Saturday 30 May 2020

BOOKS @ VOLUME (30.5.20)

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>> Read all Stella's reviews.

A Bear Name Bjorn by Delphine Perret     {Reviewed by STELLA}
The third story in this delightful chapter book for youngsters is called 'Nothing' and it reminded me of what we all, hopefully, learnt to do in lock-down. Stop, slow down, and sometimes just do nothing. “Often Bjorn does nothing at all. But he’s never bored.” In this story, our friend the bear watches a tree grow, much to the consternation of his friend Squirrel. “What are you doing Bjorn? —I’m watching the trees grow. —But you can’t see anything! —You can see the leaves. —But they don’t grow! —Give them time.” He plays cards with the rabbit, who wins every hand and then does card tricks for Bjorn. He sits on a stump and rolls in the dust. Sometimes he reads alone, other times with Fox. He wanders home, maybe counting stars with the weasel and sharing a few quail eggs on the way. Bjorn reminds us the ordinary is extraordinary. “The day is done. Bjorn can’t wait to start over again tomorrow.”  Not all antics in the forest are ordinary. The opening story sees Bjorn winning a prize! A plush red sofa. It is delivered and positioned into his perfect little cave. All the forest animals think it is mighty fine and Bjorn is so lucky to have a comfy sofa, but the chickadee senses that something isn’t quite right. Bjorn wants his sleeping corner back — there just isn’t enough room in his cave with the new sofa. The solution — they put the sofa in a clearing under some oak trees. The weasel declares, "There you are! After a bit of rain, it will smell wonderfully mossy!” The woodland sofa is declared a success. This is a charming collection of stories, whimsical and slightly gauche, Delphine Perret’s text is delightful in its brevity and deceptively thoughtful. Combined with the simple and illuminating line-drawing illustrations this is sure to become a favourite as a read-aloud and an early reader for curious minds, with its gentle and humorous tone. Bjorn makes a honey sandwich without bread, the forest animals have their annual check-up with the wise owl (Bjorn needs glasses — luckily magpie has several pairs in her treasure trove), the animals dress up as humans for a carnival (which involves ‘borrowing’ some clothes from a camper's washing line), and Bjorn puzzles over the best present to send to his friend — a girl called Ramona — in the city. Ramona has sent him a letter with a wonderful thing called a fork enclosed — the perfect back-scratcher — better than his favourite rough bark tree! What will be the best present to post to Ramona? 'It’s Time' is the perfect bedtime story, as Bjorn gets ready to hibernate. Is he ready? And are you ready to meet A Bear Named Bjorn?   

