Fiction A to Z: picks from our November newsletter

What’s your pick from our November Fiction A to Z newsletter?

I am particularly intrigued by A Bad Character, which, as the title indicates, promises to be a departure from the cosier novels set in India which I have enjoyed in the past. The Telegraph describes it as a “a poignant and impressionistic portrait of the end of adolescence and a changing world”.

Cover of Henna House Cover of Full Measure Cover of The Zone of Interest Cover of Bathing the Lion Cover of The Ghost Apple Cover of We Are Called to Rise Cover of The Lost Art of Mixing Cover of Wide on the Run Cover of A Bad Character

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Julia Gillard: In Conversation

Last night I attended Julia Gillard in Conversation, a WORD Christchurch event, in a packed Charles Luney auditorium, St Margaret’s College. The conversation between the former Australian Prime Minister and Press editor Joanna Norris was based on Gillard’s book, My Story. The talk was very insightful – not only about the difficulties of being a politician, but also about being a woman in politics.

Cover of My story by Julia GillardFrom the perspective of a male attending this session, I found the feminist conversation very interesting. Today’s different feminist perspectives illustrate how far society has moved forward since the 1960s and how the feminist ideology has also changed.

Over her life, Gillard has developed her own independent values which she openly shares and is very willing to debate. When her family settled in Adelaide, Gillard acknowledged that she was “lucky” her parents chose a house in a good suburb that was in a good school zone. From here she flourished and developed ideals such as compassion.

Gillard places great importance on a supportive family, including her sheltered upbringing, a good education, and having a lot of passion. What struck a chord with me was Gillard’s support for gender, socio-economic and ethnic equality. She encourages people to follow their dreams in their chosen field and hopes more females will continue to enter a career in politics.

Gillard shared that she, Prime Minister John Key and United States President, Barack Obama, all share the same birth year of 1961. Growing up in this time and the resulting decades saw Gillard develop a sense of standing up for what she believed in and also accepting differences (true democratic rights). The time a person enters parliament clearly influences the success of their political career. Gillard stated some of the greatest politicians never hold cabinet positions because they are on the wrong side of the benches.

Cover of The Stalking of Julia GillardGillard is a hard worker, who has continued to achieve. She laughed at the fact she even had her book to the publisher on time. This illustrates her strong work ethic. She stressed the value of preserving a ‘cone of silence’ (while in politics) to plan for the future and to ensure you spend time with family. She acknowledged this was not easy when there is so much to deal with and so many different ways of being immediately contacted – mobile phone, pager, email etc.

A sense of humour is a must. Gillard highlighted the importance of having to make light of news stories particularly those that are corrosive in nature. Gillard shared a story of her father who questioned whether the media would have enquired about his own sexuality, as he was a barber, in the same way that they did that of her partner’s, Tim, who is a hairdresser. Disappointingly, the media continue to misreport her to this day, most recently at Gough Whitlam’s funeral.

Overall this was an enjoyable event with a very good local turnout. I believe history will look back favourably at Gillard and her work to ensure a more equal society for all.

Summer is coming – let’s dine al fresco

Cover of Weber's Complete Barbecue Book Throw off the winter blues, get out the BBQ, clean it up, heat it up and get cooking!

Barbecuing tips from the family chef:

  • when cooking fish on the BBQ, wrap it in foil with sliced lemon and herbs
  • when making kebabs, soak wooden skewers overnight in water before using to prevent them from burning
  • when cooking steak turn only once to prevent dry meat and to allow each side to become crunchy… it really works
  • put marinades on towards end of cooking as sugar or honey in them will cause burning
  • fruit is lovely for afters; cook in foil with sprinkles of brown sugar
  • ladies, don’t get caught in the trap of men doing the cooking and you cleaning up the barbie before and after cooking!

Check our library books and eBooks for wonderful recipes and hints on the best ways to barbecue.

