A novella idea…

Well the new year is underway and it’s another year of excellent reading ahead!

But if you’re struggling to get back into the rhythm of reading, or if the idea of a thick tome after weeks of recreation has you daunted, then I’ve got an idea for you; why not try a novella or two!?

A novella is a mid-length story that fits somewhere between a short story and a full blown novel. Many great authors have produced great works through this medium (some of them feature in this list!) and it’s a format worth celebrating, so here’s a list of stories in…

The Mid-Length Form

List created by DevilStateDan

Not quite a novel but longer than a short story; here’s a list of great reads in the shorter form of a novella and ranging from all over the world, across many genres and eras. There’s some big names (authors) in this list and a great way to read some classics without committing to a hefty tome! From Voltaire and Kafka, to Jack London and John Gardner – there’s something here for all tastes and all easily knocked over in one or two sessions.

Cover of The daylight gateThe Daylight Gate – A dark and violent story of witchcraft, witch-hunting, and human frailty. A stunning read by a great writer! It’s 165 pages will transport you back to the brutal times in 1600’s Lancashire

The Forensic Records Society – A group of men decide to create a society for the forensic appreciation of 7″ vinyl records, each taking turns to share their chosen song in silence. That is until a newcomer has different ideas as to how the society should work – are the originals open to change!?! Very humourous and insightful book by one of my new favourite authors. 182 pages.

Cover of McGlueMcGlue – A sailor with the mother of all hangovers tries to reassemble the happenings of the previous night. He’s now locked up and on a murder charge so things must’ve gotten out of hand. Amazingly dark and vivid descriptive writing from a Man Booker Prize shortlisted author. Just over 100 pages for this character to grasp some metaphoric life-raft of decency.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer – A dreamlike discussion between an elderly man and his grandson outlines the confusing and heartrending circumstances of dementia. 76 pages of introspection and warmth.

Cover of The old man and the seaThe Old Man and the Sea – The classic and one of my all time favourite books. If you haven’t read this yet then do so now, it’s beautifully written and explores ideas of humanity, life, death, and more – all in under 130 pages!

Hunger – Published in the 1890s, this is about the abject poverty and desperation in he life of a young writer struggling to stay alive in the freezing streets of Oslo. Absolutely stunning writing and descriptive writing and a hidden classic that should be held in much higher regard than it is! This one’s a bit bigger at 232 pages, but well worth the extra time.

Cover of The subterraneansThe Subterraneans – A group of young wasters in NYC drift about doing not much else except try to find themselves and discover who they are. He’s a good writer and this is one of his best imho. Only 110 pages but crammed with quality.

Fifteen Dogs – The Greek Gods are a troublesome lot and two of their order have a bet about the nature of “intelligence”, so they bestow self-realisation upon fifteen dogs due to be destroyed. What happens after is shocking, funny, violent, heart-wrenching, and amazing. Great book at 170 or so pages.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward – Classic horror right here with a young man drawn to the dark arts of witchcraft in Rhode Island. His dabbles with Hell become increasingly dangerous and with he himself becoming more deranged by the day. What’s going on behind his closed door at night and what are those strange lights…?!?! 127 pages will leave you freaked by the evil that men do!

Cover of GrendelGrendel – The Beowulf Tale but told from the perpective of the monster… but what if you had a deeper understanding of Grendel, about his feelings, his motivations – is he still so monstrous or are the monsters elsewhere!?!? This is an outstanding book beautifully written. So much in it for only 123 pages!

The Peculiar Life of A Lonely Postman – A curious tale of a postman who develops a love of haiku, and starts a poetic dialogue with a stranger that gets deeper and deeper. Maybe a case of mail fraud and stalking but delivered in such a light hearted and charming approach and only 119 pages.

Cover of Call of the wildThe Call of the Wild – A classic novella with the hardy Buck as our hero. A timeless and ageless adventure and survival story. It’s about love, loss, power and control, and the will to endure hardship through sheer inner strength. An amazing 79 page story for all ages.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – A harrowing yet beautiful look at 24hrs of life in a Stalinist Russian prison and labour camp. Our central character strives hard to maintain dignity in the face of inhumanity. Seemingly ordinary objects take on great significance in the quest for one’s own survival. A bleak and hard hitting read and a cult classic. 142 pages of grim determination.

