Friday 31 July 2020


Our newsletter for 31.7.20

STELLA>> Read all Stella's reviews.

Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole
In this collection of essays, Teju Cole ranges across literature, art and politics. As a writer, photographer and art historian, Cole ranges widely. The essays, first published in the New York Times Magazine, are 55 moments of lucid thought: some are personal responses to Cole’s travels, his interest in photography and his fascination with several authors, while others are pointed commentary and questions about politics and society and the ways in which artists and writers interpret or present a viewpoint. Teju Cole has his opinions and these are intelligent missives. The essays are arranged in three sections. ‘Reading Things’ includes an interesting interaction with V.S.Naipaul, and a search for W.G. Sebald’s grave which is charmingly reminiscent of Sebald’s own work. As Cole ventures out across Norfolk with Jason the taxi driver, he is simultaneously journeying with Sebald. ‘Seeing Things’ deals with visual observations, predominantly contemporary photography. Here Cole’s ability and knowledge as a photographer gives this section real depth, and his ability to appreciate as well as add critical interpretation of the photographer’s intention raises some thought-provoking questions about the role of visual observation, the ability of a photograph to capture a moment and the lies that images can be. Cole looks at photographers who exhibit in art galleries alongside those who use google and instagram as a platform to communicate their work. The third section ‘Being There’ is firmly rooted in place and travel. The essays are fine examples of ponderings on politics and society, and in many of them Cole ventures into the conversation around racial politics in Africa, America and Europe. His interests range widely in this section - there are essays about drone warfare, terrorism’s personal impact, home and belonging. The first essay in this section, ‘Far Away from Home’, is a gem — Cole is in Switzerland and is overcome with an unexpected fascination with the Alps and the idea of Fernweh (a German expression meaning ‘one simply wants to be far away’). Teju Cole’s essays are places where you can journey — he pulls his ideas together with references to writing, art and history, giving texture to the well-constructed sentences. They are provocative, stimulating and rewarding.

