New year, new you

Who do you want to be in 2017? Someone better organised/less stressed/fitter/richer/more fulfilled?

The only thing stopping you is you… or maybe it’s just that you haven’t found the right programme, philosophy or inspiration yet. That being the case, here are some suggestions to set you on the path of the righteous/smug.

Ditching bad habits

We’ve got resources to help you stop smoking, drinking, and advice on how to cope with other addictions and compulsions.

Cover of The mindfulness workbook for addiction Cover of Quit Cover of Healing the addicted brain Cover of Kick your habit

Diet and fitness

There are plenty of titles available with advice on improving your diet, or find an exercise regime that suits your lifestyle.

Cover of Exhausted to energized Cover of Eat to cheat ageing Cover of Feel good for life Cover of Gut gastronomy

Or are you just keen to keep your brain fit and healthy? There are programmes and exercises for flexing your cognitive muscles.

Maybe it’s just time to cope better with stress?

Cover of Our ageing brain Cover of Keep your brain alive Cover of Relax Cover of Do breathe

Money and finances

Is 2017 the year you show your mortgage who’s boss? Try some titles about personal finance, budgeting, and retirement planning.

Cover of Kill your mortgage Cover of The little book of thrift Cover of New Zealand retirement guide Cover of The great NZ work, money & retirement puzzle

Efficiency and organisation

Whether you want some advice on how to attack household tasks more efficiently, bring some orderliness to your possessions, or advice on time management, there are heaps of titles to choose from.

cover of The life-changing magic of tidying up Cover of If it's clutter Cover of Life hacks Cover of How to be a productivity ninja

Better living, everyone.

Cover of Big magic Cover of The achievement habit Cover of Find the good Cover of The school of greatness

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?

The Read Harder Challenge

Book cover of the paying guestsI always begin the year with great intentions of completing a million reading challenges, and inevitably my enthusiasm tapers off after the first few months. (I love how Robyn manages to make one book count for many categories. I might have to steal that trick later in the year.) This time I’ve decided to attempt the Read Harder Challenge 2015 because it looks fun and might make me read a bit wider, which is one of my more attainable New Year resolutions (she says optimistically).

So far I seem to be doing pretty well just from reading books I wanted to read anyway, but looking ahead I can see some difficulties. Can anyone recommend an entertaining self-help book? Or a published author under the age of 25?

Book cover of the strange libraryHere’s what I’ve managed to tick off:

Is anyone else doing a reading challenge?

How are you shaping up for the new year?

Some make New Year’s resolutions, some resolve never to make New Year’s resolutions, either way now’s a good time to take stock of your well-being.

Whether you are returning to work from holiday or worked through the holiday period, this time of year is a tricky period of readjustment to family and work expectations. If you are feeling in a rut or envying the work life balance of others it is time to make some gains on your own plans. So get some tools and set some targets to get you to there, whether that be health and fitness wise or making gains on that long-planned outdoor adventure.

A great place to start is our very own Zinio for libraries take a look at these beauties and you get to keep each and every one of them. So no more excuses! You can download these, with your library card and PIN.

Search the catalogue for more titles available on Zinio.

Good January 01, 2015NZ life & leisure January 01, 2015Bicycling January 01, 2015Runner's world January 01, 2015Yoga journal January 01, 2015Running for beginners January 01, 2015Men's fitness January 01, 2015healthy food guide February 01, 2015Working mother October 01, 2014Spirituality & Health Magazine January 01, 2015Good health February 01, 2015mountian bike rider February 01, 2015






New Year’s resolutions apathy: Let’s do less.

Are you having trouble being motivated to do your New Year’s resolutions?

Maybe you’re doing too much. Maybe your resolutions are all wrong.

This year I don’t feel I need to do more – but actually need to do less or at least do it more efficiently. Do you feel this way too?

Here’s some good titles to get you inspired to slow down and enjoy life:


Challenged by the challenges

Well, it’s nearly half way through the year and I’m in a terrible mess with my challenges.

Cover of The KillsReading seven books off the Guardian’s List of Best Books of 2013 went swimmingly until I reached number seven: The Kills. It’s 1002 pages long. What was I thinking?

Reading Bingo is also shaping up to be a bit of a bust – I’ve got five squares crossed off my 25 square grid. And it’s May!

I actually cheated  and chose Mary Poppins for both Reading Bingo – “A book that became a movie” and A Year in Reading“In March read a book that has been made into a movie”. Tragic, but needs must. Now I feel the need to repeat (yes, hysteria is creeping in here) – it’s May and I did not re-read a favourite book from childhood in April. Would Mary Poppins do for that as well?

The only challenge I’m doing O.K. on is reading the 2013 Man Booker shortlist. One of my book clubs thought this would be a good idea so we could then decide if The Luminaries deserved to win.

Cover of We Need New NamesSo far we’ve read We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo and Harvest by Jim Crace. Both books I never would have picked up left to my own narrow devices so perhaps challenges are good for something other than driving me crazy. Both very good books in different ways – how do the Man Booker judges ever decide which is best? Next up is The Testament of Mary – this was the shortest book on the list so of course it had to be the only one I’d already read.

If I was a Man Booker judge what would I think? Actually I’d think “what was I thinking when I took this on?”. I’d have to put aside my opinion that Colm Tóibín is a stone-cold genius because Jim Crace probably is too if Harvest is anything to go by. I’d have to fight my impulse to give the prize to NoViolet Bulawayo for having the best pen-name in the world. Crace has said that Harvest will be his last book. We Need New Names was Bulawayo’s first. The Luminaries is 832 pages long, The Testament of Mary 81. How to compare?

Actually I’ve just realised We Need New Names crosses off  a sixth square for Reading Bingo – “A book set on a different continent”. Things are looking up.





