Saturday 30 June 2018

Our Book of the Week this week is The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, the hotly anticipated new novel from the author of The Flamethrowers
It is 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at a women's prison. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth, and her young son. Inside is a world operating on its own mechanisms: thousands of women scrabbling to survive, and a power structure based on violence and absurdity. 

>> Read Stella's review

>> Stella reviews the book on Radio NZ National

>> Rachel Kushner thinks prisons should exist only in fiction

>> How Kushner learned about the American prison industry

>> Standing up for the guilty

>> Kushner discusses the book. 

>> The final sentence

>> Rachel Kushner at VOLUME

Friday 29 June 2018


Release yourself with these books:

Room to Dream by David Lynch and Christine McKenna        $40
Unprecedented insight into the creative life of one of the most consistently unsettling living film directors. Lynch's free-form memoir sections are interspersed with long-time close collaborator McKenna's more traditionally biographical (but no less fascinating) sections. 
>> "I like to tell stories."
>> A trailer for Eraserhead (1977). 
This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman         $38
One of the last judicial executions in New Zealand was of Albert Black, the so-called 'Jukebox Killer', convicted of murdering another young man in a fight at a milk bar in Auckland in July, 1955. Kidman casts a novelist's eye upon the events surrounding the death and the trial, and evokes the forces and prejudices at play in society at the time. 
>>Black's friend remembers
Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas by Ant Sang and Michael Bennett         $30
A new graphic novel from the creative genius of The Dharma PunksKidnapped by time-travelling ninjas, Helen is thrust into the year 2355 - a ruined future with roving gangs and 'Peace Balls', giant humming devices that enslave and control people's minds. The Go-Go Ninjas have one goal - to destroy the Peace Balls. They believe that Helen knows how. Can Helen use her knowledge of the past to help them save the future? 
>> A glimpse.
Cicada by Sean Tan       $30
After 17 years Cicada is tired of being unappreciated by his bosses and bullied by his co-workers. He quits and goes to the top of the building, where an astonishing thing happens...
>> How the book was made

Modernists and Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters, 1945-1970 by Martin Gayford      $55
A remarkably\e picture of the very fertile post-war period, based on an exceptionally deep well of firsthand interviews, often unpublished, with such artists as Victor Pasmore, John Craxton, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Allen Jones, R. B. Kitaj, Euan Uglow, Howard Hodgkin, Terry Frost, Gillian Ayres, Bridget Riley, David Hockney, Frank Bowling, Leon Kossoff, John Hoyland, and Patrick Caulfield.

The Fear and the Freedom: How the Second World War changed us by Keith Lowe       $28
A very readable book using individual testimonies to view the impact of the conflict with out the myths, contexts and overarching narratives commonly placed upon it. How did the trauma change how people decided what was possible in their lives and societies? 
White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock          $19
Seventeen-year-old Peter Blankman is a maths prodigy. He also suffers from severe panic attacks. Afraid of everything, he finds solace in the orderly and logical world of mathematics and in the love of his family: his scientist mum and his tough twin sister Bel, as well as Ingrid, his only friend. However, when his mother is found stabbed before an award ceremony and his sister is nowhere to be found, Pete is dragged into a world of espionage and violence where state and family secrets intertwine. Armed only with his extraordinary analytical skills, Peter may just discover that his biggest weakness is his greatest strength.
Ayiti by Roxanne Gay          $35
Her debut collection of short stories exploring the Haitian diaspora experience.