Cover of The Great Bloke's BBQ Cookbook Cover of Salad Cover of Ribs, Chops, Steaks and Wings Cover of Fired up Vegetarian Cover of Beach, Bach, Boat, Barbecue Cover of The BBQ Book Cover of Ben's BBQ Bible Cover of Weber's Time to Grill

Funeral procession for the Ballantynes fire victims : Picturing Canterbury

Funeral procession for the Ballantynes Fire Victims. Arthur Cyril Pearce was a driver of dignitaries at the tragically large funeral for 41 victims of the fire and gained these photos from an unknown friend in the crowd. This photo shows the trucks that we think contained the bodies of the victims. They are loaded with flowers. 23 November 1947. Entry in the 2013 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt. Kete Christchurch. CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ

Help us find the last of the retro shopkeepers

The Press has been helping former Canterbury University fine arts student Hamish Thompson identify the “retro shopkeepers” he took photos of in 1977.

Thanks to you eagle-eyed Christchurch and ex-Christchurch people, all of the shopkeepers and their shops have been identified except for the following two – this young lady (in her scarf, and un-scarfed, and the older lady below in her second-hand shop. Any ideas as to who they are – and what and where their shops are???

You can see all the photos here on Kete Christchurch.

Christchurch Shopkeepers: A collection of photos taken by Hamish Thompson, in 1977, for an Ilam Arts School project. They are portraits of shopkeepers, in their shops, surrounded by their products.
Christchurch Shopkeepers: A collection of photos taken by Hamish Thompson, in 1977, for an Ilam Arts School project. They are portraits of shopkeepers, in their shops, surrounded by their products. Kete Christchurch: Clothes-Shopkeepers-100
Christchurch Shopkeepers: A collection of photos taken by Hamish Thompson, in 1977, for an Ilam Arts School project. They are portraits of shopkeepers, in their shops, surrounded by their products. Kete Christchurch: Clothes-Shopkeepers-083
Christchurch Shopkeepers: A collection of photos taken by Hamish Thompson, in 1977, for an Ilam Arts School project. They are portraits of shopkeepers, in their shops, surrounded by their products. Kete Christchurch: Clothes-Shopkeepers-083
Christchurch Shopkeepers: A collection of photos taken by Hamish Thompson, in 1977, for an Ilam Arts School project. They are portraits of shopkeepers, in their shops, surrounded by their products.
Christchurch Shopkeepers: A collection of photos taken by Hamish Thompson, in 1977, for an Ilam Arts School project. They are portraits of shopkeepers, in their shops, surrounded by their products. Kete Christchurch: Dealers-Shopkeepers-018

Best book covers of 2014 – My pick of New Zealand’s finest

This awards ceremony starts with the winners. My two favourites of the year:

Cover of Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen

Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks. I could have picked any of Dylan’s four covers represented below. The man is a massive New Zealand talent, and deserves all the kudos. Onya Dylan.

Cover of Creamy Psychology

Creamy Psychology
A survey of the work of photographer Yvonne Todd. Artists and photographers – like cartoonists – often have a head start when it comes to good covers. They have the images. And this is hypnotically creepy and yet alluring. Love it, and the title.

Let’s continue the awards ceremony with two strong Christchurch-focused titles. Potently distinctive, and both representing well what is inside.

Cover of Shigeru Ban Cover of Once in a lifetime

Last year I praised the array of fantastic cartoony covers on New Zealand books. I’m pleased to see more goodies this year. I feel like a Dylan Horrocks cover is so damn good, and generally indicative of an excellent book too. Two of them this year are his own collections.

Cover of Wake Cover of Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen Cover of Empty Bones Cover of Incomplete Works

More proof that artists give good cover. As do poets.

Cover of Creamy Psychology Cover of Waha Cover of Cinema Cover of Edwin's Egg Cover of There's a medical name for this

Beautiful fiction.

Cover of Of things gone astray Cover of The Drowning City Cover of Landscape with Solitary Figure Cover of Where the Rehoku bone sings

Some super covers for kids and teens.

