New this week.
The Unmapped Country by Ann Quin $32
Exploring the risks and seductions of going over the edge, this collection of stories and fragments provides a good introduction to this cult writer of the 1960s who cut an alternative path across twentieth century innovative writing, bridging the world of Virginia Woolf and Anna Kavan with that of Kathy Acker and Chris Kraus.
"Ann Quin is one of the few mid-century British novelists who actually, in the long term, matter." - Tom McCarthy
" Quin works over a small area with the finest of tools. Every page, every word gives evidence of her care and workmanship." - New York Times
Fragments of Lichtenberg by Pierre Senges $32
Eighteenth century German physicist, satirist, Anglophile, mathematician, electrical theorist, womaniser, hunchback, asthmatic, hypochondriac and author of 8,000 aphorisms, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg recorded his many and various thoughts in a dozen what he termed 'sudelbücher' (scrapbooks). Senges' remarkable novel treats these fragments as minutiae feeling their way towards becoming a single work - and attempts to construct that work.
"This is no mere literary game: what hides behind all this is a deep observation of the links between one's age and one's culture; a subtle reflection on the construction of canon, schools, and literary cults that structures our idea of great literature and thus closes our mind to a more dynamic, alternative, or revisionist view. It is also a very moving illustration of close reading as a sort of rewriting that goes beyond the specialist consensus, a political novel that dares not say its name, and one of the funniest books I've read in a long while." - The Quarterly Conversation
The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook $37
When her mother, a former slave, is killed by the panther that also leaves herself disfigured, Samantha crosses the Texan frontier with her brother Benjamin, and, with an unlikely posse, seeks revenge on this implacable and unknowable force of nature.
In turns funny, angry and insightful, Lockwood's memoir of growing up with a father several times larger than life in a world several sizes too small for them both is not quite like anything else. Lockwood, whose Motherland, Fatherland, Homelandsexuals positioned her as an American approximation of Hera Lindsay Bird, will appear at this year's New Zealand Festival.
"Lockwood's prose is cute and dirty and innocent and experienced, Betty Boop in a pas de deux with David Sedaris." - The New York Times
In the Days of Rain: A daughter, a father, a cult by Rebecca Stott $28
"I couldn't explain how I'd become a teenage mother, or shoplifted books for years, or why I was afraid of the dark and had a compulsion to rescue people, without explaining about the Brethren or the God they made for us, and the Rapture they told us was coming. But then I couldn't really begin to talk about the Brethren without explaining about my father..."
Winner of the 2017 Costa Biography Prize.
"Beautiful, dizzying, terrifying, Stott's memoir maps the unnerving hinterland where faith becomes cruelty and devotion turns into disaster. A brave, frightening and strangely hopeful book." - Olivia Laing, author of The Lonely City
Aelfred's Britain: War and peace in the Viking age by Max Hastings $55
In 865, a great Viking army landed in East Anglia, precipitating a series of wars that would last until the middle of the following century. It was in this time of crisis that the modern kingdoms of Britain were born. In their responses to the Viking threat, these kingdoms forged their identities as hybrid cultures.
My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson $28
Thirteen-year-old Lora is determined to leave Havana and teach literacy in the rural backblocks of Cuba. Her parents aren't too pleased, but she has the support of her grandfather.
The Senses by Matteo Farinella $28
A graphic novel-style introduction to the senses, drawn by a neuroscientist. Interesting and fun. From the author of the excellent Neurocomic.
>>> Sample pages!
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson, illustrated by Chloe Bristol $28
Elizabeth, eleven, spends Christmas break at Winterhouse hotel under strange circumstances, where she discovers that she has magical abilities, and where her love of puzzles makes her ideally suited to solve a mystery.
>> Looks good!
Slum Virgin by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara $32
A Buenos Aires slum is transformed into a tiny utopia when a transvestite is led by a divine revelation to steer the community. The lively separatism of the shantytown attracts and then subsumes a journalist at first intent only on a story.
>> Read an extract.
Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel $38
Gazing at illuminated manuscripts made by human hands hundreds of years ago creates a very special kind of connection across the centuries. Who better to do the introductions than Christopher de Hamel? Fully illustrated.
Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr $19
Astrid loves to spend her days racing down the hillside on her sledge or skis. Astrid longs for other children to come to her village and join her adventures. Instead, she has to put up with a grumpy old seventy-four year old for a best friend (although secretly, she knows she wouldn't have it any other way). Astrid's world is about to be turned upside down, however, first by the arrival of a strange family, and then a mystery woman. Her best friend, Gunnvald, has been keeping a secret from her - one that will test their friendship to its limits. Everything is changing in Astrid's valley, and she's not sure she likes it.
Blood on the Page: A murder, a secret trial, a search for the truth by Thomas Harding $38
In June 2006, police were called to number 9 Downshire Hill in Hampstead to investigate reports of unusual card activity. The owner of the house, Allan Chappelow, was an award-winning photographer and biographer, an expert on George Bernard Shaw, and a notorious recluse, who had not been seen for several weeks. Inside they found piles of rubbish, trees growing through the floor, and, in what was once the living room, the body of Chappelow, battered to death, and buried under four-feet of page proofs. The man eventually convicted of his murder was a Chinese dissident named Wang Yam: the grandson of one of Mao's closest aides, and a key negotiator in the Tiananmen Square protests. His trial was the first in the UK to be held without access to the press or public. Yam has always protested his innocence - admitting to the card fraud, but claiming no knowledge of the murder. Intriguing.
Nothing But the Night by John Williams $26
Arthur's ambivalence towards his estranged father reaches a head during an evening of drinking and romance in this novella from the author of Stoner.
Lucky Button by Michael Morpurgo $23
Inspired by the Foundling Hospital, this tale set in the eighteenth century features, understandable, an orphan, and the transformative power of music. Illustrated by Michael Foreman.
Urban Maori: The second great migration by Bradford Haami $40
The movement of rural Maori to the cities following World War 2 has transformed not only they texture of New Zealand life but also necessitated new definitions of what it means to be Maori.
The Growth Delusion by David Pilling $33
Obviously, any system that is dependent upon indefinite and continued growth is at best unsustainable. Why then has this been the dominant model of economics in recent times? What are the alternatives?
Sky ('The Huntress' #2) by Sara Driver $20
The trail of the Storm-Opals takes Mouse into a dangerous new world. With little brother Sparrow and friend Crow alongside her, she finds herself in Sky, where fortresses hide among the clouds, secret libraries (skybraries) nestle atop icebergs and the air swirls with ferocious flying beasts. Start the series with Sea.
Secret Pigeon Service: Operation Columba, resistance and the struggle to liberate occupied Europe by Gordon Corera $37
Everyone has heard of MI5 and MI6. Some may even have heard of MI9 which helped downed airmen escape in World War II. But few will know of MI14(d) - the `Special Pigeon Service'. Between 1941 and 1944, sixteen thousand plucky pigeons were dropped in an arc from Bordeaux to Copenhagen as part of `Columba' - a secret British operation to bring back intelligence from those living under Nazi occupation.
Mariner: A voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge by Malcolm Guite $28
A biography of Coleridge, showing his life's arc to be similar to that described in the poem he wrote at age 25. Guite not only uses 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' as a lens through which to view the poet's life, but also uses it to reveal something of the human condition or relevance to our own times.
The Devil's Highway by Gregory Norminton $35
A novel of three strands (the Roman occupation, the present, a plausible future) set around a Roman Road in South-East England, and with a strong ecological awareness. The post-apocalyptic strand is written in a decayed English reminiscent of Riddley Walker.
The Girl in the Tower ('Winternight' #2) by Katherine Arden $37
For a young woman in medieval Russia, the choices are stark- marriage or a life in a convent. Vasya will choose a third way: magic. Follows The Bear and the Nightingale.
"With its beautiful storytelling and fiercely independent heroine fighting to be in charge of her own story, Katherine Arden's series finally fills a gap long left empty by Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. Full of snowy Russian legends come to life, the lights and political intrigue of medieval Moscow, beautiful princes and monks with swords, Arden's writing is striking in its loveliness and impressive in its storytelling instincts." - Anna James
Te Papa: Reinventing New Zealand's national museum, 1998-2018 by Conal McCarthy $45
How have the past twenty years fulfilled our expectations for our museum?
Horses: Wild and tame by Iris Volant and Jarom Vogel $30
>> Have a look inside.