The Human Planet: How we created the Anthropocene by Simon L. Lewis and Mark A. Masin        $24
Our actions have driven Earth into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. For the first time in our home planet's 4.5-billion year history a single species is dictating Earth's future. To some the Anthropocene symbolises a future of superlative control of our environment. To others it is the height of hubris, the illusion of our mastery over nature. 
How Do We Look / The Eye of Faith ('Civilisations') by Mary Beard        $40
The idea of 'civilisation' has always been debated. At the heart of those debates lies the big question of how people - from prehistory to the present day - have depicted themselves and others, both human and divine. Distinguished historian Mary Beard explores how art has shaped, and been shaped by, the people who created it. How have we looked at these images? What has been their relationship to religion? A companion volume to the BBC 'Civilisations' series. 
>>Also available: First Contact / The Cult of Progress by David Olusoga.
The New Sorrows of Young W. by Ulrich Plenzdorf          $23
Edgar W, teenage dropout, unrequited lover, unrecognised genius, dead, tells the story of his brief, spectacular life. It is the story of how he rebels against the petty rules of communist East Germany to live in an abandoned summer house, with just a tape recorder and a battered copy of Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther for company. Of his passionate love for the dark-eyed, unattainable kindergarten teacher Charlie. And of how, in a series of calamitous events (involving electricity and a spray paint machine), he meets his untimely end.
The Art of Losing Control: A philosopher's search for ecstatic experience by Jules Evans         $25
The heightened relinquishment of self-concept has been a source of personal creativity, social cohesion and so-called spiritual experience ever since self-concept appeared. It has also been the mechanism of mental illness, mob mentality and mind-control. 
How to Love Brutalism by John Grindrod          $30
Brutalist architecture, which flourished in the 1950s to mid-1970s, gained its name from the term ' Beton-brut', or raw concrete - the material of choice for the movement. British architectural critic Reyner Banham adapted the term into 'brutalism' (originally 'New Brutalism') to identify the emerging style. The architectural style - typified by buildings such as Trellick Tower in London and Unite d'Habitation in Marseille - is controversial but has an enthusiastic fan base, including the author, who is on a mission to explain his passion.
Behold, America: A history of America First and the American Dream by Sarah Churchwell            $33
What does America mean? Is it a land of opportunity for all, a melting pot, a democracy, or a xenophobic, nativist antidemocracy? How does the clash of these tendencies explain the America of today? 
Mapping the Bones by Jane Yolen       $24
Chaim and Gittel Abromowitz, 14-year-old twins connected by a secret language and a fierce love for each other. Their Jewish family has been relocated to the Lódz ghetto in Poland, stuffed into a small apartment with another family, the difficult Norenbergs, including children Sophie and Bruno. As the situation in the ghetto worsens and Dr. Norenberg disappears, Chaim pawns his mother’s engagement ring so both families can make a dangerous escape into the forest and, eventually, across the border into the Soviet Union. Before long, the children are separated from their parents.
In the Mouth of the Wolf by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Barroux        $33
Francis and Pieter are brothers. As shadow of one war lingers, and the rumbles of another approach, the brothers argue. Francis is a fierce pacifist, while Pieter signs up to fight. What happens next will change the course of Francis’s life forever - and throw him into the mouth of the wolf. Based on the true story of Morpurgo's uncles during World War 2. 
Hive by A.J. Betts        $20
A community lives in a constrained post-apocalyptic hexagonal world. Hayley tends her bees and all is as it 'should' be, until she notices a drip from the ceiling. What lies beyond the confines of her world? How is her community complicit? 
See No Evil: New Zealand's betrayal of the people of West Papua by Maire Leadbetter           $50
In the 1950s, New Zealand back self-determination for the former Dutch colony, but from 1962 New Zealand began to support Indonesia's annexation of the territory. The consequence of Indonesian rule has been a slow genocide of West Papuans. What has been, and what still is, New Zealand's complicity with the repressive Indonesian rule? 

Swallow's Dance by Wendy Orr        $19
A Bronze-Age adventure from the author of Dragonfly SongLeira is about to start her initiation as a priestess when her world is turned upside down. A violent earthquake leaves her home - and her family - in pieces. And the earth goddess hasn't finished with the island yet. With her family, Leira flees across the sea to Crete, expecting sanctuary. But a volcanic eruption throws the entire world into darkness. After the resulting tsunami, society descends into chaos; the status and privilege of being noble-born are reduced to nothing. With her injured mother and elderly nurse, Leira must find the strength and resourcefulness within herself to find safety.
Where the Line is Drawn: Crossing boundaries in occupied Palestine by Raja Shehadeh      $25
As a boy, Raja Shehadeh was entranced by a forbidden Israeli postage stamp in his uncle's album, intrigued by tales of a green land beyond the border. He couldn't have known then what Israel would come to mean to him, or to foresee the future occupation of his home in Palestine. Later, as a young lawyer, he worked to halt land seizures and towards peace and justice in the region. 
"A courageous and timely meditation on the fragility of friendship in dark times, illuminating how affiliation and love can have a profound political power." - Madeleine Thien 
"Written with fierce clarity and unusual compassion, this book touches the human heart of a political tragedy." - Gillian Slovo
Collision, Compromise and Conversion: A critical study of Hokianga Maori, missionary and kauri merchant interactions by Gary Clover        $70
Early Hokianga was a unique blend of Ngapuhi Maori, kauri milling settlers and Wesleyan missionaries. Drawing upon modern scholarly insights, Methodist historian Gary Clover investigates the nature of culture change and Maori 'conversion' from 1827-1855, during New Zealand's early contact era. He explores how Hokianga Maori, amidst immense turmoil and change, adopted and 'Maorified' European technology, culture, and religion. 
Spying on Whales: The past, present and future of the world's largest animals by Nick Pyenson       $35
What can humans learn about surviving in a changing world from these creatures who for millennia have survived on a planet where oceans rose and fell and land masses shifted?

