Saturday 28 September 2019

BOOKS @ VOLUME #146 (28.9.19)

Read our newsletter and find out what we've been reading and recommending.

In our Book of the Week, Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann, an Ohio mother bakes pies while the the world bombards her with radioactivity and fake facts. She worries about her children, caramelisation, chickens, guns, tardigrades, medical bills, environmental disaster, mystifying confrontations at the supermarket, and the best time to plant nasturtiums. She regrets most of her past, a million tiny embarrassments, her poverty, the loss of her mother, and the genocide on which the United States was founded. Lucy Ellmann's scorching indictment of the ills of modern life is also a plea for kindness, a remarkable virtuoso sentence, and an unforgivably funny evocation of the relentlessness of one person's thoughts. 
>>Read Thomas's review
>>Read an extract. 
>> Lucy Ellmann does not care about what male reviewers think about having to read such a long book written about a woman.
>>"I wooed my husband with Thomas Bernhard's Concrete."
>>"I don’t like overpopulation, but I have infinite respect for motherhood."
>>"All art that's any good is political." 
>>Ellmann's Irish connection
>>Ducks, Newburyport has been short-listed for the 2019 Booker Prize. Find out about the other books on the short list
>>Click and collect.

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
The fact that the wind is now making the branches scrape against the wall of the house as he sits down to write, though at least they only scrape when the wind blows, he thinks, and even when the wind blows it blows in gusts, so the scraping is not constant, not that it’s any less irritating, he thinks, the fact that this irritation is preventing him from starting to write, the fact that here he is, starting to write his review at the end of the day, despite what he just said, at what is almost the end of the day, at the end of the week, and such a week, the fact there is therefore a deadline of sorts to the completion of his review, the fact that he has not even started to write his review, despite what he just said, the fact that he would prefer to finish reading his book than write his review of the book, the fact that he is enjoying the book, very much, while he is reading it, but if he enjoys reviewing the book the enjoyment will only come when the writing is completed, which seems hardly fair, the fact that the book he is reading and enjoying is over one thousand pages long and is floppy and unwieldy like a paperback dictionary, which seems somehow appropriate, both in that it is floppy and unwieldy, in that it is about the floppiness and unwieldiness of being alive, as a human, in the twenty-first century, conscious and at the mercy of thought, and also in that the book is, in a way, similar to a dictionary in that it could make a fairly good claim to being an exhaustive catalogue of the miseries of consciousness, which is a sort of language, or a field in any case defined by language, the fact that the book is very funny, funny and painful, he thinks, just like consciousness, the fact that nobody should ever publish a paperback dictionary, unless it is a dictionary for incurious people, and there could be a market for that, he thinks, otherwise paperback dictionaries are insufficiently robust to be used more than a very few times, the fact that the floppiness and the unwieldiness of Ducks, Newburyport, the novel by Lucy Ellmann that he is going to review, seem somehow appropriate qualities for this novel of over one thousand pages, being slightly irritating but also in a way comedic and intriguing, just like life in the twenty-first century, the book’s ostensible subject, the fact that Ellmann is “the Proust of modern afflictions”, which quote he made up himself and disposed in speech marks to give it authority, perhaps that should have a capital M, he thinks, that fact that Modernism is a project to undo, or outdo, the strictures of form in order to make literature more resemble thought, the fact that Lucy Ellmann has made her novel resemble thought to the extent that it is both terrifying and compulsive, the fact that thought pops up all over the place, the fact that thought resurges, that is not a good word, he thinks, the fact that we are besieged at all times by thought, the fact that we are submerged in thought at all times, thought from outside our heads, both absolutely us and not us really at all, the fact that we are trying to keep our heads up, above the thoughts, but we can’t, the fact that we think to avoid thinking, the fact that wherever we look there’s a thought, the fact that, if he has to compare Ducks, Newburyport with something, it would be with an itch, as in when you ask yourself, Do I have an itch, then, invariably, you have an itch somewhere, perhaps on your elbow, or at the back of your neck, or an itch on your back, and, if you ask yourself, Do I have another itch, then you have another, and soon, as you know, you will have an itch anywhere you think about, you have itches everywhere, you are one great itch, well Ducks, Newburyport is like that, he thinks, a woman is assailed by her thoughts, she is at the mercy of her thoughts, the thoughts she produces, or, rather, the thoughts that assail her, for, he thinks, obsession is the state of being at the mercy of your own proclivities, the fact that Ducks, Newburyport is written as an endless stream of everything that annoys, or itches, or stimulates, or pains, same thing, a mind in this world, it is, he thinks, a catalogue of thoughts and the thoughts that get in the way of thought, for, he thinks, we all think to avoid thought, we’ve been there before, but, he thinks, not really a catalogue, the opposite of a catalogue, whatever the word for that is, a mishmash perhaps, now there’s a good Yiddish word, a mishmash of thought, linearly