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. 

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. 
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. 
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.