Recreational non-fiction – a mid year review

I’m a pretty avid reader and mostly I love good fiction, but this year I have made a determined effort to read more non-fiction, but not just any old non-fiction – what I was after was “Recreational Non-Fiction”!

After a great deal of library exploration, and some very, VERY dry encounters with some non-fiction authors and their writing, I soon discovered that I’m particularly drawn towards non-fiction that is;

a) interesting / informative (gotta love what you’re reading about, right?)

b) conversational (this is very important to me!)

c) about an individual’s own explorations on a subject (it’s great to go along for the ride while someone makes discoveries!), and

d) based on the natural sciences (that’s just what floats my boat I guess!)

And I’ve been building a list this year to keep track of the “recreational non-fiction” titles that I have really loved, and here they are along with some notes on each;

2018 – The Best of Recreational Non-Fiction

List created by DevilStateDan

These are my best titles for the year under the banner of “recreational non-fiction”. Most of these titles are new releases, some are from decades ago, all are great! I do have a particular liking for the natural sciences so most of these books will be on this topic…

New Zealand Geographic – I love this magazine for championing and celebrating all the good things in New Zealand’s natural world. Every issue is packed full of interesting scientific projects being undertaken, updates on the status of various endangered species, and how humans are impacting on the environment and what we can do about it as individuals.

Cover of Smith journalSmith Journal – This is a great periodical, full of insight, information, and learning opportunities. Stories about potentially world-changing initiatives mix with current trends in sciences, and the revolution of traditional crafts, all from around the world. Very entertaining read!

The Secret Life of Flies – Do you like chocolate?!?! Then you’re relying on the humble and, misunderstood fly – they are the only pollinator of the cacao tree! Shocking hey!? Flies have so much more to offer the environment than we realise. Have a read of this entertaining and informative book, it may change the way you view these annoying pests for good!

Curious Encounters With the Natural World – This is a masterpiece of recreational non-fiction! Written conversationally (like you sitting with the author at the pub over a couple of pints discussing the natural world!), hugely informative, and hilarious, this book offers a very real access point for those who don’t read non-fiction or find in inaccessible. If you’re interested in the natural world, here’s one for you!

Cover of The truth about animalsThe Unexpected Truth About Animals – Another brilliant book about some of the lesser known creatures of the Earth and their own particular nuances. It’s very easy to read and pretty funny, making the science really attractive and easy to digest. Great dinner party fact fodder!

Blowfish’s Oceanopedia – The story of the seas from the coast to the deep. This book is divided up into quickfire digestible facts on all manner of issues and powers of the most abundant ecosystem on the planet. A great read for lovers of natural science.

Cover of SpinelessSpineless – Juli Berwald really likes jellyfish and this book proves it! Follow her story as she travels the globe learning about the state of jellies in our oceans, how they are coping with climate change, and what’s leading to the huge and unpredictable super-blooms of jellies. There’s so much information in this book about this underrated creature of the seas that it makes you wonder why we know so little about such a successful and abundant animal. A solid, insightful, and entertaining read and I look forward to seeing her future work.

Cover of American WolfAmerican Wolf – Follow the committed souls who observe the wolf packs of Yellowstone National Park. Wolves have only recently been reintroduced to the wild in this region and careful monitoring has led to some quite simply amazing discoveries about the ecological balance of a region. But not everyone is so keen to have the wolves back and as we follow the pack that she-wolf O-Six we learn how hard it is to survive in the wild under diminishing environment and increasing threats. One of my books of the year, this one!

Cover of The soul of an octopusThe Soul of An Octopus – In this book we follow the author as she becomes increasingly enamoured with all things octopus! We get to share the experience of learning SCUBA and see first hand behind the scenes at the New England Aquarium – a facility dedicated to sea life and full of passionate and knowledgeable staff and volunteers. And throughout the narrative we think on the idea of consciousness and emotions in all life – did you know that fish dream?!?

View Full List

I’ll continue to add to this list as the year progresses and I have a feeling that this is only just the start of a beautiful relationship between myself and recreational non-fiction!