recorded, how else, the fact that Ducks, Newburyport is largely a one-thousand-page sentence, no, more than a one-thousand-page sentence, Ducks, Newburyport is a one-thousand-page list, the fact that he had always liked lists, in literature at least, the fact that he had at one time made a list of his favourite lists in literature, though he has lost this, the fact that the one-thousand-page list in Ducks, Newburyport, the one-thousand-page list that is Ducks, Newburyport, except for a short intercut story, told in sentences, about a mountain lion searching for her cubs, told from the mountain lion’s point of view, from a point of bafflement and disgust at humans and their world, which is pretty much an appropriate conclusion, judging from the rest of the text, which is told from a human’s point of view, the fact that the one-thousand-page list that comprises (most of) Ducks Newburyport, uses the phrase “the fact that” to separate its entries, or, rather, to introduce its entries, or, shall we say, to structure its entries, the fact that he finds the fact that the author uses “the fact that” to structure a novel, or a list, if the two forms can be separated, who cares, to structure a novel about living, about striving to live, rather, in a so-called post-factual world, the fact that this post-factual world is overwhelmed with information but short on truth, whatever that is, he thinks, this is the world in which we are all immersed, you’re soaking in it, a meme predating memes, it’s all memes, way back to the beginning of time, that fact that he decided he could write like this, too, in fact it became, as he read Ducks, Newburyport, more and more difficult not to write this way, in a list, like thought, he thinks, the fact that the more he writes in this way, the easier it becomes, and soon, he thinks, the difficulty will not be in writing but in stopping writing, the fact that he might not be able to stop, at least until he has written at least one thousand pages, which would be a remarkable application of method, apart from the fact that Lucy Ellmann has already written one thousand pages in this way, at whatever cost to herself, and to her family, and to her sanity, she had done it, so his achievement in writing his one thousand pages would be a fairly useless and unimpressive achievement, unimpressive on the literary front even if it might remain impressive on the insanity front, the fact that it would still be impressive for its cost to himself, and to his family, and to his sanity, impressive in a negative sense but not impressive in a positive sense, the fact that Lucy Ellmann has already, rightly, appropriated all the benefit from such an enterprise, the fact that she has been short-listed for the Booker Prize, whereas he would have achieved nothing but the limits of his sanity, the fact that Lucy Ellmann may have achieved the limits of her sanity, though she has nerves of steel, he thinks, and may not even have neared the limits of her sanity, although the book might not have been so good if she had not, the fact that he does not have nerves of steel, he has nerves of tin, the fact that he would soon achieve the limits of his sanity, if he has not already achieved them, the fact that a one-thousand-page review of a one-thousand-page novel would not get him shortlisted for the Booker Prize, or even short-listed for even one person’s attention, the fact that he did not deserve even one person’s attention, the fact that Lucy Ellmann has already appropriated all the available attention for writing in this way, even if this is less attention than she deserves for writing in this way, the fact that she has written an outstanding one-thousand-page novel about human consciousness in the twenty-first century, but that, if he completes his one-thousand-page review of this novel he will be acclaimed as nothing more than a nuisance, if he is acclaimed anything at all, which is unlikely, the fact that benefit is finite but, it seems, detriment is infinite, the fact that negative consequences are inexhaustible, whereas positive consequences are soon exhausted, the fact that Lucy Ellmann’s project is forensic, though forensic about a crime that is infinitely dispersed in both its origins and consequences, the fact that this novel is not only about a woman's life, it is a woman’s life, but not her life only, the fact that a mountain lion’s life has clarity whereas a human life is without clarity, or so it seems, there are too many thoughts, and where do they come from, he thinks, the fact that reading Ducks Newburyport has made him aware of his thoughts, all his thoughts, including the thoughts he represses because they get in the way of his thinking, the fact that, now that he is aware of the mishmash of his thoughts, to use the technical term, his brain will just keep coming up with thoughts, make it stop, a list of thoughts, like in Ducks, Newburyport, structured by the phrase “the fact that”, even at times, such as when he is in the shower, or driving, when it is impossible to record these thoughts, the fact that these thoughts are lost but that the thoughts that arise from these thoughts keep arising, the fact that they show no sign of abating, the fact that this frightens him, at least a little, the fact that there will always be more thoughts is a thought that he finds horrible, the fact that all these thoughts are pushing at him, crowded at the edge of his awareness, waiting their turn, this is a horrible thought, he thinks, the fact that he needs to stop writing before it becomes impossible to stop writing, which has occurred to him before, the fact that he has, in any case, run out of time, there's a deadline after all, and whatever he's written must pass for a review, he'll call it a review, the fact that, if it was up to him, Ducks, Newburyport would win the Booker Prize but of course such things are seldom up to him. 


