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Book reviews: December 2021

4 min read

Pick of the month

Moa – The Life and Death of NZ’s Legendary Bird
Quinn Berentson
Potton & Burton 
Reviewed by Tony Orman

A reprint of the 2012 first edition, this book is splendidly produced by Nelson publishers Potton and Burton. It features meticulous research by the author and an intriguing saga around the mysterious moa.

It also throws some interesting light on New Zealand’s ecosystem before Europeans and introduced wild animals, such as deer, colonised the land. Moa, nine species in all, inhabited the lowland forests and plains, the forest, and snowgrass tops.

Scientists have termed the killing out of the moa as a “blitzkrieg extinction” – such was the ruthless and rapid way it was carried out. “All that is left alive of the moa is the extraordinary story of its long life and sudden death,” says the author.

The pristine New Zealand was, most likely, heavily browsed by moa and other birds. With little competition and no ground predators, moas thrived for 50 or 60 million years.

This book is highly absorbing reading, packed with a fantastic range of illustrations. It’s a fascinating read that recounts the life and death of our strangest bird. Strongly recommended.

More good reads

A Bunk for the Night
Shaun Barnett, Rob, Brown, Geoff Spearpoint
Potton & Burton
Reviewed by Esha Chanda

Located in our mountains, on the edges of our fiords, coastlines, and lakes, beside rivers, in the bush, and on open hilltops, New Zealand’s huts form a unique network of backcountry shelter, steeped in character and history (some dating back 150 years) that we as a nation have inherited.

Huts serve many purposes and are often the base for fishing, hunting, tramping, and climbing adventures.

A Bunk for the Night features 201 such huts found in Aotearoa. It’s the perfect list created by seasoned trampers and feature a wide range; there are family-friendly huts kids will like, huts to visit via mountain bike, quirky huts, classic six-bunk New Zealand Forest Service (NZFS) huts, and more.

The authors have scoured the length and breadth of the country to showcase some of the best ones in remote places. It’s a comprehensive guide, punctuated with some gorgeous photos that take a deep dive into some of the best-loved huts in New Zealand. A great buy before your summer tramping adventures.

Paul McCartney: the stories behind 50 classic songs
Mike Evans
Allen & Unwin
Reviewed by Esha Chanda

Taking 50 key songs from his five-decade career since the break-up of the Fab Four, Paul McCartney: The Stories Behind 50 Classic Songs takes an in-depth look at this international music treasure. One of the most versatile and prolific composers and performers, McCartney’s musical creativity is well-documented in the 200 or so
odd pages that make this coffee-table book.

There are full sessions details and chat data and each song featured has been described in detail, from its original inspiration to the final release. Accompanying this wealth of information are the beautiful photographs in and out of the studio, bringing the making of every song to life.

New Zealand’s Backyard Birds
Ned Barraud
Potton & Burton
Reviewed by Esha Chanda

An engaging children’s guide about New Zealand backyard birds, this new book captures 24 of our most visible and recognisable avian creatures along with information about their evolution, anatomy, nesting habits, hatching, and more.

The sister publication to Barraud’s popular New Zealand’s Backyard Beasts, the concept of the book was originally inspired by the author and illustrator’s eldest Rory, who became fascinated with birds when he was a child. Together, they joined a local birding group. The experiences sparked the idea for a book that covers both native birds, such as tūi and pīwakawaka and introduced birds such as blackbird and sparrow. With useful information and beautiful illustrations, this book could be your kid’s new favourite bedtime read.

Fine Line
Martin Hill and Philippa Jones

Bateman Books
Reviewed by Tony Orman

An unusual book about a series of 12 ephemeral sculptures around the world that begin and end in New Zealand.

The sculptures were made in wilderness sites using natural materials at each locality. Probably best described as “ecological art”, the 12 sculptures are connected by a symbolic line circling the globe.

The underlying yet strong theme is the delicate relationship between economic prosperity and ecological poverty.

The message via the imaginative sculptures is very clear as co-author Martin Hill calls on the need for humans to ‘redesign’ their way of living to become compatible with the planet’s health and ecology.

An amazing book about an amazing project. Beautifully produced by Bateman Books, it’s visually riveting, with some superb photography and a great read.

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