Bigger is Better (and just what your coffee table needs)

Yes, you could shell out over $100 to buy that enormous, spectacularly illustrated coffee-table-worthy publication you saw at Whitcoulls. Alternatively, you could use your free library membership to borrow one of Christchurch City Libraries’ own gorgeous, larger-than-life tomes. What is more, your coffee table can play proud host to a different book each month! Paris this week, Hieronymus Bosch the next…never again will you have to stare at the same photographs of wild bears for years on end because you were a poor student and could only afford the one, heavily discounted, over-sized ‘Spirit of the Bears’ from Borders (RIP).

A thoughtfully selected coffee table book can add that much needed pop of colour to a room. It can also provide an excellent conversation reviver, or swiftly become an effective weapon. There is a coffee table publication for you, whatever your requirements.

Here are some of our biggest and best (click on an image to find out more).

Just be sure to clear out some room in your boot first.

Cool stuff from the Selectors: Fiction and daughters

It would seem there is a daughter for every occupation, including a blind astronomer and a Can Opener.

Cover of The Glovemaker's DaughterCover of the Captain's DaughterCover of The Silk Merchant's DaughterCover of The Freemason's daughterCover of The Blind Astronomer's DaughterCover of The Locksmith's DaughterCover of The naturalist's daughterCover of The weaver's daughterCover of The doctor's daughterCover of The Shipbuilder's DaughterCover of The Lightkeeper's DaughtersCover of The Diplomat's daughterCover of The Sugar Planter's daughterCover of The Maskmaker's DaughterCover of The Painter's DaughterCover of The mad scientist's daughterCover of The Beekeeper's daughterCover of The murderer's daughterCover of The Can Opener's daughterCover of The Taxidermist's DaughterCover of The Undertaker's DaughterCover of The Bonesetter's DaughterCover of The Policeman's daughter

The many confusions of a new year

At the start of every new year I feel a certain sense of confusion. How will this year be for me? How will I be for this year? I feel very receptive to signs and portents at this time. Here’s what I’ve garnered so far:

Breakfast is a Dangerous MealWhat will I eat? Not breakfast as it turns out! The very latest foodsy trend knocks on the head the old notion that brekkie is the most important meal of the day, and does so with one of the cleverest cover designs so far this year! Terence Kealey’s Breakfast is a Dangerous Meal is a very well researched diatribe against early morning eating for diabetics, the overweight and those with blood pressure problems. How does he cope? “On waking I resort to a strong cup of black coffee; then I go for a run, a swim or a cycle ride. It helps that I have a job that I love.” Oh and Kay.

Goodbye ThingsWhat will I do? More tidying I’m afraid. Goodbye Things by Fumio Sasaki (who is quick to point out that he is no Marie Kondo) is just a regular messy guy who changed his life by getting rid of absolutely everything he did not need. The effects were remarkable: “Sasaki gained true freedom, new focus, and a real sense of gratitude for everything around him.” Sounds good – and there is no folding of clothing required.  If you can’t handle that, try Bohemian Residence instead which bills itself as being witty with: “lavish possibilities for contemporary city living”. There’s something about that word “lavish” that fairly screams “Bring Me My Eggs Benedict Now!”

I actually Wore ThisWhat shall I wear? Years ago I loved Trinnie and Susannah because they helped us work out what to wear by ruthlessly telling us what not to wear (everything we had in our wardrobes, as it turned out). I Actually Wore This (Clothes We Can’t Believe We Bought) is a happy reminder of that time in my life. Arty types and fashionistas reveal those items they bought and then never wore (or hardly ever). It is comforting to realise that we have all done this – bought an item for a New Year’s do, worn it once, then only dragged it out again as a kind of fancy dress item for Halloween. This book is visually pleasing and very wittily written. I now know that I must NEVER AGAIN be tempted by ethnic clothing while on vacation to exotic shores.

So there you have it: the all new, possibly snappy (no brekkie) 2018 Roberta. Neat and tidy, but whatever is that she is wearing?

Happy New Year!

Ultra Violet to Aubergine: Reading purple

Last week Pantone announced their colour of the year for 2018* and fans of purple will be happy. Ultra Violet, as it is being called, is a “…blue-based purple that takes our awareness and potential to a higher level”.

While this might sound a bit of a big ask for a mauvey shade that might easily have been called “Nana’s lampshade”, it’s worth pointing out that when it comes to colours all sorts of meanings can be conveyed. Whether it makes sense to or not, we associate colours with feelings, ideas, and concepts and this fact is not lost on designers and artists.