10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak   {Reviewed by STELLA}
Elif Shafak’s novel is a powerful and unflinching exploration of women’s rights in Turkey, and of their control over their bodies and sexuality. The novel opens with Leila, recently murdered and dumped in a rubbish skip. As her mind closes down (in 10 minutes and 38 seconds) each moment triggers a memory giving the reader a window into her past experiences that shaped her life and that of her five closest friends. Taking us to her childhood in Van — a childhood of secrets and deceits, we are not surprised by her decision to flee to Istanbul as a teen. Her childhood is coloured by neglect and abuse. With an ignorant and suspicious family that will do anything to save face in a small community, Leila is left with little choice. Unprepared for a city and completely out of her depth she ends up in a brothel under the charge of Bitter Ma. While the madam is better than some and finally does grant Leila her freedom, the privations of being a prostitute with few rights and no financial autonomy weigh heavily on Leila and her colleagues — there are few choices available for women in her position in a strikingly patriarchal society, a society that is also dominated by political unrest and dictatorial behaviour. Yet life is also culturally rich and intriguing in the relationships that Leila has with her five friends. Shafak is a damning of Turkish society and the roles that women have been, and continue to be, expected to play in this modern country. She deftly explores west/east and secular/religious tensions and the hypocrisies as well as the personal crises that are inflicted by these conflicts. What does it mean to be transsexual in this world, to be an independent widow, to be educated or a prostitute in this world? While the novel shines a light on these issues, at the same time light is being shone on the author, Elif Shfak (and other female authors) — harassed on social media and investigated by prosecutors after complaints that by writing fictional works that tackle challenging issues she is condoning child abuse and sexual violence! 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World is a novel about tough issues, but it also hopeful — Leila is a survivor and she and her friends are resourceful and loyal, and have depths of humanity that one could argue come from confronting the status quo and marking out their own territory and beliefs, living without compromise of thought even when choices are limited. With its interesting premise and structure, the novel is compelling and Leila is an incredible character who is the still point at the centre, strong and resilient, of a turbulent and damaging vortex.  

Friday 27 September 2019


The Collected Stories of Diane Williams      $42
Diane Williams’s short, energetic, hugely disorienting short stories pass as sal volatile through the fug of relationships, defamiliarising the ordinary elements of everyday lives to expose the sad, ludicrous, hopeless topographies of what passes for existence. This is not a nihilistic enterprise, however, for Williams has immense sympathies and her stories themselves demonstrate the possibility of connection through the very act of delineating its impossibility. With the finest of needles, the most ordinary of details, Williams picks out the unacknowledged, unacknowledgeable but familiar hopeless longing that underlies our unreasoned and unreasonable striving for human relations, a longing that makes us more isolated the harder we strive for connection. So much is left unsaid in these stories that they act as foci for the immense unseen weight of their contexts, precisely activating pressure-points on the reader’s sensibilities. These are some of the finest stories you will read.
I Remain in Darkness by Annie Ernaux         $32
Ernaux's remarkable text evokes her mother's attrition of memory and personality through Alzheimer's disease, and her experience of the slow, terrible loss of her mother. 
"Acute and immediate, I Remain in Darkness is an unforgettable exploration of love, memory and the journey to loss." —Eimear McBride, author of A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing
>>Read an extract.
>>Read Thomas's review of The Years
Sontag: Her life by Benjamin Moser         $75
A unique, restless and wide-ranging intellect, unassimilable in her own time or since, Sontag continues to reward both close and not-so-close study. Moser is best known for his outstanding biography of Clarice Lispector
>>Lauren Elkin, Lisa Appignanesi and Benjamin Moser debate Sontag.

Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai       $58
"With this novel I can prove that I really wrote just one book in my life. This is the book—Satantango, Melancholy, War and War, and Baron. This is my one book."László Krasznahorkai 
"Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming is not a conclusion to Krasznahorkai’s quartet, but it is a completion. It is his longest book by some measure, his funniest, and probably his darkest. It draws together and illuminates its predecessors. The vision is complete, even as its constituent pieces fall apart." —David Auerbach
>>The spider web and the abyss
>>Obsessive fictions
>>"I thought that real life, true life was elsewhere."
This Tilting World by Collette Fellous        $36
A subtle exploration of loss, displacement and translation, drawing on the author's roots in the Jewish community of Tunisia. 
"Colette Fellous' beautiful book, humming and dancing with sensual intelligence, newly vivid in Sophie Lewis's deft, delicate, agile version, takes change and translation as its very themes. It asks us to imagine leaving home, searching for a new home. That home may simply be language itself, a web of knotted meanings. However, if that web serves as a rope bridge slung between places and people, and the bridge is cut and falls, survival is put at stake. This Tilting World explores how, after such a rupture, one woman tries to re-compose the meanings of her life and thereby go on living." —Michele Roberts
Huia Short Stories 13: Contemporary Maori fiction       $25
'Murray's Special Day' by Tracey Andersen, 'Tunnelling' by Cassandra Barnett, 'Botched' by Marino-Moana Begmen, 'Para Pounamu' by Pine Campbell, 'Tangaroa Pūkanohi Nui' by Hineteahurangi Merenape Durie Ngata, 'Storked' by Paipa Edmonds, 'Tiakina! Tiakina!' by Tiahomarama Fairhall, 'Mumsy' by Olivia Aroha Giles, 'Rocket Ship Pyjamas and Plum Jam' by Olivia Aroha Giles, 'Kokiri ki mua - Charge forward!' by K M Harris, 'My Three Friends at School' by Josh Hema, 'The Pledge' by Nadine Hura, 'Dust' by Kelly Joseph, 'The School of Life' by Lauren Keenan, 'Tina's Coming on Tuesday' by Lauren Keenan, 'Ko te Ao tō Marae' by Hēmi Kelly, 'Just Holden Together' by Colleen Maria Lenihan, 'One of the Good Ones' by Moira Lomas, 'Aunty's Teeth' by Annette Morehu, 'Te Kai a te Rangatira, he Mahi' by Zeb Nicklin, 'Te Kurī Hīroki o te Āporo Nui' by Zeb Nicklin, 'The Guises of Death Kahuru Pumipi The Bartender' by Michelle Rahurahu Scott, 'White Sheep' by Penny Smits, 'Whakaurupā Taku Aroha' by Amiria Stirling, 'No te uku - From the Clay' by Bronwyn Te Koeti.
A Moth to a Flame by Stig Dagerman         $26
In a working-class neighbourhood in 1940s Stockholm, a young man named Bengt falls into deep, private turmoil with the unexpected death of his mother. As he struggles to cope with her loss, his despair slowly transforms to rage when he discovers that his father had a mistress. Bengt swears revenge on behalf of his mother's memory, but he soon finds himself drawn into a fevered and forbidden affair with the very woman he set out to destroy.
"A startling novel of ferocious psychological acumen, which, to my mind, deserves a large, international readership. Very much a book for our times." —Siri Hustvedt
Cornelia and the Jungle Machine by Nora Brech         $30
When Cornelia goes out to play from her parents' new house, she meets a boy in a strange tree house, a boy with a "jungle machine"!
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett          $33
The much-anticipated new novel from the author of Commonwealth and Bel Canto: a story of love, family, sacrifice, and the power of place.
""Irresistable. As always, Patchett leads us to a truth that feels like life rather than literature." —Guardian 
Women Mean Business: Colonial businesswomen in New Zealand by Catherine Bishop       $45
From Kaitaia in Northland to Oban on Stewart Island, New Zealands nineteenth-century towns were full of entrepreneurial women. Contrary to what we might expect, colonial women were not only wives and mothers or domestic servants. A surprising number ran their own businesses, supporting themselves and their families, sometimes in productive partnership with husbands, but in other cases compensating for a spouse's incompetence, intemperance, absence or all three. The pages of this book overflow with the stories of hard-working milliners and dressmakers, teachers, boarding-house keepers and laundresses, colourful publicans, brothelkeepers and travelling performers, along with the odd taxidermist, bootmaker and butcher and Australasia's first woman chemist (Nelson's Clara Macshane).
>>Come and hear Catherine Bishop talk about the book, and about the Nelson women featured in it: Nelson Provincial Museum, Tuesday 8 October, 5:30. See you there!
The Europeans: Three lives and the making of a European culture by Orlando Figes        $75
In the 19th century aesthetic, economic, technological and legal changes created, for the first time, a genuinely pan-European culture. Figes's astounding and timely book is the story of a singer, Pauline Viardot, a writer, Ivan Turgenev, and a connoisseur, Pauline's husband Louis. Through their lives he refreshes our understanding of forces that gave rise to the concept of 'Europe'. 
How I Take Photographs by Daido Moriyama         $35
Take an inspiring walk with photographer Daido Moriyama while he explains his approach to street photography. For over half a century, Moriyama has provided a distinct vision of Japan and its people. Here he offers a unique opportunity to learn about his methods, the cameras he uses, and the journeys he takes with a camera.
The Confession by Jessie Burton         $35
A reclusive novelist in her 70s, after decades of silence, hires an amanuensis and begins an exploration of the relationship between fiction and 'real life'. 
"An understated triumph." —Guardian

