Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024


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Book reviews: Holiday reading 2020

6 min read

Best Day Walks in New Zealand
Lonely Planet
Reviewed by Esha Chanda

This isn’t the first Lonely Planet book that I’m reviewing, and it definitely won’t be the last. The publisher keeps churning out beautiful books and its latest one is as gorgeous as the ones published before.

There aren’t many places as naturally diverse as New Zealand, so it’s no surprise that in its first in a new series of walking guides, Lonely Planet chose Aotearoa.

Best Day Walks in New Zealand showcases 60 of the country’s best walks, ranging from three hours to a full day in duration, and along the way, offers practical tips on walking with kids as well as highlighting accessible trails for those with reduced mobility. The book is packed with lists and recommendations on the best walks to take for escaping the city, stumbling upon Instagram worthy views, or getting off the beaten track.

Stephen Fry
Penguin Random House
Reviewed by Esha Chanda

Following Mythos and Heroes – both of which I must say I enjoyed reading – comes the third volume from Stephen Fry. And this time, he retells the epic tale of Troy.

Most of us know the story – the kidnapping of Helen, a queen celebrated for her beauty, sees the Greeks launch a thousand ships against the city of Troy, to which they lay siege for 10 years. We’re familiar with Aphrodite’s bribing of Paris and, of course, the wooden horse that brought down an empire. Fry retells this story in all its passion and tragedy, bringing a whiff of contemporary to this age-old, well-known tale in Western literature, with themes of heroism and hatred, love and loss, revenge and regret, desire and despair.

While it may be the third in his series, I’d suggest to still pick up the book even if you haven’t read the earlier two. There are footnotes to guide those for whom this is uncharted territory, so knowledge of the Greek mythological world is not a pre-requisite or even required.

Navigating the Stars
Witi Ihimaera
Penguin Random House
Reviewed by Esha Chanda

Myths are the origin stories of every culture, every civilisation. There are stories of great battles, tragic losses, and triumphant victories – a rich blend of fact, fiction, and the fantastical, religion, philosophy, and history.

Navigating the Stars traces the history of the Māori people through their creation myths. Witi Ihimaera, best-known for his novel The Whale Rider (that I’m re-reading currently), brings his storytelling skills to this milestone volume where he celebrates the tales told about the creation of the galaxies, the trees, and sea creatures, and ultimately, the first woman. A provocative reappraisal of traditional Māori myths told for the 21st Century. The book definitely deserves a spot on your bookshelf.

A Promised Land: The Presidential Memoirs, Volume One
Barack Obama
Penguin Random House
Reviewed by Esha Chanda

I must admit – I waited for weeks before finally getting my hands on the book. And even before I had read the pages, I knew it was going to be good. So naturally, everything else was forgotten as I read the book over a weekend. A word count restriction limits me from writing an essay so if I have to sum up Obama’s 768-page memoir, I’d say it’s intimate and introspective.

The 44th US president offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the limits of presidential power as well as singular insights into the dynamics of US politics. We’re brought inside the Oval Office where we’re privy to his thoughts as he wrestles some of the key political events during his term. Obama has had an indelible impact on the world and the book brings history to life. It’s on my top five list, and I think it will be for a long time.

1, 2, 3 with New Zealand Rugby
Justin Laing and Wayne Bartlett
Bateman Books
Reviewed by Lisa Potter

There’s no denying that New Zealand is a nation of rugby fans – particularly young children. Now youngsters can learn to count in English and te reo Māori with some of their favourite rugby players in this colourful book.

Officially licensed by the All Blacks and New Zealand Rugby Union, kids will be so busy searching for their sporting idols that they won’t even realise they’re learning to count at the same time.

And even better, they’ll want to take the book everywhere with them, as there’s an autograph section at the back to capture favourite players’ signatures. 

