Saturday 26 May 2018

Find out what we have been reading.
Choose what you will read next.
Read our latest NEWSLETTER (26.5.18).


The Shadow Cipher ('York' #1) by  Laura Ruby   {Reviewed by STELLA}
It’s New York, but not as you know it. Laura Ruby’s new series 'York' is an intriguing story about three children trying to save a building from developers. The book opens with a scene set in 1855 - a feisty young woman, Ava, is getting the better of a man who has followed her through the streets of New York. He’s after information about her employers, the famous Morningstarr twins. The genius twins were great inventors and magnificent engineers. They created mechanical machines (bugs and caterpillars) that cleaned the streets, underways and overways with sleek silver carriages, solar winged cars, buildings with complex elevators that go every which way, and other mechanical wonders and automata. The action quickly moves to present-day New York where Tess and Theo Biedermann (geeky twins named after the Morningstarrs) live in a Morningstarr building. Determined not to be booted out of their building, they get together with fellow resident and friend Jamie and set about solving a puzzle, The Old York Cipher, a puzzle that people have been trying to solve for over one hundred years. There are clues all over New York; there is even a dedicated society that spends hours collecting information and analysing the clues in a giant and wondrous archive. Yet few have got beyond the first clue. Tess, Theo and Jamie are great characters who bounce off each other and offer different perspectives to solve the cipher. The first of this trilogy, this book is called The Shadow Cipher, which implies that it’s possible that everyone’s been looking in the wrong places, or maybe there’s more than one cipher. This sets up the series nicely and leaves enough hanging to keep you looking forward to the next volumes. Add to this cross-bred and genetically altered ‘pets’ or ‘service animals’ - Tess has a wonder cat-wolf called Nine; a whole host of great side characters - the younger children in the apartment building, Cricket - a imaginative, sly and sharp six year old - and her brother Otto (a ninja, of course); the very tall Mr Stoop and very short Mr. Pinscher, henchmen of the property developer, Slant; and a fantastical New York dotted with the Morningstarrs' technology, and plenty of city history woven into the story line. An enjoyable, page-turning adventure with clues, mysteries, strange consequences and extremely likeable characters. 

Not to Read by Alejandro Zambra    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“I am writing with a great deal of ease and fluidity. One must distrust that,” wrote Clarice Lispector, quoted by the Chilean Alejandro Zambra in one of the essays in this highly enjoyable collection of literary observations on, ostensibly, some of the more interesting largely (but not exclusively) Latin American literature of the last quarter century, literature that distrusts, as Zambra dismisses, the clichéed fluidity of the ‘Magic Realists’ most readily (and lazily) associated with Latin American literature by Western readers. Zambra instead values literature that is hesitant, inventive, always aware of new possibilities, mentally and linguistically supple, striving always towards new forms. “All great works of literature either dissolve a genre or invent one,” wrote Walter Benjamin (not quoted by Alejandro Zambra (at least not in this book)). Because the reviews collected here are often of books the reader of Not to Read has not read and by authors with whom the reader (at least this reader) is unfamiliar, the reader at the outset may think they might skip quite a bit of the book, to make reading faster, but Zambra’s book is too interesting, too nicely written, and too enjoyable. There are indeed considerations of many authors the reader has not heard of, but the essays deliver the same fascination as reading Borges’s studies of nonexistent books (Borges thought it more worthwhile, and faster, to write about books that do not exist than to write the books themselves), with the added benefit that, just possibly, works by these authors may already be, or may one day be, available in English. At the very least, one reads to read about the writing and reading of texts, which is, after all, the most interesting thing to read about. The reader might have thought that skipping might save time, but the text runs so lightly and so sprightlyly that the reader is in any case carried forward more rapidly by following the text than they would have proceeded had it been possible to skip. The essays and reviews included inNot to Read also function as a sort of literary autobiography of Zambra himself, his concerns, approaches, influences and motivations, and provide a greater appreciation of his other work, direct yet subtle, playful yet poignant, personal yet politically and socially acute, compact yet wonderfully expansive. Zambra recommends books we are sure that we will like, even though we may never get to read them, but, more importantly, the reasons for his recommendations, his observations on and his responses to these books, provide a portrait of a reader we come quickly to admire, and who we as readers may well wish to be more like, as well as of a writer alert to the possibilities of writing. Zambra is frequently very funny, as he is in the title essay ‘Not to Read’, which starts out as a review of Pierre Bayard’s How to Talk About Books You Have Not Read, which Zambra has himself not read, and carries on to become a deliciously prickly lampoon of opinions formed of books without reading them, intercut with seemingly very valid reasons not to read some writers’ books. Zambra’s concision and lightness (Zambra is an exemplar of the literary qualities Italo Calvino thought most important in his Six Memos for a New Millennium) can produce beautiful sentences, such as this one on Santiago, quivering with a sensitivity that undercuts ease and fluidity and leaves us utterly aware: “It’s the city that we know, the city that would follow us if we wanted to flee from it (from ourselves), with its permanent architectural eclecticism, with the dirty river, almost always a mere trickle, cutting the landscape in half, with the most beautiful sky imaginable in those few days of autumn or winter after it rains, when we rediscover the mountains.” 