 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 

Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books by Marcel Bénabou   {Not reviewed by THOMAS}
If he is not going to write a review of Marcel Bénabou’s book entitled Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books he might as well not write the review in a comfortable spot, he thinks, not doing something being somehow more demanding than doing something of a comfortable spot, he thinks, but he is not sure either if this is so or even if he thinks that this is so. My pleasures these days, he thinks, are increasingly of a negative sort, not being answerable to the world, for example, whatever that is, whatever that means, even for brief periods, being prominent among them. It is not true that all absences are the same absence, an empty box that does not contain chocolate is quite different from an empty box that does not contain dogshit, for example, even if it is the same box, and inactivity, likewise, in a comfortable spot, preferably, such as on this sofa by the window, specifically, is very different depending upon what activity I am not doing, he thinks. Although he lies here and writes nothing, he thinks, it is not incorrect to think of him as a writer as it is specifically writing that he is not doing as opposed to all the many other things he is also not doing. Lying on the sofa by the window and not writing a review of Marcel Bénabou’s book entitled Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books is pleasurable, he thinks, as he lies on the sofa by the window not writing a review of Marcel Bénabou’s book entitled Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books, but, he admits, lying on the sofa by the window having already written a review of Marcel Bénabou’s book entitled Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books would likely also be pleasurable, but, probably, not pleasurable enough to forgo the pleasure of lying on the sofa by the window not writing a review. Velleity is enough, he thinks, inclination without action is enough to give specificity to my non-achievement, making it a specifically literary non-achievement, and meaning to my uselessness, making it a meaningful literary uselessness. It is more satisfying, he thinks, as he lies on the sofa by the window, to fail to do something in particular than to fail to do anything at all, one should always be as particular as possible about what one fails to do, he thinks, thinking, he thinks, like a connoisseur of failure, a failure connoisseur, though thinking this puts him off the thought. There are other impediments to writing a review of Marcel Bénabou’s book entitled Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books other than the specific pleasure of not writing a review of Marcel Bénabou’s book entitled Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books, a pleasure, if it is a pleasure, that resembles in every way a failure, his failure to write a review of Marcel Bénabou’s book entitled Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books, for example there are other impediments in what he terms, politely, being answerable to the world, which situation he increasingly resents. Despite his best efforts, he thinks, he has failed to attain that state of complete uselessness that enables the mind to function without obligation, that state of complete uselessness that is absolutely necessary, he kids himself, for writing. He is neither useful enough nor useless enough, but useful enough for what or useless enough for what he cannot imagine. He does not admit to himself that he might write for he knows that the intention to write is an insurmountable impediment to writing, though not, perhaps, he admits, as insurmountable an impediment as the absence of an intention to write, not that it makes sense to consider relative degrees of insurmountability, he thinks, insurmountability is an absolute, he thinks, if it is impossible for me to leap across the Riverside Pool this does not mean that leaping across the Riverside Pool is less impossible than leaping across the Tasman Sea, at least for me, not that I have or have ever had even an inclination to leap across the Tasman Sea, but if I had such an inclination would that make my failure a work of art? My failure to write is an absolute. But if I write that my failure to write is on account of my absolute failure, he thinks, and that my creative sterility is in fact my creative sterility, I overcome my failure and my sterility and am able to write, and at this point it becomes even more important, he realises, that I do not write, as this would invalidate the mechanism by which my failure and my sterility were overcome. The inclination to write, he thinks, as he lies on the sofa by the window, must be resisted at all costs, and, he thinks, those costs may be high or low, he doesn’t know, immeasurably high or low, the absence that supplies the cost is an unplumbed absence, he thinks, though, if he says unplumbed, perhaps the absence should rather be either deep or shallow than high or low. Same difference. He will not write. When he was young, he thinks, lying on the sofa by the window, squandering his talent was a literary act, it was a literary act not to be dictated to by his talent, whatever that was, a literary act to achieve nothing, but now those decades of achieving nothing through the deliberate squandering of his talent, the deliberate literary squandering of his talent, he corrects himself, resemble absolutely decades of achieving nothing through the simple absence of talent, which is probably the case, he thinks, there is no evidence otherwise, I have been careful of that, my squandering of talent resembles no talent. I am free at last but exhausted by the effort of all that squandering, if there was any talent, and probably there was not, there is no reason to think that there was, not that it matters, I have squandered it all away. Still, he thinks, exhausted, it’s the squandering that counts.

Friday 29 May 2020


Funny Weather: Art in an emergency by Olivia Laing             $50
We’re often told art can’t change anything. Laing argues that it can: it changes how we see the world, makes plain inequalities and offers fertile new ways of living. This wide-ranging collection of essays on the arts and letters in both their 'high' and 'popular' forms is an urgent response to these times of funny political weather. 
"I yield to absolutely no one in my admiration of Olivia Laing; her essays are magical liberations of words and ideas, art and love; they're the essence of great 21st century literature: brilliantly expressed, wildly uncontained, willful and wonderfully unbound." —Philip Hoare
"Laing is to the art world what David Attenborough is to nature." —Irish Times
>>Feeling overwhelmed?
>>Unfixable elements.  
>>A discussion
>>Productivity through pain
>>Other books by Olivia Laing
handiwork by Sara Baume        $38
"This little book is a love-child of my art and writing practices, or a by-product of novels past and coming. It’s about the connection between handicraft and bird migration, as well as simply the account of a year spent making hundreds of small, painted objects in an isolated house." —Sara Baume

