Awards


Everyone knows about Road Rage – where all other drivers are idiots, your blood pressure soars, you discover swear words you weren’t aware you knew and, when you glance in the rear view mirror to glare at another driver, you don’t recognise the face looking back at you.

But you may be less familiar with Book Rage. Some of the symptoms are similar, but it usually happens at a book club, surrounded by friends, eating delicious nibbly things, sipping wine and doing what you love best – talking about books. And then WHAM, out of the blue, Book Rage flares up.

I’ve belonged to reading groups most of my adult life and here are four of the books that nearly tore those groups asunder:

  • Cover of The SlapThe Slap (Christos Tsiolkas). You don’t know who you are as a parent until someone else slaps your child. At a barbie. The discussion might start out civilised, but child rearing practices can divide even loving couples, never mind a group of ladies only loosely linked by their love of books. Be warned, it could turn ugly.
  • Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen). No one saw this coming, but in retrospect, books about animals do run the risk of degenerating into  emotionally charged “cruelty to animals” accusations. These are always taken personally. You may not get offered a second glass of wine.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (E. L. James). This was a particularly tricky one for me as I had already taken a vow not to even touch the book. So this book was already causing me significant stress in the workplace. When it showed up at my book group, I launched into a vitriolic attack on it – even though I had not read it, and never ever would. This stance neatly divides people  into those who believe you can’t have an opinion on something you haven’t tried, and the rest of the thinking world.
  • Cover of The Grass Is SingingThe Grass is Singing (Doris Lessing). Most Book Rage starts like this. One person (in this case me) puts a book she loves into the club. Someone in the group responds with comments like: “I never knew any Rhodesians like that” or: “This book is rubbish“.  Next thing I hear myself saying: “Well, you’re wrong” and recklessly amping it up to – “You’re all wrong“. Then I stomped out of the room to the toilet where I tearfully felt I would have to leave any book group that did not appreciate a Nobel Prize winning author. When I looked in the mirror, I saw staring back at me a person I barely recognised. A horrible book snob. I returned to the group. They gave me a cupcake and a coffee. I took Doris Lessing out of the club. We never spoke of it again.

How about you? Do you have any books that have have caused harsh words to be said, that have cut deep beneath the veneer of  civilised behaviour, that have lost you friends?

A book that maybe made you learn something about yourself?

3D craftsCheck our the Learning Centre holiday programme – starting after Easter. Digital storytelling, Lego animation, Minecraft craft in combination with the awesome MakerCrate crew – lots of fun and learning for kids.

Take a look at what the kids did in the January holidays.

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March 21 is the 78th anniversary of the birth of Margaret Mahy. Although it has been nearly two years since she passed away on July 23 2012, her name is still in the news.Book Cover of Magical Margaret Mahy

Plans are full steam ahead for the Margaret Mahy Family Playground. Billed as ‘the most amazing playground’ the city has ever seen, it promises activity zones aimed at different ages, comfortable places for adults to supervise and relax, and challenging play equipment, all inspired by the stories of Margaret Mahy.

It’s almost time for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards to begin. The finalists will be announced on Tuesday 8 April, and the winners will be announced on Monday 23 June. The supreme winner wins the title of New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, and an additional $7500 prize. The award was re-named in honour of Margaret Mahy in 2013 and Into the River by Ted Dawe won the inaugural award.

If you are itching for some Margaret Mahy screen goodness, you can check out full episodes of her award-winning TV adaptions and scripts on NZ On Screen:

The Haunting of Barney PalmerCover of The Haunting
Which ’80s kid wasn’t totally freaked out by this spooky film?

Strangers
This thriller inspired many a secret gang and clubhouse in the playground.

Cuckoo Land
If you haven’t seen this psychedelic, video-effect laden show, narrated by Paul Holmes, you should stop reading this and check it out immediately. I don’t remember seeing it as a kid, possibly because my parents thought it was some sort of medication-induced hallucination.

For the full list of Margaret Mahy media, head over to the NZ On Screen site.

If watching these makes you want to get back into some the source material, check out our full list of Margaret Mahy titles  on our catalogue and revisit some childhood favourites.

Then get onto our Margaret Mahy pages and check out the latest, and sadly last, titles published by this Kiwi taonga.

Cover of Footsteps through the FogCover of The Man from the Land of FandangoCover of The Green Bath

Because I haven’t got enough reading to be going on with this year, what with a For Later list of only 410 titles Cover: Franny and Zooeyand a New Year’s Resolution to read a mere seven books off The Guardian Best Books of 2013 list, I eagerly agreed to a colleague’s challenge to play Reading Bingo with her.