BRAZEN: Rebel ladies who rocked the world by Pénélope Bagieu is a series of witty and enjoyable graphic-novel-style biographies of women from across the globe and throughout time whose indomitable spirit enabled them to live remarkable lives despite overwhelming adversity. BRAZEN is our BOOK OF THE WEEK. 

>> An interview with Bagieu about the book

>> Watch Bagieu draw a mermaid

>> An interview (in French).

>> Someone looks through the book.

>> Live illustration! 

>> Other graphic novels by Bagieu

Friday 25 May 2018

These books are in the building. 
See What Can Be Done by Lorrie Moore           $45
Three decades of the application of Moore's sharp and quirky mind to every cultural manifestation from books to films to politics (and back to books) has left this marvelous residue of essays and criticism. 
>> "The route to truth and beauty is a toll road." 
The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas         $26
When Unn inexplicably disappears, Siss's world is shattered. Siss's struggle with her fidelity to the memory of her friend and Unn's fatal exploration of the strange, terrifyingly beautiful frozen waterfall that is the 'Ice Palace' are described in prose of a remarkable lyrical economy. 
"How simple this novel is. How subtle. How strong. How unlike any other. It is unique. It is unforgettable. It is extraordinary." - Doris Lessing
"I'm surprised it isn't the most famous book in the world." - Max Porter
>> Read an excerpt
>> 1987 film by Per Blom
Mimicry #4 edited by Holly Hunter         $15
Oil paintings of stills from fail videos, apricots plucked from novels, a porn filmmaker memorialising her son, reasons why Hollywood doesn't cast poets in films. Visual art, poetry, prose, photography, music and comedy from emerging artists. 
>> There's a playlist!
Landfall 235 edited by Emma Neale        $30
Arts and letters: Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor, Nick Ascroft, Joseph Barbon, Airini Beautrais, Tony Beyer, Mark Broatch, Danny Bultitude, Brent Cantwell, Rachel Connor, Ruth Corkill, Mark Edgecombe, Lynley Edmeades, Johanna Emeney, Bonnie Etherington, Jess Fiebig, Meagan France, Kim Fulton, Isabel Haarhaus, Bernadette Hall, Michael Hall, Rebecca Hawkes, Aaron Horrell, Jac Jenkins, Erik Kennedy, Brent Kininmont, Wen-Juenn Lee, Zoë Meager, Alice Miller, Dave Moore, Art Nahill, Janet Newman, Charles Olsen, Joanna Preston, Jessie Puru, Jeremy Roberts, Derek Schulz, Sarah Scott, Charlotte Simmonds, Tracey Slaughter, Elizabeth Smither, Rachael Taylor, Lynette Thorstensen, James Tremlett, Tam Vosper, Dunstan Ward, Susan Wardell, Sugar Magnolia Wilson, Kathryn Madill, Russ Flatt, Penny Howard. Results of the 2018 Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Award. 
Hannah's Dress: Berlin, 1904-2014 by Pascale Hugues        $54
A fascinating insight into the vaguaries and extremities of Berlin's modern history as expressed through the lives of those living on a single street. 
Winner of the European Book Prize. 

Vladimir M. by Robert Littell           $23
Twenty-five years after his death, four women gather to share their memories of Vladimir Mayakovsky, the Russian Futurist poet whose subsequent uneasy relationship with the increasingly realist Soviet culture machine continued far past his suicide in 1930. In this novel, Mayakovsky's memory is contested on the eve of Stalin's death. 