handiwork is a contemplative short narrative from writer and visual artist Sara Baume (author of Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither and A Line Made by Walking). It charts her daily process of making and writing, and her interactions with her partner and with the place she lives. handiwork offers observations at once gentle and devastating, on the nature of art, grief and a life lived well. Baume’s first work of non-fiction offers readers a glimpse into her creative process and is written with the keen eye for nature and beauty as well as  for the fragility of experience.
>>Baume and her dog read from the book. 
>>The new book is a love-child
>>Flights of thought
Older Brother by Daniel Mella         $38
During the summer of 2014, on one of the stormiest days on record to hit the coast of Uruguay, 31-year old Alejandro, lifeguard and younger brother of our protagonist and narrator, dies after being struck by lightning. This marks the opening of a novel that combines memoir and fiction, unveiling an intimate exploration of the brotherly bond, while laying bare the effects that death can have on those closest to us and also on ourselves.
"This slim and vital novel is a tour de force; it will floor you, and lift you right the way up—I adored it." —Claire-Louise Bennett, author of Pond
Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell         $38
Set in a plague-stricken Elizabethan England, O'Farrell's tender and incisive novel looks at the effects on William Shakespeare and his wife Agnes of the death of their son Hamnet. 
Short-listed for the 2020 Women's Prize for Fiction. 
"Dazzling. Devastating." —Kamila Shamsie
>>"I wanted to give this boy a voice.

The Table by Francis Ponge        $30

Written from 1967 to 1973 over a series of early mornings in seclusion in his country home, The Table offers a final chapter in Francis Ponge's interrogation of the unassuming objects in his life: in this case, the table upon which he wrote. In his effort to get at the presence lying beneath his elbow, Ponge charts out a space of silent consolation that lies beyond (and challenges) scientific objectivity and poetic transport. This is one of Ponge's most personal, overlooked, and—because it was the project he was working on when he died—his least processed works. It reveals the personal struggle Ponge engaged in throughout all of his writing, a hesitant uncertainty he usually pared away from his published texts that is at touching opposition to the manufactured "durable mother" of the table on and of which he here writes.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel         $35
The long-awaited new novel from the author of Station Eleven is set in a hotel on Vancouver Island and in New York, and explores the fragility of both capital and esteem when crises both financial and personal are triggered by the collapse of a ponzi scheme. A devastating look at emotional turbulence in the age of late capitalism.
"The Glass Hotel is a masterpiece, just as good — if not better — than its predecessor." —NPR
>>Read an excerpt.

>>EStJM in conversation
Hinton by Mark Blacklock         $40
A fascinating novel set somewhere between fact and fiction, concerning the mathematician Howard Hinton, who fled to Japan following a bigamy scandal and developed the concepts that underlie quantum geometry.
"Blacklock weaves a distinct and original fiction, a fittingly four-dimensional representation of lived reality. Questions of societal convention versus individual freedom and Classical enlightenment versus Romantic self-expression play themselves out against a backdrop that, as we familiarise ourselves with its complexities, jumps glowingly to life. Blacklock’s attention to detail, his imaginative reach, not to mention his willingness to wrestle with problems of geometry, have produced a singular literary achievement." —Guardian
Faces of the Tip of My Tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano     $38
The late wedding guest isn’t your cousin but a drunken chancer. The driver who gives you a lift isn’t going anywhere but off the road. Snow settles on your car in summer and the sequins found between the pages of a borrowed novel will make your fortune. Pagano’s stories weave together the mad, the mysterious and the dispossessed of a rural French community with  honesty and humour. 
Long-listed for the 2020 Booker International Prize. 
"Pagano succeeds because of the range of her insight and the skill with which she shifts register: from wistfulness to blunt force, or from fantasy to naturalism." — Chris Power, Guardian
The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes by Janet Malcolm      $28
Is it ever possible to know 'the truth' about Sylvia Plath and her marriage to Ted Hughes, which ended with her suicide? In this compelling metabiography, Malcolm Malcolm examines the biographies of Plath, with particular focus on Anne Stevenson's Bitter Fame, to discover how Plath became an enigma in literary history.
>>Read Plath's letters
Europe Against the Jews, 1880—1945 by Götz Aly     $58
An important book, examining the wider roots of the Holocaust throughout Europe. Drawing upon a wide range of previously unpublished sources, Aly traces the sequence of events that made persecution of Jews an increasingly acceptable European practice.