Mum's Jumper by Jayde Perkin         $30
A beautifully and sensitively illustrated story about a girl coming to terms with the loss of her mother. 
The Reinvention of Humanity: A story of race, sex, gender and the discovery of culture by Charles King        $40
In the early twentieth century, a group of pioneering anthropologists, most of them women, made intrepid journeys that overturned our assumptions about race, sexuality, gender and the nature of human diversity. From the Arctic to the South Pacific, from Haiti to Japan, they immersed themselves in distant or isolated communities, where they observed and documented radically different approaches to love and child-rearing, family structure and the relationship between women and men. With this evidence they were able to challenge the era's scientific consensus — and deep-rooted Western belief — that intelligence, ability and character are determined by a person's race or sex, and show that the roles people play in society are shaped in fact according to the immense variety of human cultures.
Learning from the Germans: Considering race and the memory of evil by Susan Neiman       $50
In the wake of white nationalist attacks, the ongoing debate over reparations, and the controversy surrounding Confederate monuments and the contested memories they evoke, Susan Neiman's Learning from the Germans delivers an urgently needed perspective on how a country can come to terms with its historical wrongdoings. Neiman is a white woman who came of age in the civil rights-era South and a Jewish woman who has spent much of her adult life in Berlin. Working from this unique perspective, she combines philosophical reflection, personal stories, and interviews with both Americans and Germans who are grappling with the evils of their own national histories.
The Fate of Fausto: A painted fable by Oliver Jeffers        $35
There was once a man who believed he owned everything and set out to survey what was his. "You are mine," Fausto said to the flower, the sheep, and the mountain, and they all bowed before him. But they were not enough for Fausto, so he conquered a boat and set out to sea...
>>On the making of Fausto
Anatomicum by Katy Wiedemann and Jennifer Z. Paxton    $50
A beautifully presented large-format guide to the human body and its wonders. 