I accidentally proved as much when I decided to scroll through books from this year, looking for those that were ahead of the field in featuring next year’s representative hue… and found patterns emerging.

Purple, on the whole, isn’t as popular a colour for book cover art as some others – black is very common in some genres, shades of blue turn up a lot, and if you like Romance fiction hopefully you’re not repelled by the colour pink…

In any event, here is how Ultra Violet groups itself in our catalogue, more or less.

Kids’ books

The cover art for kids’ books, as it is with their clothing, decor and other possessions, is a bit more exuberant with the use of colour than you find with the corresponding versions aimed at adults. Because time and age hasn’t made them love neutrals yet, I guess.

Graphic novels

Visual by their nature, it’s not a tremendous surprise that graphic novels would make good use of colour in the covers.

Cover of World trigger Cover of Rezero Cover of Spinning Cover of Magi Cover of Angel Catbird Cover of Black butler

Young Adult

Did you used to be a kid a little while ago? Then you might still be interested in some of those colours you used to see a lot of during childhood.

Cover of Shadowhouse Fall Cover of Firsts Cover of Jane unlimited Cover of Intensity Cover of Origins of evil Cover of Because of you Cover of The ends of the world Cover of Beasts made of night Cover of Ringer

Health, wellbeing and babies

Maybe it’s that purple is “gender neutral”? Maybe it’s that parts of your body sometimes go purple if they’re exerting themselves? Anyway, enjoy these kinder, gentler purple covers.

Cover of Myles textbook for midwives Cover of The Fibro manual Cover of Father therapy Cover of Cognitive behaviour therapy for OCD Cover of The Journey Cover of Baby names 2018 Cover of Resistance band workout Cover of The hormone myth Cover of the baby detective

Fiction (mostly mystery)

Here’s hoping they saved the purple for the cover, not the prose.

Cover of The Mitford murders Cover of Miraculous mysteries Cover of Shattered Cover of Barely legal Cover of Death in St Petersburg Cover of The locals Cover of The art of hiding Cover of Christmas in Icicle Falls

Tech, science and maths

Ha. Maybe purple really does “take our awareness and potential to a higher level”?

Cover of the night watchers Cover of Modern Java recipes Cover of Samsung Galaxy S8 Cover of Minecraft Cover of An introduction to linear algebra

Food

There aren’t that many naturally purple foods but, oh yes, there’s an aubergine in the mix there.

Cover of The flexible vegetarian Cover of The fearless baker Cover of What am I supposed to eat? Cover of Dinner with Dickens

The last word in purple covers

And while it’s not a new title, you can’t write a blog post about book covers that are the colour purple without mentioning The color purple.

More on colours

If this is a topic that’s of interest to you we have a number of really interesting titles about the history of colourcolour in art history, and the science of colour.

*Amazingly, Ōrauwhata: Bishopdale Library and Community Centre has managed to use 2017’s Pantone colour, a bright green, with a splash of Ultra Violet, that proves that it was super “on trend” when it opened earlier this year.

Sanitoriums and Dust Jackets: Cool Stuff from the Selectors

9780993191190Holidays in Soviet Sanitoriums

I couldn’t resist the title Holidays in Soviet Sanitoriums:

Holidays in the USSR were decidedly purposeful.  Their function was to provide rest and recreation, so citizens could return to work with renewed diligence and productivity

So, no lounging by the pool or sipping a pinacolada for these folk then?  The sanitoriums turned out to be a cross between a medical institution and a form of summer camp, complete with exercise regimes, edifying and educational talks, and strictly healthy but bland diets.

Many of these institutions have closed, some have become more like the western ideal of a spa complete with mud wraps and the like, while others have maintained their strict adherence to alternative forms of physical therapy.  For a fee, you can soak in crude oil, be wrapped in paraffin, wax, endure electrotherapy – or for the really adventurous, spend your summer vacation in a salt mine breathing in the pure minerals and sharing a curtained off dormitory area metres underground.

As well as the information about the therapies available, there is also fascinating insight into the architecture of the time with photographs alongside the interesting stories of the healing properties meted out in these unique institutions.

9780500519134The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970

I nearly always judge a book by its cover, it is an enticement…a taste of things to come, but I sometimes find myself  wondering if I have read a particular book as so many of the more recent book covers look very alike.

The covers in the era 1920-1970 were works of art in their own right.   Representing a variety of art styles from Art Deco, Modernism, postwar neo-romanticism and the intriguingly named Kitchen Sink School (Wikipedia tells me a form of social realism depicting the situations of the British working class), this book includes over 50 artists mainly from the US and the UK.  It is beautifully put together by the publishers Thames and Hudson and is a lovely book to dip into, both to read about the artists and to admire the beauty and detail of the covers.

