What was popular in 2015?

Cover of Through the seasons: The free range cookYou may have read recently in the media about the top titles borrowed from Christchurch City Libraries in 2015, but that just scratches the tip of the iceberg. We’ve got even more to share with you.

If the publishing industry is a literary popularity contest then these titles from our library collection are the cool kids in school.

In non-fiction last year food and health were the overriding themes. Last year’s king of the culinary castle, Simon Gault was ousted by kitchen queen Annabel Langbein in 2015 with her Through the seasons: The free range cook taking out top spot.

Honorable mention must go to Dr Libby Weaver for appearing no less than 5 times in the top 10 non-fiction.

Cover of PersonalIn fiction, Personal by Lee Child finally made the top spot after getting pipped at the post in 2014.

Mysteries, thrillers and suspense titles continue to be popular and is reflected in the most popular authors for adults list which for the second year in a row was topped by James Patterson, but there’s still ran audience for perennial favourites like Danielle Steel, and even more perennial Agatha Christie, whose popularity continues unabated.

Novels by Lee Child also make a strong showing in the top eBooks list (5 times in the top 20), though the number one spot goes to Eyes on you by Kate White.

The most popular eAudiobook was cross-generational film-franchise juggernaut The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, with the three books of the series taking out the top three spots.

In fact, books with successful movie tie-ins made up a whopping 14 out of the top 20 eAudiobooks, showing that fans of franchises like Harry Potter, and the Divergent series aren’t solely interested in the visual part of “audiovisual”.

Cover of We're going on a bear huntIn kids books, again classic titles were very popular with Michael Rosen’s We’re going on a bear hunt, originally published in 1989, continuing to find an audience and securing the number one slot.

Geronimo Stilton featured strongly in the most popular kids’ titles and was the overall most popular author of children’s books whilst still leaving room for old favourites like Enid Blyton, Dr Suess and Margaret Mahy.

For teens The maze runner by James Dashner was the most popular fiction title with several other “books of the movie” also appearing in the teens top 20.

Top of the top titles

Cover of Cross Justice by James Patterson    Cover pf The race against time by Geronimo Stilton Cover of The maze runner Cover of Eyes on you Cover of The hunger games

See more annual lists of popular titles.

The most popular items in our collection

The waywardness of the holiday reader

The first thing you seeI boarded the plane at the start of the hols with lists of Books That Must Be Read Now That I have The Time and stepped off QF139 a month later with a suitcase full of Books That Popped Up Quite By Chance. Here’s how it happened:

Even though my hand luggage contained a perfectly good aeroplane read, still the lure of Sydney Airport book store was too great to resist and I emerged with a book that I bought mainly because I love the cover and it has a compelling first sentence: “Arthur Dreyfuss liked big breasts.” It’s Gregoire Delacourt’s latest novel: the first thing you see and it turned out to be a perfect holiday read about looking beneath the surface – for the first thing you see isn’t always what you’d hoped to get.

The Carriage HouseI met my second holiday read in a bookshop attached to a café in my hometown – Durban. There is a happy sentence if ever there was one. It was a complete impulse buy, written by an author I’d never heard of (turns out it’s her first novel), with tennis (a game I deeply loathe) as a major theme, and about three sisters (I don’t even have one). Yet its siren call sucked me in, all within the space of a single cappuccino. The book is The Carriage House by Louisa Hall. Don’t be put off by the cover of the library copy, it is a great little holiday read.

GironimoMy third little find was at a local market in a small town on the west coast of South Africa at a second-hand book stall where, to my amazement, I spotted a book that more than one male colleague had recommended to me. (I have no idea why they would do this, as I have never ridden a bicycle in my life!) Gironimo by Tim Moore is the author’s reaction to the Lance Armstrong debacle which motivated Moore to redress the imbalance and do something totally authentic for cycling – ride the notorious 1914 Giro d’Italia (wearing period clothing) on a gearless, wooden-wheeled 1914 road bike:

What unfolds is the tale of one decrepit crock trying to ride another up a thousand lonely hills, then down them with only wine corks for brakes

So, like all good holidays, I started in one place and ended up somewhere completely different. I went with the flow. I was in the zone. And I had a terrific time.

Now back to my lists!

Resolving My Resolutions

I am firmly resolved not to make any New Year’s Resolutions this year.