 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 

Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann     {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“‘Today’ is a word that only suicides ought to be allowed to use, it has no meaning for other people.”
Even five decades after it was written, this wholly remarkable book continues to reveal new possibilities in literature and new impossibilities in living. 
In the first part of the book, ‘Happy With Ivan’, the unnamed narrator records her obsessive love affair with a man she first sees outside a florist’s shop near her home in Vienna. On account of Ivan, “the rest of the world, where I lived up to now — always in a panic, my mouth full of cotton, the throttle marks on my neck — is reduced to its petty insignificance.” She snatches evenings with Ivan, plays chess with him (resulting in stalemate), writes him letters (which she tears to shreds and throws away, unsent), and talks (or 'talks') with him on the telephone, but, mainly, she waits and thinks and narrates. “Ever since I’ve been able to dial this number, my life has finally stopped taking turns for the worse, I’m no longer coming apart at the seams. I hold my breath, stopping time, and call and smoke and wait.” But hers is a desperate happiness, not a convincing happiness, not really happiness at all but a straining towards the impossibility of happiness, agitation trying to pass as happiness. Just as the difference between pleasure and irritation is generally merely a matter of degree, there is, for the narrator, no substantial difference between ostensibly contradictory states and the case for her happiness is made so strenuously that it is clearly made from a position of great unhappiness. Ivan lives along the street, but the narrator shares an apartment with Malina, a civil servant who works at the Austrian Military Museum but who is so compartmentalised in the narrator’s mind that he never makes contact with Ivan, or, rather, never inhabits the Ivan compartment in the narrator’s mind. Although the narrator interacts with Malina, and we are told of her visiting elsewhere with him, it is very unclear that Malina exists outside the narrator’s mind, or, rather, that he is not an aspect of the narrator. “Ivan hasn’t been warned about me. He doesn’t know with whom he’s running around, that he’s dealing with a phenomenon, an appearance that can also be deceiving, I don’t want to lead Ivan astray but he has never realised that I am double. I am also Malina’s creation.” I increasingly began to suspect that Ivan also exists, at least mostly, in the narrator’s mind, and that, although probably affixed to someone she saw outside the florist’s shop, the Ivan with whom this 'love affair' persists is a never-quite-reachable eidolon of her longing and desperation. “My living body gives Ivan a reference point, maybe it’s the only one, but this same bodily self disturbs me. Extreme self-control lets me accept Ivan’s sitting opposite me.” Is there no exteriority? All these words, these truncated staccato telephone conversations, these endlessly commaed descriptions, these letters and interviews and documents in many versions, these moments and encounters, these details, these memories and revised memories, these stupendous rants, are they all the desperate invention of the narrator (in the same way that the novel is the desperate invention of the author)? “Whatever falls on my ground thrives, I propagate myself with words and also propagate Ivan.”
The second part of the book, ‘The Third Man’, intimates, perhaps, the degree of trauma that underlies the narrator’s agitation and the fracturing of her psyche. Passages, seemingly dreams or memories, describe violence, torment and sexual abuse, largely at the hands of the narrator’s 'father' (and of, by extension, Austria and Nazism), enacted either upon the narrator or upon her naive and complicit alter ego Melanie. “Here there is always violence. Here there is always struggle.” Bachmann’s sentences offer no respite for the reader nor for the narrator. “I don’t want to be any more, because I don’t want war, then put me to sleep, make it end.” The dream sequences are interspersed with conversations, written as script, between the narrator and the rational, interrogating Malina, bringing into her awareness the nature of her trauma, and moving towards the possibility of understanding. “Although it disgusts me to look at him [father], I must, I have to know what danger is still written in his face, I have to know where evil originates.” But, Malina warns, “Once one has survived something the survival itself interferes with understanding.”
The third part, ‘Last Things’, charts the shrinking of the narrator’s world, her gradual inevitable loss of Ivan, either as reality or eidolon, her loss of confidence in herself or hope in her world — and it is much funnier than this list would suggest, though no less tragic. Experience, once replaced with knowledge of — or description of — experience, loses the power of experience. Language at once conjures and replaces — annihilates — what is lived. But, says the narrator, “I must have reached a point where thought is so necessary that it is no longer possible.” Her conversations with Malina, in which Malina (or 'Malina') increasingly dominates, drain the reality from Ivan and reveal her isolation and self-suffocation. “I am not one person,” she says, “but two people standing in extreme opposition to one another, which must mean I am always on the verge of being torn in two. If they were separated it would be livable, but scarcely the way it is.” The slow, cumulative, fatal intrusion of rationality is here like a pin being pushed against the surface of a balloon with great, horrible, slow, thrilling patience. “The story of Ivan and me will never be told, since we don’t have any story.”  Literature is lack. All that is written is written against the facts. Happiness, or imagined happiness, becomes harder and harder and at last impossible to sustain. All that is imgined is destroyed. The narrator’s ‘I’, her subjective self, “an unknown woman”, catches a last whiff of Ivan in the crack in the wall, enters the crack and disappears, leaving the rational alter ego, Malina, the cataloguer, the explainer, the understanding and inhibiting mind, to answer the telephone when Ivan rings (their first encounter) and to deny her very existence. The book ends with the bare sentence, “It was murder,” but, if the characters are all fractured parts of a single mind (if there can be such a thing), what is the nature of this ‘murder’?
“What is life?” asks Malina. “Whatever can’t be lived,” the narrator replies.