Ultimately, the German architects of genocide found support for the Final Solution in nearly all the countries they occupied or were allied with.
The Ratline: Love, lies and justice on the trail of a Nazi fugitive by Philippe Sands          $38
As Governor of Galicia, SS Brigadesführer Otto Freiherr von Wächter presided over an authority on whose territory hundreds of thousands of Jews and Poles were killed, including the family of the author's grandfather. By the time the war ended in May 1945, he was indicted for 'mass murder'. Hunted by the Soviets, the Americans, the Poles and the British, as well as groups of Jews, Wächter went on the run. He spent three years hiding in the Austrian Alps before making his way to Rome and being taken in by a Vatican bishop. He remained there for three months. While preparing to travel to Argentina on the 'ratline' he died unexpectedly, in July 1949, a few days after having lunch with an 'old comrade' whom he suspected of having been recruited by the Americans. Sands, author of the magisterial East West Street unravels the mysteries and implications of the story. 
>>Sands talks with Paula Morris
>>Sands talks with Kim Hill
The Vegetarian Silver Spoon: Classic and contemporary Italian recipes        $75
Over 200 authentic and achievable recipes. 

The Apartment: A century of Russian history by Alexandra Litvina and Anna Desnitskaya         $40
A wonderful large-format picture book illustrating a century of Russian history through the lives of the residents in an apartment in Moscow. Beautifully done. 
Now! Painting in Germany today edited by Stephan Berg, Frédéric Bußmann and Alexander Klar      $100
Now! brings together their selection of fifty-three artists who are breaking artistic ground in their work. Showcasing the artwork of the next generation of young artists taking over the modern-day painting scene in Germany, this book presents two hundred illustrations that speak to the diversity of the current work.
Notes from an Apocalypse: A personal journey to the end of the world and back by Mark O'Connell            $33
Meet the people preparing for the end of the world In the remote mountains of Scotland, in high-tech bunkers in South Dakota, and in the valleys of New Zealand: environmentalists who fear the ravages of climate change, billionaire entrepreneurs dreaming of life on Mars, and right-wing conspiracists yearning for a lost American idyll. One thing unites them: their certainty that we are only years away from the end of civilisation as we know it.

I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf by Grant Snider        $30
One- and two-page comics skewering bibliophilia and related phenomena from the New Yorker cartoonist. 
>>Incidental comics. 

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi is this week's Book of the Week. In a tiny basement cafe (or kissaten) in Tokyo, it's rumoured, you can travel back in time, but there are conditions: you must return before the coffee gets cold. This is a charming, approachable novel with a quirky sensibility.
>>Read Stella's review
>>Magic hemmed by protocol. 
>>The book has become a film
>>A tour of Tokyo's traditional kissatens
>>A brief history of the kissaten
>>Start reading the book before your coffee gets cold.

Saturday 23 May 2020

BOOKS @ VOLUME #179 (23.5.20)

Read our newsletters for news, new releases, our reviews, giveaways, &c. 