Cover of The Calorie MythActually, I make the same statement at around this time of year every year without fail and invariably New Year’s Eve finds me trying to think of something that isn’t too ambitious so that I will not let myself down.

If these resolutions involve depriving myself of food or ramping up the ‘I don’t do any’ exercise regime, they are quickly kicked into the ‘totally undo-able’ bin. I have tried to commit to healthier eating and gentle, diligent exercise, but by about Day 5 I’m bored, bored, bored and bored with the whole idea. I need instant results with none of the hard labour!

Cover of The 100To help me feel better I thought I would see whether anyone else had the same failure rate as me. Unfortunately, typing in ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ in the library catalogue came up with Judith O’Reilly’s A Year of Doing Good. The author ’embarked on a mission to Cover of A Year of Doing Gooddo one good deed every day. Some called it a social experiment. At times she called it madness.’ My opinion is firmly anchored in the latter camp. Still, it did give me an idea… I am not making a Resolution, but I will try to read this book at some point during the year.

What ‘tried and tested’ Resolutions have proved successful for you?

Writing and writers

Cover of Pacific: The Ocean of the FutureWeeks after NaNoWriMo ended, and still no blog post! Alas, I didn’t reach 50,000 words — finished up around 35k — but I achieved my main goal, which was to write every day. I’ve continued to write on and off since the 30th, but Christmas panic is definitely descending so who knows how long that will last.

My current distraction has been flicking through the New Zealand Festival lineup, which will be held in Wellington next year. All of the events look great, but I’m especially excited about the Writers Week. I want to see almost all of them! I’ve narrowed it down to some favourites:

  • Kate Beaton. I’ve been enjoying her online comics since she was on livejournal.com, and I own all her published material (which now includes a picture book, the adorable Princess and the Pony). She is so clever and funny and writes about my favourite subjects (history! feminism! fat ponies!).
  • Jasper FfordeCover of Hark! A Vagrant. I haven’t got around to reading his more recently published works, but I thought the Thursday Next books were super fun. If you like quirky books about books, with dodos and national croquet, then start with The Eyre Affair.
  • Mariko Tamaki. I first came across her in collaboration with her cousin Jillian Tamaki, whose comic Supermutant Magic Academy came out this year. Together they’ve published graphic novels Skim and This One Summer, both beautifully illustrated reflections of adolescent experiences.
  • Simon WinchesterWriter of recreational non-fiction, most recently Pacific, all about our neighbouring ocean. I can’t wait to read it.

Needless to say there are loads of other authors I’d like to see, including Anis Mojgani (spoken word poet) who Alireads blogged about last year, but those are my top five.

Is anyone else planning on going to the New Zealand Festival? What events are on your must-see list?

New Zealand Festival

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Christchurch

Cover of Sherlock: The CasebookConfession time. I’ve never actually read any Sherlock Holmes stories. I even made a resolution to a few years back, and then the BBC started making the brilliant Sherlock series (and let’s not forget Elementary) and I never got any further. Why would I with Benedict Cumberbatch filling the Holmesian slot in my pop culture wishlist?

But perhaps I need to revisit this, for a couple of reasons. First, the Christmas break approaches and I should (theoretically, at least) have a bit of extra time up my sleeves with which to sink into a Victorian mystery.

Second, I’ve recently learned that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actually visited Christchurch. He arrived on 15 December 1920 to give a series of lectures at the Theatre Royal, mainly focusing on spiritualism.

The Conan Doyle Lectures, The Press, 15 December 1920
The Conan Doyle Lectures, The Press, 15 December 1920 via Papers Past.

While in Christchurch he stayed with the Kinsey’s on Papanui Road, who had, 15 years earlier, hosted another famous author in the form of Samuel Clemens or Mark Twain and in 1934 would play host to George Bernard Shaw.

You can read more about Conan Doyle’s interest in spiritualism and his New Zealand visit in this interesting article from Lost Christchurch.

For Doyle’s own reflections on visiting New Zealand read his 1921 book The Wanderings of a Spiritualist.

