and the young activism that sparked one of the most significant racial justice movements since the 1960s: Black Lives Matter. Lowery more or less pulls the sheet off America. Essential reading." - Junot Diaz, The New York Times

Age of Anger: A history of the present by Pankaj Mishra       $40
How can we explain, let alone remedy, the wave of paranoia, racism, nationalism and misogyny that is sweeping the world and manifesting as reactionary government, violence and demagoguery? Mishra shows how disaffection has wide roots in our economic and social structures. 
"Urgent, profound and extraordinarily timely. Throws light on our contemporary predicament, when the neglected and dispossessed of the world have suddenly risen up to transform the world we thought we knew." - John Banville
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell       $21
Doublethink: "The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth."
Hatred of Democracy by Jacques Ranciere        $25
As America and its allies use their military might in the misguided attempt to export a desiccated version democracy, and reactionary strands in mainstream political opinion abandon civil liberties, Ranciere argues that true democracy - government by all - is held in profound contempt by the new ruling class.
"In our time of the disorientation of the left, Ranciere's writings offer one the few consistent conceptualizations of how are to continue to resist." - Slavoj Zizek
Citizen: An American lyric by Claudia Rankine       $28
This set of furiously affecting prose poems exposes racial prejudice and violence in various situations and contexts, from the everyday to the critical.
"Wonderfully capacious and innovative. In her riffs on the demotic, in her layering of incident, Rankine finds a new way of writing about race in America." - Nick Laird, New York Review of Books

Our Revolution: A future to believe in by Bernie Sanders         $33
Other paths could have been taken.
On Tyranny: Twenty lessons from the twentieth century by Timothy Snyder       $24
In the twentieth century, European democracies collapsed into fascism, Nazism and Stalinism. These were movements in which a leader or a party claimed to give voice to the people, promised to protect them from global existential threats, and established rule by an elite with a monopoly on truth. European history shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary people can find themselves in unimaginable circumstances. Today, we are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to totalitarianism in the twentieth century. Only a thorough knowledge of their failings can protect us from repeating them.
Hope in the Dark: Untold histories, wild possibilities by Rebecca Solnit        $25
A paean to optimism in the face of an increasingly desperate world. Change is made by the hopeful.
Just Mercy: A story of justice and redemption by Bryan Stevenson     $40
The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The prison population has increased from 300,000 in the early 1970s to more than two million now. One in every 15 people is expected to go to prison. For black men, the most incarcerated group in America, this figure rises to one out of every three. Bryan Stevenson grew up a member of a poor black community in the racially segregated South. He was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of the US's criminal justice system. 
The Trump Survival Guide: Everything you need to know about living through what you hoped would never happen by Gene Stone     $18
As it says.
Insane Clown President by Matt Taibbi       $40
"The thing is, when you actually think about it, it's not funny. Given what's at stake, it's more like the opposite, like the first sign of the collapse of the United States as a global superpower. Twenty years from now, when we're all living like prehistory hominids and hunting rats with sticks, we'll probably look back at this moment as the beginning of the end." Incisive articles, many of which first appeared in Rolling Stone. 
"Matt Taibbi is one of the few journalists in America who speaks truth to power." - Bernie Sanders
Another Day in the Death of America: 24 hours, 8 states, 10 young lives lost to gun violence by Gary Younge      $33
On Saturday 23 November 2013 ten children were shot dead. The youngest was nine; the oldest was nineteen. They fell in suburbs, hamlets and ghettos. None made the national news. It was just another day in the death of America, where on average seven children and teens are killed by guns daily.
Why I March: Images from the Women's March around the world      $28
On January 21st, 2017, five million people in 82 countries and on all seven continents stood up with one voice. The Women's March began with one cause, women's rights, but quickly became a movement around the many issues that were hotly debated during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign: immigration, health care, environmental protections, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, freedom of religion, and workers rights, among others.
>> Hope.