All Gates Open: The story of Can by Rob Young and Irwin Schmidt        $55
Applying avant-garde approaches to popular musical forms, from 1968 onward, Can opened a sort of crack to the creative unconscious through which flowed enormous amounts of musically liberating energy. This book is in two parts: a biography of the band by Young, and a symposium on musical experimentation by founding member Schmidt, and a consideration of the tentacular reach of the band's influence. 
>> 'Halleluhwah' (1971).

>> Live in Soest (1970). 
Bullshit Jobs: A theory by David Graeber          $55
Graeber, author of the excellent Debt: The first 5000 years, argues the existence and societal harm of meaningless jobs. He contends that over half of societal work is pointless, which becomes psychologically destructive when paired with a worth ethic that associates work with self-worth. Graeber describes five types of bullshit jobs, in which workers pretend their role isn't as pointless or harmful as they know it to be: flunkies, goons, duct tapers, box tickers, and taskmasters. He argues that the association of labour with virtuous suffering is recent in human history, and proposes universal basic income as a potential solution.
>> Writing a book about bullshit jobs is not a bullshit job
Journals, 1958-1973 by Charles Brasch, edited by Peter Simpson         $60
The third and final volume of this very valuable source of information about New Zealand's literary history. By the 1960s, Brasch, though very private by temperament, was a reluctant public figure, especially as editor of Landfall. He was also becoming a highly regarded poet, who eventually had six books to his name. Behind the scenes Brasch was increasingly important as an art collector and as patron and benefactor.. Among his friends Brasch counted most of the country's leading artists, writers and intellectuals including Sargeson, McCahon, McCormick, Stead, the Pauls, the Woollastons, the Baxters, Lilburn, Beaglehole, Angus, Oliver, Bensemann, Lusk, Frame and Dallas. These near contemporaries were joined by the talented young, many met as contributors to Landfall- including Gee, Cross, Shadbolt, Duggan, O'Sullivan, Hotere, Tuwhare, Caselberg, Middleton and Manhire. Brasch's lively and sometimes acerbic accounts of such people are a fascinating aspect of his journals. Behind the esteemed poet, editor and public intellectual, however, was a sensitive and often angst-ridden man, who confided his loneliness to his journals.
>> Volumes 1 and 2 are also available. 
Whisper of a Crow's Wing by Majella Cullinane         $28
Poetry drawing its imagery and strength from Cullinane's Irish heritage and her New Zealand home.
"There is an elegance and poise and care in the language of these poems, an unobtrusive mastery and ease in their cadences and rhythms." - Vincent O'Sullivan   
Ko Wai e Huna Ana? by Satoru Onishi and Paora Tibble        $20
Who's hiding? Who's crying? Who's backwards? Te Reo edition. 
New People of the Flat Earth by Brian Short          $23

During his years in a Zen monastery, Proteus has discovered an ability to connect, deep in his mind, with a spherical entity he calls Mosquito. When Mosquito disappears, Proteus sets off in search of answers, only to find that wisdom lies far away from sanity. 

The 5 Misfits by Beatrice Alemagna         $18

When a perfect stranger visits the five misfits, will he be able to inspire them to Achieve, or are they happy as they are, leaving him to look like a perfect fool?
Deport, Deprive, Extradite: 21st century state terrorism by Nisha Kapoor          $35
A damning indictment of contemporary state security, this well-researched and cogently argued book looks at the mechanisms by which states, notably the UK and the US, deprive presumed radicals of citizenship, identity and human rights, and, in doing so violate the bases of these concepts for all. 

The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy         $35
Following Things I Don't Want to Know, this second installment of Levy's 'living autobiography' reveals a writer in radical flux, grappling with life and letters and re-establishing the positions of de Beauvoir's The Second Sex in a contemporary context. 
A World to Win: The life and works of Karl Marx by Sven-Eric Liedman         $65
Building on the work of previous biographers, Liedman creates a definitive portrait of Marx and the depth of his contribution to the way the world understands itself. He shines a light on Marx’s influences, explains his political and intellectual interventions, and builds on the legacy of his thought. Liedman shows how Marx’s Capital illuminates the essential logic of a system that drives dizzying wealth, grinding poverty, and awesome technological innovation to this day.