If, like me, you’re a Holmes novice then there’s no better place to start than at the beginning with the novel A Study in Scarlet before progressing on to the other novels and short stories.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in our catalogue

 

Cover of The Sherlock Holmes book  Cover of The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes Cover of Sherlock Holmes: The Collection Cover of The Hound of the Baskervilles

 

My word! Quotes by New Zealand women

Massey University has released a list of contenders for 2015’s Quote of the Year, and the lack of quotes by women was noted in  this article by Alex Casey in The Spinoff: Are New Zealand’s Quotes of the Year Really All By Men?

Word
WORD art in Auckland. Flickr: 2013-05-18-IMG_7052

This seems odd. There are heaps of top quotes from New Zealand women writers this year:

Paula Morris at the On belonging WORD Christchurch session.

People think when you’re a writer and you haven’t written a novel for ten years that you’re just lying around eating bon bons all day.

Fiona Farrell (at the Imaginary Cities WORD Christchurch session)

I find great poignancy & loveliness in our constant attempt to make life better.

Margaret Wilson is eminently quotable – here are some from her WORD Christchurch session on the struggle for sovereignty:

The economy is not an end in itself.

Dairy farmers will be sold out in the interests of getting a political agreement.

Media is owned by people who don’t give a stuff about the media.

At the Auckland Writers Festival, Aroha Harris said:

History is one of the most powerful colonizing tools available. Especially if you are writing it from your point of view as a hero.

Hmmmm.

For all you lovers of words, see also the splendiferous annual wordup Public Address word of the year.

Ten quotes from The Villa at the edge of the empire: One hundred ways to read a city

Cover of The Villa at the Edge of the empireNew Zealand’s most important book in 2014 was Dirty Politics by Nicky Hager. This year it is The villa at the edge of the empire: One hundred ways to read a city by Fiona Farrell.

I thought about how to express its power – it’s about Christchurch, but is bigger than that. It contains deep wisdom and a powerful historical sense. It is about the world. So I’ve decided to sample Fiona’s words – here are ten quotes.

1: This city took time to assemble. (p.55)

2: An earthquake is not simply a geological event. It occurs within a specific social and political context. (p.73)

3: For a second, as the entire city is flung into the air, there is unison. Then we fall back to earth and the map smashes into a hundred tiny pieces. (p.88)

4: In this city, it is easy to feel lost. (p. 103)

5: In the meantime, through the cracks, other kinds of art have emerged. The art gallery has been closed, but artists have covered walls newly exposed by demolition with imagery and colour. (p.129)

6: The personal is political. (p.158)

7: Forgiveness and retribution are a theme in L’Aquila, as they are in Christchurch. (p.224)

8: We are ‘stoical’. We are ‘strong’ and ‘southern’. To complain is to be a ‘carper’ or a ‘moaner’. It is a sign of weakness. Viewed from another city in another country, however, this resilience can also be seen as a weird suppressed passivity. (p.237)

9: I take a kind of deep comfort in reading thoughts prompted by an earthquake 2000 years ago and thousands of kilometres away. I like the vision of the world as a squirming thing filled with breath, not so far from the Polynesian vision of the great woman lying on her back with us all, naked as newborn kits, upon her belly. (p.248)

10: I’ve come to love this city … now it seems fragile, vulnerable and precious in that vulnerability, as do other cities in this country no matter how cocky they may have tried to be … (p343)

More Fiona Farrell

“For Later” lately (5)

In an attempt to tame her ever-growing For Later list,  Robyn has decided to share with us on a regular basis the titles that she has recently added to her list. The theory being that, even if she doesn’t ever get round to reading them, she can perhaps do so vicariously through you… So please do share your opinions of her picks – are they worthy, do you think, of inclusion in that lofty list?

Added to the For Later shelf recently:

Pink Up Your Life: The World of Pink Design
Cover for Pink Up Your LifeEmbarrassing but irresistible. Who knew there was such a thing as Pink Design? I’m game though. “Pink for old and young. Pink for everyone!” Perhaps a pink feature wall is just what I need.

The Hollow of the Hand by P. J. Harvey
Polly’s poetry combines with the images of photographer/film-maker Seamus Murphy to tell the story of their travels around the world between 2011 and 2014. Harvey wanted to “smell the air, feel the soil and meet the people of the countries I was fascinated with”.  Should be interesting.

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
Cover of City on FireOver 900 pages long – who am I kidding? But this highly hyped first novel is getting mentioned all over the show and the author looks to have good taste. He was in Vogue wearing a Comme de Garçons blazer; he likes Hilary Mantel and Patti Smith and he mentioned Philip Hensher‘s The Northern Clemency in an interview. And City on Fire has been called ‘a punk Bleak House‘.