17/03/2017 03:44 PM

A quick survey of our shelves revealed them to be loaded with books that have feisty, adventurous girl protagonists who take their destinies into their own hands*. Here's a small selection - recommended reading for children and young adults of all genders

Juno of Taris by Fleur Beale       $20
On Taris rules govern everything, from personal appearance to procreation. Although these rules were devised to survive environmental crisis, Juno must work out when to challenge authority, and when to resist peer pressure, in her attempt to find out the truth and her place in her society. 
Followed by Fierce September and Heart of Danger
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts      $30
Ada will not stop asking 'Why?' This enables her to find out all sorts of things, but does she recognise the parameters of her research? 
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin       $20
It’s Germany, 1956, and Hitler has won the war. Yael, an eighteen-year-old woman, is part of the Resistance and she has a mission – a dangerous one – she is charged with assassinating Hitler. As a child, Yael was in a camp and experimented on – the experiment, which was successful, has given her a gift that can be used against her enemies. In 1956 a famous motorcycle race, for the creme de la creme of youths, crosses Hitler’s Europe. After years of training, Yael is ready to join this often-dangerous race, where allegiances are necessary to survive and to win is difficult. But win Yael must so she can get to the Victors’ Ball.  This novel draws you in slowly and then grips you with its teeth and doesn’t let up until the end.
Followed by Blood for Blood
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman        $22
Sixteen-year-old Seraphina, assistant to the court composer, is drawn into an intrigue indiciative of the disintegrating relationship between humans and dragons, aware that she must hide her secret: her father is human but mother was a dragon, and this not only gives her special gifts but also puts her in immense danger, both from around her and within.
Followed by Shadow Scale
The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig     $23
16-year-old Nix and her father travel not only around the world but through time in their pirate ship stuffed with treasure and mythological artefacts. Nix's father is obsessed with returning to a time before Nix was born, when her mother was still alive. Nix feels safe in the belief that he will never succeed, but one day her father gets his hands on a map, and Nix must make some hard choices.
Women in Science: 50 fearless pioneers who changed the world by Rachel Ignotofsky        $35
A lively, beautifully illustrated survey.
"Rachel Ignotofsky provides young women with the courage and the confidence to follow the exciting paths these scientists have blazed before them." - Eileen Pollack
 Wildfire ('Wildwitch' #1) by Lene Kaaberbol        $16
When 12-year-old Clara meets an unusually large black cat, her life changes for ever. No sooner than she discovers that she can communicate with animals and harness the powers of nature, she finds herself exposed to unexpected danger. She finds she must learn to fight as well as to flee. 
Followed by Oblivion, Life Stealer and Bloodling
My Happy Life by Rose Lagerkrantz and Eva Eriksson     $20
Dani is probably the happiest person she knows. She's happy because she's going to start school. Dani has been waiting to go to school her whole life. Then things get even better-she meets Ella Frida by the swings. After that, Dani and Ella Frida do everything together. They stick together through wet and dry, sun and rain, thick and thin. But then something happens that Dani isn't prepared for...
You will love the other 'Dani' books too