Marx and Marxism by Gregory Claeys         $28

Recurrent financial crises, growing social inequality, and an increasing sense of the destructiveness of capitalism has fueled new interest in this thinker. 
The End of the French Intellectual by Shlomo Sand       $43
Revered throughout the Francophile world, France’s tradition of public intellectual engagement stems from Voltaire and Zola and runs through Sartre and Foucault to the present day. The intellectual enjoys a status as the ethical lodestar of his nation’s life, but, as Sand shows, the recent history of these esteemed figures shows how often, and how profoundly, they have fallen short of the ideal. Sand examines Sartre and de Beauvoir’s unsettling accommodations during the Nazi occupation and then shows how Muslims have replaced Jews as the nation’s scapegoats for a new generation of public intellectuals.
“Combining rigorous historical investigation and passionate political intervention is rare, yet it is precisely what Shlomo Sand has achieved in this well-informed, insightful book. The recent wave of reactionary, Islamophobic intellectuals in France—and elsewhere—has found one of its fiercest analysts. By re-examining the history of the ‘French intellectual’ in the longue durée, Shlomo Sand offers robust criticism of our present—and also helps us imagine how future forms of political intellectuality could emerge.” – Razmig Keucheyan
Migration: Incredible animal journeys by Mike Unwin and Jenni Desmond         $25
Follow the emperor penguin through snow, ice and bitter temperatures; watch as the great white shark swims 10,000 km in search of seals; track huge herds of elephants, on their yearly hunt for water and be amazed at the millions of red crabs, migrating across Christmas Island. Lovely illustrated hardback. 

Korean Food Made Easy by Caroline Hwang         $45
Clear recipes for delicious, healthy food. 

A Sand Archive by Gregory Day         $35
A novel sifting the histories and stories of Australia's Great Ocean Road along the southern coast of Victoria, reaching back to the thinking of engineer, historian and philosopher F.B. Herschell, a minor player in the road's construction and deeply rooted in the narrator's experience of place. 

Why I am a Hindu by Shashi Tharoor         $38
"Shashi Tharoor is the most charming and persuasive writer in India. His new book is a brave and characteristically articulate attempt to save a great and wonderfully elusive religion from the certainties of the fundamentalists and the politicisation of the bigots." - William Dalrymple
Tharoor lays out Hinduism's origins and its key philosophical concepts, major texts and everyday Hindu beliefs and practices, from worship to pilgrimage to caste. Tharoor is unsparing in his criticism of extremism and unequivocal in his belief that what makes India a distinctive nation with a unique culture will be imperilled if Hindu 'fundamentalists', the proponents of 'Hindutva', or politicised Hinduism, prevail.
The Neurotic Turn edited by Charles Johns      $23
Neurosis is not an ailment but the dominant functional mechanism of our society. Medicalisation of neurosis has only provisionally put into into abeyance, but is increasingly ineffective. The essays in this book ask what we can learn about society through the modelling of neuroses, and what paths offer themselves to address the suffering entailed by both. 
Creative Quest by Questlove          $50
Who better than Questlove, musician and creative dynamo, to synthesise creative philosophies and provide the tools to focus your capacities in the direction you would like them applied? 
>> ?estlove drum solo.

The Drugs that Changed Our Minds: The history of psychiatry in ten treatments by Lauren Slater           $38

As our approach to mental illness has oscillated from biological to psychoanalytical and back again, so have our treatments. With the rise of psychopharmacology, an ever-increasing number of people throughout the globe are taking a psychotropic drug, yet nearly seventy years after doctors first began prescribing them, we still don't really know  how or why they work - or don't work - on what ails our brains.