When I counter-challenged her to #readwomen2014 she raised me A Year in Reading and we were off. So far I have managed four things off Reading Bingo, but my sheet doesn’t have the tidy lines that were so exciting on Housie cards in 1970s booze barns, more a scattered set of crosses. I’m too busy trying to make one book do for two challenges to be systematic.

So far I’ve only managed it with Franny and Zooey. It met both the Reading Bingo challenge of reading “A book that is more than 10 years old” and the Year in Reading challenge “In January read a book published the same year you were born”.

The trouble with reading a lot is that it just makes you want to read more. Franny and Zooey reminded me of how much I loved the Glass family and how I should go back and read all the Glass stories. At least they’re short.

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life (Guardian Best Books of 2013) made me think I should read about her family and more of her fiction before I embarked on her biography. Happily I could use The Knox Brothers for “A book of non-fiction” in Reading Bingo.  And perhaps the The Golden Child could do for “The first book by a favourite author”(it’s her first fiction book).

Then I foolishly left myself short of books when on holiday and had to buy a second-hand copy of Middlemarch. Cover: My life in MiddlemarchI’d  always planned to read it after listening to it on talking book, but it’s languished on my For Later list for years. The task became more urgent when it had to be read before My Life in Middlemarch, a book about how important books can be in our lives. As if I need to read about reading. But it has had great reviews and Rebecca Mead’s New Yorker pieces are always good.

Unfortunately I’m so deep in my reading challenge addiction I chose an edition of Middlemarch with a blue cover  just so I could cross off the “A book with a blue cover” Reading Bingo  square . It’s so musty it nearly asphyxiates me every time I open it  and as I finish each page it detaches itself from the ancient glue that has held the book together for the last 40 years.

And now Book Club has decided to read the 2013 Man Booker short list so we can judge whether The Luminaries deserved to win.  And I’ve already read the shortest book on the list. Sigh.

It’s a bit tragic, but the challenges have actually given me a new enthusiasm for reading. Now to manipulate the Man Booker short list titles into meeting at least two criteria of my reading challenges each…

Cover of The Most of Nora EphronWhen Meg Ryan mimed an orgasm in a diner in When Harry Met Sally and a nearby customer said: I’ll have what she’s having, that was Nora Ephron making her mark as one of the soon-to-be most quoted contemporary authors.

Nora Ephron (May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) was a screenplay writer and director of such formidable movie successes as Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally,  and Julie and Julia, as well as the author of several books, columns, reviews and blogs.

Ephron made me  feel OK about growing up (Wallflower at the Orgy), breaking up (Heartburn) and growing older (I feel bad about my neck). She didn’t write to change our lives; instead her writing retells our lives to us in a way that sparks recognition, affirms who we are and makes us laugh while we are at it.

From this you can tell that I am a huge Ephron fan and the arrival of her biography  The Most of Nora Ephron is therefore a great joy to me. In fact, my life story can just about be summarised in Ephron quotes:

  • On education:If you love architecture, you need to do more than marry an architect.
  • On betrayal: If I had to do it again, I would have made a different kind of pie. The pie I threw at Mark made a terrific mess, but a blueberry pie would have been even better, since it would have permanently ruined his new blazer, the one he bought with Thelma.
  • On growing older: Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth. You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t have to if it had a neck.

I love her writing. I want to write like this.

How about you, do you have an author of whom you can honestly say:

I’ll have what she’s having?

book cover for The gathering of the lostWe are always exited when a local writer achieves success on a wider stage – look at the fuss over Eleanor Catton. Even more so when they do so in a bold way – certainly Eleanor Catton has done that with her massive, specifically structured novel.

Now we can add Christchurch writer Helen Lowe who has boldly launched into a 4 novel fantasy series. Her first novel in the series, The heir of night, won a top international prize (the Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer) and now the second in the series The gathering of the lost, published last year, is shortlished for the David Gemmell Legend Award for best fiction.

Publicly announcing you are writing a 4 novel series seems a very brave thing to do. Can you keep the story and characters credible over 4 books? Keep them interesting and maintain the standard? Fans can be exacting.

We’ve written about and talked to  Helen Lowe before as she has pursued her exciting and successful career. Berinda Joy did an in depth interview with her in 2010 following the cancellation of The Press Writers Festival 2010.

Here is her latest interview with the award organisers.

If you are a Helen Lowe fan you may like to visit her website or follow her blog – she writes regularly about writing, poetry and the genres of fantasy and science fiction.