Barbecue This!
Luke Hines
Reviewed by Lisa Potter

What would a Kiwi Christmas be without a barbecue feast? Australian health and wellness personality Luke Hines has clearly mastered this mode of cooking, packing fun and modern barbecue recipes into this exciting cookbook. Thanks to his irresistible spices and rubs, you’ll never again regard the humble barbecue the same way. In fact, it may even become your new best friend.

With 80 recipes to choose from, it’s one way to spice things up this holiday season. From lemony lamb cutlets and chilli lime beef tacos to Texan wings and Indian spiced prawns, it’s packed with fresh zesty flavours and plenty of helpful cooking and barbecuing tips. As Luke says: ‘season like you mean it’.

The Great Unknown
Geoff Spearpoint
Potton and Burton
Reviewed by Tony Orman

This is a wonderful book about the author’s wilderness explorations of the Southern Alps.

Mountaineering guru Geoff Spearpoint has made forays into the Southern Alps, for more than 50 years being on many long, adventurous trips into the wilderness every year. 

In this book, he tells of his favourite trips into 15 geographical areas, ranging from Kahurangi (north-west Nelson) to Fiordland. The photography by the author is outstanding and enhanced by maps from Geographx.

The book shows the author’s sensitivity and attachment for the mountains and valleys of the Alps and his own personal deep affinity with the backcountry and wilderness. Highly recommended.

Ray Salisbury
Potton and Burton
Reviewed by Tony Orman

Nelson-based publishers Potton and Burton have a well-deserved high reputation for publishing quality books of exceptional quality. Allied with that is the publisher’s focus on outdoor-related books and some of their latest publications are well up to this mark.

The Mt Arthur Tablelands has a rich and diverse history, aqua topography, and tramping, fishing, and hunting values to boot. The Mt Arthur area and associated Tablelands is an intriguing area of which I had first-hand experience tramping, trout fishing the upper Karamea River and hunting on the Mount Arthur Tablelands when I lived at Motueka for about a decade.

So, while this book had special personal appeal to me, such is the quality production, the author’s relaxed writing style, and the stunning landscape photos that anyone delving into the pages should be attracted.

A superb, classy book.

Drawn to the wild
Nicolas Dillon
Potton and Burton
Reviewed by Tony Orman

Another great Potton and Burton production; this one being Marlborough-based artist Nicolas Dillon’s new coffee-table book of drawings and paintings of New Zealand birds. It represents his lifetime love of the natural world and birds in particular. He draws in the field, using a high-powered spotting scope and capturing the living character of the birds observed.

Many of the drawings and watercolour sketches are done directly from life, with finished paintings completed in his studio. This book is a beautiful, personal tribute by an exceptional artist of New Zealand’s birdlife. A lovely book to delve into over and over again.

Field Guide to New Zealand’s native trees
John Dawson and Rob Lucas
Potton and Burton
Reviewed by Tony Orman

This a comprehensive, practical yet compact guide to identifying New Zealand native trees featuring more than 210 species with 1500 colour photos feature. It is a complete revision of the previously published best-selling, award-winning landmark book on New Zealand’s native trees.

The production of the book means it is literally a field guide, robust and bound, intended to be carried in a day pack without damage.

Sh*t Moments in New Zealand Sport
Rick Furphy and Geoff Rissole
Allen & Unwin
Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

It’s not often I laugh out loud when reading a book but must admit to a couple of unexpected spontaneous outbursts from this hardcopy sports rendering from the guys who brought us Sh*t Towns of New Zealand. If you aren’t familiar with their ruthless online takedowns of the places many of us hold dear to our hearts, that may not be a bad thing.

This time around, they’ve migrated to the printed page and adapted their unique brand of humour to remind us of all those moments in Kiwi sports that we’d rather forget about. I liken it to having a couple of mates continually reliving your bad moments in life and see this offering as a precursor to perhaps Sh*t Moments in New Zealand Love, or perhaps Sh*t Moments in Trucking, who knows?

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