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay        $20.00
Jena lives in a closed and remote community where a tragic incident has altered the lifestyle of the villagers. Out of tragedy has come a reverent regard for the mountain, a sect of wise Mothers who are all authoritative and who train a group of chosen girls to obey and harvest mica, which the villagers as an energy source. When a single stone is moved, Jena begins to question her role and the behaviours of others. The truth she will uncover will change all their lives. This is a gripping, powerful and completely compelling book that makes you think and question the fates we all encounter. 
Cloth Lullaby: The woven life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky and Isabelle Arsenault        $35
A beautifully illustrated children’s book outlining Bourgeois' early connection with textiles via her family’s work as tapestry restorers for generations in France, her early connection with nature, and her path to becoming an artist. While studying mathematics in Paris, Louise’s mother dies and Louise abandons her studies and begins her work as a painter and sculptor -  a homage to her mother.  
Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr       $19
The daughter of a priestess is cast out as a baby, and after raiders kill her adopted family, she is abandoned at the gates of the Great Hall, anonymous and mute. Called No-Name, the cursed child, she is raised a slave, and not until she is twelve does she learn her name is Aissa: the dragonfly. Every year the Bull King takes a tribute from the island: two thirteen-year-old children to brave the bloody bull dances in his royal court. None have ever returned - but for Aissa it is the only escape. Aissa is resilient, resourceful, and fast - but to survive the bull ring, she will have to learn the mystery of her true nature. A well written adventure set in Bronze Age Crete.
Northern Lights ('His Dark Materials' #1) by Philip Pullman     $18
Lyra and her animal daemon travel to Svalbard to attempt to rescue children who have having their souls removed, receiving help from an ice bear and a witch clan. Vast in scope and delectable in detail. 
Followed by The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass
The Ruby in the Smoke (a 'Sally Lockhart' mystery, #1) by Philip Pullman     $19
Deliciously Dickensian characters, a grimy setting, a plot that is both emotionally and intellectually engaging and keeps you guessing until the end (and beyond), plenty of good information about various kinds of misfortune prevalent in Victorian London, incandescent similes and other turns of phrase, the irrepressible verve both of Pullman’s writing and of 16-year-old Sally Lockhart, determined to find out the truth behind her father’s death. What more could you want? 
The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell      $15
Beautifully written, exciting and unusual. Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, in a house full of food and fireplaces. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. Feodora's mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer: it is a person who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, and to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans. When the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run.
Girl Detective ('Friday Barnes' #1) by E.A. Spratt        $20
Imagine if Sherlock Holmes was an 11-year-old girl! Super-smart Friday Barnes solves everything, from missing homework to bank robberies. 
You will enjoy all six Friday Barnes books
Maresi ('Red Abbey Chronicles' #1) by Maria Turtschaninoff      $23
Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen. In a world where girls aren't allowed to learn or do as they please, an island inhabited solely by women sounded like a fantasy. One day Jai, her clothes stiff with dirt, scars on her back arrives on a ship. Jai has fled to the island to escape terrible danger and unimaginable cruelty, and the men who hurt her will stop at nothing to find her. Now the women and girls of the Red Abbey must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat the forces that wish to destroy them. Maresi, haunted by her own nightmares, must confront her very deepest, darkest fears. 
"Dark, powerful and original. Really stands out in a very crowded YA marketplace. Thrilling, suspenseful and gloriously feminist." - The Bookseller
Naondel ('Red Abbey Chronicles' #2) coming soon!
>> Turtschaninoff introduces the series.
Dragonkeeper by Carole Wilkinson       $22
Set in China during the Han Dynasty, this is the story of a slave girl and her chance encounter with a dragon. Her journey with Danzi (the dragon) is one of danger and discovery. The girl, who had felt so worthless, finds an inner strength and courage to protect the dragon and becomes the dragonkeeper (a role reserved for very few). This book is beautifully written and rich in texture. 
There are six books in the series!

Good-Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 tales of extraordinary women by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo     $40
100 one-page biographies of inspiring women from all times and all places, each with a wonderful full-page illustration by one of 60 artists (who just happen to all be women), including New Zealander Sarah Wilkins.
>> Watch this!
We have already pre-sold all our first delivery of this book, but more stock is on its way. Put your name down now for the next available copy!

* We found to our delight that the gender-bias assessment undertaken in this video did not apply to the books on our shelves (if anything, the reverse!). We would also contend that it is not only girls who need books with girl protagonists - boys can enjoy them too. 

Come and browse!

07/03/2017 02:12 PM

 Click through to find out which books are the finalists in the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. 
>> More on the Book Awards website.

16/02/2017 04:10 PM

Featured publisher: CB Editions

CB Editions have published some of my favourite books of the last several years, so I feel somewhat bereft to learn that Charles Boyle, who runs the press entirely by himself, is 'retiring' and not taking on any new titles. {Thomas}

Make a reading discovery with any one of this selection from our shelves (click through for our reviews (and more)):

Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine by Diane Williams
Diane Williams’ short, energetic, hugely disorienting short stories pass as sal volatile through the fug of relationships, defamiliarising the ordinary elements of everyday lives to expose the sad, ludicrous, hopeless topographies of what passes for existence. So much is left unsaid in these stories that they act as foci for the immense unseen weight of their contexts, precisely activating pressure-points on the reader’s sensibilities. These are some of the finest stories you will read.

This is the Place to Be by Lara Pawson
What do you report when you become uncertain of the facts, of the notion of truth and of the purpose of writing? By constantly looking outwards, Pawson has conjured a portrait of the person who looks outwards, and a remarkable depiction of the act of looking outwards.