Best book covers 2017 – My pick of New Zealand’s finest

It’s one of the pleasures as the year ends to slow down and smell the roses – or, in this case, stop and appreciate the book covers. Join me as I judge New Zealand books by their covers.

Christchurch Art Gallery

Gold medal winner for 2017 is our own Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu. It’s not a parochial choice. They’ve produced a standout series of publications to add to their award-winning output.

Aberhart starts here (by senior curator Dr Lara Strongman with Laurence Aberhart) is the companion book to the exhibition (on until 6 February 2018 – don’t miss it).  The striking cover cleverly matches Aberhart’s photo with the title added to the building as if it were graffiti, or a business name (in that attractive and distinctive typeface used in the exhibition). The text and the photos have been given room to breathe on the page. It’s a beautiful book with a kind of stately gravitas.

A more raucous beauty is Say something! Jacqueline Fahey by curator Felicity Milburn with Allie Eagle, Julia Holden, Bronwyn Labrum, Lana Lopesi, Zoe Roland and Julia Waite. Again, both words and images are placed to perfection on the page, with zingy pops of colour. The exhibition is on until 11 March 2018.

Christchurch Art Gallery have also made some rather stunning “Little Books” – (Birds, Sea, Flowers, Black – highlighting taonga from their collection. The covers are gorgeous, and the books have coloured page edges, foil, and ribbons to mark your page. Swoon.

The publication Bulletin always has outstanding covers to match its great content and striking internal visuals.  The colour scheme and Ann Shelton’s art on the cover of the latest issue are a visual symphony. B.189 had The Ramones on the cover!

Credit for this great mahi also goes to:

  • The students from the graphic design department at the Ilam School of Fine Arts who do the design on Bulletin;
  • Lecturer Aaron Beehre who is art director for Bulletin and who also designed the Little Books;
  • Photographer John Collie;
  • Designer Peter Bray who worked on the Aberhart and Fahey books.

Find books published by Christchurch Art Gallery in our collection.

Special mention

Illustrator Giselle Clarkson has had a phenomenal year.  Her art is full of life and fun. She created the much-shared biccies and slices taxonomy in Annual 2. Giselle does brilliant work in The Sapling, school journals – in all sorts of places and on wide range of topics (her natural history comics are fab). Kei runga noa atu – I would love to see a whole book by Giselle!

Here are some of 2017’s best covers:

Illustrators and artists

I particularly like the timeless quality of the first three covers. The historical tourist poster vibe of Maria McMillan’s The Sky Flier is quite striking too.

CoverCoverCoverCoverCoverCoverCoverCoverCover

Black and white and photographic

Photos are always a popular way of attracting a reader. I love the energy in Victor Rodger’s Black Faggot, showing the play in performance. and see that sense of motion and action in Floating Islander, Oxygen, and The Treaty on the Ground. In contrast see the stillness of Elspeth Sandys’ portrait, and the calm library depicted on the cover of The Expatriates.

CoverCoverCoverCoverCoverCoverCoverCoverCoverCoverCover

Colour

Magenta, lavender, pinky-purple – New Zealand book covers this year showed a bit of trend towards the pink side. I for one love it.  (Update: Spinoff books mentions book covers in their Second annual Spinoff Review of Books literary awards and picks the cover of Baby by Annaleese Jochems designed by Keely O’Shannessy as best cover).

CoverCoverCoverCover

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Te Reo Māori

Original NZ books in te reo Māori, and also translations of classics. It’s grand to see te reo front and centre.

CoverCoverCoverCoverCover

Aotearoa’s first bookface cover?

Tom Scott might be the first author to do a sort of #bookface cover. Well, technically, more #illustrationface – either way it’s a great cover.

Cover

Cute as heck

Finally, let’s place together two critters that ought not be proximate. They are both so phenomenally cute …

CoverCover

Browse more covers of  New Zealand books published in 2017

International “Best Book Covers” lists

Best book covers of previous years

For more on local book covers and design, see the PANZ Book Design Awards.

Library memories

9781452145402Having been a librarian for longer than I care to remember, the card catalogue holds a place dear to my heart. I remember as a library assistant filing new cards — one for the author, the title and the subject entries. A tedious job, but vital for the smooth running of the library. You can imagine the dismay when someone broke into a community library I worked in and dumped the whole lot on the floor! It took days to put in order.