Cover of HousekeepingI don’t have a sister. Instead I am the grown-up equivalent of all those children who create imaginary friends – I have an imaginary sister. Talented in ways I can only dream of, she is, however, as bewildered by bridge as I am and amazingly, she’s much worse at ball sports. She lives on a rambling estate with a retreat that offers exotic beauty treatments and delicious food. As you can see I have given this a fair bit of thought.

Normally my sisterless state doesn’t bug me at all, but when I read good books where sisters feature, I feel a little pool of loss.  Pulitzer prizewinning author Marilynne Robinson’s book Housekeeping (a book with a terribly misleading title and cover – way to go Mr Publisher) is one such book. Listed by The Observer as one of the 100 greatest novels of all time, this little book is that rare thing: totally readable literature.

In the spirit of sisterhood, I asked those friends of mine who have female siblings to tell me of any novels that they felt really got to the heart of this sister thing. Here are some of their choices:

But the Big Question for me remains: What’s the difference between a really good friend and a sister?  And where is the book that has this as a theme?

I bet my imaginary sister would know.

Here is the 2013 shortlist for the Man Booker Prize – announced last night (Tuesday 10 September):

Cover of We need new names Cover of The Luminaries Cover of Harvest Cover of The lowland Cover of A Tale for the time being Cover of The testament of Mary

Kiwis are abuzz with the news that our gal Eleanor Catton has made it through to the shortlist. Here’s some of the action on Twitter. Firstly, from Eleanor:

And then the commentary:

The winner is announced on 15 October 2013.
Congrats Eleanor, we are rooting for you to knock the bstard off!
#letsgonemanbooker

Last night was a big booky shindig – the New Zealand Post Book Awards. I stayed up past my bedtime following the  #nzpba hashtags on Twitter last night – and there is still action on it this morning as people discuss the winners.

Take a gander at the 2013 winners and get them out of your local library – top notch reads one and all:

Cover of The big music Cover of Nga Waituhi o Rehua Cover of Patched Cover of The Darling North Cover of Hanly Cover of Shelter from the storm Cover of Civilisation

New Zealand Post Book of the year and Fiction winner

The big music Kirsty Gunn (Faber & Faber)

Māori Language Award

Dame Katerina Te Heikōkō Mataira for Ngā Waituhi o Rēhua (Huia Publishers)

People’s Choice Award

Fiction

Poetry

Illustrated non-fiction

Nielsen Booksellers Choice

Shelter from the Storm: The story of New Zealand’s backcountry huts Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown and Geoff Spearpoint (Craig Potton Publishing)

General non-fiction

New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) Best First Book Awards

Cover of I got his blood on me Cover of Graft Cover of Moa

NZSA Hubert Church Award for Fiction: I got his blood on me Lawrence Patchett (Victoria University Press)

NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry: Graft Helen Heath (Victoria University Press)

NZSA E.H. McCormick Best First Book Award for Non-Fiction: Moa: the life and death of New Zealand’s legendary bird Quinn Berentson (Craig Potton Publishing)

cover of The luminariesThe literary pages here are abuzz with the news that “one of our own” appears in the Man Booker Prize longlist. Youth, talent, partly raised in Christchurch and graduate of the novel factory (aka Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters) – Eleanor Catton is ticking a lot of boxes.

Also rather freakishly her novel The luminaries is set on the West Coast, where our last big international literary splash Keri Hulme set her Booker Prize winner The bone people. Apart from that the two writers and their work could not be more different, and that’s how it should be if we have a developing a varied body of writing in our culture. In fact I was just remembering that The bone people was originally published by a women’s collective here in New Zealand. Contrast with The luminaries – hardbound editions for the UK, the USA and here. You can read more about Keri Hulme’s win on NZhistory. (including the classic quote from Joanna Lumley who was one of the judges that year  ‘The so-called bitchy world of acting was a brownie’s tea party compared with the piranha-infested waters of publishing’.

It must be pretty exciting to see your work up there listed with such luminaries as Colm Toibin, Ruth Ozeki and Jim Crace.

The Man Booker judges this year are Robert MacFarlane, Martha Kearney, Stuart Kelly, Natalie Haynes and Robert Douglas-Fairhurst . All are writers, reviewers and academics. They had to read 151 books before they produced the longlist.

The shortlist will be announced on 10 September 2013  and the winner on 15 October 2013.

As usual the bookies are circling and offering odds. William Hill is offering 5 to 1 on Jim Crace and 6 to 1 on Eleanor Catton and Colm Toibin.

The Guardian describes the list as “daring and experimental”  and you can read plenty of other comment there too.

Already our copies of The luminaries are accruing a bit of a waiting list. Maybe you should pop out and buy – support New Zealand writers. And by the by – who designed that striking cover…?

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