Book of the WeekMalina by Ingeborg Bachmann 
In the wholly remarkable Malina, originally published in German in 1971, Bachmann draws the reader into a world stretched to the very limits of language. An unnamed narrator, a writer in Vienna, is torn between two men, who may or may not exist outside her head. 
>>Read an extract
>>Detonating the container of consciousness
>>A singular woman adrift
>>"We could call her happiness self-deception."
>>"I don't understand how one can live."
>>Reading Ingeborg Bachmann
>>Is Malina "the truest portrait of female consciousness since Sappho"?
>>"The outrageous has become the everyday."
>>Malina was made into a film by Werner Schroeter in 1991
>>As a piece of physical theatre
>>A brief biography of Bachmann
>>Books by Bachmann.
>> Fun fact: Bachmann appears as Maria in Thomas Bernhard's last novel, Extinction
Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell         $38
Utopia Avenue are the strangest British band you've never heard of. Emerging from London's psychedelic scene in 1967 and fronted by folksinger Elf Holloway, guitar demigod Jasper de Zoet and blues bassist Dean Moss, Utopia Avenue released only two LPs during its brief and blazing journey from the clubs of Soho and draughty ballrooms to Top of the Pops and the cusp of chart success, to glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome and a fateful American fortnight in the autumn of 1968.
The much-anticipated new novel from the author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks.

The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M. John Harrison           $38
"That M. John Harrison is not a Nobel laureate proves the bankruptcy of the literary establishment. Austere, unflinching and desperately moving, he is one of the very great writers alive today. And yes, he writes fantasy and sf, though of a form, scale and brilliance that it shames not only the rest of the field, but most modern fiction." —China Mieville
Shaw had a breakdown, but he's getting himself back together. He has a single room, a job on a decaying London barge, and an on-off affair with a doctor's daughter called Victoria, who claims to have seen her first corpse at age fourteen. It's not ideal, but it's a life. Or it would be if Shaw hadn't got himself involved in a conspiracy theory that, on dark nights by the river, seems less and less theoretical. Victoria is up in the Midlands, renovating her dead mother's house. But what, exactly, happened to her mother? Why has the local waitress disappeared into a shallow pool in a field behind the house? And why is the town so obsessed with that old Victorian morality tale, The Water Babies? As Shaw and Victoria struggle to maintain their relationship, the sunken lands are rising up again, unnoticed in the shadows around them.
Berg by Ann Quin         $28
"A man called Berg, who changed his name to Greb, came to a seaside town intending to kill his father." A new edition of Berg's 1964 astounding experimental novel, which introduced into British fiction many of the techniques of the French nouveau roman. 

Seasonal, authentic and completely delicious, the relaxed—but—particular style of dining expresses all that is best in Scandinavian life. This lovely book includes both traditional and modern dishes. Recommended. 

The Phantom Twin by Lisa Brown          $33
Isabel spent her life following Jane's lead. Of the conjoined twins, Jane was always the stronger one, both physically and emotionally. But when Jane dies on the operating table during a risky attempt to separate the twins, Isabel is left alone. Or is she? Soon, Jane returns, attached to Isabel from shoulder to hip just like she used to be. Except Isabel is the only person who can see Jane — a ghost, a phantom limb, a phantom twin.

