Friday 25 October 2019

BOOKS@VOLUME #150    (25.10.19)

Read our latest newsletter.

Labour Day. We will be closed on Monday 28 October to recognise the rights of workers around the world. Normal hours will resume on Tuesday 29th. 


Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata  {Reviewed by STELLA} 
Meet Keiko, our anti-heroine. She’s an oddball character who has never fitted in. Finding work at a convenience store was a great relief to her family, who worried endlessly about what she would do with her life. They saw this part-time job as a great starting place for the eighteen-year-old, and for Keiko, the job - with its uniform, the precise order of the products, the store slogans called out with absolute enthusiasm - is a revelation, the first time in her life that she’s felt part of something. Being told what to say, and when, makes her ‘normal’. Now she’s been doing this for eighteen years - we meet thirty-six-year-old Keiko at the store being the perfect worker but increasingly questioned by her friends and family. Why is she still in this dead-end job? If she isn’t going to move on, she will, naturally, have to marry. When the lazy, cynical Shiraha is employed at her store, Keiko is repulsed and intrigued by him. As he shirks his responsibilities and laments being hassled about it, churning out his favourite phrase “things haven’t changed since the Stone Age”, it’s not too long until he is fired, his greatest misdemeanour being that he is looking for a wife - someone to ‘finance’ his life! After hitting on all the female staff - except for Keiko, who he sees as an old maid, not worth considering - he tries the customers, and this is his undoing. One evening, Keiko finds him hanging around outside the store, homeless and skint, and takes pity on him. However, Keiko has plans of her own. Keiko wants to please her sister (now married with a baby) and her parents (who constantly ask her if there is anything to report - both relieved and concerned that nothing has changed) and works up a plan to become 'normal'. Taking Shiraha into her tiny flat, they settle into a routine. Keiko goes to work and pays the bills, while Shiraha stays hidden (he wants to be left alone - he owes money to his brother, and his sister-in-law is on his case), making a comfortable place for himself in the bath (cushions and internet connection are all he needs). Keiko brings him food, most of which he complains about, from the convenience store - dented cans and expired use-by-date produce. He is her ‘pet’. Being a ‘couple’ takes the heat off Keiko and suddenly she is seen as normal by her colleagues, her old friends from school, and her family - no matter what Shiraha is like: a useless parasite. That she finally, at 36, has a man living in her apartment fills those around her with glee. Finally, Shiraha decides it is time for Keiko to leave the convenience store and better herself. Keiko is quite happy to go - everyone treats her differently now that she is ‘with’ Shiraha. Yet always she is drawn to the lights, sounds and pleasures of the convenience store - the hum, the stacks of cans and containers and the ever-changing specials. Charming, quirky and deadpan funny, Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is her tenth novel but the first to be translated into English. Murata works part-time in a convenience store.  


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 as 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.”
Do you dare to enter The House of Madame MWho is hiding inside? And who is Madame M? This wonderfully spooky and quirky lift-the-flap book by Clotilde Perrin is full of surprises,and we are delighted to have it as our Book of the Week
>>Visit Clotilde Perrin's website.
>>Gecko Press also brought us Clotilde Perrin's equally delightful Inside the Villains
>>Have a look Inside the Villains
>>The artist at work
>>Opening children's emotions
>>What is inside the red parcel? 
>>Click and collect


Loop by Brenda Lozano        $34
"I wish. I weave. I unravel. Am I getting closer or further away?"
Recovering from an unspecified accident, the narrtaor finds herself in waiting rooms of different kinds: airport departure lounges, doctors' surgeries, and, above all, at home, awaiting the retuen of her boyfriend, who has travelled to Spain following the death of his mother. While she waits, this contemporary Penelope writes and erases thoughts in her notebook, thoughts that range from stationery preferences to the different scales upon which life may be lived to the potentials and non-potentials of human relationships, comprising a unique journal of absences.
>>Having time without wanting it
The Other Name by John Fosse      $38
Two men named Asle live near each other on the western coast of Norway. Almost alternative versions of the same person, what happens when the two doppelgangers meet? Written in hypnotic prose that shifts between the first and third person, The Other Name calls into question concrete notions around subjectivity and the self. What makes us who we are? And why do we lead one life and not another? Through flashbacks, Fosse deftly explores the convergences and divergences in the lives of both Asles, slowly building towards a decisive encounter between them both.
Tell Me: What children really want to know about bodies, sex and emotions by Katharina von der Gathen and Anke Kuhl        $30
At last — an honest and funny book about sexuality, bodies, puberty, &c. All the questions came from eight- and nine-year-olds, and are answered clearly and straight-forwardly. The drawings are very funny.  