Friday 20 September 2019

No-one's sanity is safe from the pen (or, plausibly, keyboard) of novelist Nell Zink. Doxology, this week's Book of the Weektackles the 90s music scene, hipsterdom, climate change and political misadventures on the minimal and maximal scale. It is hugely funny, audacious, sharp and indelible (as you would expect). 
>>Read Stella's review
>>" I am afraid I have to tell you, Nell, you have no subconscious mind."  
>> " Post-sensitive is not a bad description of Zink’s Weltanschauung."
>> He started playing ukulele soon after his mother died.”
>> Podcasting!
>>Turning her back on the publishing world
>>A "middle-aged enfant terrible."
>> How to become a novelist in ten easy steps
>>Click and collect
>>Other books by Nell Zink
>>Zink reads the first four pages of The Wallcreeper

BOOKS @ VOLUME #145 (20.9.19)

Read our newsletter. 


The Loser by Thomas Bernhard     
Of the three friends who had studied piano together under Horowitz at the Salzburg Mozarteum, the narrator, Wertheimer and a fictionalised Glenn Gould, only Gould continued playing, for the others, though piano prodigies, were unable to continue their careers after having overheard Gould’s interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations and been ‘destroyed’ by his genius. Twenty-eight years later, Gould,  having withdrawn from the world into his ‘isolation cage’ in the Canadian wilds, dies of a stroke while playing the Variations, and, soon after, the highly neurotic Wertheimer, who had been labelled ‘The Loser’ by Gould on their first meeting and who had been most deeply devastated by the unapproachability of Gould’s genius, for he, unlike the narrator, had set his heart on being a virtuoso, and who had withdrawn to his ‘isolation cage’ in the Austrian wilds after his sister, who he had obsessively dominated and controlled, had ‘escaped’ and married a Swiss industrialist, commits suicide by hanging himself near his sister’s new home. The book, in one relentless paragraph with the same sublime unpegged looping structures as Bach’s music and the wicked barbs, subversions and reflexive humour of an interpretation of Bach by Glenn Gould, represents the thoughts of the narrator as they loop over and over the relationship between the three characters, who can be seen as three aspects of Bernhard himself, his characters being blanks upon which he projects his own neuroses, invective, frustrated abilities, lung disease, impulses for self-destruction and, above all, stultifying ambivalence. A revulsion by everything, a precise analysis of the inescapable destructive cacophony of human relationships, a delineation of the self-annihilating effects of the ‘isolation cages’ that are the refuge from humanity, no thought is sooner expressed than it begins to appear ludicrous, the further developed it becomes, the more ludicrous, until it is left exploded, empty, food for its opposite, no less ludicrous. It takes well over half the book for the narrator to walk into the inn at which he will stay after visiting Wertheimer’s ‘isolation cage’ in Traich to search for the work Wertheimer had been writing, almost the entire content of the book taking place at at least the second if not the third or fourth remove, in a subjective hole so deep that the characters leach characteristics into each other as the narrator hysterically overdoes every analysis and statement to the extent that we come to believe that any statement is an overstatement and a false statement, or at least a statement within which truth and falsity cannot be disentangled. In this rereading I noticed that Wertheimer is briefly mentioned as having been writing something called The Loser (otherwise the narrator dismisses his writing as aphorisms “destined for the walls of dentists’ waiting rooms”), and I couldn’t get out of my mind that Bernhard identified strongly with his Wertheimer character, who has written this book as if narrated by his unnamed friend who would have found this work after Wertheimer’s suicide (Bernhard’s proxy suicide) had not he arrived at Traich to be told by the gamekeeper that Wertheimer had been seen to burn all his papers before his fatal trip.


