Friday 6 August 2021


The Coming Bad Days by Sarah Bernstein               $23
After leaving the man with whom she'd been living, an unnamed protagonist in an unnamed university city is working unspectacularly on the poet Paul Celan. The abiding feeling in the city is one of paranoia; the weather has been deteriorating and outside her office window she can hear police helicopters circling, looking for the women who have been disappearing. She is in self-imposed exile, hoping to find dignity in her loneliness. But when she meets Clara — a woman who is exactly her opposite — her plans begin to unravel.
"Bernstein’s pessimism evokes the likes of Arthur Schopenhauer and Thomas Bernhard, chiming all too well with the current discourse around issues of male privilege." –Spectator
>>"A study in unknowability."
>>Why is she so lonely? 
Nostalgia Has Ruined My Life by Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle        $25
An unnamed woman in her late twenties navigates unemployment, boredom, chronic illness and online dating. Her activities are banal — applying for jobs, looking up horoscopes, managing depression, going on Tinder dates. ‘I want to tell someone I love them but there is no one to tell,’ she says. ‘Except my sister maybe. I want to pick blackberries on a farm and then die.’ She observes the ambiguities of social interactions, the absurd intimacies of sex and the indignity of everyday events, with a skepticism about the possibility of genuine emotion, or enlightenment. Like life, things are just unfolding, and sometimes, like life, they don’t actually get better.
>>Nostalgia has instagrammed my life.
>>Something interesting
As Needed, As Possible: Emerging discussions on art, labour and collaboration in Aotearoa edited by Sophie Davis and Simon Gennard            $30
Considers the social, economic and political frameworks arts practitioners and organisations occupy in contemporary Aotearoa, and makes a contribution to a wider field of discussion thinking through the kind of spaces and culture we wish to be working in, and how we might arrive there. Contributions by Emma Bugden and Chloe Geoghegan, Sophie Davis, Simon Gennard, Sarah Hudson and Zoe Thompson-Moore, Ella Grace McPherson-Newton, Ōtautahi Kōrerotia, Public Share, James Tapsell-Kururangi and Ema Tavola.
>>More about the book

Tokyo Redux by David Peace            $33
Tokyo, July 1949, President Shimoyama, Head of the National Railways of Japan, goes missing just a day after serving notice of 30,000 job losses. In the midst of the US Occupation, against the backdrop of widespread social, political and economic reforms - as tensions and confusion reign - American Detective Harry Sweeney leads the missing person's investigation for General MacArthur's GHQ. Fifteen years later and Tokyo is booming. As the city prepares for the 1964 Olympics and the global spotlight, Hideki Murota, a former policeman during the Occupation period, and now a private investigator, is given a case which forces him to go back to confront a time, a place and a crime he's been hiding from for the past fifteen years. Over twenty years later, in the autumn and winter of 1988, as the Emperor Showa is dying, Donald Reichenbach, an aging American, eking out a living teaching and translating, sits drinking by the Shinobazu Pond in Ueno, knowing the final reckoning of the greatest mystery of the Showa Era is down to him.
"David Peace writes the boldest and most original British fiction of his generation." —New York Times
And Peace's 'comfort read'?
Birds: An anthology edited by Jacqueline Mitchell, illustrated by Eric Fitch Daglish          $40
Arranged by bird, these literary excerpts and poems from classic and modern writers are accompanied by striking woodcuts. A very attractive hardback volume. 
To Write As If Already Dead by Kate Zambreno              $34
To Write As If Already Dead circles around Kate Zambreno's failed attempts to write a study of Hervé Guibert's To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life. In this diaristic, transgressive work, the first in a cycle written in the years preceding his death, Guibert documents with speed and intensity his diagnosis and disintegration from AIDS and elegizes a character based on Michel Foucault. The first half of To Write As If Already Dead is a novella in the mode of a detective story, searching after the mysterious disappearance of an online friendship after an intense dialogue on anonymity, names, language, and connection. The second half, a notebook documenting the doubled history of two bodies amid another historical plague, continues the meditation on friendship, solitude, time, mortality, precarity, art, and literature. Throughout this rigorous, mischievous, thrilling not-quite study, Guibert lingers as a ghost companion. Zambreno, who has been pushing the boundaries of literary form for a decade, investigates his methods by adopting them, offering a keen sense of the energy and confessional force of Guibert's work, an ode to his slippery, scarcely classifiable genre. The book asks, as Foucault once did, 'What is an author?' Zambreno infuses this question with new urgency, exploring it through the anxieties of the internet age, the ethics of friendship, and 'the facts of the body': illness, pregnancy, and death.
>>Chronology of a body
Voices in the Evening by Natalia Ginzburg            $23
In a hushed, Italian town after the Second World War Elsa lives with her parents in the house where she was born. Twenty-seven and unmarried, she is of constant concern to her mother, whose status anxiety manifests itself in acute hypochondria. Elsa hopes to live a life different to the one she's always known and when she meets Tommasino, it seems possible. Tommasino belongs to the De Francisci family, who owns the cloth factory where Elsa's father works, and whose lives and stories Elsa has known all her life. In the course of their secret meetings, Elsa and Tommasino begin to imagine another future for themselves, free from the constraints of shared history and expectation. But all of this is threatened when their relationship is revealed.
>>Eternal return
Activism, Feminism, Politics and Parliament by Margaret Wilson           $40
This is the story of one of New Zealand’s eminent political actors. A policy-focused campaigner, reluctant to join a political tribe and uncomfortable with the combative attitudes and personal jockeying that politics seemed to entail, Wilson nevertheless rose to become the president of the Labour Party during the turbulent mid-1980s. Going on to become a central and occasionally controversial minister in the Clark government, Wilson held roles as Attorney-General and Speaker of the House.