Rusty Brown by Chris Ware         $60
Ware’s first graphic novel since 2012’s Building Stories is anchored by the inconsequential events of a single day in a school in Ware’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, in 1975. It tells the interwoven stories of the titular pre-teen bully magnet and a handful of characters with whom his life, however glancingly, intersects. 
"Mordantly melancholy and drawn and plotted with extraordinary precision." —Guardian
>>"I envy writers who suffer from no self-doubt.
Good Day? by Vesna Main             $34
In a world where we present our diverse selves through social media, chatbots and messaging, this dark novel listens in on intimate secrets, desires and adultery. This novel-within-a-novel charts the writing of a story about Richard and Anna, a middle-aged professional couple, who face the biggest crisis of their twenty-five-year marriage.
"Good Day? is a novel in dialogue that works with repetition and rhythm like a piece of music by Philip Glass. Unfolding as a series of conversations between a husband and wife—about fidelity and infidelity, about fiction and life—it blurs the boundaries between imagination and the self. Formally inventive, it is also elegant, compelling, and slips down a treat." —Judges' citation on short-listing the book for the 2019 Goldsmiths Prize
Dora: A headcase by Lidia Yuknavitch          $23
Yuknavitch's unapologetically audacious novel gives a voice to Dora, the mute subject of Freud's famous and unresolved case study of hysteria, and makes her a contemporary everywoman, who, together with her alter-ego Ida (the real name of Freud's subject!), hatch a plan to put her psychiatrist in his place — a plan that soon gets satisfyingly out of control. 
"Dora was too much for Sigmund Freud but she's just right for us." —Katherine Dunn
"Yuknavitch has exhibited a rare gift for writing that concedes little in its quest to be authentic, meaningful and relevant." —New York Times
>>Read Stella's review of Yuknavitch's The Book of Joan

The Undying: A meditation on modern illness by Anne Boyer        $40
When Anne Boyer was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer in her early forties, it was an initiation into a whole new way of thinking about herself, about illness, and about mortality. Her harrowing, beautifully written memoir of survival explores the experience of illness as mediated by digital screens, weaving in ancient Roman dream diarists, cancer hoaxers and fetishists, cancer vloggers, corporate lies, John Donne, pro-pain 'dolorists', the ecological costs of chemotherapy, and the many little murders of capitalism. It excoriates the pharmaceutical industry and the bland hypocrisies of 'pink ribbon culture' while also diving into the long literary line of women writing about their own illnesses and ongoing deaths: Audre Lorde, Kathy Acker, Susan Sontag, and others.
>>Read Thomas's review of Anne Boyers's Garments Against Women
The House of Madame M. by Clotilde Perrin       $38
Do you dare to enter the house of Madame M? Who is hiding inside? Who is Madame M? A wonderfully spooky and quirky lift-the-flap book — full of surprises — from the creator of Inside the Villains

Pardiz: A Persian food journey by Manuela Darling-Gansser        $65
An attractively presented and extremely appetising book, in which Darling-Gansser returns to Iran, the country of her childhood, and showcases recipes of traditional food. 
>>Manuela's blog

The Hero's Quest by Jeffrey Alan Love         $28
Dragons! Wolves! Sea monsters! Be the hero in this beautifully made wordless picture book adventure. 
>>Watch Jeffrey Alan Love make his artwork

Under the Mediterranean Sun: A food journey from Spain to Northern Africa and Lebanon by Nadia Zerouali and Merijn Tol        $65
Flavour and colour from Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Sicily, Andalusia, Sardinia, and Catalonia. 