New Year’s Resolutions (6)

Cover: Breakfast with LucianThe latest title off my list of seven books from The Guardian Best Books of 2013 was the most challenging so far. William Boyd thought that Breakfast with Lucian by Geordie Greig was “fascinating, intimate… a revelation. Every question I had about Freud – from the aesthetic to the intrusively gossipy – was answered with great candour and judiciousness.”

Candour, yes. Judiciousness, I’m not so sure about. I really struggled with this book; not with reading it, but with reconciling my admiration for Freud’s paintings, my horror at his behaviour and my guilt at finding myself judging a great artist for the way he chose to live his life.

“Judge the art and not the artist,” I kept telling myself. None of us is perfect. He stayed friends with some of the women he treated so badly. Most of his acknowledged children loved him. He never pretended to be anything other than what he was.

But somehow none of it worked. I read it through to the end; it’s well written and I never considered not finishing it, but I was constantly gasping at Freud’s behaviour. Actually gasping out loud. Sometimes I had to put the book down to have a really good gasp. Next I’ll be reaching for the smelling salts.

Cover: Man with a Blue ScarfPerhaps it was what Greig chose to concentrate on. Freud’s relationships with women as lovers and models are covered in detail, while his friendship with the Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery and the amazing works he produced using Bowery as a model are hardly alluded to at all. It may be that reproducing images featuring Bowery is problematical or too expensive. Or it could be that no-one except me is very interested in Bowery any more, whereas sex will always sell.

A few years ago I really enjoyed reading Man with a Blue Scarf, which was all about Freud’s practice, not his life. I think I’ll re-read that and get over myself.

What do you think about separating the art from the artist? Are there authors you won’t read because of what you know about their lives or their politics?

New Year’s Resolution (5)

Cover: Penelope Fitzgerald: A lifeMaking embarrassingly slow progress on my resolution to read seven books off the Guardian Best Books of 2013, I hit gold with Penelope Fitzgerald: A life.  John Lanchester, Penelope Lively, Hilary Mantel and Helen Simpson all rated it and they weren’t wrong.

Hermione Lee has written a model of a literary biography, which will come as no surprise to the well read, familiar with her books on Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather and Edith Wharton.

To my shame the only thing I knew about Lee was that one of her favourite possessions is a handbag that once belonged to Dodie Smith, given to her by Julian Barnes, who features in one of many amusing stories about Penelope Fitzgerald in the biography.  Lee could have lent her handbag to Fitzgerald, who sported a sponge bag at one of the Booker Prize dinners.

The biography is the perfect mix of telling detail, considered judgement and sympathetic but honest examination, all written in a style that makes the reader want to just keep on reading. Lee made Fitzgerald so alive to me that I now want to read everything she ever wrote. Also books by people she thought a lot of.

Then Lee is such a good writer I also want to read everything she has written. Although I might give the Edith Wharton biography a miss having been scarred for life by The House of Mirth – a worthy contender for The Most Misleading Title Ever Award. 

Do you have any favourite literary biographies? Because I need a few more titles to add to my lists.

New Year’s Resolution (4)

The resolution to read seven books off The Guardian Best Books of 2013 list is proceeding well with no duds so Cover: Breakfast at Sothebysfar.

The latest is Breakfast at Sotheby’s, which was on William Boyd‘s list. Perhaps Boyd liked it so much because he features in the book, as the creator of an elaborate hoax that began on April Fool’s Day 1998 with the launch of a biography of artist Nat Tate. Except Nat Tate never existed outside William Boyd’s imagination. He even painted some works ostensibly by Nat Tate, one of which sold at Sotheby’s in 2011 for £6,000.

Boyd thought that Breakfast at Sotheby’s is “an entire art education contained in under 350 pages”.  It’s witty, learned and unusual in that it considers how art and money mix. It’s also full of fascinating characters from the history of art. My favourite discovery is Henriette Ronner-Kipp, one of the most popular female artists of the nineteenth century, who specialised in cats doing cute things long before YouTube.

The author is Philip Hook, who is a director and senior paintings expert at Sotheby’s. Before that he worked for Christie’s, but what is truly impressive is that from from 1978 to 2003 he was on  Antiques Roadshow. There can be no higher recommendation, although he calls his performance on the show pedestrian and says “it was charitable of the BBC to put up with me for so long, 25 years as it turned out”.

I do love a list and Breakfast at Sotheby’s has some great ones: Middlebrow Artists (artists who are looked down upon because people like them too much), Individual Artists (the most expensive and sought-after modernist artists) and Fictional Artists. Two of my best fictional characters of any occupation are on the latter list – Gully Jimson from The Horse’s Mouth and Charles Ryder from Brideshead Revisited.

A good dip-into book, guaranteed to turn up something of interest on any page you pick.

New Year’s Resolution (3)

Cover of The Silent WifeGoing so well on my 2014 New Year’s Resolution to read seven books off The Guardian’s Best Books of 2013 list, I’ve finished my second book. It’s called The Silent Wife, by A. S. A. Harrison, who sadly died before the book’s world-wide release and great success.  John Lanchester called it funny and sharp, someone else said it was better than Gone Girl.

It is sharp, however I did not find it in the least funny and I did not find it better than Gone Girl. I did read it in three days so it must have had something going for it.  As I was reading it I kept thinking “this isn’t very good”, but then I couldn’t wait to get back to it.

One thing it does share with Gone Girl is the unlikeable nature of the two main characters, but I did want to know what happened to them. And the dog. Although the dog slipped from view somewhat towards the end.

It’s a hard book to talk about without giving all-important plot points away, but I think I’d recommend it. The style is pleasingly spare although depth of character is not a strong point. I did become intrigued with Adlerian psychoanalytic theory – to be added to the For Later list.