Mildew by Paulette Jonguitud
Despite the great psychological weight carried in this book it is written very lightly and directly, with a sharp pen and not a wasted word, and the damp claustrophobia of the narrator’s mind is perfectly expressed, as is the release she (sort of) experiences as the mould or fungus becomes a symptom and externalises whatever it is that it is a symptom of.

Eve Out of her Ruins by Ananda Devi  (published with Les Fugitives)
"Eve out of Her Ruins is a spare, traumatic and enriching novel, a rich and subtle depiction of young lives that are being lived under, and in some instances contributing to, terrible social, cultural and economic duress. Devi confronts us with instances of great pain and suffering, yet seldom without  embracing the redemptive qualities of attentiveness, spirit, beauty. This is a novel that can take you to fathomless depths. Its artistry is such that you are unlikely to close it feeling ruined." - The National

by the same author by Jack Robinson
This is a book about what books are, how they touch upon our lives and how our lives touch upon them (and upon each other because of them). The book is charming without being cloying, joyful whilst remaining critical, brief yet universal, profound yet light, pellucid whilst wary of the devotion we direct towards these portable vectors of something made by a stranger yet somehow integral to ourselves.

Things to Make and Break by May-Lan Tan
The eleven stories in this book seem preoccupied with ‘the body problem’, which is not a problem but a number of interrelating problems or potentials clustered around the disjunction between the kinds of relationships had by bodies and the kinds of relationships had by their correlated minds. Minds and bodies are subject here to differing momentums, and one bears the other away before the two can coalesce. Tan is concerned also with the interchangeability of persons, and with the contortion of persons, physically or psychologically, that enables this interchangeability. The stories have a raw elegance and precision and are full of intense and sometimes surprising images which give them a very realistic texture.

Only Joking by Gabriel Josipovici
"Only Joking has the light heart which can be revealed at the further end of a literary career. The great success of Josipovici’s technique here is that not only is the effect like that of watching something between an Ealing comedy and a very sparky and accessible French nouvelle vague film, but it also sharpens our own responses to the layers of deceit going on. Frivolous or not, it is a complete pleasure." – Nicholas Lezard, Guardian 

The 5 Simple Machines by Todd McEwen
"The stories in this book offer a rare kind of humour: it is not only a matter of verbal deftness – a word, or a comma, popping up unexpectedly – but of intelligence, lightly applied. These stories manage to be unflaggingly funny, yet never wearisome: the tonal control is complete. And the deeper message is that laughter is a cure." – Nicholas Lezard, Guardian 

Killing Auntie, And other work by Andrzej Bursa
"Dead at 25 in 1957, the Polish postwar firebrand Andrzej Bursa acquired a reputation as a quick-burning, existentially tormented rebel: a literary James Dean of the Stalinist era. This selection of his quirky, darkly witty work does indeed summon the shades of Beckett or Kafka from time to time. Everyday life slips into scenes of fantasy or horror, yet Bursa’s dark humour and deadpan satire keep utter bleakness at bay. Some will think of Dostoyevsky when it comes to the snuffed-out relative in the novella; read to the end and you hear something like Joe Orton’s wicked cackle too." – Boyd Tonkin, Independent 

Visit the CB Editions website.

07/02/2017 03:40 PM


A Lion in Paris by Beatrice Alemagna
A very beautiful large-format book telling the story of a lion who seeks the excitement of the city but is disappointed that he is not noticed when he gets there. For lion-lovers and Paris-lovers old and young.

Lafcadio, The lion who shot back by Shel Silverstein
Lions have always run away from the hunters who come in search of lion-skin rugs, but one day a young lion questions this tradition, eats a hunter and takes his gun. After a bit of practice, the lion becomes such a good shot that soon all the lions have hunter-skin rugs. A man comes to take the lion to be a sharp-shooting star in a circus, and so begins a new life for Lafcadio: fame, clothes, travel, marshmallows. He becomes more and more human-like and begins to forget that he is a lion. What happens when his friends persuade him to go to Africa on a lion hunt, and, when he is standing there in his lion-hunting outfit, an old lion recognises him? Is he a human or is he a lion? Deep issues of identity are treated with a light touch in this funny book with great illustrations.