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell         $12
An 1855 novel tracing the ills of contemporary labour relations in a textile mill in industrialising northern England. Gaskell's novels frequently have a protofeminist perspective. 
She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The powers, perversions and potential of heredity by Carl Zimmer       $40
Heredity isn't just about genes that pass from parent to child. Heredity continues within our  bodies, as a single cell gives rise to trillions of cells that make up our bodies. We say we inherit genes from our ancestors but we inherit other things as well. How do we need to rethink heredity? 
The Endsister by Penni Russon        $19
"I know what an endsister is," says Sibbi again.We are endsisters, Else thinks, Sibbi and I. Bookends, oldest and youngest, with the three boys sandwiched in between.Meet the Outhwaite children. There's teenage Else, the violinist who abandons her violin. There's nature-loving Clancy. There's the inseparable twins, Oscar-and-Finn, Finn-and-Oscar. And then there is Sibbi, the baby of the family. They all live contentedly squabbling in a cottage surrounded by trees and possums...until a letter arrives to say they have inherited the old family home in London. Outhwaite House is full of old shadows and new possibilities. The boys quickly find their feet in London, and Else is hoping to reinvent herself. But Sibbi is misbehaving, growing thinner and paler by the day, and she won't stop talking about the mysterious endsister. Meanwhile Almost Annie and Hardly Alice, the resident ghosts, are tied to the house for reasons they have long forgotten, watching the world around them change, but never leaving.The one thing they all agree on - the living and the dead - is never, ever to open the attic door.
How to Be Famous by Caitlin Moran     $37
A young woman finds that fame in the BritPop 1990s comes at a cost.
>> Moran talks and waves her arms about
Geometry #3       $18
A journal of New Zealand letters. Includes Paula Morris, Chris Holdaway, C.K. Stead, Cathy Adams, Edith Amituanai, Rachel Smith, Caoimhe McKeogh, Jennifer Ruth Jackson, Elena Alexander, Ant Sang, Brian Walpert, Brandon Timm, Mingpei Li, Benjamin Work, Sneha Subramanian Kanta, Lorraine Wilson, Jan Everard, Piet Nieuwland, Shannon Novak, Gina Cole, Adedayo Agarau and Selena Tusitala Marsh.
>> Other issues on-line

Thursday 28 June 2018

Choose from this selection of interesting fiction at reduced prices. 

These books have been selected for their excellence but they are beginning to feel jostled on our shelves by more recent arrivals. We have reduced their prices for a short time to help you make your winter more interesting.

>> Click here to choose, reserve and/or purchase your winter reading. We can send the books anywhere. 

