Having sleeping problems?

Book cover of Relief from SnoringSleeping should be easy, but as every newborn shows, it isn’t always child’s play.

Tess Graham, author of Relief from Snoring and Sleep Apnoea, thinks she can help us have a more restful sleep and more energy by changing the way we breathe. Tess is based in Australia but is visiting Christchurch to share her expertise.

Come along to South Library on Thursday March 5  from 11 am to 12 pm to hear Tess talk about healthy breathing habits. To find out more information and book your place, look at our events page.

Library resources to help with sleep

Books about sleep disorders
Books about helping your baby sleep
Music for relaxation
Articles about sleeping in Health & Wellness Resource Center
Fact sheets, articles and videos about sleep in Consumer Health Complete

Looking again at 1914 – an interview with military historian Peter Hart

pete03Peter Hart has been Oral Historian at the Imperial War Museum since 1981. He has written a number of books about various aspects of the First World War, including Gallipoli and aerial warfare. His latest book is Fire and Movement, which takes a fresh look at the British Expeditionary Force in August 1914.

In this book you look at some of the myths that have grown up around the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in 1914. How far do you feel that anything new can be said about the First World War?

It is not so much that anything new can be said – it is that ideas and concepts hitherto largely the province of historians and academics can be presented to a wider audience in a manner which is readable and entertaining. This is greatly helped by using carefully sieved personal experience accounts to bring the mingled drama, horrors and dark humour of the battlefield home to the reader. Popular histories often merely regurgitate myths based on wishful thinking and wartime propaganda. This is especially the case early in the war where we have the legend of the ‘Old Contemptibles’ of the BEF on the Western Front in 1914. Sheer nonsense that ignores what the Germans and French Armies – the main fighting forces during the huge Battle of the Frontiers and the Battle of the Marne – were doing in favour of nationalistic breast-beating myths. The real story of the BEF is far more believable and interesting. We should take pride in what people actually achieved – not in popular myths.

You mention that the British had prepared for war ‘but not for the type of war that faced them in 1914′. Why was the actual war different to what was expected?

There are a variety of reasons. It is always difficult to prepare for the unknown, armies nearly always reach back to their last major conflict for inspiration and a tactical guideline. In the British case this was the Boer War which proved sadly misleading. Little could be gained in preparing for a continental war with armies counted in millions, by analysing skirmishes with Boer guerrillas. The eventual British success based on fast-moving columns and blockhouse bases, led to a fixation with mounted infantry (later overthrown) and light artillery. Officers were thinking, developing their tactics and bringing in new weapons, but Britain had no large-scale training grounds on which to have full-scale realistic exercises. Budgetary constraints imposed by the government also meant that identified needs – such as more machine guns – were refused on financial grounds. Britain was not alone in this problem, but her situation was far worse as she had allotted most of the defence/war budget to the Royal Navy the force on which the whole British Empire depended. The army was a small afterthought, deployed with little strategical analysis to bolster the French Army. Thus the BEF was thrust into a continental war for which it was not prepared.

You’ve now written many books about the First World War, what is it about this conflict that keeps you coming back for more? What First World War books have inspired you?

I have always been fascinated in the Great War since I saw the television series in the 1960s and began reading the veterans published memoirs as a young bespectacled geek. Of these I particularly remember the Joseph Murray book Gallipoli As I saw it and the John Terraine masterpiece, Douglas Haig: The Educated Soldier. When I began to work as the oral historian at the Imperial War Museum back in the 1980s I had the pleasure of interviewing over 150 veterans in great detail – of which one was Joe Murray who recorded over 20 hours – wow! The synthesised results are finally being published in August of 2015 – in some ways the culmination of my professional work. I think I was attracted to the war because we all wonder how we would have coped with those nightmarish conditions and the hell of ‘going over the top’. At first I was filled with a fury at the ‘stupidity’ of the generals.

