List #8: HISTORY AND POLITICS
Have a look through this selection of books we are recommending for summer reading and as seasonal gifts. Click through to read our reviews. Use the 'click and collect' function on our website to reserve your copies.
If you don't find what you're looking for here, come and talk to us: we have many other interesting books on our shelves.
The Boundless Sea: A human history of the oceans by David Abulafia $85
A magnificent book, both nicely shaped and satisfyingly detailed, surveying the way in which humans across the globe have used the sea to develop and extend their reach upon geography, through trade, travel and conquest.
A remarkable collection of accounts, collected by Alexievich since the 1970s, in which the subjects recall life as Soviet children during the upheavals and horrors of World War 2.
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).
Nature's Mutiny: How the Little Ice Age transformed the West and shaped the present by Philipp Blom $50
"Europe where the sun dares scarce appear For freezing meteors and congealed cold." - Christopher Marlowe
From the end of the sixteenth century and through the seventeenth, Europe was profoundly altered by a drop in temperatures that affected the ways in which societies sustained and maintained themselves. Blom's excellent history of the impacts of that period of climate change shows how apocalyptic weather patterns not only destroyed entire harvests and incited mass migrations but also gave rise to the growth of European cities and the appearance of capitalism.
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.
The Music of Time: Poetry in the twentieth century by John Burnside $60
A wonderfully idiosyncratic, wide-ranging, acute and vital consideration of the sweep of a century as snagged upon poets whose calling made them incapable of 'going with the flow'.
"Burnside's thoroughly human prose makes him a great companion and guide. As this inspiring, persuasive book argues the case for poetry it comes close to being poetry itself." —Fiona Sampson
"A rich and pugnacious plea for the necessity of poetry which takes in autobiography, medieval Swiss irrigation channels, the viewpoint in Romantic landscape, Rilke's itineraries, cruising with Hart Crane, attacks by zoo animals." —Jonathan Meades
Dead Letters: Censorship and subversion in New Zealand, 1914-1920 by Jared Davidson $35
Starting from an archive of letters that were intercepted and opened during and just after World War 1, this book provides fascinating insight into the types of persons considered a 'threat' to the country in this period: a feisty German-born socialist, a Norwegian watersider, an affectionate Irish nationalist, a love-struck miner, an aspiring Maxim Gorky, a cross-dressing doctor, a nameless rural labourer, an avid letter writer with a hatred of war, and two mystical dairy farmers with a poetic bent. What is remarkable is the extent of state surveillance in this period, a time when the rights to privacy and freedom of expression were seldom considered.
The Scottish Clearances: A history of the dispossessed by T.M. Devine $28
After Culloden and the ascendancy of new elites, the 'rationalisation' of land-use in Scotland (largely to serve the woollen trade) entailed the fracturing of social structures and the displacement of crofters and others. The resulting diaspora contributed to the European settlement of New Zealand in the nineteenth century. Devine's history is enlightening and overturns many myths.
New Forms of Political Organisation edited by Campbell Jones and Shannon Walsh $20
Could politics be anything other than the administration of the economy in the interests of the already privileged? This volume collects innovative thinking about new forms of politics, new forms of political organisation and new ways of thinking politics. Contributions include 'Nation destroying: Sovereignty and dispossession in Aotearoa New Zealand' by Ben Rosamond, 'Land, housing and capitalism: The social consequences of free markets' by Shane Malva, 'Political organisation and the environment' by Amanda Thomas, 'The resurgence of the radical left in Europe' by David Parker, 'Why we need a new left wing party' by Sue Bradford, 'Constitutional Transformation and the Matike Mai Project' a kōrero between Moana Jackson and Helen Potter.
Nelson: Now and then by Peter Lukas $40
When Norwegian photographer Peter Lukas visited Nelson, he was so impressed with the photographic collections at the Nelson Provincial Museum that he set out to photograph the same street views as they appear today. The result is this wonderful book: historical photographs paired with their modern equivalents.
King and Emperor: A new life of Charlemagne by Janet L. Nelson $65
An attempt to get close to the central figure of the Carolingian renaissance, through reassessment and re-reassessment of sources and preceding histories.
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.
Faber & Faber: The untold story of a great publishing house by Toby Faber $45
A fascinating insight into how a publisher can not only publish important books (and unimportant ones), but also shift cultural conversation and change the way we engage with literature.
Protest / Tautohetohe: Objects of resistance, persistence and defiance by Stephanie Gibson, Matariki Williams and Puawai Cairns $70
A superbly illustrated history of 250 years of resistance and persistence in New Zealand as told through artefacts created to further a variety of causes.
Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial resistance and British dissent by Priyamvada Gopal $55
Insurgent Empire shows how Britain’s enslaved and colonial subjects were active agents in their own liberation. What is more, they shaped British ideas of freedom and emancipation back in the United Kingdom. Priyamvada Gopal examines a century of dissent on the question of empire and shows how British critics of empire were influenced by rebellions and resistance in the colonies, from the West Indies and East Africa to Egypt and India. In addition, a pivotal role in fomenting resistance was played by anticolonial campaigners based in London, right at the heart of empire. Much has been written on how colonised peoples took up British and European ideas and turned them against empire when making claims to freedom and self-determination. Insurgent Empire sets the record straight in demonstrating that these people were much more than victims of imperialism or, subsequently, the passive beneficiaries of an enlightened British conscience—they were insurgents whose legacies shaped and benefited the nation that once oppressed them.
>>The author changes the mind-set.
The History of Philosophy by A.C. Grayling $38
Authoritative. Accessible. Covers both Western and Eastern traditions.
An Underground Guide to Sewers, Or: Down, through and out in Paris, London, New York, &c by Stephen Halliday $45
Cities could be mapped by their underground networks of sewers, and the history revealed by what a city gets rid of is every bit as fascinating as the history of its inputs. Superbly illustrated with photographs, plans, maps, &c.
Our Women on the Ground: Arab women reporting from the Arab world edited by Zahra Hankir $40
A growing number of intrepid Arab and Middle Eastern sahafiyat — female journalists — are working to shape nuanced narratives about their changing homelands, often risking their lives on the front lines of war. The nineteen essays here show that, from sexual harassment on the streets of Cairo to the difficulty of travelling without a male relative in Yemen, their challenges are unique — as are their advantages, such as being able to speak candidly with other women at a Syrian medical clinic or attend an exclusive beauty contest for sheep in Saudi Arabia.
Poetry from the Future: Why a global liberation movement is our civilisation's last chance by Srećko Horvat $40
Capitalism and historical revisionism have constructed a new world of normalized apocalyptic politics in which our passivity is guaranteed if we believe there is no future. This is a radical manifesto for hope in democracy, union and internationalism. Horvat is an associate of Slavoj Žižek and Yanis Varoufakis.
>>"The current system is more violent than any revolution."
The Government of No-One: The theory and practice of anarchism by Ruth Kinna $48
"Ruth Kinna's book will be the standard text on anarchism for the twenty-first century. Written with brio, quiet insight and clarity and taking us from the nineteenth century anarchist Proudhon to Occupy and Rojava, this offering will appeal to the novice student, the activist and the grizzled professor." —Carl LevyOn Fire: The burning case for a Green New Deal by Naomi Klein $35
Outlines concrete and achievable steps of policy reform to address the climate crisis.
Underland by Robert Macfarlane $50
Macfarlane takes us on a journey into the worlds beneath our feet. From the ice-blue depths of Greenland's glaciers, to the underground networks by which trees communicate, from Bronze Age burial chambers to the rock art of remote Arctic sea-caves, this is a deep-time voyage into the planet's past and future.
"Extraordinary and thrilling." —Guardian
Clear Bright Future: A radical defence of the human being by Paul Mason $40
A passionate defence of humanity and a work of radical optimism from the author of Postcapitalism. How do we preserve what makes us human in an age of uncertainty? Are we now just consumers shaped by market forces? A sequence of DNA? A collection of base instincts? Or will we soon be supplanted by algorithms and A.I. anyway? The notion of humanity has become eroded as never before. In this book Paul Mason argues that we are still capable - through language, innovation and co-operation - of shaping our future. He offers a vision of humans as more than puppets, customers or cogs in a machine.
A House in the Mountains: The women who liberated Italy from Fascism by Caroline Moorehead $40
The story of four young Piedmontese women who joined the Resistance against the German occupation of the north of Italy in 1943. Well written and interesting.
A very accessible and well illustrated history of the series of conflicts between the Crown and various groups of Maori between 1845 and 1872, conflicts that form the often unacknowledged background to much else in New Zealand history. From the author of the monumental The Great War for New Zealand.
My Seditious Heart by Arundhati Roy $75
A collection of outstanding non-fiction (essays, speeches, &c) written in the two-decade gap between The God of Small Things and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, a period in which Roy found that the urgency of her political and social convictions led her to engage with a wide spectrum of issues.