Cover of Construction Cover of Doctor Grundy's undies Cover of NZ shore and sea Cover of Dappled Annie Cover of Sage. Cover of While we run Cover of A treasury of NZ poems

Very New Zealand. And evocative.

Cover of Reach Cover of Autobiography

Typographical delights.

Cover of How to be dead Cover of Arms race Cover of Infidelities Cover of Vertical Living Cover of Tell you what Cover of The Bright side

There is a boom of publishing in the area of First World War history. This has an appropriate solemnity and gravitas. As do some others employing black and white photography.

Cover of How we remember Cover of Prendergast Cover of Berry Boys Cover of Deadline Cover of Frank Worsley Cover of Iggy's airforce tales Cover of Patient Cover of The Mighty Totara

I love this one. Love love LOVE.

Cover of Peter Smith

A lineup of stuff can make for an attractive cover.

Cover of Pills and Potions

Book of the year. But though the cover is distinctive and recognisable (it looks a bit like the Shroud in Turin?), I kind of wish it had a Sharon Murdoch cartoon on the cover. She is on Twitter as @domesticanimal and is all kinds of awesome.

Cover of Dirty Politics

For more book cover and design, see the PANZ Book Design Awards.

Have your say on the new Sumner Library and Community Facility

Come along to share your ideas on the new Sumner community facility at the Sumner Union Church Hall, corner of Hardwick and Nayland Streets – Sunday 23 November, 10.30am-1.30pm.

The first session is at 10.30am if you are keen to join a group and contribute your ideas to the concept design or if you just want to hear what others have suggested come to the second session beginning at 12.30pm

Christchurch City Council is holding the workshop to give you the opportunity to develop, share and discuss ideas for the design of the new facility.

The ideas will be considered by a Joint Working Group being set up to help with finalising the concept design for the new facility. The new facility will incorporate a library, community and museum space. It will be built on the site of the demolished facilities in Wakefield Avenue.

Find out more on the Future Christchurch site.

  • Our Mobile Library currently stops at 14 Wakefield Avenue – the old Sumner Library site – on Tuesday and Friday mornings, and all day on Saturday and Sunday. See the timetable.


The Next Decade in International Relations with George Friedman

Cover of The Next DecadeWhen you see a book titled The Next Decade, it’s hard not to be drawn to it. Such a title appeals to that human desire to know the future, and as the title implies, that’s what this book is about.

But while sounding somewhat prophetic, it’s not – it is “forecasting”, or more specifically “geopolitical” or “strategic forecasting” which is the subject of this book. Dr George Friedman – a geopolitical analyst, International Relations expert and Chairman of the think tank Stratfor.

This book discusses what will take place over the next decade throughout various regions of the world. It is a commentary on economics, resource-related conflict, terrorism, historical tensions, power struggles, and armed conflict – which are usually tied together within various geographical or regional theatres. It’s an attempt to predict, through a series of highly-educated guesses:

  • who will attack who,
  • who will form alliances,
  • who needs what resources,
  • who is reliant on who
  • and who has the most power.

The “who” mostly being countries, while giving some treatment to “non-state actors” such as terrorists.

This book is highly America-centric. It views issues through the lens of American geopolitical concern and primarily deals with what the USA will have to do to maintain its military and political ascendancy as a globally far reaching “unintended empire”.

Further to this, Friedman puts a blatant Machiavellian spin on it and advises that American foreign policy must employ cunning economic and military tactics: who to side with, who not to, regional balances of power, which regions to invest in, which ones to stay out of (for example, the USA should strengthen Poland so as to create a buffer between Europe and Russia). Additionally, the USA should continue to engage Australia and ensure a stronger partnership so as to counter-balance Asian and South East Asian regional influence.

Interestingly, Dr Friedman suggests the White House should also get friendlier with Iran – because they are the primary regional power in the Middle East.