 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 

Walking by Thomas Bernhard    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
It is thought that makes life intolerable, suggests Bernhard in this 1971 novella that both anticipates and provides a key to reading his subsequent novels of ineluctable self-erasure (notably 1975’s Correction). Bernhard is constantly in mind of the widespread complicity of his fellow Austrians in Nazism, both a symptom and a cause of many of the societal ills by which he is perplexed and disgusted. “I ask myself, says Oehler, how can so much helplessness and so much misfortune and so much misery be possible? That nature can create so much misfortune and so much palpable horror. That nature can be so ruthless toward its most helpless and pitiable creatures. This limitless capacity for suffering, says Oehler. This limitless capricious will to procreate and then to survive misfortune.” But there is no real difference, suggests Bernhard, between objective and subjective suffering. “When we imagine ourselves to be in a state of mind, no matter what, we are in that state of mind, and thus in that state of illness which we imagine ourselves to be in.” We are unavoidably perplexed by our existence and cannot help thinking about it, but thought will not do us any good, as we are always carried towards the conclusion we strive most to avoid, drawn to it by this striving. “If we see something, we check what we see until we are forced to say that what we are looking at is horrible. If we do something, we think about what we are doing until we are forced to say that it is something nasty, something low, something outrageous.” In Bernhard’s works, thought is a kind of a chute leading towards madness and suicide, a chute down which all characters slide, faster or slower, obsessed, losing perspective. “Circumstances are everything, we are nothing.” How, then, are we to carry on existing? “There is little doubt that the art lies in bearing what is unbearable and in not feeling that what is horrible is something horrible. Of course we have to label this art the most difficult of all. The art of existing against the facts. If we do not constantly exist against, but only constantly with the facts, says Oehler, we shall go under in the shortest possible time.” “The art of thinking about things consists in the art, says Oehler, of stopping thinking before the fatal moment.” In common with many of Bernhard’s novels, the unnamed narrator of Walking is effectively passive, effectively annihilated by his role of *merely* reporting what his friend Oehler tells him during their walk or walks together. Oehler’s observations chiefly concern another one-time walking companion, Karrer, who has recently gone “irrevocably mad” and been confined to the Steinhof lunatic asylum. Karrer’s madness  followed the suicide of his friend, the chemist Hollensteiner, and you can feel the pull of this annihilation reaching through the layers of narration as far as the narrator himself, each character being effaced by their narration. “I am struck by how often Oehler quotes Karrer without expressly drawing attention to the fact that he is quoting Karrer. Oehler frequently makes several statements that stem from Karrer and frequently thinks a thought that Karrer thought, I think, without expressly saying, what I am now saying comes from Karrer.” The second of the three paragraphs that constitute the novella describes Karrer’s breakdown in Rustenschacher’s clothing shop, irrevocably losing perspective, ranting about what he perceives as the inferior cloth from which the trousers are sewn, repeatedly banging his walking stick upon the counter. At times the layers of narration are wonderfully deep, such as when the narrator tells us what Oehler tells the narrator that Oehler told the psychiatric doctor Scherrer about what Karrer said and did in Rustenschacher’s shop, and the novella becomes as much about the migration of narrative burden as it is about what the narrative is about. Habit, character, tendency, circumstance comprise a trap, a trap we find ourselves in when we begin to think but into which thinking can only drive us deeper. “When we walk, we walk from one helplessness to another. It is suddenly clear you can do what you like but you cannot walk away. No longer being able to alter this problem of no longer being able to walk away occupies your whole life. From then on it is all that occupies your life. You then grow more and more helpless and weaker and weaker.” All Bernhard’s subsequent novels address this problem of the obliterative nature of thought. “We may not think about why we are walking, says Oehler, for then it would soon be impossible to walk.”

>> Read all Stella's reviews.