"Although Roy writes in her foreword that 'Not one iota of my anger has diminished' since the time of writing these essays, they do not come across as angry. Instead, their impact comes from their precision, research and damningly clear reportage." —Guardian
The Five: The untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold $40
A remarkable work, shifting the focus from the criminal onto the victims, discovering rich and surprising lives and overturning preconceptions and misconceptions both about these women and about the lives of women in precarity in that period.
Winner of the 2019 Baillie Gifford Prize.
The Bells of Old Tokyo: Travels in Japanese time by Anna Sherman $38
Setting of to search for the bells that were used for timekeeping before the arrival of the Jesuits, Sherman follows a fascinating path through Tokyo's history and contemporary variety.
"A completely extraordinary book, unlike anything I have read before. At once modest in tone and vast in scale and ambition, it extends in all directions, delicately wrought, precise, unfaltering, lucid and strange as a dream. I haven’t felt so excited about an investigation into place since I first read W. G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn. Like Sebald, Sherman is concerned with war, brutality, nostalgia and loss, but her search for the meaning of time is also radiant and absolutely humane." —Olivia Laing
"The Bells of Old Tokyo is part personal memoir, part cultural history, but wholly unique. The fragile, fragmentary poetry of its prose so beautifully captures the transience of Tokyo time, the constant cycle of destruction and reconstruction, and the nostalgia for that which has been lost and yet wonder at all that remains to be found. It is the best book I have read about Tokyo written this century." —David Peace
Pākehā Settlements in a Māori World: New Zealand archaeology, 1769—1960 by Ian Smith $60
A vivid account of early European experience in these islands, through material evidence offered by the archaeological record. As European exploration in the 1770s gave way to sealing, whaling and timber-felling, Pākehā visitors first became sojourners in small, remote camps, then settlers scattered around the coast. Over time, mission stations were established, alongside farms, businesses and industries, and eventually towns and government centres. Through these decades a small but growing Pākehā population lived within and alongside a Māori world, often interacting closely. This phase drew to a close in the 1850s, as the numbers of Pākehā began to exceed the Māori population, and the wars of the 1860s brought brutal transformation to the emerging society and its economy.
Permanent Record by Edward Snowden $38
Edward Snowden, the man who risked everything to expose the US government's system of mass surveillance, reveals for the first time the story of his life, including how he helped to build that system and what motivated him to try to bring it down.
Whose Story is This? Old conflicts, new chapters by Rebecca Solnit $30
Who gets to shape the narrative of our times? The current moment is a battle royale over that foundational power, one in which women, people of colour, non-straight people are telling other versions, and white people and men and particularly white men are trying to hang onto the old versions and their own centrality.
>>Read Stella's review.
The Great Unknown: Mountain journeys in the Southern Alps by Geoff Spearpoint $60
Fifty years of tramping. Beautifully photographed.
Sea People: The puzzle of Polynesia by Christine Thompson $35
"I found Sea People the most intelligent, empathic, engaging, wide-ranging, informative, and authoritative treatment of Polynesian mysteries that I have ever read. Christina Thompson's gorgeous writing arises from a deep well of research and succeeds in conjuring a lost world." - Dava Sobel
"To those of the western hemisphere, the Pacific represents a vast unknown, almost beyond our imagining; for its Polynesian island peoples, this fluid, shifting place is home. Christina Thompson's wonderfully researched and beautifully written narrative brings these two stories together, gloriously and excitingly." - Philip Hoare
Mud and Stars: Travels in Russia with Pushkin and other geniuses of the Golden Age by Sara Wheeler $40
Wheeler travelled across eight time zones, guided by the writers of the Golden Age: Pushkin to Tolstoy via Gogol and Turgenev.
Words of a Kaumātua by Haare Williams $50
Haare Williams grew up with his Tuhoe grandparents on the shores of Ohiwa Harbour on the East Coast in a te reo world of Tane and Tangaroa, Te Kooti and the Old Testament, myths and legends and of Nani Wai and curried cockle stew — a world that Williams left behind when he learnt English at school and moved to the city of Auckland.Over the last half-century, through the Maori arts movement, waves of protest and the rise of Maori broadcasting, Williams has witnessed and played a part in the changing shape of Māoridom. And in his poetry and prose, in te reo Māori and English, Williams captures both the wisdom of te ao Māori and the transformation of that world.
"In this collection, we are privileged to obtain the wisdom of a Māori elder of the old school." —Witi Ihimaera
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
>>Browse more books in this category.
>>Return to the GIFT SELECTOR.