Later on, I was taught the reality by a combination of the veterans, my colleagues and some brilliant historians like John Terraine. Now I find the sheer complexity of the war mindboggling, there was no ‘easy way’ to victory and if you engage in continental warfare with a major power then hundreds of thousands of men will die. Put bluntly: to beat the German Army you have to kill 2-3 million of the best trained and equipped soldiers in the world. This is a murderous business however you look at it.

Do you have any thoughts around how public libraries can engage with the First World War centenary?

I think the Great War is not something to be celebrated. Personally I am interested in the war as a historical event to be studied and understood as widely as possible – the sentimental centenary side of it passes me by a bit. Yet I fully accept that we should never forget all those on all sides who died or had their lives ruined in that terrible conflict. I just think their memory is best served by establishing what really happened to them and why. Having said all that then Canterbury Library seems to be on the right track! Making historical resources freely available so that people can look up relatives/local people and see what they wore, how they lived and where/why/how they fought. Small on-site displays can be very effective in sucking in interest. Online exhibitions are great and the use of social media including Blogs, Facebook and Twitter feeds can help increase awareness of our subject. Booklists are great in leading people towards a new world of learning – as long as they are not merely a list of books spouting mythologised nationalistic rubbish. The centenary could be an opportunity to gain a realistic perspective; but it could be a disaster if we fail to challenge historical untruths – or as some would call them – lies.

Tell you what – Read this book

Tell you what book launch, Scorpio BooksLast night there was an event at Scorpio Books in Christchurch to launch Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction, 2015.

It was a bit of a homecoming – the origin of this book was co-editor Jolisa Gracewood in Connecticut observing Christchurch after the September 2010 earthquake. Her eagle eye took note of some great writing that our earthquakes “shook loose”.

Contributors Megan Clayton, Lara Strongman, Nic Low, and David Haywood read a sampling of their essays. We heard about birth, about messages from the past to the future, about Ōtautahi loosing itself, and ratty haircuts.

Each tale and teller different, unique. But in all of the stories, you felt the personal and the universal.

Tell you what is an omnium gatherum of great recent New Zealand writing, mostly from out on the Web. If you wanted to compare it to food – you could say a degustation or tasting plates – but actually the essays are more substantial than that. Each piece is a complete meal and you can dip in and read, or devour it cover to cover (I did the latter). It features Eleanor Catton, Elizabeth Knox, Tina Makereti, Steve Braunias, Naomi Arnold, snails, cycling, gardens, Kim Dotcom, and Rihanna’s tattoo.

It is a great book. Read it.

Tell you what book launch, Scorpio Books
Tell you what book launch, Scorpio Books

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Heaven knows I’m miserable now – The Morrissey autobiography

Cover of AutobiographyMorrissey is one of the most provocative and polarizing musical personalities there is – He’s idolized with a cult following. Many seem to loathe him. And many (like me), like and dislike him at the same time.

Morrissey has a ‘rep’ for winding people up with his inflammatory statements and no one is excluded from his critiques regardless of how important or well liked they are – The Royals (his “We hate Will and Kate crusade), other artists (calling Madonna “McDonna”) and general irreverence whatever the subject or personality.

That’s why his autobiography was such an anticipated read … Oh yeah, also the fact that his band The Smiths, was one of the most pioneering musical acts ever – arguably conceiving the Indie sound/genre, or at least being very influential in the indie-rock scene.

Typical of most things Morrissey, his book immediately elicited a controversial response from book buffs as it was published as a Penguin Classic. This roused literary people to storm the gates of Penguin or take it to the internet. One reviewer has referred to the work as Morrissey’s “droning narcissism and the whine of self pity”, however, I feel this is more a response to the persona than the pen-work, as Morrissey possesses a knack for writing that most musicians (and writers) don’t.