These cards represented the hand writing of various cataloguers through the years. The advent of typewriting skills and twink was the next exciting venture, to be followed by a large and cumbersome computer system that saw the end of those beautiful cards and the glorious cataloguing drawers that are so fashionable today.

The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures is a chance to revel in the glory days — photographs of huge rooms filled with librarians filing cards at the mammoth Library of Congress, hundreds of images of original cards, and early edition book covers accompanied by engaging text and stories of the stacks! Not just for librarians, this will appeal to anyone who enjoys artifacts and stories from time past.

 

Madwomen and attics – WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View

It was a dark, but not a stormy, night at the Arts Centre last Wednesday, when four mysterious black-clad ladies entered the room. With flickering candles held aloft, they took their places on the stage for an evening of great hair, literary tropes and another chapter in the ongoing battle between Team Rochester and Team Heathcliff (*).

There was no attempt at cool professionalism, as our panellists to a man woman unashamedly confessed their enduring love for that most passionate of genres, the Gothic novel. And the audience was right there with them – many of us had been present earlier in the evening for an outstanding performance of Jane Eyre by Rebecca Vaughan of Dyad Productions.

Rachael King, Rebecca Vaughan, Karen Healey, and Moata Tamaira

With chair Rachael King guiding the discussion, we heard from an actor, a novelist and a librarian as they each confessed to teenage years spent wafting about in nighties and imagining themselves in the arms of a dark and brooding hero of uncertain temperament. Rebecca Vaughan had of course literally just come from her performance as Jane Eyre, while Karen Healey and Rachael King have both written novels with a strong Gothic flavour themselves (if you have not read Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead, or Rachael King’s Magpie Hall, I beseech you most strongly to do so at once). And our very own Moata Tamaira has never been afraid to profess herself as a fan of all things Gothic.

Rachael King, Rebecca Vaughan, Karen Healey, and Moata Tamaira

The evening’s discussion ranged from the literary – Gothic tropes in literature and film; to the awesomely ridiculous – a slideshow quiz where every answer was Wuthering Heights. We contemplated the various forms of Heathcliff in multiple movie castings (Tom Hardy a clear winner here, although this possibly was rigged by chair Rachael); and slipped sideways into a robust conversation about whether Wide Sargasso Sea had altered anyone’s perceptions of Mr Rochester (is it a true prequel? an early form of fan-fic homage? a completely separate stand-alone story?). I was waiting for someone to mention my own personal fave Jane Eyre “character” Thursday Next, from the Eyre Affair series, but perhaps that’s making things a little too tangled even for this panel and audience.

Rachael King, Rebecca Vaughan, Karen Healey

Finishing with a glorious set of illustrations from pulp fiction novels of the ’60s and ’70s, featuring women with great hair running from Gothic houses (credit to this magnificent blog), we were then sent out into the moonlit surrounds of the oh-so-Gothic Arts Centre, I think each with a new commitment to go back and re-read ALL our favourite Gothic novels. Possibly while dressed in wafty white nighties and floating about on the nearest moor.

Christchurch Arts Centre

(* Of COURSE it’s Team Rochester, all the way)

 

Recent Reads: Young Adult fiction

I’d be the first to admit I judge books by their covers all the time, but sometimes the blurb is so compelling I have to try the first chapter anyway. Such was the case with Noteworthy, a book with a deceptively bland cover much like the author’s previous book, Seven Ways We Lie. I mean, look at them! A+ for colour-matching but C- for covers that don’t match the content:

Cover of Noteworthy by Riley RedgateCover of Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate

Actually don’t look at them, just open them up and start reading instead, because listen to the description of Noteworthy:

After learning that her deep voice is keeping her from being cast in plays at her exclusive performing arts school, Jordan Sun, junior, auditions for an all-male octet hoping for a chance to perform internationally.

I didn’t realise I needed a book about a girl going undercover in an all-male a cappella group, but I definitely did. The blurb doesn’t mention it but she auditions and spends much of the book passing as a teenage boy and (against her first inclinations) becoming friends with the other members of the group. The author describes her book as “approx. 1/3 slapstick comedy, 1/3 hideous music puns, and 1/3 explorations of toxic masculinity and performative femininity,” which is fairly accurate, so if you’re a fan of puns and a cappella and figuring out who you are while pretending to be someone you aren’t, then give Noteworthy a try. If you want something a bit darker with a larger cast of characters, each based loosely on one of the seven sins, then try Seven Ways We Lie.