“We’re on the cusp of significant shifts in our environment and our attitudes towards it – unfortunately we’ve squandered the opportunity to make incremental change in the area of climate change policy, for instance, and it’s now becoming more urgent to make changes that could have more brutal social and economic consequences." Catherine Knight 
This book tracks the development of environmental politics from the 1960s, examines the legislation and establishment of institutions to safeguard habitats, and examines issues such as freshwater management, land use, climate change and the strengthening role of iwi and hapū in environmental management. Timely and important. 
Milk: A 10,000 year food fracas by Mark Kurlansky        $35
The history of milk is the history of human civilisation. From the author of Cod  and Salt

How We Desire by Carolin Emcke       $38
Do we sometimes ‘slip into norms the way we slip into clothes, putting them on because they’re laid out ready for us’? Is our desire and our sexuality rather constantly in flux, evolving as we mature, and shifting as our interests change? Can our inner lives and our social roles ever be in harmony? 
"Delicate and vulnerable, angry, passionate, clever and thoughtful. An amazing work." - Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung

 Pops: Fatherhood in pieces by Michael Chabon        $35
A series of essays springing from Chabon's experiences as a father and his attempts to enact meaningful communication with his children, attempts often stymied by his own unexamined generational prejudices and leading, ultimately, to a deep respect for his children. 

Mr Peacock's Possessions by Lydia Syson        $33
A novel based on the author's ancestors' attempt to settle on Sunday (now Raoul) Island in the Kermadecs in the 1870s.
"Lord of the Flies as if written by Barbara Kingsolver." - Writers' Review
"A thrilling story of love and courage, brutality and hope all told with equal measures of deep humanity, imagination and elan. Lydia Syson has an amazing gift of bringing history alive through richness of language, dramatic pace and fabulous visual imagery." - Anne Sebba
>> The author on Radio NZ

Saturday 19 May 2018

BOOKS @ VOLUME #75 (19.5.18)



Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer  {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“Who eats in a cage? Or with a caged mouth?” There is either writing or not-writing (even though not-writing may be as specific concerning what is not written and writing is concerning what is), and the dividing line between the two is not so much a wall as a cliff, an inequality more effective than a barrier. Anne Boyer’s collection of prose poems, Garments Against Women, is everywhere alert to the ways in which the world as experienced by those who live in it is riven by inequalities. Those who wield a power or who benefit from the wielding of that power have little perceptual overlap with those upon whom that power is wielded or who suffer from the wielding of that power, but, interestingly, the advantaged live in a world of more restricted truth, even though the disadvantaged may feel the effects of this restriction. This asymmetry acts as a constraint upon those to whom falls more heavily the burden of existing, “lives diminished by the arrangement of the world,” their time forced into objects and taken from them by what is termed an ‘economic system’. Boyer’s poems interrogate her relationship with objects, for instance the garments she sews or that she buys from thrift shops: “the fabric still contains the hours of the lives” - can these hours have their value restored? For whose benefit have these hours been put into objects? If “writing is the manufacture of impossible desires,” can we write of or read of objects without involving ourselves in the mechanisms by which time is taken asymmetrically from workers? Is it possible for an object to not exist except as a vicarious object, “an object which exists only as it might exist to another”? Are all objects more vicarious than not? “I am the dog who can never be happy because I am imagining the unhappiness of other dogs,” writes Boyer. How it is possible to write, even to imagine writing, even if one had the time to write, without writing ‘garments’ that are designed by and are to the benefit of those who have confined ‘writing’ in the narrow world of their advantage? Whose roles must be challenged and overhauled? “I will soon write a long, sad book called A Woman Shopping, writes Boyer, an self-described “addict of denial”, in the poem ‘A Woman Shopping’. “It will be a book about what we are required to do and also a book about what we are hated for doing.” Everyone is smothered by their role: “If a woman has no purse we will imagine one for her.” “Everyone tries to figure out how to overcome the embarrassment of existing,” but the real struggle is “not between actor and actor. It’s between actors and the stage.” Boyer’s poems provide subtle and often surprising insights into the relationships between individuals and their roles, desires and scripts, personal and societal misfortunes, struggle and survival, despair and surprising joy. Can writing effect real change? “I thought to have a name was to become an object,” writes Boyer. “I thought I was a charlatan. I was mistaken. I was not a charlatan, I was a search term.”