The Long Take by Robin Robertson  {Reviewed by STELLA}
A beautifully crafted novel, The Long Take is an epic narrative poem by renowned Scottish poet Robin Robertson. Kicking off in New York, 1946, it follows the life of Walker, a recently returned soldier. A survivor of D-Day, Walker is displaced by trauma, unable to return to his family, his life, his love in Nova Scotia. His life, like that of many others he encounters, has been turned inside out, and he carries a burden, a guilt he can not discharge. Unemployed, a friend suggests fronting up to a local newspaper, The Press, who are looking for reporters. Walker joins the city news desk, reporting on crime and street politics. Walker’s affinity with the streets, living on the edge, and contact with skid row leads to an assignment to document the lives of the poor and homeless: an investigative piece of work that takes him to LA and San Francisco. As we travel across America with Walker and along these cities’ streets over a decade, we are given an insight into the lives of the disenfranchised and into the impact of war trauma on a nation and an individual. Add to this the politics of the 40s and 50s - the era of cronyism, McCarthyism and mob rule, organised crime and state corruption - the novel is a cutting indictment of the ‘American Dream’, the rise of the automobile and the impact this had on communities (highways and parking lots that killed communities), the falsity of war as a democratic tool, and the injustice to those who fight for freedom yet become victims of power. It’s also a hymn to the film industry of this period - to film noir; the images and language of these films cleverly interweave with the tone of the streetscape and the atmosphere of the novel. Walker is a compelling man, a man who carries a history that he feels can only be understood by his comrades in arms, by those who have experienced similar trauma. He dulls his building emotional disintegration with liquor and by keeping his distance - never becoming entangled in relationships. His work colleagues find him unreadable, and those he has the most affinity live on skid row, particularly Billy Idaho - a well-read street philosopher who helps those he can survive the streets. Walker, like Idaho, is kind and has a compassion for his fellow humans: he is an anti-hero that we empathise with - an outsider who will get under your skin. Through the keenly observant Walker, we experience the city, its people and its neighbourhoods. We see desperation, violence and the strength of community. For Walker, burying his trauma is never going to be a solution. Violence simmers at his edges and guilt plays on his conscience, and as the decade progresses his past haunts him. Robertson’s writing is wonderful: evocative, enchanting, raw and affecting. From narrative verse -descriptions of the cityscape and dialogue between characters - to hard, almost unbearable, staccato-like images of war, to lyrical memories of Walker’s childhood and life in Nova Scotia, the poetry has clarity and visibility yet never removes the reader from the story. The Long Take is a novel about us now just as much as it is a filmic exposé of post-war America, exploring issues of poverty, racism, fascism and freedom. Powerful, inventive and uncompromising.

Friday 22 May 2020

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld    $33
This memorable novel, short-listed for the 2020 Booker International Prize, tells of the impact of a tragic accident on the the world-view of a ten-year-old growing up in a religious family on a rural dairy farm. The book is shot through with memorable images, unsettling moments, and passages of remarkable linguistic power. 
>>"It's difficult for my parents to understand that I'm not the girl they raised."
>>"My stories all come back to the loss of my brother"
>>An interview with the translator, Michele Hutchison
>>The dairy farmer who wrote a best-seller
>>'Grief Eaters'.
>>See the other books on the Booker International Prize short list

High Wire by Lloyd Jones and Euan Macleod         $45
A fascinating and beautifully presented collaboration between writer Lloyd Jones and artist Euan Macleod, exploring the tensions, exhilarations and dangers of the metaphorical tightrope walked by all who step out above the void in the search of new experience. Macleod's figures struggle against consuming backgrounds, or to emerge from the scribbles that are their genesis, and Jones's words slice and hum with the clarity of taut wires. An excellent piece of publishing. 
>>Find out more about the book
>>Read Thomas's review.
Ephemera by Tina Shaw             $30
After an international meltdown, New Zealand, along with the rest of the world, has shut down. No electricity, no broadband, and people are in survival mode - at least until somebody turns the lights on again. Ruth has always led a sheltered life. Pre-Crash, she worked as an Ephemera Librarian, now she is managing a simple, self-sufficient lifestyle. But her sister is dying from tuberculosis and her love for Juliana propels Ruth to undertake a perilous journey. She intrepidly sets off from Auckland to find the man known as Nelson and his rumoured stockpile of pharmaceutical drugs.
“Shaw’s near-future New Zealand is all too recognisable, and her story both unsettles and thrills. Ephemera is not only a page-turner; it’s a book that makes us question what we value — what we discard, and what remains to us.” —Catherine Chidgey
>>Read an extract.
>>Read another extract.
Barn 8 by Deb Olin Unferth          $38
Two auditors for the U.S. egg industry go rogue and conceive a plot to steal a million chickens in the middle of the night — an entire egg farm's worth of animals. Janey and Cleveland — a spirited former runaway and the officious head of audits — assemble a precarious, quarrelsome team and descend on the farm on a dark spring evening. A series of catastrophes ensues.