Threshold by Rob Doyle          $33
Finding himself heading into middle age, the author/narrator embarks on an increasingly desperate and futile quest for transcendence and mind-altering chemicals. 
"A Pilgrim's Progress for our time." -Mike McCormack
"A sly tale told against its author takes the reader on a destabilising voyage of discovery and self-disgust." —Guardian
"Audacious, daring and deranged, endlessly entertaining, furiously funny and — to hurtle to the other end of the alphabet — wonderful." —Geoff Dyer
"An extremely funny book, a novel that sends itself up mercilessly even as it is created. His best work to date." —Kevin Barry
"I was buzzing after reading Threshold: it's the kind of work you have to come down from — playful, potent, lurid, moving and fearless." —Lisa McInerny
"Fearless and challenging, inventive and compulsive, unique and utterly heartfelt." —John Boyne
The Touch: Understanding the essentials of haptic design by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen and Natahan Williams         $135
What do a museum in Marrakech, a mid-century apartment in Berlin, and a graveyard north of Venice all have in common? In The Touch, creative collaborators Nathan Williams of Kinfolk and Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen of Norm Architects explore the idea that these inspiring spaces, and many more like them, share the five essential tenets of haptic, human-centric design: materiality, light, color, nature, and community. Good design is not only visually appealing — it engages all of the human senses.
The Ghosts on the Hill by Bill Nagelkirke        $22
Lyttelton, 1884. Elsie is waiting for the fish to bite. She has her reasons for coming down to the waterfront so often, the main one being the memory of the lost boys. She was one of the last to see them alive, and now she is haunted by what happened to them. When the opportunity comes for Elsie to follow in their footsteps over the Bridle Path, and put their ghosts to rest, she doesn’t hesitate. "I’ll be careful," she says. But no one knows that the weather is about to change for the worse.
From equal marriage to gender definitions, bullying to parenthood, the issues covered in these speeches touch on all aspects of LGBTQ+ and reflect the diverse and multi-faceted nature of this community. Includes Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, Robert G. Ingersoll, Theodora Ana Sprungli, Bayard Rustin, Franklin "Frank" Kameny, James Baldwin, Marsha P. Johnson, Sally Gearhart, Harvey Milk, Harry Hay, Vito Russo, Mary Fisher, Tammy Baldwin, Paul Martin, Wanda Sykes, Sally Ride, Lady Gaga, Lana Wachowski, Jason Collins, Laverne Cox, Debi Jackson, Lee Mokobe, Janet Mock.
The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking through Anne Frank's window by Jeff Gottesfeld and Peter McCarty         $40
The tree watched a little girl, who played and laughed and wrote in a diary. When strangers invaded the city and warplanes roared overhead, the tree watched the girl peek out of the curtained window of the annex. It watched as she and her family were taken away-and when her father returned after the war, alone. The tree died the summer Anne Frank would have turned eighty-one, but its seeds and saplings have been planted around the world as a symbol of peace. A beautifully illustrated children's book. 
Interesting perspectives on the 1967 June War, the 1968 Israeli air strikes on Jordan, and on Jordan's 1970 8-day civil war. Hazou was a freelance reported who went on to become Director of Information for the Middle East and North Africa for UNICEF. 
"There is the mammal way and there is the bird way." This is one scientist's pithy distinction between mammal brains and bird brains: two ways to make a highly intelligent mind. But the bird way is much more than a unique pattern of brain wiring, and lately, scientists have taken a new look at bird behaviours they have, for years, dismissed as anomalies or mysteries. What they are finding is upending the traditional view of how birds conduct their lives, how they communicate, forage, court, breed, survive.
Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power       $20
Ever since Margot was born, it's been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot's questions. No history to hold on to. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.But that's not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And when she finds a photograph pointing her to a town called Phalene, she leaves. But when Margot gets there, it's not what she bargained for.Margot's mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what's still there? A new YA novel from the author of Wilder Girls
The Mermaid Atlas: Merfolk of the world by Anna Claybourne and Miren Asiain Lora        $35
From the Selkies of the Scottish seas, to the Iara of Brazil who love to outwit travellers. to the fearful Ningyo of Japan.

Saturday 25 July 2020

#188 (24.7.20)


 >> Read all Thomas's reviews. 