His autobiography begins with funny and sad insights into the many and varied aspects of his life, much of which has little to do with his and guitarist Johnny Marr’s song writing success. There are the subjective details and impressions of life growing up in “forgotten knife plunging Manchester” in the 1960’s, where “the birds abstain from song”, the “1960s will not swing” and the alleys “have cracked under duress like the people who tread them”. Sounds depressing but provides a well articulated, intimate and almost sociological picture of rough industrialized 1960/70s England which makes me feel very grateful for growing up in this verdant city.

The rigid, hyper-authoritarian education system of the 1960s is also illuminated with funny treatments – he was among the unwashed pickpocket children under the authority of Headmaster Coleman who “rumbles with grumpiness in a rambling stew of hate”, the “bearded nun who beats little children” and other teachers who will “die smelling of attics”. Perhaps an exaggerated recollection but one that no doubt provides echoes for people who were caught up in the system of the time. Morrissey portrays Manchester life as seemingly soulless, forever wet and working class, which he laments over throughout the first thirty pages with singing possibly the only way out.

Beyond this Morrissey discusses all manner of subjects: his musical influences, poetry, his sexuality and romantic interests (subject to speculation over many years due to his self -proclaimed asexuality), his acrimonious relationship with his record company Sire and then there is the bitter and drawn out recollections of a court case involving him against other band members – I found this hilarious, however, other reviewers dismiss this portion of the book as being a highly subjective rant void of self scrutiny. But who would really know?

Adding to the texture of the book are his various interactions with other famous people – David Bowie comes up a bit and is referred to disdainfully as “flesh eating Bowie” (due to Morrissey’s ardent vegetarianism). He states candidly that Margaret Thatcher should have been assassinated, which is no surprise given his song “Margaret on the Guillotine”. Other musical and political figures are given a beautiful or brutal treatment depending on his preferences.
If you like music, give this a read. If you like The Smiths or Morrissey, its a must. It might make you angry, or it might make you laugh. Or in True Morrissey fashion it will probably do both.

Read (and listen) more

Cover of Meetings with Morrissey Cover of A light that never goes out Cover of Mozipedia Cover of The Smiths

Off (and on) the shelf

One of my many tragic New Year’s resolutions is to end 2015 with a smaller For Later shelf than I began it with. I’m starting as I mean to go on by shortening For Later to F. L.

Cover of Hockney Volume 1: the BiographyThe futility of this endeavor was immediately evident when I read Volumes One and Two of a new biography of David Hockney. It’s a brilliant and compelling portrait of the artist as a young man and as an older one still as passionate about his work as he ever was. Seemingly two off the shelf, but then a new book came out about Ron Kitaj, a friend and contemporary of Hockney’s, so that had to be added to the F. L. shelf.

The whole Zenny Zennishness of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying was thought-provoking, inspiring and amusing. Perhaps more amusing than inspiring – I laughed out loud in some parts, but I did not start talking to my clothes.

It was also satisfying to have this one off the shelf after a long wait on the Holds list. I did learn that photographs are the hardest things to get rid of. And adult children please note – storing stuff at your parents’ houses is not tidying. It is transferring. Obviously my life was not changed because I had to add the Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide and Organize & Create Discipline to the F. L. shelf. Hope springs eternal.

Cover of 33 Artists in Three Acts33 Artists in 3 Acts was one of my best reads of 2014 and I cannot recommend it highly enough. You don’t read writing like this every day. However Sarah Thornton is so good she got me all excited about art again and I had to add at least two books: Jeff Koons and When Marina Abramović Dies.

Then there are the F. L. books I haven’t even read yet, just sitting there breeding new items. 10.04 by Ben Lerner has had great reviews. One mentioned that Harriet Lerner is his mother so then I had to add The Dance of Deception, having enjoyed The Dance of Anger years ago. One not off, one on.

Must do better.

Early New Zealand Women Writers. Some of their work described as racy and corrupting!

Check out some of our pioneer women writers. Some wrote very controversial books; many were published overseas and became hugely popular.