The Face of Britain: The Nation Through Its Portraits by Simon Schama
Cover of The Face of BritainPortraits and Simon Schama seem like a good match; Schama has a lovely light touch with art and history. This book has been produced to accompany an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London where Schama considers what makes a successful portrait, grouping portraits from the gallery’s amazing collection into themes: Power, Love, Fame, Self and People. According to The Times reviewer Schama’s approach here is “not systematic but wonderfully compelling” and the book is “entertaining and idiosyncratic”. Let’s see about that.

Best fiction of the Year and otherwise – fiction selector Philip Tew

Cover of The girl on the trainYou’d think that the only novel published this year was The girl on the train and next year, when Emily Blunt has taken the train into town, it should continue dominating bestseller lists everywhere. There is, however, some murmurings in the publishing trade that “domestic no bliss at all” is starting to slow down.

Otherwise with fiction it was business as usual as Lee Child was way up there, along with all the old faithfuls from James Patterson who has cleverly cornered the adult, YA and children’s markets and must now have a houseful of writers turning his ideas into bestsellers.

Cover of The golden age of murderOne interesting trend is the republishing of old mysteries. It began with the British Library reprinting old Golden Age British mysteries. It would not have worked so well if they hadn’t been so well produced. English writer Martin Edwards provided interesting forewords and, if you are interested in the genre, we have his book The golden age of murder in the collection. Collins have now jumped into the market and are reprinting old mysteries from the likes of Edgar Wallace and Francis Durbridge (once a radio and television favourite).

Best reads of 2015

Widows and orphans Michael Arditti
A man who is trying to be good in a venal world is the main focus of this tale of the editor of a local newspaper in a seaside town and his nemesis, a greedy and coarse developer. Moral issues in a world where they are seen as irrelevant makes for a thoughtful and readable novel.

Cover of the real JustineThe real Justine Stephen Amidon
This American author is pretty good on the how we live now novel and this one combines this with a mystery plot involving a strange girl whose life is all over the place. Good social observation and a gripping plot.

Cover of Two acrossTwo across Jeffrey Bartsch
Two teenagers meet at a spelling bee in this first novel which is a likeable and droll tale about difficult parents, adolescent angst and creating crossword puzzles.

Cover of The year of fallingThe year of falling Janis Freegard
If you have lived in Wellington, you’ll love the atmosphere and background of this excellent novel. The story moves from Wellington to Iceland and the characterisation of two sisters, a child and an elderly neighbour is very well done and makes for an interesting and satisfying read.

Cover of GorskyGorsky Vesna Goldsworthy
The world of the obscenely rich Russian oligarchs in London and the story of a young bookseller who comes into this world when he has to assemble a library for one of them is the theme for this unusual and highly readable novel.

Cover of ChappyChappy Patricia Grace
This is a fascinating and touching novel where a young man learns the story of his Maori grandmother and Chappy, his Japanese grandfather. Beautifully written and my pick for the best New Zealand novel of the year.

Cover of High DiveHigh dive Jonathan Lee
Taking Irish terrorism and mixing it in with the Brighton bombing in the Margaret Thatcher era makes for a historical novel from the very recent past. The careful recreation of the time and place is beautifully handled. Especially good is the portrayal of the hotel staff, ordinary people who become caught up in big events.

Cover of Children of the masterChildren of the master Andrew Marr
The journalist and political commentator with his second satirical slap in the face for British politics. It’s set in 2018 where the Labour Party is in power and there are two candidates for the top job. Machiavellian in the extreme, this is an often funny and way over the top political black comedy. Of course we don’t believe ruthless opponents would use murder to get to the top but it makes for a good story. The Master, incidentally, has to be someone not a mile from Tony Blair.

Cover of The IlluminationsThe illuminations Andrew O’Hagan
Why this one didn’t get on the Man Booker Prize shortlist is a real puzzle. It’s a superb novel about Britain. Part of it is set in Ayrshire with an elderly lady who was once a leading documentary photographer in the 1960s. Her story is intercut with that of her grandson who has returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. A strong, forceful and moving book.