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
Sand absorbs water poured upon it just as it absorbs blood spilled upon it and the actions committed upon it. Where does this water, this blood, and where do these actions go? Can they be recovered? How do they return? Adania Shibli’s remarkable novel is comprised of two parts. The first, told in the third person, describes with elegant impassivity and equivalence the actions and movements of an officer in the Israeli army in the Naqab/Negev desert during the 1948-49 Naqba/War of Independence. Although we gain no access to his thoughts (how could we gain access to his thoughts, after all?), we are witness to his obsessive washing routines, his watchfulness for spiders and insects within his hut and his destruction of them, his tending of a festering spider bite on his thigh, his journeys into the surrounding desert either in vehicles with his soldiers, using maps, searching for Arab ‘insurgents’, or alone, on foot around the camp, following the topography. The other soldiers have no reachable dimension other than being soldiers because any such dimensions would be irrelevant. The officer is the only one who speaks, and that hardly at all except for a long lecture expressing the view that the desert is a wasteland that can be made fertile when cleansed of its current inhabitants. As the rituals of army life are repeated and repeated, the tension builds beneath the narrative. The soldiers come across a group of unarmed Bedouin at an oasis and kill them and their camels, taking a dog and a young woman back to the camp. Their mistreatment of her, culminating in gang rape and later her murder and burial near the camp, can be felt in the narrative long before they occur. The howling dog witness shifts the first section of the book to the second, where a howling dog keeps the first-person narrator awake at night in her house in contemporary Ramallah. She has become obsessed with the fate of the young woman, which she has read about in a newspaper article, and by “the conviction that I can uncover details about the rape and murder as the girl experienced it, not relying on what the soldiers who committed it disclosed.” What happens to those who have no agency in their own story? The narrator cannot accept that the young woman is “a nobody who will forever remain a nobody whose voice nobody will hear,” and, with a borrowed ID, which will help her to enter different areas, and a rented car, one weekend she sets out to see if she can find out more. She takes a pile of maps: the official Israeli maps that show the roads, checkpoints, settlements and army zones in the Negev but do not mark even still-existing Palestinian settlements, and maps of the Naqab before 1948, which give information possibly relevant to her search. Maps are a way in which power imprints itself on territory, and Shibli spends a great deal of careful attention in both parts of the novel to the movements of her main characters over the land, contrasting the movement associated with maps with that concerned with and guided by the terrain. These different ways of moving have, for each of them, quite different results. The movements of the officer in the first section imprints power upon a territory, a pattern traced by the woman in the second section over land that holds the trace of violence in itself. The past is never left behind though it can never be recovered, either. In the first part, the officer has complete ease of movement, heading wherever he wishes, inside or out; in the second part the narrator has her movement checked and restricted wherever she goes (until she reaches the Naqab). “The borders imposed between things here are many. One must pay attention to them, and navigate them, which ultimately protects everyone from perilous consequences,” she notes, waiting at the checkpoints in the wall that divides the territory. “There are some who consider focusing on minor details as the only way to arrive at the truth, and therefore proof of its existence, to reconstruct an incident one has never witnessed simply by noticing little details that everyone else finds to be insignificant,” she says, as a reason for her search. This may be true, but if such minor details exist their significance may also be unrecognised by the searcher. In the military museum that she visits, the only ‘evidence’ is the soap, the jerry cans, the uniforms, the vehicles and the weapons mentioned in the first part. Intention leaves no residue. Also these objects constitute the majority of the soldiers’ experience, given how little the woman meant to them. Part of the narrator’s and Shibli’s project is to uncover the particular from the general, the experience from the history. Although both she and the author bewail injustice, the narrator shows no enmity towards any of the people she meets, all are treated with sympathy; harm arises only from structures of power. Power withdraws the evidence of its actions, hides its victims, disappears into the understructure of everyday life. There is no residue unless the land holds a residue. The second half of the book is lightly told, in keeping with the personality of its narrator, and often funny (she describes a film rewinding in a museum and the settlers dismantling their houses). She visits the settlement with the name of the place where the crime occurred and learns that the actual place is near by, she visits the place and finds nothing of interest, she walks through the surrounding plantations where the desert has been made fertile, but is frightened back by a dog. “I am here in vain,” she says. “I haven’t found anything I’ve been looking for, and this journey hasn’t added anything to what I knew about the incident when I started out.” Reluctant to return to Ramallah, she drives back and forth in the desert, gives a ride to an old woman, and then decides to follow her through a military zone, where she comes across an oasis. The land has drawn her to the core of her quest, but she has no way of recognising it as such, and she does not expect that her quest will be, still unknowingly, fulfilled in the last sentence of the book. 