{STELLA}:  In the lead up to my interrogation of crime novelists Alan Carter and Paul Cleave, I’ve been delving into the world of nasty criminals, psychopaths, serial killers, crooked (just bad) cops and a whole host of no-gooders - along with shocked bystanders, good, yet compromised, cops, and a few ethically staunch good detectives. There are suspects and victims, crime scenes and murder weapons. The most recent criminal activities on record are Marlborough Man by Alan Carter (you can read my review here) and A Killer Harvest by Paul Cleave. To begin  my investigation I went back to the first in Cleave’s Christchurch crime noir series, The Cleaner. The premise sounded good: Joe the Janitor working at the police station - a simple fellow who goes unnoticed in the tense and busy world of criminal investigations and unsolved murders. Yet Joe knows more than he’s letting on: he’s got information the police would love to have about the man who's been labelled ‘The Christchurch Carver’. He knows about his penchant for knives, that he is methodical and thorough. The detectives are slow to see the pattern of victims and, when they do, they are hardly working together to solve the crime. There are dirty cops intent on their own pleasures. The clock is ticking, the media are demanding answers and they are no closer to finding the carver. The Cleaner would have been a very good straight crime story about a serial killer if it hadn’t been for the other factors that blow it out of the mold. These are Cleave’s tight writing, wry, if somewhat startling humour - Joe’s Mum is extremely memorable - and a woman named Melissa. And believe me, you will never look at a pair of pliers in quite the same way again! All Cleave’s books are set in Christchurch - the gritty underbelly of the garden city. Raw, nasty and eerie, it’s the perfect backdrop for serial killers, revenge and the dark internal worlds of both the crims and the cops. A Killer Harvest is aptly named. Blind and robbed of his family, Joshua believes he is cursed - that there is a family curse. When Joshua’s father is killed on the job, an opportunity arises for the teen to see. His father has gifted him his eyes. A successful operation changes the teen’s life - but at what cost? What does Joshua know, and what is he sensing? His dreams are confusing - he sees his father falling but he’s also inside his head looking out. Can cellular memory have anything to do with the images he’s seeing? There are secrets that maybe no one wants to or should know. A darkness is rising - one worse than being blind. Added to this is a man on a rampage. His father’s killer is dead, but Simon Bower’s best mate Vincent  has tipped over the edge. And he’s out to set the record straight - to avenge his mate’s killing at the hands of the police. Cleave explores memory, secrets and motivations for good and evil in this taut thriller at the centre of which ordinary lives revolve and innocent people are in jeopardy.
The special public inquisition takes place this Thursday at Elma Turner Library. >> Invite your friends.  >> Do some preparatory reading

Use our Book of the Week to make new mythical beasts out of pre-existing mythical beasts. The pages of Myth Match: A fantastical flip-book of extraordinary beasts are split, providing endless permutations, both of the pictures and (cleverly) the descriptive text.

>> See how the book works

>> The book is designed by Good Wives and Warriors

>> How the book was made

>> Try it yourself

Friday 18 May 2018

Newly released. 
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood          $28
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's Motherland, Fatherland, Homelandsexuals positioned her as an American approximation of Hera Lindsay Bird.  
"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