>>Warning: contains poultry
What Sort of Man by Breton Dukes      $30
A young father high on Ritalin longs to leap into the tiger enclosure. A teacher who has been stood down for accessing porn on a school computer wants to re-establish contact with his teenage daughter. A carer out on a day trip is desperate to find a working toilet for his adult charge. What Sort of Man is a potent collection of stories that goes head to head with the crisis of contemporary masculinity, and is as exhilarating as it is harrowing.
>>The virtual book launch with music and a drinks menu
The Voice in my Ear by Frances Leviston           $40
Ten women, all called Claire, are tangled up in complex power dynamics with their families, friends, and lovers. Though all are different ages, and leading different lives, each is haunted by the difficulty of living on her own terms, and by her capacity to harm and be harmed.
"Frances Leviston’s prose, like her poetry, is as illuminating as it is unsettling. Her narratives are all about what remains unsaid and the silent inexorable falling into place of deep truth." —Lavinia Greenlaw
"'Beautifully, psychologically exact. Leviston reveals, confronts, disarms and pares us from our unwitting, falser selves. Superbly written and fearlessly imagined fiction.'" —Sarah Hall
Correspondence, 1948—1961 between Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan      $42
Paul Celan is one of the best-known German poets of the Holocaust; many of his poems, admired for their spare, precise diction, deal directly with its stark themes. Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann is recognised as one of post-World War II German literature's most important novelists, poets, and playwrights. As well as being, for a time, lovers, the two shared a long correspondence in which they passionately discussed their interests in the relationship between literature and trauma, and much else. This is the first time these letters have appeared in English. 
>>Read Thomas's review of Bachmann's novel Malina
Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian        $40
Yunus Turabi, a bus driver in Tehran, leads an unremarkable life. A solitary man since the unexpected deaths of his father and mother years ago, he is decidedly apolitical—even during the driver's strike and its bloody end. But everyone has their breaking point, and Yunus has reached his. Handcuffed and blindfolded, he is taken to the infamous Evin prison for political dissidents. Inside this stark, strangely ordered world, his fate becomes entwined with Hajj Saeed, his personal interrogator.

Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books by Marcel Bénabou    $36
He does not write any books, but he is nonetheless a writer, he does not write any books but the books he does not write are still books and are still his books, he does not write any of his books but this is not to say that he does not spend his time writing books. 

>>On reading Bénabou 
A Bear Named Bjorn by Delphine Perret         $25
Bjorn lives in the forest with his animal friends. When a sofa is delivered to his cave, he is not impressed — what will he do with it? When his friend Ramona, who is a human and lives in the city, sends him the present of a fork, he knows what it is for — to scratch his back — but what would be a good present to send in return? Bjorn is happy just being himself — he doesn’t want to wear his new spectacles, because he likes the world blurry. A charming book about being happy who you are. 

The Idea of the Brain: A history by Matthew Cobb         $70

The relationship between the brain and the mind seems unsolvable, but attempts to solve it has brought us a better understanding of both. This book spans the centuries to reveal how the work of philosophers, surgeons, mystics and neuroscientists have shaped the way we understand ourselves at the most profound level. From primitive dissections to the latest complex computational models of brain function, Cobb charts the course of this continuing quest, and prepares us for the astonishing discoveries to come.