The Butcher Shop by Jean Devanny 
Cover of The Butcher ShopSet on a King Country Station, Jean Devanny’s  The Butcher Shop is about adultery and murder. It was described as disgusting, polemic and ahead of its time. It was banned on publication in New Zealand and in many other countries due to the violence, open sexuality and feminism portrayed within its pages.

The Story of a New Zealand River by Jane Mander
Jane Mander’s The Story of a New Zealand River is set in Northland and describes the issues faced when a local sawmill boss marries a cultured, piano-playing Englishwoman, who brings with her to the bush her children from a previous marriage. It has been suggested that this novel provided inspiration for elements in Jane Campion’s film The Piano.

Isabel Maude Peacocke 
Cover of The Story of a New Zealand RiverIsabel Maude Peacocke wrote children’s books and light romances set in Auckland. Although not well known in New Zealand, she had a large readership in England, where her work was published.

Nelle (Ellen) M. Scanlan
Nelle Scanlan wrote four family-sagas set in New Zealand. The novels in the ‘Pencarrow’ series (Pencarrow, Tides of Youth, Winds of Heaven, and Kelly Pencarrow) published between 1932 and 1939, portrayed early New Zealand as a prosperous thriving country. They were very popular and considered to have created an interest for New Zealand fiction in that era. Nelle also published many novels in England before writing the ‘Pencarrow’ sagas. She was the most popular New Zealand novelist of her generation.

New Zealand Holiday by Rosemary Rees
Rosemary Rees could be described as the pioneer ‘chick lit’ writer! She wrote racy romance novels, some of which were set on back blocks farms in the North Island. Her 84 novels became so popular that some were serialised in papers in America and Britain.

Breakfast At Six by Mary Scott
Mary Scott made international success with the writing of her rural domestic comedies which began with the publication of her ‘Barbara’ newspaper sketches in 1936. One of her most popular novels was Breakfast at Six about newlyweds and their life on a back-blocks farm and the problems and pleasures faced by a rural community in New Zealand. It was followed by the sequel Dinner Doesn’t Matter.

Ngaio Marsh
If you haven’t already, do try a Ngaio Marsh mystery. Described as one of the Queens of Crime Fiction of the 1920s and 1930s, she is probably best known for her wonderful detective novels featuring Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn; four of these (Vintage Murder, Died in the Wool, Colour Scheme and Photo-Finish) are set in New Zealand. You might also enjoy reading our blog posts about Ngaio Marsh.

Cover of Vintage Murder Cover of Died in the Wool  Cover of Colour Scheme Cover of Photo-finish

Please note that some of these books are only available at our Store. There is no public access to this collection, but you can place holds on most Store titles for borrowing. Reference only items held at Store can be sent to Central Library Manchester for viewing – please ask a librarian to arrange this for you.

The trouble with twins

Cover of Her Fearful SymmetryI am not a big fan of books that feature twins. Now read that sentence again carefully before you get all huffy. In fact, I love the few twins I have met; it is the use of twins as a plot device of which I am suspicious.

And what a lot of books fall back on twinniness. Have a look at this library list of 212 adult novels which feature twins. Here’s what I don’t like about twinny books:

  • I disdain books where the second twin is sprung on me near the end of the story and is the one who actually committed the murder/ theft/ betrayal – take your pick.
  • I am bored by books where the twins look exactly alike but behave completely differently, one all sweetness and light and the other a nasty piece of work.
  • I hate the deception played out in novels where the twins trick people through posing as one another.

Cover of SisterlandYet I have read some very good twin themed books:

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger involves not one but two sets of twins. Set in London opposite Highgate Cemetery, it becomes unforgettably creepy. Life After Death takes on a whole new slant in this very good read.

Sisterland is a novel by Curtis Sittenfeld. It stars two identical looking twins who aren’t at all alike. One of them has psychic powers that enable her to predict an earthquake in their hometown area. It could have been an awful book, but Sittenfeld is a very accomplished novelist – you are safe in her hands.