>> "Anything that happens from here is not my fault." (Lockwood in Wellington.)
Toolbox by Fabio Morábito       $36
What is it like to be a hammer, a screw, a file, a sponge? Why do different tools have different 'characters'? If tools are the extension of human capacities and intentions, what do they tell us about ourselves? Both witty and profound.
Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose        $28
On April 11, 1931, Virginia Woolf ended her entry in A Writer s Diary with the words "too much and not the mood". She was describing how tired she was of correcting her own writing, of the cramming in and the cutting out to please readers, wondering if she had anything at all that was truly worth saying. These issues underlie these essays by Chew-Bose: the contrapuntal forces of her external and internal worlds, the relationship between inner restlessness and creative production, the clash of identity and individuality. The work is informed by the sensibilities of MAggie Nelson, Lydia Davis and Vivian Gornick and quotidian frustration.
"Our generation has no-one else like Durga Chew-Bose: a cultural critic who isn't afraid to get personal, a romantic nostalgic with a lemony twist who applies her brilliance to life as it is currently lived. It's a profound and glorious relief to encounter this book." - Lena Dunham
>> The power of uncertainty
Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf       $30
"She thought that it was precisely when things get uncomfortable or can't be shown that something interesting comes to light. That is the point of no return, the point that must be reached, the point you reach after crossing the border of what has already been said, what has already been seen. It's cold out there." This hybrid novel - part research notes, part fictionalised diary, and part travelogue - uses the stories of polar exploration to make sense of the protagonist's own concerns as she comes of age as an artist, a daughter, and a sister to an autistic brother.  “It’s much easier to get to the Arctic than to reach certain areas of one’s self.”
The Shape of Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez        $38
A novel comprised of personal and formal investigations into the possible links between the assassination of Rafael Uribe Uribe in 1914, the man who inspired Garcia Marquez's General Buendia in One Hundred Years of Solitude, and of the charismatic Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, the man who might have been Colombia's J.F.K., gunned down on the brink of success in the presidential elections of 1948. 
"Absolutely hypnotic, a display of tense, agile, intelligent narrative, it takes conspiracy to a whole other level." - El Cultural 
"With utmost skill, Vasquez has us accompany him in his detective work, proposing a reflection on ghosts from the past and the inheritance of blame, doubt and fear." - El Pais 
"Juan Gabriel Vasquez has many gifts - intelligence, wit, energy, a deep vein of feeling - but he uses them so naturally that soon enough one forgets one's amazement at his talents, and then the strange, beautiful sorcery of his tale takes hold." - Nicole Krauss
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi           $33
Ada has always been unusual. As an infant in southern Nigeria, she is a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents successfully prayed her into existence, but something must have gone awry, as the young Ada becomes a troubled child, prone to violent fits of anger and grief. But Ada turns out to be more than just volatile. Born “with one foot on the other side,” she begins to develop separate selves. When Ada travels to America for college, a traumatic event crystallises the selves into something more powerful. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these alters—now protective, now hedonistic—move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dangerous direction. 
>> Read an extract
>> What is an ogbanje? 
The Life of Stuff: A memoir about the mess we leave behind by Susannah Walker         $40
What is the relationship between a person and their possessions? What extra burden do these possessions bear when the person dies and what extra difficulty or comfort do they extend to those left behind? When her mother died, Walker was left to search through a dilapidated, cluttered house min search of someone she found she had never really known. 

Women Design: Pioneers in architecture, industrial, graphic and digital design from the twentieth century to the present day by Libby Sellers         $45
A good selection, well illustrated, from Eileen Gray, Lora Lamm and Lella Vignelli, to Kazuyo Sejima, Hella Jongerius and Neri Oxman.
Rebel Publisher: How Grove Press ended censorship of the written word in America by Loren Glass         $32
Grove Press, and its house journal The Evergreen Review, revolutionized the publishing industry and radicalized the reading habits of the "paperback generation." Barney Rossett founded the company on a shoestring in 1951 and it became an important conduit through which avant-garde and European literature, and the works of Beckett, Burroughs, Brecht and Malcolm X became available in the US. 
>> Rossett obituary (2012).
>> Much discussion in this institution
Listen to This by Alex Ross         $28
From the author of The Rest is Noise, this book collects some of his best writing on classical and popular music - everything from Brahms to Bjork.  
>> Ross will be appearing with soprano Bianca Ross and Stroma at the Nelson School of Music on 27 May

Bloom: A story of fashion designer Elsa Schiapparelli by Kyo Maclear and Julia Morstad          $30
A very nicely done picture book about a girl who became ill from planting seeds in her ears and nose went on to be a designer who would not be limited by tradition or rationality. 
Ready to Fall by Marcella Pixley        $19
Following the death of his mother, Max Friedman comes to believe that he is sharing his brain with a tumour. As Max becomes focused on controlling the malignant tenant, he starts to lose touch with his friends and family, and with reality itself – so Max’s father sends him off to the artsy Baldwin School to regain his footing. Soon, Max has joined a group of theatre misfits in a steam-punk production of Hamlet. He befriends Fish, a gril with pink hair and a troubled past, and The Monk, a boy who refuses to let go of the things he loves. Max starts to feel happy, and the ghosts of his past seem to be gone for ever. But the tumour is always lurking in the wings – until one night it knocks him down, and Max is forced to face the truth.
"Grief becomes something oddly beautiful – and beautifully odd." - Kirkus
Woman at Sea by Catherine Poulain          $37
"`It must be possible to find a balance,' I say, `between deathly boredom and a too-violent life.' `There isn't a balance,' he says. `It's always all or nothing.'" A novel based on the author's own experience of running away from a humdrum existence in France and finding the intensity she seeks on board a rough fishing boat operating from the Alaskan island of Kodiak. 
"An untamed successor to Conrad and Melville." - l'Obs [!]