Not in Narrow Seas: The economic history of Aoteroa New Zealand by Brian Easton         $60
Both wide in scope and incisive in depth, Easton's magisterial work examines the broad swathe of economic activity in New Zealand, from pre-contact gift-based exchange systems to the current government's struggle with the economic impact of climate change. Easton is always alert to the impact of economic activity on all groups in society and on the environment, and of the contributions of all groups and the environment to the character and range of that economic activity. Is New Zealand a fair country? (and what does that mean?)
Timefulness: How thinking like a geologist can help save the world by Marcia Bjornerud          $42
Reveals how knowing the rhythms of Earth's deep past and conceiving of time as a geologist does can provide the perspective needed for a more sustainable future. The book offers a new way of thinking about our place in time, showing how our everyday lives are shaped by processes that vastly predate us, and how our actions today will in turn have consequences that will outlast us by generations.
>>Bjornerud on New Zealand's tectonic dragon

>>Are we time-illiterate? 
Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The history of British baking, savoury and sweet by Regula Ysewijn      $55
A guided tour of Great Britain's baking heritage. Each of the 100 recipes is accompanied by stories of the landscape, legends and traditions of Great Britain, from Saffron cake, Cornish pasties, Welsh Bara brith, Shrewsbury cakes and Isle of Wight doughnuts to tarts, oatcakes, gingerbreads, traditional loaves, buns and bread rolls such as Aberdeen butteries and Kentish huffkins. From the author of the remarkable Pride and Pudding
>>Visit Ysewijn's website

Tooth and Veil: The life and times of the New Zealand Dental Nurse by Noel O'Hare        $50

>>Welcome to 'the 'Murder House'.
We are Attempting to Survive Our Time by A.L. Kennedy         $37
Kennedy has an immense and subtle sympathy with those who struggle with the lives that others take for granted, and that sympathy draws from clouded lives an often surprising levity and hope. This new collection of stories sees Kennedy at her best, turning the minds of her characters inside-out. 
"Kennedy is brilliant at subtly shifting the ground of her stories, gently rotating your perspective so that by the end you’re facing in quite the other direction, not sure of how you got there." —Guardian
The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell          $26
A multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-family mix of historical fiction, magical realism and science fiction set in Zambia through the twentieth century, featuring a woman covered with hair and another plagued with endless tears, forbidden love affairs and fiery political ones, and homegrown technological marvels like Afronauts, microdrones and viral vaccines.  

Aspiring by Damien Wilkins         $22

Fifteen-year-old Ricky lives in Aspiring, a town that's growing at an alarming rate. Ricky's growing, too - 6'7", and taller every day. But he's stuck in a loop: student, uncommitted basketballer, and puzzled son, burdened by his family's sadness. And who's the weird guy in town with a chauffeur and half a Cadillac? What about the bits of story that invade his head? Uncertain what's real — and who he is  Ricky can't stop sifting for clues. He has no idea how things will end up.

Pins by Natalie Morrison      $25
If all the pins in the world were gathered together
you would be very much pleased.
But all the pins in the world
cannot be gathered
A book-length poem telling of a sister's disappearance and other losses. 

"I found Pins extraordinarily witty, perceptive, and moving. The family narrative unspools around two sisters whose pointed obsessions bring us something that echoes Wallace Stevens’ ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’ and Anne Kennedy’s 100 Traditional Smiles." —James Brown
The Department of Mind-Blowing Theories: Science cartoons by Tom Gauld          $28
A dog philosopher questions what it really means to be a 'good boy'. A virtual assistant and a robot-cleaner elope. The undiscovered species and the theoretical particle face existential despair.

"Tom Gauld is always funny, but he's funny in a way that makes you feel smarter. Which is especially useful when he's being funny about science." —Neil Gaiman
>>Some samples!