The Mapmakers' Race by Eirlys Hunter 
Meet the Santander family - explorers and mapmakers. When Ma misses the train, Sal, the twins Joe and Francie, along with young Humphrey, are on their own, making their way to Grand Prospect as entrants in the Great Mapmakers' Race, a competition to map a railway route through the uncharted wilderness from Grand Prospect to the port at New Coalhaven. The fastest team wins the prize, and the best map, the grand prize, will become the new railway. And all this needs to be done in 28 days! Arriving in Grand Prospect, the children are scoffed at and almost not allowed to race. No one has much faith in them, despite their parents’ reputation as fine explorers and excellent mapmakers. The children have to go on - it’s their only hope of raising the funds to track down their father, who has been missing for months on an expedition. Surely Ma will find a horse, get another train, catch up with them somewhere. Four children stranded in Grand Prospect with no money, a minimum of supplies, a four-year-old in tow, no horses to carry their load of supplies, and competing with several adult teams who have brawn, wonders or money at their fingertips: teams like Cody Cole and his Cowboys - tough men with fine horses - their symbol a rifle and a telescope crossed over a map; the Solemn Team - scientific and logical; and Sir Montague Basingstoke-Black and his mountaineers - pipes firmly tucked in mouths, astride their mechanical horses that will never tire. But the real stars of this book are the inventive and brilliant Santander children. Setting out on the road, they meet Beckett - a local lad - who gives them a helping hand. Resourceful and savvy, Beckett procures donkeys and food and has a few tricks up his sleeve. Enticed by the idea of the railway, he joins the Santanders - luckily for them, as neither cooking nor rationing the food supplies are part of the children's skill set. Amazing talents they do have, though: Joe is the surveyor, cutting ahead, often through prickly thorns and thick undergrowth, to find and make the best path; Sal is the mathematician, working the altimeter, calculating the inclines and declines and solving the technical problems; Francie is the map-maker - a brilliant artist - who can fly, take herself above the landscape and see it from a bird’s eye view; and Humphrey notices - the keen observer - things that the others miss. The Mapmakers' Race is an exciting, well-paced adventure from New Zealand author Eirlys Hunter. There are illustrations by Kirsten Slade throughout, and each chapter starts with a map marking out the journey and giving the reader teasers as to what might happen in the next few pages. Chapter eleven’s drawing includes the Impenetrable Cliffs of Doom, Camp Comeuppance and Camp Exhaustion. There will be bears, bats, tricks and treats, wild rivers, endless climbs, snow and storms. There are scary stories, magical tales and funny episodes around the campfire to cheer the spirits and keep the children travelling onward. This is an enjoyable read-aloud or keep-to-yourself and will have some children reaching for ink and paper to become wondrous mapmakers, and others out in the wilderness, exploring and making tracks. Charming, exciting and just a little dangerous.  

Scented by Laurence Fearnley          $38
Can a person's life and identity by captured or constructed by the careful creation of a signature perfume? What would a novel be like if it was constructed according to the sense of smell? A new novel from the author of The Hut Builder, Edwin and Matilda and The Quiet Spectacular

T Singer by Dag Solstad           $28
Singer, a thirty-four-year-old recently trained librarian, arrives by train in the small town of Notodden to begin a new and anonymous life. He falls in love with Merete, a ceramicist, and moves in with her and her young daughter. After a few years together, the relationship starts to falter, and as the couple is on the verge of separating a car accident prompts a dramatic change in Singer's life. T Singer is a novel about self-erasure, indomitable loneliness and other such existential questions.
"An utterly hypnotic writer." —James Wood
"Mad, sad and funny. Thrilling." —Geiff Dyer
"The drama exists in his voice." —Lydia Davis
The Loser by Thomas Bernhard          $23
Three aspiring concert pianists — Wertheimer, Glenn Gould, and the narrator — have dedicated their lives to achieving the status of a virtuoso. But one day, two of them overhear Gould playing Bach's Goldberg Variations, and his incomparable genius instantly destroys them both. They are forced to abandon their musical ambitions: Wertheimer, over a tortured process of disintegration that sees him becoming obsessed with both writing and his own sister, with whom he has a quasi-incestuous relationship culminating in death; and the narrator, instantly, retreating into obscurity to write a book that he periodically destroys and restarts. New edition, with an afterwords and cover art by Leanne Shapton. 
>>Read Thomas's review
Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard           $25
One of Bernhard's finest and most incisive books, featuring the narrator's streams of internal invective against everyone at an artistic gathering, but, ultimately, exposing the narrator to the scrutiny of the reader. As always in Bernhard, all loathing is primarily self-loathing and only secondarily loathing of the world as it is distilled in the loather. New edition, with an afterword by Anne Enright and cover by Leanne Shapton.
>>Read Thomas's review
Wittgenstein's Nephew: A friendship by Thomas Bernhard       $25
It is 1967. Two men lie bedridden in separate wings of a Viennese hospital. The narrator, Thomas Bernhard, is stricken with a lung ailment; his friend Paul, nephew of Ludwig Wittgenstein, is suffering from one of his periodic bouts of madness. As their friendship quickens, the two men discover in each other an antidote to their feelings of despair on the unexpected strength of what they share — a symmetry forged by their love of music, black humour, disgust for bourgeois Vienna, and fear of mortality. New edition, with an afterwords by Ben Lerner and cover by Leanne Shapton.
"'Furious, obsessive, scathing, absolutely hilarious and oddly beautiful." —Claire Messud
Te Hei Tiki by Dougal Austin          $60
Of all Maori personal adornments, the human figure pendants known as hei tiki are the most highly prized and culturally iconic. This book showcases photographs of a large selection of hei tiki, most from the taonga Maori collection at Te Papa. 

