Government for the Public Good: The surprising science of large-scale collective action by Max Rashbrooke $50
As the neoliberal experiment of subjecting the public sector to market-driven reforms has failed to deliver either functional outcomes or significant savings, it is timely to reconsider government as an agency of the people's will and to examine hard data on the potentials of 'deep democracy' to fulfill both collective and individual interests. Important.
Normal People by Sally Rooney $33
Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.
Long-listed for the 2018 Man Book Prize.
"A tremendous read, full of insight and sweetness. Rooney’s mastery of tone is complete: Normal People takes themes of passivity and hurt and makes them radical and amazing. But the truth is that this novel is about human connection and I found it difficult to disconnect. It is a long time since I cared so much about two characters on a page." - Anne Enright300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso $20
>> An extract.
>> An extract.
“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.
Ko Taranaki te Maunga (Parihaka) by Rachel Buchanan $15
In 1881, colonial troops invaded the village of Parihaka on the Taranaki coast. In an attempt to quell the non-violent direct action taken by the community against land confiscations, the government sent over 1500 troops into the village. Many people were expelled, buildings destroyed, and chiefs Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi were jailed. Buchanan tells her own, deeply personal story of Parihaka. Beginning with the death of her father, a man with affiliations to many of Taranakis eight iwi, she describes her connection to Taranaki, the land and mountain, and the impact of confiscation. Buchanan discusses the apologies and settlements that have taken place since te pahuatanga, the invasion of Parihaka. She considers what history and historical time might look like from a Taranaki Maori perspective, and analyses the unfolding negotiations for the return of Mt Taranaki.
Spomenik Monument Database edited by Donald Niebyl, Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell $50
'Spomenik' the Serbo-Croat/Slovenian word for 'monument' - refers to a series of memorials built in Tito's Republic of Yugoslavia from the 1960s-1990s, marking the horror of the occupation and the defeat of Axis forces during World War II. Hundreds were built across the country, from coastal resorts to remote mountains. Through these imaginative forms of concrete and steel, a classless, forward-looking, socialist society, free of ethnic tensions, was envisaged. Instead of looking to the ideologically aligned Soviet Union for artistic inspiration, Tito turned to the west and works of abstract expressionism and minimalism. As a result, Yugoslavia was able to develop its own distinct identity through these brutal monuments, which were used as political tools to articulate Tito's personal vision of a new tomorrow.
20th-Century Fashion in Detail by Claire Wilcox and Valerie D. Mendes $55
An unparalleled resource of fashion detailing from throughout the last century: elaborate embroidery, intricate pleats, daring cuts, innovative approaches and solutions. Beautifully presented and containing only the very best examples.
Alexander von Humboldt and the Botanical Exploration of the Americas by H. Walter Lack $140
The plates reproduced here were drawn and printed to accompany the published account of Humboldt's explorations in the Americas at the turn of the nineteenth century and mark a high point in both descriptive accuracy and beauty in botanical illustration. A pleasing volume.
The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard $38
How did a 72-year-old from a family with (albeit odd) superpowers come to be desperately trying to find loot stashed all over Florida before the mob terminate him? An enjoyable novel about race, class and politics in an America still trying to come to terms with the civil rights movement.
"For sheer reading pleasure Ladee Hubbard's original and wildly inventive novel is in a class by itself." - Toni Morrison
"The Talented Ribkins is a charming and delightful debut novel with a profound heart, and Ladee Hubbard's voice is a welcome original." - Mary Gaitskill
>> Comes with reading group guide.
>> "Does that mean class is cancelled?"
The Sound of Breaking Glass by Kirsten Warner $35
The traumas of Kristallnacht in 1938 continue to echo through the generations, making life difficult for Christel, the daughter of a holocaust survivor and refugee to New Zealand. When her protest sculpture made of plastic milk containers comes to life like a golem from Jewish folklore, characters from the past begin to clamour for attention and secrets are uncovered.
>> Author sings.
>> Author speaks.
