A sad tale of the librarian who stopped reading New Zealand fiction

As New Zealand Book Month comes to an end and I read of the death of Barbara Anderson I have realised that I used to read a lot of New Zealand fiction with Barbara Anderson being one of my favourites, alongside Fiona Kidman, Barbara Else, Marilyn Duckworth, and Patricia Grace, and Shonagh Koea. They were all women writers and they were all writing about things that were meaningful for me at the time: home, family, relationships and children.  Every now and then I branched out into the male domain and enjoyed the likes of Witi Ihimaera, Owen Marshall and Jack Lasenby but would then scuttle back to my old favourites.

Over the years I have read and enjoyed Charlotte Grimshaw and Charlotte Randall but some of my early experiences with newer writers have not been so enjoyable. I have found them almost too clever and self-conscious, and sadly I have gradually given up.

So, here is the challenge!  Help me get back into reading New Zealand writers, get my literary juices flowing again and let me know who I just have to read.

Let the books find you

Tired of searching for stuff to read? Fret not, for there is a whole new way: let the books find you.

It’s easy as – just take a deep breath, calm your racing heart and step into a library, secure in the belief that the right book will, if not exactly jump off the shelf at you, at least seep in your direction.

Cover: Knit Your Own ZombieHere’s three of the books that found their way to me this month:

First up was Knit your own Zombie by Fiona Goble. A lovely colleague pointed this book out to me when I confessed that I would soon be knitting for my first grandchild. He steered me firmly away from the cute little knitted bunnies that I’d been eyeing, to this book of  eight full zombie characters who come with escaping entrails and velcroed appendages.

Forget stress balls and meditation and discover the insane pleasure of tearing their 100 percent little wool heads off.

Completely unsuitable for bebe on so many levels, but you gotta love the new craft movements that take old skills and whack them, with attitude, into the twenty-first century!

Cover: How to Be GayThe next shelf-jumper was How to be Gay by David M. Halperin. This is the sort of book that you don’t especially want to be seen clutching at in public, irrespective of your sexual orientation. But it is a great (albeit quite academic) read. The author is the founder of the LGBTQ course at the University of Michigan. His main argument is that gayness (particularly male gayness) is much more than a sexual orientation and is, in fact, a learned cultural orientation:

Just because you happen to be a gay man doesn’t mean that you don’t have to learn how to become one.

Halperin’s studies have incensed conservatives, fundamentalists and many gays as well. If you thought you were going to get décor hints and help to become a more stylish dresser, or that this read would be a fun romp that would help you blend in at the next Gay Parade, then this is not the book for you.

Instead, you might prefer the quintessentially British Hedge Britannia by Hugh Barker. Sub-titled A curious history of a British Obsession, this book lured me in at Fendalton Library – Christchurch’s Hedge Cover: Hedge BritanniaHeartland. It is a delightful read in which I learned all sorts of useless facts: that hedgerows have been around since Neolithic times and that Rockingham Castle has a stunning, rolling elephant hedge.  Wars over hedges haven’t been fought… yet, but hedge rage runs rife, and peeing on certain hedges can kill them.

I’d never have searched out these books because I didn’t even know they existed. So, a big thanks to all the wonderful displays put up by library staff around Christchurch, you help the books find me.

How about you, read any good shelf-jumpers lately?  Share, please do!

Head over heels – New Zealand e-book month

Rushing from one crisis to another, Penny Rushmore has a name to live up to, coping with a demanding job and still adapting to life without her husband Steve. The first set-back comes when she hears that the glamorous young woman Steve took off with is pregnant. According to Charlotte, Penny’s daughter, Steve and Jacinta are head over heels about each other. According to Penny’s son, Charlotte is also head over heels – about her ageing university lecturer.

But is Penny head over heels about her new boyfriend or is she too frantic running between disasters to find out? And is her elderly father still head over heels about his wife or has her advanced dementia driven him over the edge? Funny and fast-paced, this is a candid and entertaining novel about finding some sort of balance in your life while being stuck in the Sandwich Generation – sandwiched between the demands of ageing parents, teenagers, a career and a badly behaved spaniel.

You can read Head over heels as an e-book from our Overdrive collection.

Head over heels  is also available as a paper book.