The Anarchy: The relentless rise of the East India Company by William Dalrymple         $33       Hardback: $40

One of the best-known historians of British India turns his attentions to the corporation that defeated the Mughal emperor with a private army in 1765 and installed a new regime in which the company transformed itself into an aggressive colonial power, levying taxes and by the early nineteenth century controlling most of the Indian subcontinent and parts of South East Asia with a private army twice the size of the British Army.  

What Happened? by Hanif Kureishi                 $45
A collection of Kureishi's most insightful essays and stories, on everything from David Bowie to Georges Simenon to Keith Jarrett.
"No one else casts such a shrewd and gimlet eye on contemporary life." —William Boyd

Fifteen Million Years in Antarctica by Rebecca Priestley         $40
When Priestley visited Antarctica in 2011, it fulfilled a life's dream but also brought her anxieties to the fore. She has visited twice since, spending time with Antarctic scientists including paleo-climatologists, biologists, geologists, glaciologists exploring the landscape, marvelling at wildlife from orca to tardigrades, and occasionally getting very cold. Her anxiety has been her constant companion, anxiety both for herself and for the future of the continent and the planet. 
In Waves by A.J. Dungo          $30
In this outstanding graphic novel, surfer and illustrator A.J. Dungo remembers his late partner, her battle with cancer, and their shared love of surfing that brought them strength throughout their time together.
Hauturu: History, flora and fauna of Te Hauturu-o-Toi/Little Barrier Island by Lyn Wade and Dick Veitch      $60
Exemplary social and natural history, and well illustrated. 

Renia's Diary by Renia Spiegel           $38
Renia Spiegel was shot dead by the Nazi's after escaping the Warsaw ghetto and hiding in an attic. For seventy years, her diary has lain in a bank vault. It has now been published. 
And How Are You, Dr. Sacks? A biographical portrait of Oliver Sacks by Lawrence Weschler     $45
Lawrence Weschler began spending time with Oliver Sacks in the early 1980s, when he set out to profile him for The New Yorker. Almost a decade earlier, Dr. Sacks had published Awakenings but the book had hardly been an immediate success, and the rumpled clinician was still largely unknown. Over the ensuing four years, the two men worked closely together until Sacks asked Weschler to abandon the profile, a request to which Weschler acceded. The two remained close friends, however, across the next thirty years and then, just as Sacks was dying, he urged Weschler to take up the project once again.
Poems from the Edge of Extinction: An anthology of poetry in endangered languages edited by Chris McCabe       $35

Texts in the original languages and in English translation.
Women in Art: 50 fearless creatives who inspired the world by Rachel Ignotofsky       $35
Charmingly illustrated and informative. 
The Silver Spoon for Children by Harriet Russell       $35
Quick, wholesome, easy-to-make Italian recipes. 
The Father of Octopus Wrestling, And other small fictions by Frankie McMillan          $28
Darkly comic, surreal and full of explorations of human vulnerability and eccentricity.
Outgrowing God by Richard Dawkins          $38
Dawkins marshals science, philosophy and comparative religion to interrogate the hypocrisies of all the religious systems and explain to readers of all ages how life emerged without a Creator, how evolution works and how our world came into being.
You Can Change the World: The kids' guide to a better planet by Lucy Bell         $33
Clear, practical and hopeful, with plenty of things to do. 
We Are the Weather: Saving the planet begins at breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer            $38
Examines the link between farming animals and the climate crisis. 
Promises, Promises: 80 years of wooing New Zealand voters by Claire Robinson           $60
A history of political advertising and the sorts of subtle or clumsy ways in which political parties have attempted to influence public opinion. 
>>Those were the days