Queer Objects edited by Chris Brickell and Judith Collard         $50
How are the experiences of gay, lesbian and transgender people embodied in objects that are associated with them? What makes an object queer? The contributors to this fascinating book take an array of objects — both ordinary and special — from throughout time and around the world, and show us how to access to the stories that give them meaning. Published by Otago University Press. 

Travel Light, Move Fast by Alexandra Fuller         $33
After her father's sudden death, Alexandra Fuller realizes that if she is going to weather his loss, she will need to become the parts of him she misses most. Tim Fuller was a self-exiled black sheep who moved to Africa to fight in the Rhodesian Bush War before settling as a banana farmer in Zambia. He was more afraid of getting bored than of anything else. What will Alexandra Fuller draw from his life? 
My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay          $37
At the age of seventeen, after a childhood in a foster family followed by six years in care homes, Norman Greenwood was given his birth certificate. He learned that his real name was not Norman. It was Lemn Sissay. He was British and Ethiopian. Sissay is a much-loved British poet. 
"The great triumph of this work comes from its author’s determination to rail against what he rightly diagnoses as this institutionally endorsed disremembering of black and marginalised experience. It is a searing and unforgettable re-creation of the most brutal of beginnings." —Guardian
Sissay reads. 

Under the Broken Sky by Mariko Nagai       $33
Twelve-year-old Natsu and her family live a quiet farm life in Manchuria, near the border of the Soviet Union. But the life they've known begins to unravel when her father is recruited to the Japanese army, and Natsu and her little sister, Cricket, are left orphaned and destitute. In a desperate move to keep her sister alive, Natsu sells Cricket to a Russian family following the 1945 Soviet occupation. The journey to redemption for Natsu's broken family is rife with struggles, but Natsu is tenacious and will stop at nothing to get her little sister back. An excellent novel in verse for older children. 

It Would Be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo       $35
A novel in which a woman, at a time of personal loss and crisis, must also survive social upheaval in Venezuela. 
"Echoes of Borges." —The New York Times

Nevertell by Katharine Orton         $19
A snowy adventure set in the wilds of Siberia. Lina escapes a Soviet prison camp with her friend Bogdan — and then has to elude a sorceress, and shadow wolves, too!
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, lavishly illustrated with interactive elements by Minalima        $45
Make Alice's legs extend! Make the Cheshire Cat disappear, leaving its smile! Make the flamingo croquet mallet hit the hedgehog! Unfold the map of the Looking Glass world! The latest volume of the inventive Harper Design series of interactive classics
Blood of the Flax by Ray Caird         $45
A well-illustrated poetic celebration of the history of the relationship between humans and harakeke. Local author!

The Ice at the End of the World: An epic journey to Greenland's buried past and our perilous future by John Gertner       $45
An interesting history of 150 years of scientific expeditions to Greenland, viewing the island as a gigantic laboratory with which to study climate change. 
An Ode to Darkness by Sigri Sandberg         $38
Explores our intimate relationship with the dark: why we are scared of it, why we need it and why the ever-encroaching light is damaging our well-being. Under the dark polar night of northern Norway, Sandberg meditates on the cultural, historical, psychological and scientific meaning of darkness, all the while testing the limits of her own fear.
The Lion and the Nightingale: A journey through modern Turkey by Kaya Genç      $41
By telling the stories of ordinary Turks, Genç gives insight into the contradictions of Turkish history and modern politics.       

Jon Klassen's Hat Box           $70
I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat and We Found a Hat and a frameable print in a giftable box!

Sunday 20 October 2019

BOOKS @ VOLUME #149 (19.10.19)

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

Reading. Writing. Parenting. Angsting. Let Me Be Frank by Sarah Laing, a quirkily funny, insightful and poignant graphic memoir drawn between 2010 and 2019, is our Book of the Week this week. 
>>Let Me Be Frank was and is a blog
>>On creativity and comics
>>A comic interview. 
>>Standing room only!
>>How to draw a book review
>>Read Stella's review of Laing's superb graphic memoir Mansfield and Me.
>>Other books by Sarah Laing
>>Laing has illustrated—and done the cover for—Paula Green's Wild Honey: Reading New Zealand women's poetry
>>Compostable poets.
>>And a talking mural!