A section of Armagh Street, Christchurch: Picturing Canterbury

A section of Armagh Street, Christchurch [1899 or 1900]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 7, IMG0024.
Horses were volunteered by the public for use by the New Zealand Rough Riders in the South African War (1899-1902). Here sixty of them are seen being officially inspected outside the Rink Stables of W. Hayward & Co. at 199 Armagh Street. Fourteen of them passed all tests and were taken to camp that night. Fodder was supplied by George Treleaven & Co., produce merchants, of 193 Armagh Street and shipped to South Africa for the horses.

Do you have any photographs of Canterbury’s involvement in the South African War? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Pax: searching for peace

A recent addition to the children’s fiction shelves, Pax by Sara Pennypacker is a deeply emotional story that explores the special connection between a boy and his fox. The narratives of the two main characters, Peter and his fox Pax, are beautifully entwined in the tale of an epic journey through a world threatened by war.

Peter and Pax have both faced difficult family challenges early in their lives. When Peter finds and rescues Pax, an important relationship begins to develop that proves mutually supportive and healing. When Peter and Pax are separated by forces beyond their control (the decisions of their human elders and the destructive forces of war) the strength of their bond calls each of them back to one another. Their journey to be reunited turns into a voyage of self discovery. Along the way, both characters encounter two- and four-legged companions that hesitantly, yet expertly, guide them. But will they ever manage to find each other and will their respective experiences have changed the bond between them?

CoverThis is a story that presents a realistic view of life from the perspective of both children and animals. As hinted at in the naming of the fox Pax, it explores the journey taken to find an inner peace. The novel addresses mature topics such as war, grief and anger. These are treated sensitively, and balanced with discussion of ideas such as acceptance, the peace and freedom that comes from knowing oneself, what it really means to be home – and the importance of letting go.

Perhaps more suitable for readers 8 years and older, it may still suit those in the younger age bracket if time is allowed for discussion around some of the heavier themes involved. It is also a fantastic read for teenagers and adults! I particularly enjoyed the way in which Pennypacker’s extensive research of red fox behaviour lent credibility to the story of Pax. The portrayal of Pax’s thoughts and feelings is realistic and offers the kind of insight not often seen in more idealised animal characters of children’s fiction.

With both dystopian and fairytale undertones, the world of Peter and Pax is brought to life in the book with the aid of the moody illustrations of Jon Klassen. The author Sara Pennypacker also wrote the acclaimed Clementine series as well as many other popular children’s stories.

If you are interested in this book you may also wish to take a look at…

Pax
by Sara Pennypacker and Jon Klassen
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008158286

The camel ride including two young travellers at the New Zealand International Exhibition 1906-1907: Picturing Canterbury

The camel ride including two young travellers at the New Zealand International Exhibition 1906-1907 [ca. 1906]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 12, IMG0005.
The three adult camels which offered rides to vistors to the New Zealand International Exhibition (1906-1907) were purchased in Melbourne, Australia. Prior to their departure to New Zealand, the camels gave birth. Accompanied by two baby camels, the three adult camels arrived in Christchurch in October 1906 onboard the S.S. Wimmera. After being unloaded they were conveyed to their destination by cattle trucks which were impractical given their long necks.

Featured as part of the “Wonderland” amusement park section of the exhibition, it cost 3d to ride a camel. The camel handlers were Aboriginal Australians from South Australia. The use of animals at the exhibition was inspected by representatives of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but it was found that the camels were not being mistreated.

The exhibition closed in April 1907, after which some of the “Wonderland” amusements were dismantled and removed to Wellington where they were put on display at Miramar. Although one of the camels died in June 1907, the rest were relocated to Wellington. Following the Miramar “Wonderland” show, one of the camels was given to the zoo in Wellington.

Do you have any photographs of the New Zealand International Exhibition (1906-1907)? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

The Camel Ride Including Two Young Travellers At The New Zealand International Exhibition 1906-1907

Credo DK Eyewitness eBooks for Kids

Credo Reference is a great series of online eBooks that you can search and browse. Filled with pictures as well as information, they make a perfect starting point for that school project, or a interesting resource to satisfy a curious mind. Keep the kids entertained (and still learning) in the holidays, with this collection of eBooks.