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc
A gentle lion finds a wounded bird who cannot fly off with its flock and makes it a bed in a slipper, nursing it back to health as they become close friends through the winter. Spring comes and the flock returns. Will the bird leave the lion to rejoin them? The story is full of subtle observations about attachment and freedom, about seasons in the year and also in relationships, about being true to your nature and about the strength of friendship, but these are not shouted and the reader is entirely involved in the characters’ immediate feelings. This might well become your favourite picture book.

A Hungry Lion (or: A dwindling assortment of animals) by Lucy Ruth Cummins
The hungry lion's friends are all disappearing. Where could they have got to?

02/02/2017 06:24 PM

There are some excellent books contending for this year's WELLCOME PRIZE (for books that engage with some aspect of medicine, health or illness). 
They are all available from our website (or over the counter).

01/02/2017 04:33 PM

Featured publisher: MAUNGATUA PRESS

We are fortunate to have available the following hard-to-get poetry editions from the peripatetic Maungatua Press: 

At West Arm, Lake Manapouri by David Karena-Holmes*

A Brief History of Treason by Michael Steven

Giraffe by Rose Sneyd

The Dream by David Karena-Holmes*

Black by Kat Maxwell

* The latest issue of Broadsheet (#18) also features the poetry of David Karena-Holmes. 

26/01/2017 06:46 PM

Fitzcarraldo Editions is an exciting independent publisher of contemporary fiction (blue covers) and long-form essays (cream). We have the following titles currently in stock (click through for more information and reviews, and to purchase from our website):

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett
Always hinting at experience just beyond the reach of language, Bennett's remarkable book is impelled by the rigours of noticing. Her unsparingly acute observations of the usually unacknowledged or unacknowledgeable motivations, urges and responses that underlie human interaction intimate the anxiety which all human activity is designed to conceal. 

Nicotine by Gregor Hens
What Thomas de Quincey is to opium, Gregor Hens is to nicotine, the most ordinary of drugs. Whatever your relationship with nicotine, you will find Hens’s rigorous self-examination and ability to recreate the subtleties of his experiences insightful. 

Counternarratives by John Keene
"A kind of literary counterarchaeology, a series of fictions that challenge our notion of what constitutes 'real' or 'accurate' history. His writing is at turns playful and erudite, lyric and coldly diagnostic, but always completely absorbing. Counternarratives could easily be compared to Borges or Bolano, Calvino or Kis." - Jess Row

Pretentiousness, Why it matters by Dan Fox
"A lucid and impassioned defence of thinking, creating and, ultimately, living in a world increasingly dominated by the massed forces of social and intellectual conservatism." - Tom McCarthy 
>> Meet Dan Fox.

A Primer for Cadavers by Ed Atkins
"Atkins’ writing spores from the body, scraping through life matter’s nervous stuff, leaving us agitated and eager. What’s appealed to us is an odd mix of mimetic futures. Cancer exists, tattoos, squids, and kissing exist – all felt in the mouth as pulsing questions." — Holly Pester
"Discomfited by being a seer as much as an elective mute, Ed Atkins, with his mind on our crotch, careens between plainsong and unrequited romantic muttering. Alert to galactic signals from some unfathomable pre-human history, vexed by a potentially inhuman future, all the while tracking our desperate right now, he do masculinity in different voices – and everything in the vicinity shimmers, ominously." — Bruce Hainley

Notes on Suicide by Simon Critchley
Whether life is worth living or not is not something that can be philosophically contested, but, if it is not worth living, whether suicide is justifiable and well as understandable is perhaps open to examination. Critchley interrogates the standard arguments against suicide and finds them unsupportable. If there is an argument against suicide it is not that life is worth living, but a general one against the possessive individualism upon which our culture, and indeed modern consciousness, depends.

Zone by Mathias Enard
"An ambitious study of twentieth century conflict and disaster. Enard does for the comma in Zone what Eimear McBride did for the full stop in A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, and just as McBride brought her writing a raw intensity and immediacy, Enard brings to his a similarly fierce political engagements and moral authority. Enard’s novel is to be seen within a tradition of French avant-garde writing. The result is a modern masterpiece." — David Collard, Times Literary Supplement

On Immunity by Eula Biss
Weaving her personal experiences with an exploration of classical and contemporary literature, Biss considers what vaccines, and the debate around them, mean for her own child, her immediate community and the wider world. On Immunity is an inoculation against our fear and a moving account of how we are all interconnected;our bodies and our fates.