Objects of Desire by Clare Sestanovich           $38
A college freshman, flying home, strikes up an odd, ephemeral friendship with the couple next to her on the airplane. A long-lost stepbrother's visit to New York prompts a reckoning with a family's old taboos. An office worker, exhausted by the ambitions of the men around her, emerges into the gridlocked city one afternoon to make a decision. A wife, looking at her husband's passwords neatly posted on the wall, realizes there are no secrets left in their marriage. In these eleven short stories, thrilling desire and melancholic yearning animate women's lives — from the brink of adulthood, to the labyrinthine path between twenty and thirty, to middle age, when certain possibilities quietly elapse.
 "Sestanovich's elegant prose takes seriously the quiet unrest that can ravage a life." —Raven Leilani
"Astonishing. One of the best story collections I've read in a long time." —Brandon Taylor
The Musical Human: A history of life on earth by Michael Spitzer          $33
165 million years ago saw the birth of rhythm. 66 million years ago was the first melody. 40 thousand years ago Homo sapiens created the first musical instrument. Today music fills our lives. How we have created, performed and listened to this music throughout history has defined what our species is and how we understand who we are. Yet music is an overlooked part of our origin story. The Musical Human takes us on a journey across the ages, from Bach to BTS and back, to explore the relationship between music and the human species. With insights from a wealth of disciplines, musicologist Michael Spitzer renders a global history of music on the widest possible canvas, looking at music in our everyday lives; music in world history; and music in evolution, from insects to apes, humans to AI.
"Michael Spitzer has pulled off the impossible - a Guns, Germs and Steel for music." —Daniel Levitin
The Ghost in the Garden: In search of Darwin's lost garden by Jude Piesse        $40
Darwin never stopped thinking about the garden at his childhood home, The Mount, in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. It was here, under the tutelage of his green-fingered mother and sisters, that he first examined the reproductive life of flowers, collected birds' eggs, and began the experiments that would lead to his theory of evolution. A century and a half later, with one small child in tow and another on the way, Jude Piesse finds herself living next door to this secret garden. Two acres of the original site remain, now resplendent with overgrown ashes, sycamores, and hollies. The carefully tended beds and circular flower garden are buried under suburban housing; the hothouses where the Darwins and their gardeners grew pineapples are long gone. Walking the pathways with her new baby, Piesse starts to discover what impact the garden and the people who tended it had on Darwin's work.
Recipe for a Kinder Life by Annie Smithers             $38
Founder of the du Fermier restaurant in rural Victoria, Smithers's quest for a way of living more gently and more sustainably with the land comes through in this recipe-rich memoir. 
"The anti-celebrity chef Annie Smithers brings a cook's palate, a grower's heart and a poet's soul to bear in this moving, practical, inspiring story of her life." —Matthew Evans
Tunnelling to the Centre of the Earth by Kevin Wilson           $26A collection of 'Southern Gothic' stories from the author of Nothing to See Here. Kevin Wilson's characters inhabit a world that moves seamlessly between the real and the imagined, the mundane and the fantastic. 'Grand Stand-In' is narrated by an employee of the Nuclear Family Supplemental Provider—a company that supplies 'stand-ins' for families with deceased, ill, or just plain mean grandparents. In 'Blowing Up On the Spot,' a young woman works sorting tiles at a Scrabble factory after her parents have spontaneously combusted.
The Grande Odalisque by  Jérôme Mulot, Florent Ruppert and Bastien Vivès      $48
A remarkable graphic novel from three French comics stars. Alex and Carole, friends since childhood, are now (literal) partners in crime. But the heist — to steal the Ingres painting The Grande Odalisque from the Louvre in Paris — is too much for the duo to handle, so they bring in Clarence, a bureaucrat's son with a price on his head by a Mexican drug cartel and, more importantly, an arms dealer. Next is Sam, a stunt motorcyclist and boxer by trade, who proves trigger happy with tranquilizer darts. Using soda can smoke bombs, rocket launchers, and hang gliders, Alex, Carole, and Sam set off a set of circumstances that results in a battle with the French Special Forces — and their partnership, which was on the rocks, will never be the same again.
>>"Serious, escapist fun."
Pie for Breakfast: Simple baking recipes for kids by Cynthia Cliff               $35
The children at Hazel's school are baking a wonderful range of delicious things to raise money for the library. The clearly presented recipes are a good introduction to baking from around the world. Nicely illustrated, too!