False Divides by Lana Lopesi $15
Te Moana Nui a Kiwa is the great ocean continent. While it is common to understand ocean and seas as something that divides land, for those Indigenous to the Pacific or the Moana, it was traditionally a connector and an ancestor. Imperialism in the Moana, however, created false divides between islands and separated their peoples. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, these connections are becoming visible again, partly through the use of globalising technologies. Lopesi argues that while colonisation created divisions across Te Moana Nui a Kiwa, the adaptability of Moana peoples is now turning the ocean back into the unifying continent that it once was.
Facts and Fiction: A book of storytelling by Michael Holroyd $40
Insights into the art of narration from one of the English language's foremost biographers. How can lives be written and told?
>> Informally yours.
Public, Private, Secret: On photography and the configuration of self by Charlotte Cotton $45
Explores the roles that photography and video play in the crafting of identity, and the reconfiguration of social conventions that define our public and private selves. Consciously framed by our present era, this collection of essays, interviews, and reflections assesses how our image-making and consumption patterns are embedded and implicated in a wider matrix of online behaviour and social codes, which in turn give images a life of their own. Within this context, our visual creations and online activities blur and remove conventional delineations between public and private (and sometimes secret) expression; in fact, they multiply and expand the number of potential selves in the contemporary image-centric world. The writings address the various disruptions, resistances, and subversions that artists propose to the limited versions of race, gender, sexuality, and autonomy that populate mainstream popular culture. In so doing, they anticipate a future for our image-world rich with diversity and alterity, one that can be shaped and influenced by the agency of self- representation.
The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa, translated by Margaret Jull Costa $25
"How often it pains me not to be some other banal individual, whose life, because it is not mine, fills me with longing. I envy in everyone the fact that they are not me," wrote Fernando Pessoa as Vicente Guedes in what is now considered the ‘first phase’ of The Book of Disquiet, a vast assortment of passages found unedited on variously sized pieces of paper in a trunk after Pessoa’s death in 1935 and variously selected, assembled and translated and made into books by various persons presuming the intentions of Pessoa (though what his intentions were for this material is far from clear). This new and first complete edition assembles the fragments in chronological order for the first time (so far as this can be determined), allowing us to take a cast of Pessoa’s thinking in the two ‘phases’ of the book (or, rather, ‘book’). The first phase contains material written by Pessoa as Vicente Guedes from 1913 to 1920, and the second phase contains material written as Bernardo Soares in the early 1930s, possibly intended to subsume the material previously written as Guedes (the Soares material being more descriptive, lighter in tone than the first section, almost glibber, Pessoa-as-Soares writing almost as someone who has read Pessoa-as-Guedes and seeking to make Guedes’s ideas his own). Pessoa contributed to Portuguese literature under 81 identified heteronyms, pseudonyms and personae (see the list here), each with a distinct style and intellectual life. New in paperback.
>> Read Thomas's review.
Is Gender Fluid? A primer for the 21st century by Sally Hines $28
Why is it that some people experience dissonance between their biological sex and their personal identity? Is gender something we are, or something we do? Is our expression of gender a product of biology, or does it develop based on our environment? Are the traditional binary male and female gender roles relevant in an increasingly fluid and flexible world?
Forms of Enchantment: Writings on art and artists by Marina Warner $55
Warner uses anthropology, psychology and mythology to dig deeply into the inner lives of artists, particularly women, and through the levels of meaning in work. Includes considerations of animals in the work of Louise Bourgeois, the Catholicism of Damien Hirst, and performance as a medium of memory in the installations of Joan Jonas.
Seven Dada Manifestos and Lampisteries by Tristan Tzara $23
The manifestos written by Tzara between 1916 and 1921 epitomised an assault on all traditional norms-and-forms, in art and in the art of living. Primarily works of liberating destruction, the manifestos pointed the way towards Surrealism and towards the new ways of seeing, living and making that were experimented with in the following decades.
>> "I am against manifestos."