Sunday 24 June 2018

Saturday 23 June 2018

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner  {Reviewed by STELLA}
When a novel is set in a prison you might wonder how much mileage an author can get out of a small cell. Meet Rachel Kushner, author, and her protagonist Romy Hall, double-lifer plus six years. The book opens with a group of women being transported by bus from their holding prison to their permanent home at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley. Secured to their seats by chains, the women travel through the night and a day, upright and silent. Conversation isn’t encouraged - talking isn’t allowed but this rule doesn’t stop the tiresome Laura Lipp from laying down her story. A woman collapses en route and she is left slumped half out of her seat (declared dead on arrival). Sitting with Romy, we get a glimpse of what her life is going to be like. Kushner tells us more with her descriptions of the bleak view from the window, from the jokes, traded insults and swagger of Romy’s fellow travellers, and Romy’s observations from her place removed from society. Arriving at Stanville the women are processed - a lengthy and humiliating process - during which the youngest of them, eight-months pregnant, goes into labour. Romy and two of her fellow inmates, Fernandez and Conan, earn themselves several weeks in Ad Seg (Administrative Segregation) for helping her give birth. “My first day in prison, and I had already blown my parole board hearing, which was in thirty-seven years.” The Mars Room is a sassy and uncompromising exploration of incarceration in America. Kushner's acerbic tone gives the novel a sharp register devoid of sentiment, her characters are real and raw, and, surprisingly, you will find yourself rooting for your favourites in spite of their crimes and violent pasts. As Romy reveals her story, we are taken to the streets of San Francisco and learn of life with a mother who is hooked on drugs, of an eleven-year-old Romy's first interaction of many with arsehole men, of her friendship with the wild and beautiful Eva, who will be swallowed up by drugs, and we are given a window to the world of women on the fringes of society. Romy’s not an addict, and not without some knowledge and ability, yet she ends up as a lap dancer at the Mars Room, a seedy downtown joint, a place where she thinks she has some independence and freedom. Romy’s downfall - she’s been slipping to the fringes for a while - is Kurt Kennedy. Her victim. Kushner doesn't pull any punches with The Mars Room - it’s gritty, dirty and appalling - just as you would expect. It’s also wry, and full of outrageous characters and their wild stories of heists, bad cops, deals gone wrong, money and drugs. It’s also a tender story about motherhood: Romy’s son is seven when she last sees him. Humanity, the bonds and loyalty of the inmates alongside their prison protocols, helps them create some kind of structure in their endless and repetitive lives - a telling portrayal of our punitive modern society. The Mars Room, like Kushner’s two earlier novels, Telex from Cuba and The Flamethrowers, has social injustice at its core, and is written with the same keen observation and sharp wit, which will make you a fan of her work if you aren’t already. 