Christopher Bohjalian gives us The Night Strangers. It features twins, an old house, a plane crash that killed 39 people, an unhinged pilot father and a coven of strange ladies in the nearby village.

And then Cover of The Night Strangersthere is The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Karen recently reviewed this excellent book – have a look at her blog post. Suffice it to say that this is one of the few books that I have read twice – in my entire life. It is that good.

If you’ve read this far hoping for help with breastfeeding your newborn twins, getting them to sleep at the same time or dilemmas around developing their little identities – there is loads of stuff for you as well. And if you are a creative mum of twins who lives in a crumbling Victorian mansion (preferably on a moor) and have named your girls Violet and Carmine – give serious consideration to writing a book. You’ve got all the right ingredients!

Does anyone out there feel the same as I do about twinny books, or am I about to be shot down by flaming double-barrelled guns?

Gavin Bishop and Digital Stories at eBook Club

2014 ended with a flurry of creativity for the budding story tellers of eBook club at the South Learning Centre. After Skype interviewing our local legend, illustrator and author Gavin Bishop, the crew, armed with some great advice on how to become a successful story teller, began illustrating and creating their own digital story.

Gavin Bishop Skype Interview
Gavin Bishop Skype Interview
Ebook Club 2014

Some took inspiration from author Warren Pohatu and others created their own legend using Keynote and Paint.Net.

Many thanks to Gavin for generously sharing his wisdom and time.

Check out two of the stories from our fine young folk.

Sam
South Learning Centre

Challenge Confessions

O.K. it’s confession time. I have been an abject failure at meeting my reading challenges for 2014.

A Year in Reading started out well; January, February and March have ticks beside them. But then things went to pieces. By April I was trying to make Mary Poppins do double duty  – as a book that has been made into a movie (already checked off in March) and a re-read from childhood. Cheating on my reading challenges – that’s what it came to.

There were some books I did read, but not in the month assigned to them: Cover for Sydney

  • A book from another country – Sydney by Delia Falconer. (I think Australia counts as another country).
  • An award winner – Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín (actually it’s only been nominated for the Costa so far, but if there is any justice in the world it will win every literary prize going in 2015.) Cheating again – it’s a slippery slope.

Reading Bingo was marginally better, but again with the cheating.

  • A book with a blue cover – Middlemarch by George Eliot. Double cheat. Also June A Year in Reading – read that classic you have never read.
  • A book that is more than ten years old – Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger.  Double cheat –  January A Year in Reading – a book that was published in the year you were born.
  • A book that became a movie – Mary Poppins. Actually a triple cheat. There are no depths to which I will not stoop.

What challenges will I fail in 2015 I wonder? Should  I make not reading Ulysses an annual non-event?

The Thirteenth Tale

Cover of The Thirteenth TaleRecently, I have found that my book choices have been a little disappointing – in fact I could categorically state that they have not captured my imagination at all! A sad state of affairs. But that was before I came across The Thirteenth Tale… During my short Christmas holiday I spent any free time actively seeking out a quiet ‘nook or cranny’ where I could sit down and catch up with the action going on at Angelfield House

the imposing home of the March family – fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, Charlie, her brutal and dangerous brother, and the wild, untamed twins

YES, a Gothic mystery that has got me page-turning with great speed. Oh, I love a good Gothic novel – Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, and Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black to name but a few.

Cover of Bellman & BlackWritten by Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale has received a 4-star-rating in our catalogue and has elicited around 60+ positive comments by readers. I’ve started to look at ratings and comments in earnest, although I like to think that I am not swayed too much by opinion – I don’t want to miss something that I might enjoy. Setterfield’s latest offering, Bellman & Black, sounds promising and I might be persuaded to give it a whirl.

What ‘haunting’ reads would you recommend? And, tell me, do you read the comments in the catalogue? If so, do you let them guide your selections?