Cover of The Party LineThe party line Sue Orr
The author of some very good short stories made her novel debut with this story, set in the Hauraki Plains, where the arrival of a sharemilker and his outspoken (for this community) daughter question the assumptions of the place. The title is a clever one as it is the chief means of communication and also the way the community thinks.

Cover of I saw a manI saw a man Owen Sheers
A reporter whose wife has been killed returns to London and befriends the people next door. Through a misunderstanding something terrible happens, Moving from the affluent lives of the upper middle class to what happens when a tragedy occurs, this is a timely and gripping novel.

Cover of Mobile LibraryMobile library David Whitehouse
This excellent and underrated British author is remembered for Bed, his story of an obese man. The new novel is about a woman who cleans the mobile library and what happens when she takes to the road with her disabled daughter and a lonely boy. It is a bit far fetched but quite engaging.

Cover of My sunshine awayMy sunshine away M.O. Walsh
Down the Deep South tale in which a thirtyish man remembers his younger days and the whole suburban network of secrets and lies around the rape of a teenage girl. It’s a convincing portrait of a time and place and a very promising debut novel.

Visit our Best Reads 2015 page for more picks, and the chance to have your say.

Geraldine Brooks and the Pulitzer Surprise!

The Secret ChordWhen Geraldine Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize for her first novel March in 2006, she had no idea that her book was even up for consideration. At home with her eight year old son, painting figurines, she did not even believe the first caller. Her little boy answered the door when a florist delivery came and said: “Mummy can’t come now, she is having a Pulitzer Surprise!”

And last night in Christchurch at a WORD Christchurch event, The People of the Book were out in full force to hear Pulitzer prizewinning author Geraldine Brooks chat about writing and her most recent novel The Secret Chord. There – in Rangi Ruru’s beautiful new theatre – sat a petite, young Geraldine Brooks and her interviewer, Morrin Rout (wearing it must be said, distractingly eye-catching brick pattern tights). Let the excitement begin!

MarchGeraldine was originally a journalist who worked in the Australasian Bureau of The Wall Street Journal – a job which taught her that you can’t write around what you don’t know. She admitted to a New Zealand connection for her front page story on our research into Climate Change and Methane Gases – with its catchy title: The Farting Sheep Story.

When she talks about writing, Brooks several times made mention of finding the void in a theme and filling it:

Historical fiction works best when you have some blanks to fill. The trick is to let the story tell you what you need to know.

people of the BookThe viewpoints of different women is often the way for Brooks to get a fresh view on an old story that we think we know. It is still so true that you can get to powerful men through the women in their lives and she ranks an afternoon tea with Ayatollah Khomeini’s wife Khadijeh as one of the most remarkable afternoons of her life.

On her latest book The Secret Chord, she said her interest became piqued when her son asked for classical harp lessons (she’d been hoping for the recorder) and that David appealed to her as a character because every single thing that life can fling at you seemed to happen to him. She was particularly interested in how women affected David and how they wielded power in subtle ways.

Best of all Geraldine Brooks would slot right into any one of my book groups, her reading tastes are so similar. She is currently enjoying The Chimes by Anna Smaill (2015 Man Booker Prize longlist); thinks that the best book she has ever read is Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (who won the Pulitzer Prize the year before her in 2005); is a big admirer of Hilary Mantel and can’t wait for her next book and (Geraldine was born in Sydney) she admires Tim Winton‘s writing as well.

I’d had an evening of minor mishaps prior to this event: a near miss at the restaurant where I was to meet my colleague (we sat waiting for one another in different parts of the venue). Then we held up the signing queue trying to get my photograph taken with this wonderful author – in the end the photo was out of focus. In the confusion, Geraldine misheard and signed the wrong name in the book. It took time for her to draw flowers over the mistake and insert the correct name (that copy is now valuable!). Finally I lost my car keys and had what felt like the entire theatre in an upheaval helping me look for them. You’d be forgiven for thinking “I wish I’d also gone to hear Geraldine Brooks – just not with them!”

But, I drove home on a high – so happy to be in the car, moving through my mundane surroundings to my precious home, and all the time thinking: I have met a Pulitzer Prize winner. I am so fortunate.

We have Geraldine Brooks’ works in book, eBook, and eAudiobook format.

You can also listen to Geraldine talk about The Secret Chord on RadioNZ.