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.
>>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