My Documents by Alejandro Zambra
Whether chronicling the attempts of a migraine-afflicted writer to quit smoking or the loneliness of the call-centre worker, the life of a personal computer or the return of a mercurial godson, this collection of stories evokes the disenchantments of youth and the disillusions of maturity in a Chilean society still troubled by its recent past. "Alejandro Zambra’s My Documents is also his best: an eclectic, disconcerting, at times harrowing read. His voice is unique, honest and raw, and there is poetry on every page. Zambra’s fiction doubles as a kind of personal history, full of anguish, humour and verve. A truly beautiful book." — Daniel Alarcón

16/01/2017 11:03 PM


Second-Hand Time: The last of the Soviets, An oral history by Svetlana Alexievich
A quite remarkable collection of voices by the Nobel Prize-winner in literature, charting the disintegration of the USSR through the experiences of ordinary people, and intimating the kind of riven social terrain upon which any new society must be built. 

Where the Jews Aren't: The sad and absurd story of Birobidzhan, Russia's Jewish autonomous region by Masha Gessen
In 1929, with the support of Jewish Communist intellectuals and Yiddishists, preparations were made to establish a Jewish homeland in Russia's Far East (no, this book was not written by Michael Chabon!), and tens of thousands of Soviet and international Jews moved there. With Stalin's purges, the idea fell from favour and the settlers were unsupported. Another influx following World War 2 increased their numbers, but, being easily identified, the Birobidzhanians were increasingly subjected to persecution. An interesting sidelight on Soviet history.

Lenin on the Train by Catherine Merridale
In an attempt to provoke a political crisis in Russia that would take them out of World War 1, the German command 'enabled' Lenin's return by train from exile in Switzerland. Merridale's very readable book traces the journey, the personalities on the sealed train (in which the Germans and the Russians were divided by a chalk line across the middle of the carriage), the struggle between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks for supremacy in Russia, and the new path taken by Russian and world politics as a result of that journey.

The Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard by Ivan Chistyakov
Astonishing and compelling, this book reproduces a first-hand account of the miseries and rigours of life in a Soviet prison camp, as observed by a senior guard at the Baikal Amur Corrective Labour Camp (Bamlag) in 1935-36.

The Soviet Century by Moshe Lewin
“Probably no other Western historian of the USSR combines Moshe Lewin’s personal experience of living with Russians from Stalin’s day—as a young wartime soldier—to the post-communist era, with so profound a familiarity with the archives and the literature of the Soviet era. His reflections on the “Soviet Century” are an important contribution to emancipating Soviet history from the ideological heritage of the last century and should be essential reading for all who wish to understand it.” – Eric Hobsbawm
Stalin and the Scientists: A history of triumph and tragedy, 1905-1953 by Simon Ings 
How did a group of professors, idealists and entrepreneurs create an intellectual pressure-cooker that made them the envy of the scientific world? And how did Stalin's megalomania and insecurity derail the great experiment in 'rational' government? "A dazzling, often astonishing prism through which to view the Soviet experiment." Peter Pomeranzev

23/08/2016 06:30 PM
'by the same author' by Jack Robinson

A book exists. It has a reader. It has several readers, or many readers, some of whom at some point may well meet each other, perhaps in a circumstance in some way related to the book. People give the book to other people. Some people might steal the book (and other books). People interact with other people because of the book. The book has an author, whose relationship to the book is different from the readers’ relationship to the book, and whose relationship with the reader is different from the readers’ relationships with each other. The book has a publisher (or several publishers), a designer (ditto), a critic (several critics); the author has, perhaps, a biographer (and the biographer some readers of their own (though probably, in the main, readers shared with the author of the book (a subset of the readers of that book))). Things happen in the world because of the book that would not have happened if the book did not exist, or which would have happened differently if the book did not exist or had been a different book. This particular book, by the same author, by Jack Robinson (not his real name), is my favourite book about what books are, how they touch upon our lives and how our lives touch upon them (and upon each other because of them). The book is charming without being cloying, joyful whilst remaining critical, brief yet universal, profound yet light, pellucid whilst wary of the devotion we direct towards these portable vectors of something made by a stranger yet somehow integral to ourselves.