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood       {Reviewed by STELLA}
Hailed as 'the book of our time', Margaret Atwood takes us back to Gilead in her much-anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale: The Testaments. And a testament it is. It’s fifteen years since the doors closed on Offred, and we are quickly absorbed again into the world of Gilead through the witness accounts of its fall by two women: 'Witness Testimony 369A' and 'Witness Testimony 369B'. These 'found transcripts' are now studied along with other records of the women of Gilead. As you can imagine, these are far and few considering the scant access to (and inability to read) the written word by those who lived in Gilead. The most compromising and informative manuscript is known as 'The Ardua Hall Holograph', written by Aunt Lydia — one of the four founding Aunts. And in we go, into Gilead and into the walls of the silenced. Here we are buried knee-deep in treachery, in bullying and political machinations — in a society bereft of honesty and bound by dogma. Lydia and the founding Aunts hold powerful positions within this structure, yet this substructure does little but feed the demands of the Commanders (the elite) and is at the mercy of their whims. Lydia as the appointed leader has played a poker-faced game — always wary of Commander Judd, playing her cards with humility but always (she hopes) with a trump up her sleeve. It is a dangerous game, one that she and the Aunts cannot win, but survival is possible. The strength of The Testaments is in Lydia’s voice: complex, assured and terrified, we start right at the beginning with her. The downfall of America as it was, the destruction of democracy, and the denial of human rights to all women and most men. Lydia had been a judge and the commanders see in her abilities that will be useful to them in this autocratic regime. She has the prospect of being a ‘judge’ again, albeit one that goes against all her beliefs — deciding who will be a Handmaid, an Aunt, an Econowife, a Wife; how crimes of men, as well as women, will be punished — but all this within the strict code of Gilead, one that the Commanders have designed. Aunt Lydia is both revered and feared, reflecting her status in and worth to Gilead, but she has a secret — her written record (the Holograph) hidden in the depths of the inner library of Ardua Hall. The witness testimonies are from two young women, one Agnes — a daughter of a commander — and the other,a teenager living in Canada, just over the border outside Gilead. As the story unfolds, their lives become intertwined. The codes of Gilead have affected them both. Agnes, a privileged child, is ‘schooled’ by the Aunts, along with the other commanders’ daughters. They are readied for marriage — schooled in the arts of embroidery and flower arranging and indoctrinated in the rules of Gilead. When her father takes a new wife, Paula, it is quickly decided that at thirteen Agnes is ready for marriage, something she is understandably terrified of.  Rescued from this plight by announcing that she has been ‘called’, she escapes into the confines of Ardua Hall to train as a Pearl Girl on the road to being an Aunt. Here she meets Jade, a meeting that will have a profound effect on her and many others in Gilead. There is much more to the plot but you will have to read The Testaments —  to say more would spoil the revealing page-turner. When The Handmaid’s Tale was first published in the 1980s it felt like a dystopia, hardly believable despite its resonances in women’s rights movement of that time. But when there was renewed interest in the last few years (partly due to the television series) it felt more prescient and urgent. The increasing power of elites, the decreasing autonomy of women and minorities (think abortion laws in America, revoking of the right to peaceful protest, increased police and military power in the face of ‘terrorism’, control of media and data to shift political opinion and influence voter behaviour) makes The Testaments (and its predecessor) more vital, and frighteningly close to the edge of what could be. Are we brave enough like the women in The Testaments to fight for a humane society or are we undone by the helplessness as part of an insane society? Or are some of us complacent — unwilling to risk our small bubble of safety and superiority?  These are the challenges of Gilead. It is interesting to note that Atwood does not include anything in her ‘dystopias’ that has not already occurred. Announced this week, The Testaments is the joint winner of the 2019 Booker Prize.   