Cover of Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue is the most recent novel by Julie Murphy, whose book Dumplin’ I enjoyed last year. They have similar themes of teenage girls in small towns trying to be confident in who they are while suffering from crippling doubts, but where Dumplin’s self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean deals with this by entering the local beauty pageant, Ramona Blue is aggressively happy to stay living in a trailer with her dad and supporting her pregnant sister, definitely isn’t frustrated that she can’t go to college, definitely isn’t upset that her summer girlfriend has gone back home to her boyfriend.

In the middle of all this Ramona’s childhood friend Freddie moves back into town and they start swimming at the local pool, which Ramona turns out to be rather good at, and maybe also start having feelings for each other, but that can’t be right because Ramona has always known she was gay, hasn’t she? And she still likes girls, so what’s going on? Spoiler! it’s the elusive bisexual, now captured in fiction. I was worried when I realised the direction the book was going in but it was handled really well, and is only one strand of Ramona’s complex story.

Cover of Allegedly by Tiffany D. JacksonIf that’s still too light-hearted for you then maybe you’ll appreciate Tiffany D. Jackson’s grim debut, Allegedly.

Inspired by a similar case in Maine five years ago, Allegedly is told from the perspective of the now sixteen-year-old girl (Mary) convicted of manslaughter of a white infant when she was only nine. Her case is famous; books have been written, a film is in the works, and at the time of her trial the public were pushing for the death penalty. Eight years later she’s living in a group home while attempting to study for her SATs despite the interference of the women who run the home and the other girls living in it — while newly pregnant. The discovery that the authorities will take away her baby when he’s born prompts Mary to re-open her case, declaring she has been innocent all along. Was she? Or is she just doing whatever it takes to keep her unborn child?

The Return of the She Devil

It has been 34 years since readers last heard from Fay Weldon’s infamous creation – Ruth Patchett, the ultimate she devil. Now in 2017, Ruth has returned. She is 84 years of age, now a dame, and a president for the institute for gender parity.

Her children have (unsurprisingly) not spoken to her for many years. Her husband now lives as a ‘guest’ in the high tower and suffers from dementia (though, as his carer observes, he still recognises his wife well enough and possesses the unfortunate gift of the foul-mouthed gab). The ghost of Mary Fisher haunts the high tower observing the politics and shenanigans of Ruth’s institute.

Death of a she devil

It seems that Ruth Patchett has indeed reached the end of the road. The ambitious Valerie Valeria, a relative newcomer to the institute, feels she is more than ready to take over the she devil’s mantle. This seems inevitable, until the appearance of Tyler, a young, attractive, twenty something — and the she devil’s grandson.

The ultimate down-trodden male, Tyler has suffered much — his mother is quick to remind him that, had she known he was going to be a boy, she would have aborted him. His sisters have ‘sharp elbows’ too and take daily delight in attacking his masculinity; and worst of all, as a man Tyler is unemployable and must stand passively back while woman take all the good jobs.

When Tyler eventually meets the she devil and it is proposed he transform himself into a woman to become her heir, Tyler concludes that he has nothing to lose and  everything to gain. It is a weird and wonderful story that promises to provide Weldon with plenty of hilarious ammunition, but I found this sequel to have all the weird of its predecessor ‘Life and Loves of A She Devil’ but a lot less of its wonderful. In place of Weldon’s usual sharp, effortless satire there is an overuse of  jarring obscenities, and while there were a couple of small twists along the way, I felt the attempted build up and climax to be lacking.

CoverHowever fans of Life and Loves will certainly appreciate the reappearance of characters from Weldon’s beloved original  who have aged exactly as readers would imagine. Even in her 80s, Ruth remains every bit the atrocious, scheming she devil; Mary makes for the ultimate ostentatious ghost, and Bobbo is all too believable as the foul-mouthed, utterly unlovable old man.

While many critics have also described Weldon’s gender politics as being ‘confused’, I found her narrative to be reflective of the confusing gender politics of our times, and full of Weldon’s wicked sense of humour. There are no heroes to be found in this novel — Weldon targets smug, ambitious feminists in the guise of Valerie Valeria, who really seems to have confused and indeed the forgotten all about the feminist message. Tyler/Tayla is portrayed as a spineless, unthinking vehicle for Valerie Valeria’s ambitious schemes, and the she devil herself remains the dreadful monster we have come to know from Life and Loves.

While less accomplished than her other works, there is a lot to enjoy in Weldon’s latest novel. If you are interested in the theme of gender wars or just have a great appetite for the absurd then don’t hesitate to pick this up. With Fay Weldon, you are always guaranteed an entertaining and utterly original ride.

Death of a She Devil
by Fay Weldon
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9781784979607

Find more books by Fay Weldon in our collection.

Helen