Friday 24 July 2020



Dance Prone by David Coventry     {Reviewed by STELLA}
Remember those gigs when your body was a sledgehammer slamming itself any which way and your aural senses were overwhelmed in the best hedonistic way, where the dance floor was small and cramped, where sometimes you ducked a fist and danced on. The opening lines of David Coventry’s new novel, Dance Prone, gives us the viewpoint of Con, the lead singer of a post-punk band in mid-80s America, watching the chaos unfold. Con is up for it, pushing to the edge of control, looking for perfection in chaos with his band, Neues Bauen. Yet like Coventry's first novel, The Invisible Mile, the setting isn’t exactly the theme. His brilliant debut took out the best first book at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards in 2016, picked up for international publication and translated into numerous languages. Dance Prone looks set for a similar trajectory if the writing is anything to go by. This is the best New Zealand book I have read in a long time, and one of the most affecting novels about trauma, memory and its fallout, where language, pace and tension are expertly pitched and the chaotic music scene notches the decibels up to a level to absorb you in this world. Though it’s not all high intensity. The reflective passages, descriptions of people and place keep us anchored, and the dark humour keeps us amused, even when the psychological aspects of Con’s story threaten to flood our senses. We meet Con over several distinct periods in his life (between the 80s when he is a young man and 2020 when he is in his early 50s) as he intersects with his past band-mates and re-engages, or attempts to re-engage, with pivotal incidents. Not far in, we are beset by a shocking incident. It is wholly unexpected to the reader as it is to Con. Suddenly violence is very near and very real. This incident sets off a trigger of actions and inactions from Con and a crazy reaction from Tone, his kiwi bandmate. As Tone recovers in the hospital and the band tours the dives and front lounges of fans, Con finds himself split in two — before and after — and bereft of explanation and knowledge. Here we start to dig into the themes of denial and memory, or the erasure of fact. In the desert, appropriately, at an indie music gig complete with existential philosophy, this all comes to a head. As the story moves back and forth in time, the action and telling unfold alongside Con’s awareness. As he hides from the truth, the truth is hidden from the reader. What happens in Phoenix is only revealed by a scratchy video of the band’s last gig seen by Con in Marrakech in 2019, where he is searching for Tone, now living in the remote mountains with a group of artist-activists. Add to this a sweet romance, some great riffs on bands, the indie scene and philosophical rants, seemingly senseless behaviour and cravings for artistic perfection, and you have a deft and nuanced novel. And Coventry can write. Each sentence places you where you want to be, each conversation adds another dimension and the plot unfolds with a tension that keeps the bowstring taut and rewards with the aim of the arrow. Intelligent, intimate and raw, Dance Prone is stunning.

This week's Book of the Week is the highly anticipated and entirely wonderful new novel from David Coventry, Dance Prone, which traces the effects of personal trauma from the context of the 1980s post-punk scene through its characters' lives and relationships and into the deserts of Morocco. It is a deeply thoughtful and achingly well-written exploration of memory, wild possibility, emotional harm and frustrated idealism. 