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor           $25
Not only is this book a thriller that overturns the expectations of a thriller while still achieving the effects upon the reader of a thriller, it is a novel that overturns the expectations of a novel (plot, protagonists, ‘viewpoint’, shape, interiority, &c) while achieving the effects upon the reader of a novel. Written scrupulously in the flat, detached, austere tone of reportage, infinitely patient but with implacable momentum, a slow mill grinding detail out of circumstance, a forensic dossier on English rurality, the novel is comprised of detail after detail of the human, animal and vegetative life in a small rural community over thirteen years. New edition.
>> Read Thomas's review
The Enlightened Mr. Parkinson: The pioneering life of a forgotten English surgeon by Cherry Lewis         $25
In 1817 James Parkinson identified the disease since named after him. He was also a political radical and a fossil-hunter, and worked with Edward Jenner to set up smallpox vaccination clinics across London. He deserves to be better known.
Another History of the Children's Picture Book: From Soviet Lithuania to India by Giedre Jankeviciute and V. Geetha     $70
How did the period of Soviet cultural outreach affect the production of children's books in other countries? Apart from the interesting text, which shifts the focus of international children's book production, the book is packed with delightful examples of illustration and book design. 

Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz and Mirian Klein Stahl        $35

Artists, athletes, pirates, punks, and other revolutionaries. 

Under the Canopy: Trees around the world by Iris Volant and Cynthia Alonso         $30

From the olive trees of Athens to the Eucalyptus trees of Australia, discover the place of trees in history and mythology across the world. Every climate, every nation has its tales of trees, true or legendary, that help us understand ourselves and the natural world around us.
Heke Tangata: Māori in markets and cities by Brian Easton         $40

This book describes, both analytically and statistically, the migration of Maori into cities since 1945 and the changes in Maori position and participation in the New Zealand economy. 

Policing the Black Man: Arrest, prosecution and imprisonment edited by Angela Davis       $38
Essays range from an explication of the historical roots of racism in the US criminal justice system to an examination of modern-day police killings of unarmed black men. The authors discuss and explain racial profiling, the power and discretion of police and prosecutors, the role of implicit bias, the racial impact of police and prosecutorial decisions, the disproportionate imprisonment of black men, the collateral consequences of mass incarceration, and the Supreme Court's failure to provide meaningful remedies for the injustices in the criminal justice system. 
"Somewhere among the anger, mourning and malice that Policing the Black Man documents lies the pursuit of justice. This powerful book demands our fierce attention." - Toni Morrison
Origin Story: A big history of everything from the Big Bang to the first stars, to our solar system, life on Earth, dinosaurs, homo sapiens, agriculture, an ice age, empires, fossil fuels, a Moon landing and mass globalisation, and what happens next... by David Christian      $40
Any questions?
The Infinite Game by Niki Harré      $30
Can we live a better and more fulfilling life if we thought of it as a game? Playing is more rewarding than winning. Also available: Psychology for a Better World
>> Harre talks about the book on Radio NZ National

Take Heart: My journey with cardiomyopathy and heart failure by Adrienne Frater          $30
Well written, insightful, medically accurate, emotionally helpful. Local author. 

AutoBioPhilosophy by Robert Rowland Smith        $40
What does it mean to be human?  Love triangles, office politics, police raids, illegal drugs, academic elites and near-death experiences can offer insights, if Rowland Smith's experiences of these are anything to go by. Can Shakespeare and Freud (and Rowland Smith) help us build new models of psychology? Yes, possibly. 
Dear Zealots: Letters from a divided land by Amoz  Oz      $30
Essays on Israel/Palestine from this outspoken advocate of the two-state solution and opponent of Israeli settlement in the Occupied Territories. Oz appeals to the deep tradition of Jewish humanism to seek a way forward from impasse. "No idea has ever been defeated by force. To defeat an idea, you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one."
Badly Wolf: A furry tale by Lindsay Pope, illustrated by Jo Tyson          $20
"He lived alone in his rustic lair, / A toothless wolf with silver hair." Is a wolf-in-human-clothing a threat to nursery rhymes? Yes, on the evidence of this book from "the scratchy cardigan of New Zealand poetry", very likely. Huge fun.