Saturday 19 October 2019

 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 


Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
"It is a folk art of sorts, always longing to kill oneself but being kept by one’s watchful intelligence from killing oneself, so that the condition is stabilised in the form of lifelong controlled suffering,” wrote Thomas Bernhard in Correction. In the ‘autobiographical’ novel Wittgenstein’s Nephew: A friendship, Bernhard explores the conditions needed for continuing to live in an intolerable world by at once both aligning and contrasting his accommodation of the contradictory impulses for survival and self-destruction with the accommodation or lack of accommodation made between these impulses by his friend Paul Wittgenstein, whose resulting madness periodically incapacitated and ultimately destroyed him. The novel opens with the narrator and Paul both confined to departments in the Baumgartner Höhe hospital in Vienna, “isolated, shunted aside, and written off:” the narrator in the pulmonary department, not expected to live, and Paul in the psychiatric department, receiving brutal electroconvulsive therapy and kept in a caged bed. The two had met at the apartment of a mutual friend at a time when the narrator was afflicted by suicidal thoughts, when at the height of his despair Paul appeared as his “deliverer”, a man who, like the narrator, ''loved and hated human beings with equal passion and equal ruthlessness.” Whereas the narrator writes because “I am forced to defend myself and take action against the insolence of the world in order not to be put down and annihilated by it,” Paul has no such defence. “Paul allowed himself to be utterly dominated by his madness, whereas I have never let myself be utterly dominated by my equally serious madness: one might say that he was taken over by his madness, whereas I have always exploited mine. … Paul had only his madness to live on; I have my lung disease as well as my madness. I have exploited both, and one day I suddenly made them the mainspring of my existence.” Both the narrator and Paul exhibit neuroses (such as “the counting disease”) as a means of resisting the pull of annihilation, and share a passion for music (‘culture’ itself being a neurotic mechanism for collectively resisting the pull of annihilation). All efforts, though, to act as if the intolerable is tolerable are increasingly difficult to maintain. “As we get older we have to employ ever subtler means in order to produce such endurable conditions, resorting to every possible and impossible trick the mind can devise.” The narrator knows that continuing is always only a postponement of the moment at which continuing becomes impossible: “I had behaved towards myself and everything else with the same unnatural ruthlessless that one day destroyed Paul and will one day destroy me. For just as Paul came to grief through his unhealthy overestimation of himself and the world, I too shall sooner or later come to grief through my own overestimation of myself and the world.” Paul is destroyed by their shared madness, but the narrator is not yet destroyed. He survives by, in effect, sacrificing Paul. The narrator at ones both claims and disavows Paul as his alter ego, both emphasises and denies their shared identity (is that not always so with friendships?): “We gradually discovered that there were countless things about us and within us that united us, yet at the same time there were so many contrasts between us that our friendship soon ran into difficulties, into even greater difficulties, and ultimately into the greatest difficulties.” When Paul, debilitated by his bouts of madness and the brutality of his treatment, desperate for some practical demonstration of friendship, invites the narrator to his apartment and the narrator sees in its squalor and hopelessness “the last refuge of a failure,” he feels a sudden revulsion for Paul and flees, leaving Paul weeping on his sofa (the last remaining artefact of his squandered former wealth). The narrator finds despicable what he once found admirable. His own destruction yawns too near his feet and he abandons his friend. He sees Paul as spent, as a man dying. “I myself could naturally not feel the same about Paul’s shadow as I had about the real Paul of earlier days. … I preferred to have a bad conscience rather than meet him [for] we shun those who bear the mark of death.” When the narrator returns from a period overseas he learns of Paul’s death in a mental hospital in Linz a few days after attacking his cousin in his final madness, and of Paul’s lonely, abject funeral. “To this day I have not visited his grave,” he states. Paul’s death could be seen as the narrator’s displaced suicide, as a way in which the narrator has continued to exist. “I had met Paul, I now see, precisely at the time when he was beginning to die,” he says. “It seems to me that I was basically nothing but a twelve-year witness of his dying, who drew from his friend’s dying much of the strength he needed for his own survival.” He goes on: "It is not far-fetched to say that this friend had to die in order to make my life more bearable and even, for long periods, possible." This book is both a tender tribute to a friend, written in guilt, and an unflinching examination of that guilt. 