Cover of Animal farmAnimal Farm – Another book that everyone should read. It’s very famous story of farm animals in revolt against their perceived oppressors is nowadays part of our very culture. If you’ve not read these 104 pages then do so now!

Metamorphosis and Other Stories – A man awakes to find himself transformed…. into a bug, and his (and his family’s) attempt to adjust to his new form. It’s about identity, social isolation, alienation, and loads of other heavy allegory that you don’t need to be aware of when getting into the 64 pages of weirdness and exposure!

Cover of The death of Ivan Ilyich & confessionThe Death of Ivan Ilyich – Explore the stages of grief with Ivan Ilych, who has just been diagnosed with an incurable illness that will soon see the end of him. He and his family travel the rocky roads of denial, anger, and finally acceptance over the course of the 114 pages. A great work by a great writer.

The Time Machine – H.G. Wells is a giant in the world of fantastical sci-fi, and The Time Machine is arguably his greatest work. An eccentric inventor loses his beloved and seeks to travel through time to save her, but what he finds throughout the depth and breadth of human history is shocking, disturbing and thoroughtly inhuman. A brilliant piece of work in 118 pages.

Cover of the Third man & The fallen idolThe Third Man – Rollo is a writer. He writes cheap paperbacks. When his friend, Mr Lime, invites him to Vienna he jumps at the chance for an interesting journey. But Mr Lime has been killed before Rollo arrives and Rollo finds himself embroiled in a post-war Vienna noir thriller. A good suspenseful novella of 195 pages.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Other Stories – Another classic horror story that is so familiar to us nowadays, but if you’ve never read the book then you only know half the story! With lines like; ““I slept after the prostration of the day, with a stringent and profound slumber which not even the nightmares that wrung me could avail to break.” – how could you not love every word in its 110 pages…!?

Cover of The outsiderThe Outsider – A story in two parts; the first follows a young man on the fringes of identity with no aims or plans, when an incident occurs. The second part is the resulting consequences of that incident. French author Albert Camus is the king of the novella and this one is a beaut place to start if you’re new to his writing. 126 pages of thought provoking text.

Candide, Or, The Optimist – Candide is a well balanced young man who has been raised to see the best in the world, until he becomes embroiled with a local girl and is ousted from his wealthy family home. What happens next is a road trip like no other with adventurous deeds and arduous ordeals. A brilliant story in 135 pages.

Cover of Slaughterhouse 5Slaughterhouse-five – Butchery in the service of authority is the theme of this classic novella. It’s post-war absurdity, humour, and tragedy, and quite brutal – a great read in 185 pages!

View Full List

You’ll get through those in no time! So you might also want to check out Joyce’s list of tiny books.

What’s a young person to do this summer?!

The summer holidays are upon us at last and there’s now lots of daytime hours to pursue your extracurricular interests and one of those interests is sure to be reading, but just WHAT do you read..?!?

I have compiled a reading list just for you so you don’t have to waste your precious summer moments searching for your new favourite book.

There’s everything in here, from steampunk adventure to wilderness survival, sci-fi alien battles to swords and sorcery, everyone will find something to rock their world this summer. There’s not a lot of romance in here, it’s all action, adventure, and fantastic tales – just the ticket for the long hot season!

So get looking through the list, place holds, search your local library, and talk to your local librarians…

Teenage Kicks

List created by DevilStateDan

A list of action-packed, non-sentimental, teenage reads!

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The Obsidian Blade
The first book of a trilogy that hurtles through dimensions as the young protagonist seeks answers and the truth behind what has happened to his family. Fast paced, full of action, and confronts the ideas of organised religion – great read!

Stormbreaker
High octane adventure as a young man gets recruited into the secret service – action packed!

Mortal Engines
Cities on wheels scouring the globe eating each other..?? A brilliant future-fantasy/steampunk adventure, and the first of four books. Hugely inventive and creative in it’s world building, and non-stop action!

Nation
A desert island survival adventure with a fantasy twist, and it’s Terry Pratchett so you just know it’s going to be full of heart and humour.

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Starship Troopers
If you like science fiction then this is the one for you! A huge story of alien battles, military camaraderie, and a high level of irony make this space adventure story a huge winner! Once you’ve read this book then watch the 1997 movie of the same name – you’ll never look at humanity in the same way again!!