Kudos by Rachel Cusk    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
The man next to me on the plane was so tall he couldn’t fit in his seat. His elbows jutted out over the armrests and his knees were jammed against the seat in front, so that the person in it glanced around in irritation every time he moved. The man twisted, trying to get himself into a comfortable, or at least less uncomfortable, position in which he could hold his book at an acceptable distance from his eyes, a distance about which he was either uncommonly fussy or which was dictated by the possibly narrow focal range of his spectacles. “Sorry,” he said. He explained that he needed to write a review of the book by the end of the week, that he was a bookseller with a small bookshop in a provincial town, and that he and his partner, the joint owners of the bookshop, felt obliged to produce a review each every week for inclusion in their digital newsletter. Some weeks were short on reading time, he explained, what with the demands of the bookshop and of what he termed, somewhat vaguely, family life, so he needed to take every opportunity he could to finish reading his current book, in this case Kudos by Rachel Cusk, reading even in circumstances hardly conducive to reading well, such as in cramped seats aboard what he termed fictional aircraft, a context that not only tended to indelibly dominate whatever activity was performed in it, especially the memory of that activity, even more so than the actual performance in what he called the present tense, using a literary term hardly appropriate to what I would term living in real time, memory being, after all, surely, he remarked, the primary mode of a book review, but also left one vulnerable to conversation with whatever stranger one found oneself sitting next to, quite intimately, for an extended period of time, a period of time which neither party to the conversation has the capacity to shorten. I asked him whether he thought that perhaps the random, or at least seemingly random, encounters with members of what might be politely termed the public might not be in some way enriching, and he visibly recoiled at my choice of word, so I repeated it, to gauge its effect, and I immediately understood his reaction. Well, yes, he thought that such encounters might be a way of not so much generating narrative as of generating whatever might take the place of narrative in a work of fiction from which narrative, the possibility of narrative and even the principle of narrative has been expunged. This was very much, he said, what Rachel Cusk had achieved in Kudos, the taking-away from the novel of those principles, or as many of them as possible, that are generally considered to comprise a novel: plot, narrative, characters, development, interiority, but which are really just a set of conventions by which what we think of as novels expend or release their energy, so to call it, without that energy achieving the potentials of fiction, namely to transfer the experience of awareness between two minds, so to call them, in other words, what we think of as the essentials of a novel are the very things that may well reduce the potency of the novel, and, conversely, he thought, if a writer, such as Cusk, managed, as she has with Kudos, to excise from the novel as many as possible of these, what he termed novelistic antics, the novel could become potentised, “austere and astringent,” he called it, cleansing our faculties and getting them to work properly, not just for the reading of fiction but for the living of life, “whatever that might consist of”. When I suggested that perhaps not writing at all would be the apogee of fiction, he laughed briefly, or snorted, and replied that, yes, he was trying that experiment himself, with some success, even though the results suggested that fiction’s ultimate achievement in destroying itself closely resembled the complete absence of fiction. Cusk in the negativity of her fiction was austere, he said, but not as austere as him, who produced, if anything, less than nothing. “I would like the work to be a non-work,” he said, quoting Eva Hesse without attribution. Of course, he went on - and I realised, looking at my watch, partly in an attempt to estimate the proportion of our flight that remained, partly to implant in him some sort of subliminal message, that it would be hard to stop him talking now that I had succeeded in engaging him in conversation - of course it is thewall between the fictional and the actual, between the so-called subjective and the so-called objective aspects of experience, that it should be fiction’s prerogative to assail, to undermine, to cause to crumble, for it is this wall that is responsible for the maintenance of all manner of errors about identity and reality and, ultimately, responsibility, so to call them, errors that are either traps or crutches, he said, traps and crutches being largely indistinguishable from each other unless you know the nature of your affliction, which can only be ascertained by the removal, at least temporarily, of the crutch upon which one has been leaning. I seemed, I thought, to have triggered in him a kind of mania of exposition, which I was beginning to regret, though I had done little more than make what I thought of as small talk with a man whose enthusiasm