Friday 18 October 2019


Girl by Edna O'Brien             $33
"By an extraordinary act of the imagination we are transported into the inner world of a girl who, after brutal abuse as a slave to Nigerian jihadis, escapes and with dogged persistence begins to rebuild her shattered life. Girl is a courageous book about a courageous spirit." —J.M. Coetzee 

Rebuilding the Kāinga: Lessons from Te Ao Hurihuri by Jade Kake       $15
Pre-nineteenth-century Maori society was complex: rich tribal economies were built and flourished, and there was a focus on valuing the whenua and resources that supported all. The dominant form of settlement and the focal point of social and economic activities were Kainga (unfortified villages). However, colonial settlement and the discriminatory policies of successive governments disrupted social structures and severed the connections to Kainga. Today, the home ownership rate for Maori is well below the national average and Maori are over-represented in the statistics of substandard housing. Rebuilding the Kainga charts the resurgence of contemporary papakainga on whenua Maori over the last three decades. Kake draws on innovative international models to sketch out a vision where Maori are supported to build businesses and affordable homes on whanau, hapu or Treaty settlement lands and describes the policy direction needed to make this a reality.
Confessions of a Bookseller by Sea Bythell        $33
Shaun Bythell is the owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland. With more than a mile of shelving, real log fires in the shop and the sea lapping nearby, the shop should be an idyll for bookworms. Unfortunately, Shaun also has to contend with bizarre requests from people who don't understand what a shop is, home invasions during the Wigtown Book Festival, and Granny, his neurotic Italian assistant, who likes digging for river mud to make poultices. It's all true. Follows the wildly successful The Diary of a Bookseller
>>Sean shows us how to deal with a broken Kindle
>>As it happens
#NoFly by Sean Hendy            $15
Hendy records his attempts to 'walk the talk' on climate change: "By avoiding planes for a year, I found that I had cut my carbon dioxide emissions from travel to just over 1 tonne. This was a reduction of 95 per cent from my 2017 carbon footprint from travel. It felt good." Was this initiative merely symbolic? Did it compromise his work, his life? And has it left him feeling more optimistic that we can, indeed, reach a low-emissions future?
Ash before Oak by Jeremy Cooper        $40
A novel in the form of what is ostensibly a nature diary, precisely chronicling the narrator's interest in the local flora and fauna and the passing of the seasons. Ash before Oak is also the story of a breakdown told slantwise, and of the narrator's subsequent recovery through his re-engagement with the world around him. A substantial section in the latter part of the book is set in New Zealand, and features appearances by Jenny Bornholdt and Gregory O'Brien. 
>>Read an extract
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips         $38
One August afternoon, on the shoreline of the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern edge of Russia, two girls–sisters, eight and eleven–go missing. In the ensuing weeks, then months, the police investigation turns up nothing. Echoes of the disappearance reverberate across a tightly woven community, with the fear and loss felt most deeply among its women.
Finalist for the US National Book Award. 
"​A nearly flawless novel." ​—The New York Times
"Dismantles the conventions of detective fiction." ​—The New Yorker
Mount Analogue: A novel of symbolically authentic non-Euclidean adventures in mountain climbing by René Daumal      $38
A blend of Surrealism, 'Pataphysics and mysticism, Daumal's allegorical novel tells of the climbing of a mountain, the slopes of which begin everywhere but the summit of which is forever beyond reach. >>Mountain climbing in the theatre. 
>>Alejandro Jodorowsky's film The Holy Mountain was (somewhat loosely) inspired by the book. 
>>As was this work by John Zorn
Drongo by Ian Richards          $38
A horrendously funny Kiwi road novel and coming-of-age story. 18 year old Andy Ingle, with his yellow typewriter called Half-Arse under his arm, embarks on one of the great Kiwi road trips, hitchhiking from Palmerston North to Dunedin, over to the West Coast and back up to Auckland. On the way falling in with drug dealers, a washed-out Professor of Literature, members of the Miss NZ Pageant, and a rag-tag collection of some of the most eccentric and entertaining characters to appear in Kiwi fiction. Enjoyable. 
Mask Off: Masculinity redefined by J.J. Bola         $32
An excellent book for young people, deconstructing received notions of masculinity and their toxic repercussions, and reassembling masculinity in the light of the experiences of men of colour, LGBTQI men, and men whose experience of manhood is atypical in the English-speaking world. Enables young men to feel at home in their gender and thereby less vulnerable to the consolations of chauvinism as offered by the far right (for example).  
The Dark Island: Leprosy in New Zealand and the Quail Island colony by  Benjamin Kingsbury    $40
An embarrassment to the Health Department, an object of pity to a few, a source of fear to many.
>>Visit Quail Island
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The fight for a human future at the new frontier of power by Shoshana Zuboff         $28
The heady optimism of the Internet's early days is gone. Technologies that were meant to liberate us have deepened inequality and stoked divisions. Tech companies gather our information online and sell it to the highest bidder, whether government or retailer. Profits now depend not only on predicting our behaviour but modifying it too. How will this fusion of capitalism and the digital shape our values and define our future?
"Everyone needs to read this book as an act of digital self-defence."  —Naomi Klein
Greenfeast: Autumn, winter by Nigel Slater      $50
Delicious, quick plant-based evening meals from this most personable of food writers. 
>>Also available: Greenfeast: Spring, summer