Hatchet
Another wilderness survival story, this time in the wilds of Alaska and a young man alone. A great coming of age story – he goes into the wild a boy and becomes a man, but does he survive…??

The Outsiders
Gang life in the 1980s is where this story is at, with all the highs and lows of growing up in a poor and struggling family, trying to find your way in the world. This is a modern classic and a must read for all teens!

The Book Thief
As my colleague AliReads describes this book; “The Book Thief, Leisel, embodies the idea that humans need stories to continue being human. Like a lot of these other books, it’s a holding-on-to-your-humanity story, because war will strip you down.”

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Gone
What would you do if everyone fifteen or older was suddenly gone? No explosion, no green alien smoke, just … disappeared.

A Wizard of Earthsea
Wizards. Dragons. Good vs Evil. Oustanding and classic fantasy storytelling complete with the reluctant hero and a great quest. This has also been made into a movie by the legendary Japanese filmmaker Goro Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli)

Ashfall
A natural disaster survival story about a young man trying to reconnect with his family after a devastating volcanic eruption negotiating dangerous terrain and perilous people.

Neverwhere
Modern fantasy by the best in the business right now – Neil Gaiman.

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The Knife of Never Letting Go
I’ll let my colleague stewaroby describe this one; “Where have all the women gone? 13-year-old Todd Hewitt must solve this mystery and escape a strange, all male society on a strange,, harsh planet. He will need to find a new way to be a man”…sounds beaut!

Eragon
A young farmer finds a dragon egg and is propelled headlong into the action and intrigue of a swords and sorcery fantasy story – dragons are cool, this story is cool.

Cycle of the Werewolf
Werewolves are terrorising a small town in this horro story from the godfather of horror; Stephen King – a great place to start for a young horror enthusiast!

The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The one that started it all! Follow Arthur, Ford, Trillian and friends as they travel through the universe together, guided along the way by the best known travel book ever – and don’t forget your towel!

The Maze Runner
Think of an escape room… now make it as big as a city and extremely dangerous! That’s where a young man wakes up suddenly one day, finding himself in the company of strangers who together have to figure their way out of their deadly predicament!

The Lord of the Rings
The classic fantasy trilogy – it’s got everything, awesome world building, swords and sorcery, a quest of great significance… if you haven’t read this yet then do so now!

Ender’s Game
With humanity under threat from an alien race, six-year-old Ender Wiggin leaves his family on Earth to journey to the Belt. There he enters Battle School and is strictly disciplined in mind games and mock battles. In instinct, compassion and genius he is unequalled, for his is a unique destiny.

But hey! maybe Graphic Novels are your thing…?!? No worries, we have you covered and Ma1co1m’s reading list is full of the best of the best graphic novels for 2017.

But wait….there’s more!!

With reading comes your chance to WIN!

That’s right, all you have to do to be in the running to win a Westfield voucher, an MTA voucher, or book or movie vouchers is either visit one of our libraries or our website, complete the challenge sheet and hand it in and you’re chance to win! You can find out more by visiting our website (where you can also download a copy of the challenge sheet!)

And remember; if you can’t find the information you need, come and talk to one of our librarians and they’ll set you up with a beaut new read.

Happy Summer to you 🙂

The 12 sounds of Christmas

December is here and it’s time to make merry!

Pohutukawa and music notes

Break out the ugly Christmas shirts, decorate the house and surrounds, start thinking about that all-conquering Christmas lunch, and sing a happy tune – but which tune…?

Here are some ideas to give you the soundtrack of seasonal festivity that you deserve! 🙂

The 12 Sounds of Christmas

List created by DevilStateDan

The merry season is finally upon us so let’s kick start our festive cheer with some suitably Christmassy tunes to accompany you through the month of merry-making!

Felice navidad, joyeaux noel, and meri kirihimete!!

  • The Absolute Best Christmas Album in the World– Ever! Well this album is talking some BIG festive talk! What a collection of songs and artists though and it’ll surely set you up in the right merry spirit.
  • The Ultimate Classical Christmas Or maybe you prefer a classical kind of Christmas…!? Here’s a beaut collection of orchestral merriment.
  • Christmas Duets Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without ol’Elvis belting out some suitably festive crooning – don’t have a blue Christmas, get some Elvis!
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas From Chuck Berry to Brenda Lee – you can’t go wrong when you’re rockin’ out your Christmas with these tunes.
  • A Country Christmas Another star studded compilation and is it just me or does Christmas music really lend itself beautifully to the country genre…!?
  • This Christmas Who knew!?!? The legend of John Travolta, along with some of his friends (including jazz legend Chick Corea!) sharing the merriment with us.
  • Putumayo presents Latin Christmas A world view here with some Latin Christmas rhythms and vibes, a good one for a lively Christmas gathering!
  • Merry Christmas, Baby Rockin’ Rod Stewart giving it the Christmas treatment..?? What’s not to love!?
  • James Taylor at Christmas Some mellow Christmas vibes from the great James Taylor, for a nice cruisey Christmas.
  • Christmas The big sounds of Celtic Thunder doing Christmas. Expect some matinee cabaret gold!
  • Christmas in the Heart How does Bob Dylan do Christmas!? Very nicely as it turns out!
  • The Christmas Album Frank Sinatra is a December constant in my family – no-one does Christmas better then Frank!

View Full List »

Prefer to get your music online? See Simone’s recommendations for Christmas playlists from our online streaming services.

A natural quartet

I’ve recently been delving into some “recreational non-fiction” reading!

Recreational non-fiction is what you might call stories based on fact that read as easily as a novel. This can be particularly true of memoir or biographies, and I’ve come across four such titles that I would like to recommend to you, the Christchurch reading public!

They’re all based around the topic of the natural world, they all read like adventure tales, and they all have a common link; the idea that we should all spend more time in and around nature, observe, engage, and enjoy.

We certainly don’t all need to go to the extreme lengths that these authors do – you don’t, for example, need to be the man responsible for dangling Sir David Attenborough 180ft in the upper canopy of one of the world remotest rainforests! You also don’t need to chase errant wild stags through the outskirts of London during the storm of the decade! And you definitely don’t need to be the man behind the push for Cpt. William Bligh to set off on his ill-fated voyage in the Bounty to take breadfruit from the Pacific Islands and take it to the Americas as cheap fodder for slave owners!

No, we can just sit back on a sunny spring day and enjoy stories of nature and travel, real stories told by real people who actually wrote the words themselves (apart from Linnaeus and Banks of course, their stories are ably told by Oxford historian Patricia Fara)

A Natural Quartet

List created by DevilStateDan

Four books about the natural world that you just can’t miss!

Cover of Sex, Botany and EmpireSex, Botany & Empire

The amazing story behind two giant names in natural science; Carl Linnaeus and Joseph Banks. Just how great were they? Were they true champions of natural science, conservation, and preservation? Or were they subject to their own particular biases and egos in their work, striving to become something more than they were..? This book is a great insight and a brilliant read, giving context to the lives and journeys of these two names so famous now that we forget how recent their work actually is!

Cover of The man who climbs treesThe Man Who Climbs Trees

This is a series of stories that follows a man around the globe as he climbs some of the tallest trees in the world! He regularly works for the BBC to help produce some of the amazing images of the flora and fauna to be found in forest canopies seen in their Planet Earth series, he has a brilliant outlook on nature and conservation, and is a very talented storyteller – his tales read like boys-own adventures as he navigates all kinds of perils (weather, insects, primates, you name it!) to provide safe vertical passage through the forests of the world. If you like the natural world then this is a memoir too good to miss!

Cover of Adventures of a young naturalistAdventures of A Young Naturalist

The story of David Attenborough’s fist major nature assignment as he travels into remote parts (pre-internet or mobile phone coverage!) to obtain vision of some of the creatures of the earth that humans have only ever read about in books. Written by the man himself, his voice is clear and present in every word as he deals with the perils of travelling the wilds of the earth for the betterment of natural science.

Cover of Park lifePark Life

John Bartram stands as the longest serving gamekeeper of the illustrious and ecologically-fragile Richmond Park – a secluded nature reserve in the midst of the busyness of London. He tells of his journey to get to the job and the lifetime of work and memories he has obtained along the way. It is written in a very matter-of-fact manner which serves well to remind the reader that nature is on our doorstep and to stop now and then to treasure it.

And if these stories have piqued your interest in the natural world but you’re wanting to read more about OUR natural world, then perhaps try one of these beaut magazines available through Christchurch City Libraries… they’re full of the same fascination and excitement of discovery as the old stories but with the added advantage that they’re the stories of our own generation, in and of our own region.

There’s mutiny afoot…

“History is written by the winners”

This quote is attributed to either Churchill or perhaps Hermann Göring (the jury is still out!) and it’s pretty accurate – if yours is the only side of the story people hear, then its probably going to be the one that everybody believes. But the not-so-recent rise of fictional accounts of real historical events and significant historical figures has been trying to even the ledger by giving us the other side of the coin!

And we’ve had LOADS of writers contributing to this movement; think Hodd by Adam Thorpe – depicting Robin Hood as an outlaw, a thief, and generally a really bad man; or The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson – exposing John Batman as a scoundrel and murderer with his attempts to control (and/or massacre) the indigenous population of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and Victoria; and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – the courts of King Henry VIII from Cromwell’s view-point.

Each of these stories seeks to expose the “truth” or at least broader context of historical events in whatever form that can take since so long a time has passed…And now there’s a new title to add! In his new book Fletcher of the Bounty, Graeme Lay recounts the story of the mutiny on the Bounty with Fletcher Christian as the central character.

Lay’s skilled storytelling builds a world of contrast, between the confines of life on board a naval vessel adhering to authority and routine, to the freedom and love of life experienced during the time spent in Tahiti, connecting with people from another world and ultimately falling in love with an indigenous girl. He also describes well the slow unravelling of the ship’s commander William Bligh, and demonstrates just how alien he must have seemed while in Tahiti – clinging desperately onto his military ceremonies and brutal disciplines (continuing to wear full dress uniform in the sweltering heat, for example), while at the same time considering himself far superior to all others, crew and islanders both.

The story of the Bounty, one of idealism, betrayal and the resulting struggle to create a Utopian ideal, is familiar to all of us and as far as rewriting the story of the Bounty, the relationship breakdown between Bligh and Christian, and the inevitable mutiny, Lay doesn’t really push any boundaries beyond what we already know. It’s a well written sea-tale/love-story, and it does expand brilliantly on many of the themes dealt with in brief in the 1984 Roger Donaldson film The Bounty, (with the two leading characters played by the greats Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins).

His compelling character-driven narrative is highly descriptive and contextual and if you like a good nautical tale or are a fan of historical fiction then you should get a kick out of this retelling of the tale – I especially like the inclusion of regional languages as the crew travel around the Antipodes. Just don’t expect any new earth-shattering nuggets of insight.

Fletcher of the Bounty
by Graeme Lay
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9781775541066

And while we’re talking about stories in this vein, here’s a list of other titles that fall under the banner of Hard-Hitting Historical Fiction, explore, read, and enjoy!

Going a-Viking with Linnea Hartsuyker

I love a good work of hard-hitting historical fiction, and it doesn’t get much better than a viking saga!

The best example is The Long Ship by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson – it’s probably the oldest, most famous, and (for me at least) the bench mark against which all others are measured.

So I was excited to learn that a new author, Linnea Hartsuyker has entered the genre with her new debut novel The Half Drowned King.

Before we talk about the story – volume one in a trilogy to come, let’s go over what we know about the author…

  1. She spent her childhood in Ithica (US) living on the edges of a large forest
  2. She has qualifications in Creative Writing, and Material Science and Engineering
  3. She traces her own lineage back to Harald Fairhair (Harfagr – the first King of Norway)
  4. She enjoys a life of travel, food & competes in Strong-Woman events

Fair to say then that she’s got the background to deliver some knowledgeable and interesting stories and I’m very pleased to say that this first installment of her trilogy is richly layered with culture, has plenty of grit and action, and keeps decent pace while outlining the lives of the people of ancient Norway.

The story is centred around a brother and sister, Ragnvald and Svanhild, as they negotiate the brutal realities of life in times of upheaval and uncertainty.

Ragnvald has been betrayed and left for dead by an assassination attempt orchestrated by his step-father and embarks on the slow road of obtaining a satisfying vengeance – all the while trying to ingratiate himself into the fold and remain useful to the young man who would be King of a united Norway, Harald Fairhair.

Meanwhile Svanhild has her own worries. Suffering abuses at the hands of the stepfather who wants her out of the way, he tries to marry her off to a local Jarl. But hearing of Ragnvald’s survival she is desperate to be reunited with her brother and protector so flees to find him – her story takes some interesting turns, none of which I will write about as I’d prefer you read the book, but suffice to say life unfolds in unusual and unexpected ways for all of us and Svanhild’s story is equal parts light and dark.

The most impressive aspect of this book is the way in which the author describes events and drives the plot by placing events into cultural context. A great example of this is after Ragnvalds survival and recuperation from his “near-death experience”. His plan to seek revenge entails arriving at the annual ting, a yearly gathering of the Kings and Jarls of Norway, and following the traditional route of challenging his rival to either a formal duel or recompense in front of witnesses and within their framework of honour – not your usual story of confrontation, and clever writing makes this an engaging device that carries the plot along nicely.

The action scenes are brutal, blood, and injuries occur to significant characters – there’s nothing worse than a lead character who is seemingly immune to everything that befalls everyone else! There is an amount of battle tactics but it’s not overly done, and the common folk are never forgotten.

She is also very good at her descriptions of place, giving the reader a good sense of the landscape, environment, and weather conditions, and how these affect the character, the plot, and the action.

Also, by centring the story on a young man and a young woman the author is able to demonstrate the cultural expectations, limitations, and values of young people living in that environment and under those circumstances. It gives great depth and width to the story and provides a broader avenue of access for readers while giving a greater cultural context to the times.

So with strong characters, a beaut story of revenge, lots of well described battle-action & an amazing sense of place, this book ticks a lot of boxes and stacks right up against The Long Ships!

If you are a fan of Hard-Hitting Historical Fiction and are drawn to stories by Giles Kristian, Bernard Cornwell, or even George R. R. Martin, then give this series a go, you should not be disappointed!

Skol!

The Half-Drowned King

The Half Drowned King
by Linnea Hartsuyker
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781408708798

Want more hard-hitting historical fiction recommendations? Try my Historical Fiction of the masses list

Q&A with Adam McGrath (part 3)

Adam McGrath is well known for his work with the band The Eastern. He will be Live at the Library for New Zealand Music Month 2017.

Adam McGrath
Adam McGrath live at the Isaac Theatre Royal. Image supplied.

We asked him some questions:

What’s your favourite recent NZ release?

The Warratahs Runaway Days that came out last year. In a time where folks seem to care less and less about records, The Warratahs put a pole in the sand with a flag on the top flying high and strong with the words ‘Yeah, So what…’ stencilled on it. Any album with the song ‘Kupe’s Tears’ on it would be a classic out the block and that would be enough, but after 30 years of song for the Warratahs to still be punching in that division makes me feel unworthy and ready to give up. And also to keep swinging, get better and lift my reps of songwriting push ups.

Which other instrumental musician would you most like to share a stage with?

Well I would like to stand in the middle of the sound of Booker T and The MG’s. Al Jackson, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn and Booker T create the sound of God in both my ears and my heart.

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Who would be your ultimate singing duet partner?

I would happily be the Cisco Houston to Woody Guthrie, or the Marvin Gaye to Tami Terrell, or the Gram to Emmylou, or Sam with Dave or any of those perfect combos. But in reality I’m the most excited about singing with the random stranger after the gig around a table. They are the shining-est (I know that’s not a word, but it feels like it should be in this context) moments of singing I could think of and no matter the fame or wonder of any of those others, there is nothing more holy than a post gig sing-along.

If a song started every time you walked into a room, what would you like yours to be?

“Rock n Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” by AC/DC or “I just want to see his face part 1” by the Staple Singers or “High Hopes” by Frank Sinatra.

If you could’ve written any song ever written, what would it be?

I would be proud to sing Anchorage by Michelle Shocked if it was me who’d come up with it.

Adam McGrath’s Top Ten albums of all time

  1. London Calling – The Clash
  2. Nebraska Bruce Springsteen
  3. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back Public Enemy
  4. The Asch Recordings Woody Guthrie
  5. Live at the Harlem Square Club – Sam Cooke
  6. Devil Got my Woman Skip James
  7. Strangeways Here We Come The Smiths
  8. Funhouse – The Stooges
  9. Sign of The times – Prince
  10. Horses Patti Smith tied with Master of Puppets – Metallica

That’s my list and I’m sticking to it.

 CoverTop five musical influences?

  • The Clash
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Chuck D
  • Barry Saunders

 And what album is on high-rotation for you right now?

Over the years I’ve become very frightened of flying and considering I fly every week, this is very troubling. Every take off and landing I listen to ‘Hats’ by The Blue Nile and it helps chill me out. Also every morning I listen to Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs as I sift the many confusions in my brain over coffee.

Read our first and second batch of questions for Adam.

Here are the dates and times for Adam’s performances;

Central Library Peterborough – The Showcase Concert 

Saturday 20 May, doors open at 7pm

Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

Friday 26 May, 3:30pm-4:30pm

New Brighton Library

Saturday 27 May, 2pm-3pm

South Library

Sunday 28 May, 2pm-3pm

The Rankin File – Ian Rankin at the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season

Ian Rankin is coming to town as part of WORD Christchurch Autumn Season, and I’ve got myself a ticket to go and hear him speak!

Ian Rankin – Sunday 14 May 6pm

Ian Rankin. Image supplied.
Ian Rankin. Image supplied.

Now it’s confession time … I’ve never read an Ian Rankin novel.

In my years working in public libraries, Rankin’s books have been ever-present and always on the move. Their uniform cover design makes them stand out really well among the larger collection and they all portray a sense of grim foreboding and cold realism.

Rankin’s name is always the first and largest text (before the title) and this is tribute to his popularity. And speaking of popularity, his Rebus novels in particular have a huge following of readers, some of whom have regularly suggested that I read his work. But I’m afraid I’ve never gotten around to it (so many books, so little time!), UNTIL NOW!

CoverI’ve just begun his first Rebus novel Knots and Crosses, and already I’m loving it. All the elements of a good noir crime story are there — an overworked under-appreciated borderline protagonist, a system of bureaucracy to overcome, the doggedness to get to the truth, and a series of gruesome crimes committed by a dangerous and difficult-to-understand sociopath … it’s gripping!

CoverI’m now an “almost-fan” and really looking forward to hearing about the author’s background, inspirations and where he’s headed to next in his writing. My experience at his talk may go either way for me in regards to my reading further works by him, but I’m excited at the prospect of gaining some extra knowledge to fuel my new reading. Who knows I might get all the way through the series! There’s currently TWENTY ONE titles in the Rebus series so it’s a decent list to invest in, and the latest Rather Be The Devil has his loyal readers queuing up for our library copies!

So, if you’re like me — a lover of gritty noir crime, but have never picked up a copy of an Ian Rankin book — then I would implore you to do so. You won’t regret it. If you’re already one of his legion of loyal followers, then come and see the man himself at 6pm on Sunday 14 May.

Q&A with Adam McGrath (part 2)

Adam McGrath is well known for his work with the band The Eastern. He will be Live at the Library for New Zealand Music Month 2017.

Adam McGrath
Adam McGrath live at the Isaac Theatre Royal. Image supplied.

We asked him some questions:

Tell us about your first live (and paid) performance?

Singing Heartbreak Hotel at the 1980 A&P Show in Christchurch. I was four and I was paid an orange popsicle. I don’t remember singing so well as it was my dancing which won the day. Never underestimate the combination of candyfloss, roman sandals and a hot day to bring out your best performance.

As a grown up, it would’ve been playing a backyard party for Dig-A-Tattoo. I was paid the handsome fee of one black flag tattoo on my wrist.

Which venue in the world would you love to play?

I always had a dream of playing inside Sun Studios in Memphis, and I was lucky enough to get to do that nearly fifteen years ago. Now considering I make my living playing music I’m more than happy to say “The next one”.

Are there any old Christchurch music venues that you’d love to see revived?

There was a moment for about a year in 1998 (before it moved to the Southlander tavern) where the Jetset Lounge in the side bar of the Provincial Tavern, seemed like a perfect place to play. Otherwise I would like to go back in time to when I was 12 so I could re-sneak in to the Blenheim Road Motor Inn and see Hammerack and Shihad when they still played covers.

What was your local library when you were growing up and which one do you use most nowadays?

Bishopdale! And it is still my Bone Marrow fave!

 Do you have a favourite book/author/style?

My favourite book is The Fools Progress by Edward Abbey. My favourite author is just maybe Kurt Vonnegut or Ernest Hemingway. And my favourite style is anything that aches with some sadness but has an essential good heart running like a thread or a beam holding the whole thing up.

Where do you go in NZ when you need a holiday?

Generally I just go home. Waking up in my own bed feels like a holiday as I spend so much time away. However Arthur’s Pass is my favourite bolthole.

Read our first batch of questions for Adam.

Here are the dates and times for Adam’s performances;

Central Library Peterborough – The Showcase Concert 

Saturday 20 May, doors open at 7pm

Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

Friday 26 May, 3:30pm-4:30pm

New Brighton Library

Saturday 27 May, 2pm-3pm

South Library

Sunday 28 May, 2pm-3pm

Stay tuned for the next installment of our Q&A with Adam McGrath!

Q&A with Adam McGrath (part 1)

Kia ora music lovers!

Adam McGrath (Image supplied)

The big music news for 2017 is that Christchurch City Libraries will be featuring Adam McGrath for New Zealand Music Month 2017.

Adam is best known for his work being the driving force of the band The Eastern, who are widely regarded as the hardest working band in the lands. But did you know about his social conscience and the value he places on not only community but public libraries too?

I posed a series of questions to Adam in order for us all to get to know him a little better…

So Adam, what was the first album you ever bought?

“When I was ten. I hadn’t seen or heard from my Dad in two, nearly three years. He never paid child support and his name was dirty in my house. So he was like a ghost that I vaguely remembered.

One day I got home from school and on the doorstep was ZX spectrum 16kb computer and a jar full of money delivered courtesy of my erstwhile father. I was stoked, my mum full of sighs. We plugged the computer in and it worked, surprisingly. Come the weekend we hit New Brighton mall for a little shopping with the jar money, Mum got some new threads ready for a dance at the working mens club. I got a GI Joe Cobra Bore, “rip and roar, cobra bore, lots of trouble for GI JOEEEEEEE!” I still remember the advert.

But for me the holy relic of purchases on this day was a copy on tape of ‘Raising Hell” by Run-DMC. This changed my life, made me obsessed and hungry for music in a way I had never felt before, either for toys, or lollies or anything else my young brain had ever thought it wanted. That desperate desire continues unabated today. After 1000 failed jobs and nowhere/nothing starts there was no choice but to give my self up wholly to the blessing and curse of full time music and song slinging. I blame my dad, Reverend Run, Darryl McDaniels, Jam master Jay and New Brighton Mall.”

Which instruments do you play (on stage and not)?

On stage; guitar and harmonica and the nodules in my throat. On record I’ve played bass, mandolin, and keyboard. However not a single one of these, on stage or off would anyone (including most people in my band) say I was anything more than a hack and a chancer.

Is there an instrument that you don’t play but which you would love to be able to?

I would like to play the tin whistle. However whenever I pick up a tin whistle everyone around me suggests I don’t take it any further.

What was your first guitar and do you still have it?

I guess what I call my first guitar was an old F-series Yamaha, I bought for $100 at a junk shop on Manchester Street. I used to go in and play it and listen to the proprietor’s problems, health emotional and otherwise. This served me in good stead because the guitar was actually $120. It had a crack and the top lifted off from the sides, so I taped it together with yellow and green and white insulation tape.

I took that guitar all around the eastern and southern states of America whereupon even in its battered state it kept me feed and watered as it sung out across street corners from Philadelphia to New Orleans to Nashville and many smaller more lonesome corners between. After some time I guess it sensed that I had improved enough for something a little better. It’s job done, it pretty much committed guitar suicide whereupon all parts of it decided to more or less break at once; machine heads popped off, bridge pulled up, neck snapping. It was time to let it go.

It was called Rosilita and the last I saw of her she was in a wardrobe in the town of Conshocken, Pennsylvania waiting for either the dump or the next pair of desperate hands crazy enough to take her out into the world.

From now until his library performances in May, Adam will be reaching into the depth of our digital resources, he’ll be searching and exploring our physical resources, and most of all he’ll be connecting with the people of Christchurch by hearing their stories and discussing their lives/loves/losses. He will use much of what he discovers to inspire new works, songs and music, and during May, Adam will be available for a series of “Live with the Library” concerts, during which he will tell his stories of us, the people of Christchurch.

And here are the dates and times for Adam’s performances;

Central Library Peterborough – The Showcase Concert 

Saturday 20 May, doors open at 7pm

Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

Friday 26 May, 3:30pm-4:30pm

New Brighton Library

Saturday 27 May, 2pm-3pm

South Library

Sunday 28 May, 2pm-3pm

Stay tuned for the next installment of our Q&A with Adam McGrath!