for literature must surely be an embarrassment to himself. He did not appear to blame me for this, at least, rather, he had become by this stage oblivious to anything but his own train of thought. In many ways, he said,Kudos resembled the work of Thomas Bernhard, a writer for whom he evidently had a great deal of respect, especially in the layering or nesting of narrative within several levels of reportage. In fact, nothingactually happens in the novel until the very last, memorable paragraph, other than the minimum necessary for the interchange of the series of characters - a man who sat beside her on an aeroplane, various writers and interviewers she encounters at a literary festival, a guide, her editor and her translator, her sons who telephone her - whose conversations with her, or, rather narrations to her, the narrator narrates. For instance, at one stage Cusk, one step more invisible even than her invisible narrator, tells us of the narrator telling of a writer named Linda telling of the woman who sat beside Linda on the plane telling Linda of how she came to break her bones. In another passage, during a conversation with an interviewer, the narrator describes to the interviewer what the interviewer had described to the narrator during a previous conversation. The narrator reveals nothing of herself, he explained with a patience that seemed unpredicated on either my understanding of or my interest in what he was explaining, other than that which is revealed by her function as a conduit for the stories, and voices, of others. By reducing herself to so very little, to almost nothing, the narrator is able to enter and own the stories of others, he said, or, rather, Cusk is able to use the narrator as a device to enter and own stories, the layers of narrative, hearsay and reportage rendering the distinction between fiction and actuality entirely extraneous. Also, this authorial or narratorial intrusion frequently breaches the distinctions between the levels of narrative, he said, what he called the narrator’s first person reduced and sharpened to such a pinprick that it enters and appropriates details in quoted speech and reported speech, in second- and third-person narratives of secondary and tertiary narratives in the second person - I must say I couldn’t follow quite what he was telling me, but, I must also say, I wasn’t trying very hard - sometimes ultimately reporting information that the narrator could in fact have no access to through those conversations, information that could not be at less than a step or two's remove. Although I was by this stage hardly encouraging him, the bookseller was unstoppable. “All fiction is inherently a transgression of the sovereignty of persons, although this transgression is by no means limited to fiction but can also be observed in all attempts at the so-called understanding of, or, rather, representation of, actual others.” The trappings of fiction and the conventions of social interaction try their hardest to mask this unconscionable intrusion and appropriation, but this intrusion and appropriation is at the nub of things, fictional and otherwise, he said, and ultimately destabilise any notions we might have of identityreality and, ultimately, responsibility. I suggested that he might have gone over this ground before, or so it seemed to me, but he continued. “Who owns whose narrative?” he demanded, not, I think, of me. He was quiet a moment, but not longer. “Listen to this,” he said, and proceeded to quote a passage he had marked in the book: “‘I said that while her story suggested that human lives could be governed by the laws of narrative, and all the notions of retribution and justice that narrative lays claim to, it was in fact merely her interpretation of events that created that illusion. … The narrative impulse might spring from the desire to avoid guilt, rather than from the need - as was generally assumed - to connect things together in a meaningful way; that it was a strategy calculated, in other words, to disburden ourselves from responsibility.’ What do you think?” he asked. I hadn’t quite caught it all, he had been reading too fast and we were sitting near the engines, so I hesitated before he went on, seemingly unaware that I had not replied. Cusk’s work was a work of great clarity, which, he said, as well as being very pleasurable to read, was a work of liberating negativity, a reformulation of the purpose and capacities of fiction, no less. The purpose of art is to turn upon and destroy itself, he said, or words to that effect, and at the same time and by this process to change the nature of our relationship with the actual. He turned to another marked passage, in which Cusk’s narrator, Faye, relates to an interviewer what had been said to her by her son during a telephone call, something about “‘passing through the mirror into the state of painful self-awareness where human fictions lose their credibility,’” a process he appeared to ascribe to the fiction, such asKudos, that he valued most. I told them that I was sorry, but he had actually managed, by his overcomplicated enthusiasm for it, to put me off buying a book I would no doubt otherwise have enjoyed, having enjoyed Cusk’s two previous books, Outline and Transit, and he obliged me by keeping quiet for what remained of the flight.   