Echoes of the City by Lars Saabye Christensen         $38
A quietly observant novel set in an Oslo emerging from austerity.
"The kind of novel that does not shout loudly, but is borne along by fine characterisation and wisdom disguised as sparkling gold grains, consolidating Lars Saabye Christensen's position as Oslo's premier home-town poet." —Dagsavisen
Tohorā, The Southern Right Whale by Ned Barraud        $20
Once, the mighty tohora, or southern right whale, was a common sight in winter off the coast of Aotearoa. But it proved to be an easy target for the 19th-century whalers, and was soon driven to the edge of extinction. In the 20th century, however, it became a protected species, and once commercial whaling was virtually stopped, the southern right whale made a comeback.
The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett and Jackie Morris       $26
Little Eepersip doesn't want to live in a house with doors and windows and a roof, so she runs away to live in the wild - first in the Meadow, then by the Sea, and finally in the Mountain. Her heartbroken parents follow her, bringing her back home to 'safety' and locking her up in the stifling square of the house. But she slips away once more, following her heart into the richness of untrammelled nature and disappearing forever. First published in 1927 and written by a child of just twelve years old, The House Without Windows is an extraordinary paean to the transcendent beauty of the natural world, and the human capacity to connect with it.
Winner of the Carnegie Medal and the Hans Christian Anderson Award.
"An enchanting book. These pages simply quiver with the beauty, happiness and vigour of forests, seas and mountains. I can safely promise joy to any reader of it. Perfection." —Eleanor Farjeon
Don't Believe a Word: The suprising truth about language by David Shariatmadari     $38
A fascinating account of how languages emerge, change and influence the way we think. 
"A rewarding and necessary read." —Guardian
Bearmouth by Liz Hyder         $28
Life in Bearmouth is one of hard labour in the mines, and reward will come in the next life with the benevolence of the Mayker. Newt accepts everything - that is, until Devlin arrives. Devlin starts to force Newt to ask questions, to look around, to wonder if the rules are divine or simply a way of keeping everyone under control. A powerful and original young adult novel. 
Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis       $26
Traces the entwined histories of the struggle for equality on the bases of gender, class and race, and challenges white feminists to examine race and class prejudice within their movement. 
Dark Matter and Dark Energy: The hidden 95% of the universe by Brian Clegg         $23
Since the 1970s, astronomers have been aware that galaxies have far too little matter in them to account for the way they spin around: they should fly apart, but something concealed holds them together. That 'something' is dark matter — invisible material in five times the quantity of the familiar stuff of stars and planets. By the 1990s we also knew that the expansion of the universe was accelerating. Something, named dark energy, is pushing it to expand faster and faster. Across the universe,this requires enough energy that the equivalent mass would be nearly fourteen times greater than all the visible material in existence.
>>Dark Matter live
Bodies by Susie Orbach         $25
Social media have put new pressures on appearances, and new technologies have made our bodies more alterable than ever. If the way we view our bodies is very much tied in with the way in which we view ourselves, are we more fulfilled or less secure as this relationship changes?