Sprigs by Brannavan Gnanalingam         $35
It is Saturday afternoon and two boys’ schools are locked in battle for college rugby supremacy. Priya — a fifteen year old who barely belongs — watches from the sidelines. Then it is Saturday night and the team is partying, Priya's friends have evaporated and she isn't sure what to do. Gnanalingam's new novel addresses New Zealand's culture of masculinity, racism and sexual predation, and the ways in which institutions seem often to have priorities than acknowledging victims' needs. 
>>"There are ways of being male without it coming at the expense of other people.
>>"How do brown bodies move in white spaces in New Zealand?"
>>Sodden Downstream was short-listed for the 2018 Acorn Price for Fiction
A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom by John Boyne         $37
Some stories are universal. Some are unique. They play out across human history. This story starts with a family. For now, it is a father and a mother with two sons. One with his father's violence in his blood. One with his mother's artistry. One leaves. One stays. They will be joined by others whose deeds will determine their fate. It is a beginning. Their stories will intertwine and evolve over the course of two thousand years. They will meet again and again at different times and in different places. From Palestine at the dawn of the first millennium and journeying across fifty countries to a life among the stars in the third, the world will change around them, but their destinies remain the same. Can this pattern be escaped? An astounding new novel from the author of The Heart's Invisible Furies, A History of Loneliness and A Ladder to the Sky. 
"John Boyne brings a completely fresh eye to the most important stories. He is one of the greatest craftsmen in contemporary literature." —Colum McCann
Rat King Landlord by Murdoch Stephens           $25
Colossal rats invade from the Wellington town belt. Your rent is going up but everyone is calling it a summer of love. Cryptic posters appear around town inciting people to join an evening of mayhem. Until now the rats have contented themselves with scraps. But as summer heats up and the cost of living skyrockets, we can no longer ignore that our friends are seeking their own rung on the property ladder.
>>"The real challenge for a community is how to self-rule beyond the easy villains.
A Girl's Story by Annie Ernaux          $37
Annie Ernaux revisits the night fifty years earlier when she found herself overpowered by another's will and desire. In the summer of 1958, eighteen-year-old Ernaux submits her will to a man's, and then he moves on, leaving her bereft. Now, fifty years later, she realizes she can obliterate the intervening years and return to consider this young woman that she wanted to forget completely. And to discover that here, submerged in shame, humiliation, and betrayal, is the vital origin of her writing life, her writer's identity.
>>Read Thomas's review of The Years
Llew Summers: Body and soul by John Newton        $65
A beautifully presented and illustrated record of the work and life of one of New Zealand's most recognisable sculptors, a man of warmth and  vitality, whose works are daring, sensual and provocative.
Theft by Luke Brown         $40
What I did to them was terrible, but you have to understand the context. This was London, 2016. Paul has awoken to the fact that he will always be better known for reviewing haircuts than for his literary journalism. He is about to be kicked out of his cheap flat in east London and his sister has gone missing after an argument about what to do with the house where they grew up, after their mother's death. When Paul is granted a rare interview with Emily Nardini, a cult author, and is then received into her surprisingly grand home, everything begins to skid. A satire of the intersection of personal and political crises under the cloud of Brexit. 
"A wry and stylish look at male privilege." —Financial Times
"Is this the most loathsome hipster in modern fiction?" —Telegraph
Fracture by Andrés Neuman          $33
In 2011, Mr Watanabe, a Japanese electronics executive, is in Tokyo when the earthquake that precedes the Fukushima nuclear disaster strikes. In the aftermath, he fins himself on a journey to Fukushima, a tourist of the current day tragedy that mimics his own experiences of World War II. For Mr Watanabe is one of the few double hibakusha, a survivor of the atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The earthquake shifts his and others memories of those events. Meanwhile, four women based in Paris, New York, Buenos Aires, and Madrid tell their own stories of knowing and loving Mr Watanabe, a victim of one of the largest collective traumas of the last century. Fracture encompasses some of the most urgent political, social and environmental questions of contemporary life, about collective trauma, memory and love.
Pencils You Should Know: A history of the ultimate writing utensil in 75 anecdotes by Caroline Weaver        $35
Interesting, quirky and well-illustrated. Recommended for anyone who gets excited about the new Palomino Blackwing or a perfectly sharpened No. 2 Ticonderoga.
>>Also recommended: The Secret Life of the Pencil
Olia Hercules owes some of her earliest and fondest memories to the 'summer kitchens' of her parents, grandparents, neighbours and friends in Ukraine. These small buildings are separate from the main house, and always positioned near a fruit plot or veg patch so families can enjoy the home-grown produce as it ripens, and preserve the surplus in preparation for winter. The number of summer kitchens is dwindling these days, but there is still so much we can learn about making the most of the vibrant summer produce throughout the rest of the year. 
"A complete revelation." —Nigella Lawson
Bulletproof Vest by Kenneth Rosen           $22
The New York Times journalist Kenneth R. Rosen had just purchased his first bulletproof vest and was headed off on assignment. He was travelling into Mosul, Iraq, when he realized that the idea of a bulletproof vest is more effective than the vest itself. From its very inception, poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide, or Kevlar, was meant for tires. Its humble roots and mundane applications are often lost, as it is now synonymous with body armor, war zones, and domestic terrorism. What Rosen learned through intimate use of his vest was that it acts as a metaphor for all the precautions we take toward digital, physical, and social security. Bulletproof Vest is at once an introspective journey into the properties and precisions of a bulletproof vest on a molecular level and on the world stage. It's also an ode to living precariously, an open letter that defends the notion that life is worth the risk.
Stranger than Kindness by Nick Cave          $70
A journey in images and words into the creative world of musician, storyteller and cultural icon Nick Cave. This highly collectible book contains images selected by Cave from 'Stranger Than Kindness: The Nick Cave Exhibition', presented by the Royal Danish Library in partnership with Arts Centre Melbourne. Featuring full-colour reproductions of original artwork, handwritten lyrics, photographs and collected personal artefacts, it presents Cave's life, work and inspiration and explores his many real and imagined universes, with texts from Cave and Darcey Steinke on themes that are central to Cave's work.
>>A trailer for the exhibition
>>The song, live, 1987
Te Papa to Berlin: The making of two museums by Ken Gorbey         $40
After working on the development and realisation of Te Papa, Gorbey was recruited to salvage the Jewish Museum Berlin. 