Kudos by Rachel Cusk (published by Faber & Faber) is this week's Book of the Week at VOLUME. 
By narrating the stories of others as told to her, Cusk's anti-protagonist Faye embodies the struggle for ownership and identity at the core of all fiction. This book causes tectonic shifts in the reader's preconceptions. 

>> Read Thomas's review

>> Choose your own Rachel Cusk

>> "Perhaps the cruellest novelist at work today."

>> "Some people do not like Rachel Cusk." 

>> "Negative literature."

>> Cusk's Outline and Transit form a sort of 'Faye' trilogy with Kudos. It is not necessary, however, to read them all or in order. 


Friday 22 June 2018

Just out of the carton at VOLUME.
Click on the covers to buy from our website.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner           $37
The much anticipated new novel from the author of The Flame ThrowersIt is 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at a women's prison. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth, and her young son. Inside is a world operating on its own mechanisms: thousands of women scrabbling to survive, and a power structure based on violence and absurdity. 
"The Mars Room is so sensually convincing it leaves its imprint of steel mesh on your forehead, while its compassion embraces baby-killer and brutal cop alike in the merciless confines of the American justice system. An extraordinary literary achievement." - Adam Thorpe
"Mysterious and irreducible. The writing is beautiful - from hard precision to lyrical imagery, with a flawless feel for when to soar and when to pull back." - Dana Spiotta
"Her best book yet." - Jonathan Franzen
>> "Prisons should exist only in fiction."
Break.up by Joanna Walsh            $33
In this 'novel in essays', a brief romantic dalliance, a fizzle, is bookended by lengthy digital correspondence and speculative fretting and regret. Is this delusion or romance? Is this the blueprint of modern relationships? Has the balance between the actual and the virtual aspects of our lives altering to the point where it is becoming impossible to (actually) have a relationship with another (actual) person? 
"A smart, allusive meditation on longing, on solitude, on the lure of cities and on the sheer fragility of experience and feeling." - Colm Toibin
"Reminiscent of Marcel Schwob, Clarice Lispector, Roland Barthes and Lydia Davis." - Paris Review
>> Read an excerpt.
>> Walsh reads and talks
Things to Make and Break by May-Lan Tan         $28
The eleven stories in this book seem (quite reasonably and refreshingly) preoccupied with what may (to the mind at least) be termed ‘the body problem’, which is (of course) 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. Whether it is twins who both fall in love with the same amnesiac, or the narrator of ‘Legendary’ who discovers photographs of her boyfriend’s previous partners in his drawer and becomes obsessed with one, an ex-aerialist once badly injured in a fall, stalking her and attempting to enter her experience using a playground swing, the stories have a raw elegance and precision and are full of intense and sometimes surprising images. 
Medieval Bodies: Life, death and art in the Middle Ages by Jack Hartnell       $55
Dripping with blood and gold, fetishised and tortured, gateway to earthly delights and point of contact with the divine, forcibly divided and powerful even beyond death, there was no territory more contested than the body in the medieval world. Hartnell investigates the complex and fascinating ways in which the people of the Middle Ages thought about, explored and experienced their physical selves, and the ways in which they left evidence of this. Beautifully illustrated. 
Shapeshifters: On medicine and human change by Gavin Francis          $37
What we think of as our selves is held in its precarity by contrary forces, some within our control, some not, some intrinsic to our natures, some visited upon us, which are constantly changing us. To be human is to be subject to innumerable tendencies to change. This book surveys, fascinatingly, some of the notable ones, both beneficial and malign. From the author of the excellent Adventures in Human Being
The Happy Reader #11              $8
A bookish interview with pop star Olly Alexander, and riffs (including from Deborah Levy) on the ramifications of the floricultural thriller The Black Orchid by Alexandre Dumas. 
The Inner Level: How more equal societies reduce stress, restore sanity and improve everybody's wellbeing by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett            $55
From the  authors of the hugely influential The Spirit Level, this new book looks at the horrendous impacts of inequality on the individual. 
Street Fighting Years: An autobiography of the sixties by Tariq Ali       $23
Ali revisits his formative years as a young radical. Through his own story, he recounts a counter history of the 60s rocked by the effects of the Vietnam war, the aftermath of the revolutionary insurgencies led by Che Guevara, the brutal suppression of the Prague Spring and the student protests on the streets of Europe and America. It is a story that takes us from Paris and Prague to Hanoi and Bolivia, encountering along the way Malcolm X, Bertrand Russell, Marlon Brando, Henry Kissinger, and Mick Jagger. 
The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America by Timothy Snyder         $38
Today's Russia is an oligarchy propped up by illusions and repression. But it also represents the fulfilment of tendencies already present in the West. What will happen?
Plundering Beauty: A history of art crime during war by Arthur Tompkins        $70
War has always provided the opportunity for crimes either against art or against its established ownership structures. A well illustrated survey, from Classical antiquity to the present. New Zealand author. 
>> Tompkins talks with Kim Hill
Made in London: The cookbook by Leah Hyslop        $55
Every neighbourhood in London has its own cuisine. This book is the culinary London A-Z