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera           $22
"You're still alive in alternate universes, Theo, but I live in the real world where this morning you're having an open casket funeral. I know you're out there, listening. And you should know I'm really pissed because you swore you would never die and yet here we are. It hurts even more because this isn't the first promise you've broken." OCD-afflicted seventeen-year-old, Griffin, has just lost his first love - his best friend, ex-boyfriend and the boy he believed to be his ultimate life partner - in a drowning accident. In a desperate attempt to hold onto every last piece of the past, a broken Griffin forges a friendship with Theo's new college boyfriend, Jackson. And Griffin will stop at nothing to learn every detail of Theo's new college life, and ultimate death. But as the grieving pair grows closer, readers will question Griffin's own version of the truth - both in terms of what he's willing to hide, and what true love ultimately means.
"History Is All You Left Me overflows with tenderness and heartache. Even when its hero is screwing up royally, maybe especially then, Silvera's humanity and compassion carve out a space where it's not the falling that's important, it's how you pick yourself back up. There isn't a teenager alive who won't find their heart described perfectly on these pages." —Patrick Ness 
"Adam Silvera is a master at capturing the infinite small heartbreaks of love and loss and grief. History Is All You Left Me is a beautiful meditation on what it means to survive devastating loss. This book will make you cry, think, and then cry some more." —Nicola Yoon
See/Saw: Looking at photographs by Geoff Dyer         $55
See/Saw is a history of how photographs frame and change our perspectives. Starting from single images by significant photographers — from Eugene Atget to Alex Webb — Dyer shows us how to read a photograph, as he takes us through a series of close readings that are by turns moving, funny, prescient and surprising.

How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs: The Syrian Congress of 1920 and the destruction of the Liberal-Islamic Alliance by Elizabeth F. Thompson         $25
When Europe's Great War engulfed the Ottoman Empire, Arab nationalists rose in revolt against their Turkish rulers and allied with the British on the promise of an independent Arab state. In October 1918, the Arabs' military leader, Prince Faisal, victoriously entered Damascus and proclaimed a constitutional government in an independent Greater Syria. Faisal won American support for self-determination at the Paris Peace Conference, but other Entente powers plotted to protect their colonial interests. Under threat of European occupation, the Syrian-Arab Congress declared independence on March 8, 1920 and crowned Faisal king of a 'civil representative monarchy.' Sheikh Rashid Rida, the most prominent Islamic thinker of the day, became Congress president and supervised the drafting of a constitution that established the world's first Arab democracy and guaranteed equal rights for all citizens, including non-Muslims. But France and Britain refused to recognize the Damascus government and instead imposed a system of mandates on the pretext that Arabs were not yet ready for self-government. In July 1920, the French invaded and crushed the Syrian state. The fragile coalition of secular modernisers and Islamic reformers that had established democracy was destroyed, with profound consequences that reverberate still.
Dálvi: Six years in the Artic tundra by Laura Galloway            $33
A DNA test suggesting she shared some genetics with the Sami people, the indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic tundra, tapped into Laura Galloway's wanderlust. An affair with a Sami reindeer herder led her to abandon her high-flying New York life for a fresh start in the tiny town of Kautokeino. When her new boyfriend left her unexpectedly after six months, it would have been easy, and perhaps prudent, to return home. But she stayed for six years. Dalvi is the story of Laura's time in a reindeer-herding village in Arctic Norway, forging a solitary existence as one of the few Westerners living among one of the most remote cultures on earth.
>>Home is in my heart. 
Play and the City: How to create places and spaces to help us thrive by Alex Bonham            $38
Cities have always been sites of play for both adults and children, bringing people together and pushing the boundaries of what is humanly possible. And now we need our cities to encourage and facilitate play of all kinds more than ever.
Khumbu: Gateway to Mount Everest, Pathways to peace by Peter Laurenson         $70
For over three decades, photographer Peter Laurenson has repeatedly visited Khumbu, the Nepalese gateway to Mount Everest and home to the Sherpa people. On his second visit, a chance meeting with a Sherpa family sparked a friendship that grew stronger as Laurenson brought his three sons, each in turn, to trek through this enchanted region. Accompanying this unfolding story of kinship are Laurenson's insights into Sherpa culture, the explosion of activity on Everest, and the changing nature of Khumbu as the area's popularity grew. Throughout, his striking photographs convey the essence of this remarkable land and its people.

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