Whatever they want to do when they grow up, we have it covered.

Meteorologist

Palaeontologist or Archaeologist

Astronaut or Astrophysicist

Geographer

Marine Biologist

Historian

Spy

New Titles, tweeted: Chris picks some top new books

Our selectors spot plenty of new and interesting titles as part of their work. Here are some titles that took the fancy of tweeting selector Chris:

The old homestead at “Stonyhurst”, a sheep station and stud farm on the north coast of Canterbury: Picturing Canterbury

The old homestead at “Stonyhurst”, a sheep station and stud farm on the north coast of Canterbury [ca. 1898]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0067.
The old homestead at “Stonyhurst”, a sheep station and stud farm on the north coast of Canterbury [ca. 1898].

This station belonged to Sir George Clifford (1813-1893) who took up the run of nearly 60,000 acres in December 1850. He named it after Stonyhurst College, the school he had attended in Lancashire, England. He was succeeded by his son Sir George Hugh Clifford (1847-1930) who managed his estates and also took a keen interest in sheep breeding and horse racing. See also Early New Zealand Families and Canterbury Country Houses.

Do you have any photographs of former Canterbury homesteads? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Inside the mind of a post-apocalyptic dog

At first I wondered how far a story from the point of view of a swearing cockney dog could go.

At least across post-apocalyptic London.

The Last Dog on Earth is told mostly from the point of view of Lineker the dog, but alternates between him and the journal of his cripplingly shy owner, Reginald Hardy.

Linekker calls him “Two-Plates.” Two Plates – Plates of Meat – Feet. Two Feet. Cockney rhyming slang is simple?!

I have to say of the two, Lineker is the most interesting. Once he got inside my head, I couldn’t stop imagining what it would be like to think like a dog:

“I’m skittering and sliding, halfway across the floor before I even know I’ve left my bed. And he’s rubbing his hairy face and scratching that huge arse of his, releasing that heavenly aroma of salt, peat and tripe that’s all for me and before he knows what’s happening I’m in the air and bouncing at him – bounce, bounce, bounce until he gets down and gives me a scratch…face-to-face so I get the sweet fog of his breath, a rich soup of saliva and half-digested food that’s been marinating beautifully for the last eight hours. And it’s too much, I just have to lick him…” (p.3)

The clever way that Adrian J. Walker describes a dog’s consciousness had me believing it.

Did you know that dogs can smell history? That explains why they take so long at lampposts.

That’s not all. Lineker reckons he can smell your dreams, too; memories; “the bone-bag abandoned on the moor,” and fear. Fear smells like voles.

Squirrels? Oil and eggs, of course. And spices – “like ants exploding up my nose” (p.4).

The good people of London have been betrayed by their affiliations on social media. The tension builds as Reg and Lineker attempt to take a little girl to safety, crossing the lines of two factions fighting for control and discovering a group of resistors.

But first, Reg has to get up the gumption to leave his secure little nest. And his fear of people touching him.

Walker uses a bird motif to great effect through the story. Poetic, this links events and is a vehicle for Lineker’s longing to escape the confines of regularity to explore the wildness of life.

Filled with “good bits” and “bad bits” poignant and pondering between small bouts of brutality, The Last Dog on Earth is also laugh out loud funny.

The Dog muses on the human condition since wolves came down from the hills to join the human’s campfires; his adoration for his master, and food, among other things:

“I stand on the brink of this new world of breakfast, trembling like a pilgrim father in the waters of Cape Cod. And then it comes and the smell smashes into me…my bowl’s on the floor and I’m in it, chomping it, inhaling it. By the time it’s done, I can barely remember who I am or what it was I just ate…”

Walker played with my expectations at the end, delivering a twisted conclusion. I could have (almost) killed him.

Happy Year of the Dog!

More dog stories

Garden CATastrophe

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a cat in possession of a good family, must be in want of another garden to do its business in.