Island Dreams: Mapping an obsession by Gavin Francis       $45
Blending stories of his own travels with psychology, philosophy and great voyages from literature, Francis sheds new light on the importance of islands and isolation in our collective consciousness.
Environment by Rolf Halden         $22
What do we mean by environment? It affects everything we do and the way we think; we are part of it and yet we are uncertain how to think of it. 
A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville         $48
What if Elizabeth Macarthur—wife of the notorious John Macarthur, wool baron in the earliest days of Sydney—had written a shockingly frank secret memoir? And what if novelist Kate Grenville had miraculously found and published it? Grenville's first novel in a decade. 
The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power           $37
A relentless advocate for promoting human rights, Power has been heralded by President Barack Obama as one of America's "foremost thinkers on foreign policy." The Education of an Idealist traces Power's extraordinary journey, from Irish immigrant to human rights activist to war-zone correspondent to United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
>>Samantha Power talks with Paula Morris
Advice to Young Musicians by Robert Schuman and Steven Isserlis        $25
Steven Isserlis revisits Schuman's perennial text and adds commentary of his own. 
>>Isserlis plays the Schuman 'Cello Concerto Op.129
Abigail and the Restless Raindrop by Matthew Cunningham and Sarah Wilkins         $20
Abigail is a little girl with big questions. Find out about the water cycle with her in this beautifully illustrated New Zealand book. 
What is goodness? Is goodness achievable, and if so, how? If being a good person is a matter of doing the right thing, then what is the right thing to do? Is it acting rationally, promoting happiness, exercising moderation in all things or respecting the freedom of others, or is it somehow a concoction of all these abilities, wisely adjusted to suit circumstances?
A previously untold history of New Zealand homosexual soldiers in World War II, drawing on the experiences of ordinary men who lived through extraordinary times. At the centre of the story are New Zealand soldiers Harold Robinson, Ralph Dyer and Douglas Morison, who shared a queer identity and love of performance. Through their roles as female impersonators in Kiwi concert parties in the Pacific and Egypt they found a place to live as gay men within the military forces.

Pluses and Minuses: How maths solves our problems by Stefan Buijsman           $37
Thousands of years ago, the inhabitants of Mesopotamia became the first humans to make complex calculations numbers. Since then, mathematics has become an unstoppable force. It's behind almost everything, from search engines to cruise control, from coffee-makers to timetables. But now that we hardly ever need to do arithmetic, how relevant is mathematics to everyday life?
[Can the case that could be made for 'plusses' over 'pluses' be so easily made for 'busses' over 'buses'?]

Rootbound: Rewilding a life by Alice Vincent         $33
"A book about heartbreak, salvation, nature and balcony gardens. Alice Vincent mixes memoir with botanical history to explore how plants can heal us." —Huffington Post 
"Rootbound is a poignant testimony to the joy that greenery will bring to your life, and it is a magical reminder that humans, like plants, can mend and grow in their own good time." —Independent