Immigrant, Montana by Amitava Kumar $33
“There is a buoyant energy and hilarity to this account of an Indian student seeking the wide world through the women he meets, but one laughs with growing unease as a darker undercurrent is slowly revealed. An unusual, brave twist on the migrant’s tale.” —Kiran Desai
“A beguiling meditation on memory and migration, sex and politics, ideas and art, and race and ambiguity. Part novel, part memoir, this book is as sly, charming, and deceptive as its passionate protagonist, a writer writing himself into being.” —Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Alchemy of Things: Interiors shaped by curious minds by Karen McCarteny $70
Explores the homes of 18 global creatives who take an eccentric, whimsical, curated and clever approach to their living space. An interiors book both for people who love interiors books and for people who ordinarily don't love interiors books.
The future has arrived and it is not what anyone had imagined.
"As the UK trembles endlessly on the long drawn-out brink of Brexit, Sam Byers imagines what might come after. His furiously smart near-future satire is set partly in the fictional everytown of Edmundsbury, and partly in the digital world, from the shallows of Twitter to the murky depths of multinational tech companies. It’s both a rollicking farce of political exhaustion and social collapse, and a subtle investigation into the slippery, ever-evolving relationship between words and deeds." - The Guardian
The Maze: A labyrinthine companion by Angus Hyland, Kendra Wilson and Thibaud Herem $55
A beautifully presented collection of over 60 real and imagined mazes from around the world, each with a bird's eye diagrammatic view and description.
Strange Stars: David Bowie, pop music and the decade sci-fi exploded by Jason Heller $45
A Hugo Award-winning author and music journalist explores the weird and wild story of when the sci-fi world met the rock 'n' roll world of the 1970s. As the 1960s drew to a close, and mankind trained its telescopes on other worlds, old conventions gave way to a new kind of hedonistic freedom that celebrated sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Derided as nerdy or dismissed as fluff, science fiction rarely gets credit for its catalyzing effect on this revolution.
>> The Man Who Fell to Earth.
>> 'Space Oddity'.
The Death of the Gods: The new global power grab by Carl Miller $40
Where does power lie in the digital age?
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: Postcards $35
Mending Horses by M.P. Barker $18
Daniel Linnehan is an indentured servant no more. He has his papers, his beloved horse, Ivy, and a new direction in life. But in 1840s Massachusetts, a scruffy-looking Irish teenager wearing fine clothes and riding an even finer horse is asking for trouble.
The Edge of Memory: Ancient stories, oral tradition and the post-glacial world by Patrick Nunn $33
What is the relationship between folk traditions and scientific fact? To what extent may they be two ways of expressing the same reality?
An Anarchy of Chilies by Caz Hildebrand $45
Profiles and portraits of over 100 chili varieties.
Milkwood: Real skills for down-to-earth living by Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar $50
The skills that we learn bind our lives together. Do you want to know how to grow your own food? Or how to keep bees? How to forage for edible seaweed along the shoreline, or wild greens down by the stream? Maybe you're curious about growing mushrooms or how to grow the perfect tomato. You're invited to make these skills your own. Uses permaculture as a basis for a practical, sustainable and ethical antipodean lifestyle.
>> Visit Milkwood.
>> Living like it matters.
A Very Human Ending: How suicide haunts our species by Jesse Bering $38
The concept of self-annihilation appeared in humans as a corollary to the concept of the individual self, but what is it that draws some people to end their own lives, and why is this remarkably prevalent inclination such a taboo subject in most societies? Bering combines cutting-edge science, investigative journalism and personal interviews to draw a clear picture of suicide in the 21st century.
The End ('My Struggle' #6) by Karl Ove Knausgård $38
As his monumental struggle to erase the distinctions between the profound and the trivial, the personal and the public, the sensitive and the insensitive, the insightful and the asinine draws to a close, Knausgaard begins to count the cost of the project and of the fame it has brought him, both to himself and to those around him. There is, it seems, no easy accommodation between a writer, their writing, and the world in which it is both written and read.
"Both strikingly bold and utterly bizarre." - The Guardian
>> "I think contemporary fiction is extremely overrated."
>> Read them all.