Why, oh why do cats feel the need to cause disruption in the surrounding neighbourhood by leaving unwelcome little packages dotted on newly turned soil or – even worse – having spent hours on your knees planting and/or sowing and generally feeling quite good about your gardening efforts, a few hours later there is a trail of destruction ending with displaced earth and a ruddy great hole containing debris that you want to hurl at said perpetrator of the crime.

The neighbours feign amazement when, in passing conversation over the fence, you allude to the fact that your garden is being treated in this cavalier fashion and are smug in the knowledge that their cat wouldn’t be guilty of such heinous crimes as it is a well-known fact that they faithfully use their cat litter facilities.

Of course, cats are invariably both smart and brazen and they don’t feel the need to cover their tracks. They certainly aren’t visible as the guilty culprit when the dastardly deed has been chanced upon. And what if you have several contenders for the nuisance award … You barely flinch when it happens the first time but then, over a period of time, when yet another plant has been uprooted from the security of its new little home and left a bedraggled mess just a few centimetres from its once promising new start in life, your thoughts turn to RE-EDUCATION! Is it even possible?

As kitten season has just arrived, here are a few books and magazines that prospective owners might feel inclined to flick through to keep their kitten/cats on the ‘straight and narrow’ INSIDE which may/may not make them behave better OUTSIDE (not holding my breath though).

Maybe gardening and cats are just an incompatible combination (especially when you don’t own the latter). Anyway, there a lot of practical tips ‘n tricks available via various formats within the library – so good luck with the training of the new recruits to your household and a Merry Christmas to one and all!!

In their own gardens pleeeaaasssseeee

A new whale for a new generation

It looks just like the original.

Many might assume that an old friend has returned to New Brighton.

But it is, in fact, a replica.

At the Whale Pool, 1970. Kete Christchurch. PH14-307. Entry in the 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt. Creative Commons License

Along with the lighthouse, the concrete whale has been an iconic feature of the pool at the New Brighton playground for over forty years. Known as the ‘whale pool’, such is the attachment that local residents have towards it, that when a survey was held in 2016, asking them what they expected from a redevelopment of the playground and pool, 90 per cent of the respondees stated that they wished for the whale to remain.

Children of Christchurch were first introduced to the whale in 1971, when, after years of planning, the playground opened on 16 December.

The origins of the playground lie in the formation of the New Brighton Pier and Foreshore Society which was established in 1964 to save the historic New Brighton pier (built in 1894) from demolition. Although the pier was eventually demolished in 1965, the society continued to serve the community. In 1967 the organisation decided to build a children’s playground and pool.

The northern carpark by the beach was chosen as the location, and in 1968 proposed designs were made. In the following year they were submitted to the Christchurch City Council but these were rejected as inadequate. To remedy this, the society hired a professional architect to bring their plans up to a required standard. Eventually these plans were scaled down, and when presented again to the council in 1971, they were approved. The pool and playground were completed in time for the summer holidays.

Like many of the other paddling pools in Christchurch, the whale pool was damaged during the February 2011 earthquake. Repairs were made and the pool officially reopened on 17 November 2012.

Whale Pool Re-opening Day – 17 November 2012. Kete Christchurch. Whale_Pool_Re-opening_Day_-_17_November_2012__DSCF3403. Creative Commons License

As early as 1998, there had been discussions surrounding the concept of a saltwater hot pool complex at New Brighton. After the restoration of the whale pool, the idea was raised once again. In December 2016 the council approved the funding for the Beachside Playground and coastal protection works to be carried out by Development Christchurch Limited. Construction on the new playground began in August 2017 after a sod turning ceremony was held.

Although it was initially planned to keep the old whale (but with a new water jet installed), an engineer’s assessment found that it would not survive the relocation. Given that it was important for the whale to remain a part of the playground, a fibreglass mould was made and a replica whale produced. The ‘clone’ of the original was set into place on 5 December.

The new playground (complete with replica whale) is scheduled to open on Wednesday 20 December 2017 at 10.30am.

Find out more