A Reluctant Warrior by Kelly Brooke Nicholls      $30
A novel based on the author's experiences among ordinary people in remote areas of Colombia whose lives are impacted by the jostling between paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug cartels.
Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina      $28
A Pussy Riot member's account of her arrest, trial and imprisonment for feminist punk anti-State protests in Russia. 
"One of the most brilliant and inspiring things I've read in years. Couldn't put it down. This book is freedom." - Chris Kraus
"A women's prison memoir like no other! One tough cookie!" - Margaret Atwood
>> A short cut to Siberia

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh         $35
Three men washed up on the beach create a dreadful intrusion on the inhabitants of the island: three sisters and their mother. 
"Extraordinary.' - The Guardian

>> A review by Jessie Bray Sharpin on Radio New Zealand

The Nine-Chambered Heart by Janice Pariat        $23
How has the same woman attracted the love of nine very-different people? In the absence of her own story, do their nine very-different accounts form a useful picture of the person at their centre? 

Hara Hotel: A tale of Syrian refugees in Greece by Teresa Thornhill        $33

A chronicle of everyday life in a makeshift refugee camp on the forecourt of a petrol station in northern Greece. In the first two months of 2016, more than 100,000 refugees arrived in Greece. Half of them were fleeing war-torn Syria, seeking a safe haven in Europe. As the numbers seeking refuge soared, many were stranded in temporary camps, staffed by volunteers like Teresa Thornhill.
In the Dark Spaces by Cally Black         $23
Tamara has been living on a star freighter in deep space, and her kidnappers are terrifying Crowpeople - the only aliens humanity has ever encountered. No-one has ever survived a Crowpeople attack, until now - and Tamara must use everything she has just to stay alive.
Short-listed for the 2018 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults
Sleepy Head: Narcolepsy, neuroscience and the search for a good night by Henry Nicholls         $37
Henry Nicholls's inability to stay awake led him into the world of sleep science. How bad is it really, not to get eight hours of sleep? What happens to our brain when we're sleep deprived? How much sleep should we really be getting?
Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper            $37
Newfoundland, Canada, 1992. When all the fish vanish from the waters, and the cod industry abruptly collapses, it's not long before the people begin to disappear from the town of Big Running as well. As residents are forced to leave the island in search of work, 10-year-old Finn Connor suddenly finds himself living in a ghost town. There's no school, no friends and whole rows of houses stand abandoned. And then Finn's parents announce that they too must separate if their family is to survive. But Finn still has his sister, Cora, with whom he counts the dwindling boats on the coast at night, and Mrs Callaghan, who teaches him the strange and ancient melodies of their native Ireland. That is until his sister disappears, and Finn must find a way of calling home the family and the life he has lost. From the author of Etta and Otto and Russell and James
Pale Rider: The Spanish flu of 1918 and how it changed the world by Laura Spinney          $28
With a death toll of between 50 and 100 million people and a global reach, the Spanish flu of 1918-1920 was the greatest human disaster, not only of the twentieth century, but possibly in all of recorded history. And yet, in our popular conception it exists largely as a footnote to World War I. Spinney recounts the story of an overlooked pandemic, tracing it from Alaska to Brazil, from Persia to Spain, and from South Africa to Odessa. She shows how the pandemic was shaped by the interaction of a virus and the humans it encountered; and how this devastating natural experiment put both the ingenuity and the vulnerability of humans to the test. The Spanish flu was as significant as two world wars in shaping the modern world; in disrupting, and often permanently altering, global politics, race relations, family structures, and thinking across medicine, religion and the arts.
Desert Solitaire: A season in the wilderness by Edward Abbey      $30
A 50th anniversary edition of this stunning classic of American nature writing, evoking the time Abbey spent in the canyonlands of Moab, Utah, a world of terracotta earth, empty skies, arching rock formations, cliffrose, juniper, pinyon pine and sand sage.
"My favourite book about the wilderness." - Cheryl Strayed
Freelove by Sia Figiel          $35
Inosia, a fan of science and Star Trek, accepts a ride to Apia from her favourite high school teacher to buy thread for White Sunday.  This sparks an intimate relationship between the two as they discover much more about each other through science, knowledge and love. A story about taboos, loyalty and the lingering impact of colonialism in Samoa. 
>> An interview with the author
>> "Reclaiming colonised attitudes towards the sexuality of Samoans."
Natural World: A compendium of of wonders from nature by Amanda Wood, Mike Jolley and Owen Davey         $40
Reads like a book of make-believe. The hook is: it is all true." - The New York Times

Designed in the USSR, 1950-1989       $60
This survey of Soviet design from 1950 to 1989 features more than 350 items from the Moscow Design Museum's collection. From children's toys, homewares, and fashion to posters, electronics, and space-race ephemera, each object reveals something of life in a planned economy during a fascinating time in Russia's history. 

>> Visit the Moscow Design Museum

Evening Descends Upon the Hills: Stories from Naples by Anna Maria Ortese          $23
The stories that inspired Elena Farrente's 'Neapolitan Quartet'. Beautifully translated by Ferrante's translator Ann Goldstein.

Balcony on the Moon: Coming of age in Palestine by Ibtisam Barakat     $20
An account for teen readers of the author's childhood and adolescence in Palestine from 1972-1981, in the aftermath of the Six-Day War.
Conundrum by Jan Morris        $25
A grippingly honest account of her ten-year transition from man to woman - its pains and joys, its frustrations and discoveries. First published in 1974. 

The Menagerie: An alphabet book by M.B. Stoneman     $30
A beautiful set of etchings with the feel of 17th century bestiaries. 
>> Click through and look at the etchings.

 The Goat by Anne Fleming       $19

A child names Kid and a dog named Cat live among the eccentric denizens of a New York apartment building. The goat lives on the roof. 

Inner City Pressure: The story of Grime by Dan Hancox           $33
DIZZEE RASCAL. WILEY. KANO. STORMZY. SKEPTA. JME. SHYSTIE. WRETCH 32. GHETTS. LETHAL BIZZLE. TINCHY STRYDER. DURRTY GOODZ. DEVLIN. D DOUBLE E. CRAZY TITCH. ROLL DEEP. PAY AS U GO. NASTY CREW. RUFF SQWAD. BOY BETTER KNOW. The year 2000. As Britain celebrates the new millennium, something fluorescent and futuristic is stirring in the crumbling council estates of inner city London. Making beats on stolen software, spitting lyrics on tower block rooftops and beaming out signals from pirate radio aerials, a group of teenagers raised on UK garage, American hip-hop and Jamaican reggae stumble upon a new genre. 
>> SKEPTA - 'No Security'.
People of Peace: Meet 40 amazing activists by Sandrine Mirza and Le Duo         $22
From Immanuel Kant to Rosa Luxemburg to Sophie Scholl to Joan Baez to Daniel Barenboim to Malala Yousafzai - meet 40 people who stood up for what they believed in to make the world a better place for all. 
The Last Interview, And other conversations: Hunter S. Thompson with David Streitfield          $35
He never took his foot off the accelerator. 
>> Hunter S. Thompson's America
>> Other 'Last Interviews'.