What Friedman really understands is also what makes this book so compelling:

  • that world politics is still essentially about “who gets what, when and how”
  • that natural resources empower countries. Europe has to pander to Russia as it is reliant on Russian oil and gas.
  • Geographic conditions can undermine regional economic and political domination – the small and volatile 300 mile gap between Kazakhstan and Ukraine is the channel through which Russian oil and political influence flows through to the Caucasus. If this gap is compromised, Russia’s influence in the region will be too. Should America fuel such a compromise?

This is a good introduction to strategic geopolitics for anyone not really familiar with international relations and global politics, and it indirectly teaches you how to think like an analyst. It also provides a good read for those familiar with the subjects of war, history, economics, international relations, and resource-related conflict. It’s a timely read, especially as Europe is contending with a seriously unstable Africa and North Africa, Middle East and Eastern Europe – all right on its doorstep(s).

I was going to say that “the times they are a changing”, but actually, they are not, the fundamentals of geopolitics haven’t really changed. The book probably sounds like a yawn created for political/war geeks, but it may provide compelling reading for all sorts of people. Have a read. It’s enlightening.

New mystery authors – cool new stuff from selectors

Our fiction buyer has some stellar suggestions for new mysteries:

The biggest selling fiction genre worldwide would have to be Mystery/Thriller/Suspense. It’s one of the biggest movers in libraries as well. Airport bookshops – and the amount published – may make a mystery reader feel overwhelmed with choice.One of the things you can do is take a punt on a new author and there are a fair few as publishers salivate at the thought they may be signing up a new Gillian Flynn. Here are five interesting debuts:

Liar’s chair Rebecca Whitney.

She’s English, educated at Nottingham and from the creative writing course at Sussex University. Her book is in the Gone girl genre of domestic disharmony that turns nasty when an accident is covered up and a marriage turns toxic.

Wolf winter Cecilia Ekback.

Swedish born author now living in Canada, her novel is set in 18th century Lapland where a community covers up murder as a wolf attack and the daughter of a newly settled family is determined to uncover the truth.

The girl on the pier Paul Tomkins.

English writer’s story about a forensic sculptor who can’t forget a girl he met on the Brighton Pier in the 1990s and linking her disappearance to a crime in the 1970s.

The serpent papers Jessica Cornwell

The author has a pedigree: granddaughter of John Le Carre. Her novel fits into the Dan Brown marker as it’s about some gruesome murders that link up down the ages to a world of witchcraft and alchemy with links to biblical times.

Unbecoming Rebecca Scherm.

A Michigan author whose novel is about a young woman involved in an art heist with her husband and another man. They are arrested and go to prison and she escapes but the deception starts to unravel. Early reports suggest her novel is in the Patricia Highsmith tradition.

Cover of The Liar's Chair Cover of Wolf winter Cover of The girl on the pier Cover of The Serpent Papers Cover of Unbecoming

Julia Gillard in person – and in Christchurch

Cover of My StoryI am pretty excited about Thursday night (20 November) – am off to listen to ex-Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
She will discuss her life and politics with Joanna Norris, editor of The Press. It is fair to say she had a tumultuous time of it – not only “robust” political battling, but also confronting some shocking misogyny.

You can also get a copy of her book My Story and get Julia Gillard to sign it – a fine gift for the politico in your life.

This WORD Christchurch event is selling like proverbial hot cakes – so book now. She will be smart and frank, as per this quote:

“If you think you’d like to see yourself in the media, you’d like to be a celebrity, you know, try out for Big Brother – politics is not for you. You should only do it if you really know why you’re doing it.

“Will it end in tears? Yes, absolutely. The day after I finished being prime minister, starting to pack up my office, I took a call from Paul Keating who said to me, ‘We all get taken out in a box, love. Sorry, sorry to hear about you. We all get taken out in a box, love.’ And never a truer word spoken.”

More about Julia Gillard: