Favourite reads from favourite authors: WORD Christchurch

Sydney Bridge Upside DownTwo of my favourite things about literary festivals are: to hear authors read from books, and to find out what their best loved reads are. Reading Favourites was a WORD event that ticked both those boxes for me.

The three authors were Kate de Goldi, Sarah Laing and Carl Nixon and they were asked to name their two favourite New Zealand books. Guy Somerset hosted this event, which he wistfully billed as being: “like an Uber Book Group without the wine or cake.”

Kate de Goldi chose:

Sydney Bridge Up-side Down by David Ballantyne, a book about which she confesses to be somewhat evangelical. Published in 1968, it is a book that “keeps finding its readers”. It was, according to de Goldi, way ahead of its time.

Kate’s second choice was Welcome to the South Seas by Gregory O’Brien, a book de Goldi classifies as Creative Non-Fiction. It is a book that awakens the child in you, that grandparents buy for their grandchildren and end up keeping for themselves. It has the artwork asking you the questions.

Cover of HicksvilleSarah Laing:

Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks topped Laing’s favourites list. She has read this graphic novel several times and never tires of its multi layered approach. With each reading she seems to uncover more and more.

Sarah’s second choice was From the Earth’s End – The Best of New Zealand Comics. Sarah reminded us that after the war, 47 comic titles were published every month in New Zealand alone and that libraries are the guardians of much of this early material.

Carl Nixon:

The Day Hemingway DiedCarl’s first choice was The Day Hemingway Died by Owen Marshall. It was the first book (at 18 years of age) that Carl remembers wanting to read as if he had discovered it all by himself. It has a very distinct tone, is the perfect illustration of character foibles and is laugh-out-loud funny – all at the same time.

Carl’s second choice was Gifted by Patrick Evans. He read a wonderful extract from this book about the meeting between Sargeson and Janet Frame, two people who never really understood one another at all, according to Carl. This book never received the attention that it deserved and Carl hopes that we will rectify that by getting out there and doing it justice.

This was a well presented, varied event in which the participants gave us a peek into their best-loved books. And, to top it all, it was free. That is correct, there were a number of free events at the festival, and the calibre of all events is very, very high. So, in two years time, even if the budget is tight and penury looms (and I do so hope this will not be the case), you can still tart yourself up, hitch a ride down to the Fest and recharge those tired old book-loving batteries.

See you there in 2016!

Guy Somerset: WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival

WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival kicks off on 27 August. We’ve asked three quick questions of festival guests:

Guy Somerset – Books and Culture Editor of the Listener

What (or who) are you most looking forward to at WORD Christchurch?

As a long-time Kristin Hersh and Throwing Muses fan, I am looking forward to her. Then there is the Margaret Mahy Memorial Lecture by Elizabeth Knox, one of the few New Zealand writers with a mind as intelligent and free-ranging as Mahy’s. Meg Wolitzer is a novelist I have long wanted to read but have never managed to; hearing her talk will do very nicely in the meantime.

Cover of Paradoxical undressing Cover of Mortal Fire Cover of The Interestings

What do you think about libraries?

A good library is a magnificent place. Wellington, where I live, is blessed with one of the best: the Ian Athfield-designed central library, which is packed to the gunnels with smartly selected and curated books, magazines, DVDs and CDs. As much as that, though, it has great staff and a wonderful feeling of community, being full of people beavering away at its many desks or just lounging about with their heads in a book. Civilised society doesn’t get any better.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

Once, working for the Technical Services department of Duke University in the US, I had to sweep cockroaches from the dressing room of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.