cover for The particle at the end of the universeWe don’t notice our scientists all that much, especially women scientists. So it was encouraging to see the not so shy and retiring Dr Siouxsie Wiles (of the long pink hair) recently receiving the Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize. It’s great that there are prizes for communication in science.

Here in Christchurch we’ve learnt to value scientists who can explain their field in plain language. Where would we have been without Mark Quigley when we all suddenly developed an intense interest in earthquakes?

The ability to communicate science can be the foundation of a successful career. Stephen Hawking became world famous for explaining the difficult bits of cosmology to us. Now  Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist has tackled the Higgs Boson (or God) particle, one of the most esoteric of scientific concepts, in his book  The Particle at the End of the Universe.

The book won him the Royal Society’s Winton prize, always a useful in guide to the best in science writing each year. If he can make particle physics into something I can make sense of, he will have certainly have earned it.  The chair of the judging panel says

Carroll writes with an energy that propels readers along and fills them with his own passion. He understands their minds and anticipates their questions. There’s no doubt that this is an important, enduring piece of literature.”

Here in New Zealand we have the Callaghan medal and the Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing, as well as The Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prize. The latter was won this year by the absorbing Moa . The society also provides an inspiring list of previous winners on its website to guide your reading.

If you prefer to just dip into something  Compendiums of the best in science writing are also published every year and they’re  a great way of keeping up with what is happening in the scientific world. Science journals like  New Scientist  are also great to browse and you’ll find plenty of them at the library.

So if you someone who likes to settle into the Christmas break with something to stretch your scientific knowledge (and I know that a lot of you do because our science books race out the door over the holidays) you should have plenty to keep you entertained.

Cover of The LuminariesEleanor Catton The luminaries has just won the Man Booker Prize. This is news, this is big news and is PHENOMENAL!

Congratulations Eleanor!

I am watching her make a beautiful and graceful acceptance speech.

Here is the 2013 shortlist for the Man Booker Prize

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

CoverThanks to the fab The Press Christchurch Writers Festival crew we have  two double passes to give away to the following sessions:

An hour with Chris Cleave Friday 31 August 11am – 12pm. Chris will be chatting with  Tim Wilson, formerly TVNZ’s US correspondent:

Publishers Weekly has described his third novel, Gold, published in 2012 and set in the world of Olympic speed cycling, as ‘thrillingly written and emotionally rewarding’.

An Hour with John Boyne  Friday 31 Aug 2012 2pm – 3pm. John talks with Lynn Freeman, the presenter of Radio New Zealand National’s The Arts on Sunday.

CoverThe Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, published in 2006, was embraced by all ages. It was shortlisted for or won a host of international awards, topped the New York Times Bestseller List, has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide and has been made into an award-winning film.

An Hour with Kate Grenville Sunday 2 September 11am – 12pm

Kate Grenville is one of Australia’s finest writers. Her bestselling novel The Secret River has been published in more than twenty countries. It has received numerous awards, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

The Stuff of Life. Sunday 2 September 2pm – 3pm. Joanne Harris, Nicky Pellegrino, Felicity Price – chaired by Graham Beattie:

These three authors have all written books that speak of the magic and joy that can be hidden in the difficult, mundane stuff of everyday life. They talk about their own work, and about the books that they love – the authors who have enhanced their lives and given them inspiration, delight and solace.

Fatal Attraction?  Saturday 1 September 12:30pm – 1:30pm. Julian Novitz, Michael Robotham, Ben Sanders and Paul CoverCleave.

Session chaired by crime fiction enthusiast and blogger Craig Sisterson is the deputy editor of NZ Lawyer and the organiser of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel.

Acclaimed crime writers Michael Robotham, Paul Cleave and Ben Sanders, and Julian Novitz, whose new novel revolves around a murder and a mystery, talk about the attraction of evil and the perils of genre fiction.

How to win

Email us at with your name, email address and phone number – and which session you’d like tickets for. (Sorry, Christchurch City Libraries staff aren’t eligible to enter). Good luck Christchurch booklovers!

If your children love rugby and reading then they should join the 2011 Reading Crusade.  It’s a fun reading competition run by Christchurch City Libraries and the Crusaders rugby team.

Any children in Christchurch between 5-13 years can join in.  All they have to do is read six books, fill out a reading log and get a parent, teacher  or librarian to register their reading. Full details are available on the library website.

There are heaps of prizes, including weekly Reading Crusade Challenges on the library’s Christchurch Kids blog. Join in today!

CoverHaving spent much of my life assuming that any European country I visited would be FRANCE, and educating myself accordingly, I now find myself somewhat disconcertingly drawn to a different European destination (still vicariously, you understand, what with teenagers and earthquakes and life in general being so vraiment expensive).

All those years of Bonjour, and Ca va? and Ouvre la fenetre, s’il vous plait! are now being called into question, after several long conversations with well-travelled friends and relations.  Italy, not France apparently, is the place to go.  They have art there, and music, and history, and culture, and food, and coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.

Quelle horreur! What to do? I must start all over again, learn a NEW language, find friends who speak Italian, immerse myself in a different culture, and all while staying home in Christchurch.

What luck, then, to arrive at the library and find our wee city is hosting the 15th Italian film festival. Starting on 20 October, the Rialto cinema will be showcasing 17 of the best and brightest Italian movies of recent years, thus enabling me to move past phrases like spaghetti bolognese, and on to the real Italy that awaits.  There’s even a grand opening night, with Italian beverages on offer, and the chance to show off your own language talents.

And even better, we’ve got two double passes to any of the film festival movies to give away.  All you need to do is … comment below by Friday 15 October, and tell us your favourite Italiano movie, poem or book (the competition is only open to Christchurch and Canterbury residents, and not to Christchurch City Council employees).

And for those who can’t wait, check out the library’s selection of Italian movies, Italian fiction, Italian language books, and Italian travel guides.

Want to win $1000 of Booksellers Tokens? Booksellers New Zealand are giving you a chance to win this lovely booty – all you have to do is vote for your favourite finalist title to win the Readers’ Choice Award at the 2009 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Voting closes at 5pm on Friday 10 July. (Have a look at the finalists on our Literary Prizes page).

In terms of Library competitions, we have a couple on the go. Over at The Pulse 12 to 18 year olds can win a laptop – Send a review, article, original song or cartoon or music career question to The Pulse and if we publish it, you’re in the draw to win a Dell Inspiron 1525 laptop. There’s also heaps of The Pulse gear up for grabs – visit the site for terms and conditions.

On the Library 150 site you can find out about the YouTubing the Library competition. To be in to win unleash your inner-film director to make a stand out video, upload it to YouTube and send us your entry form – available from 1 July 2009. A host of prizes are up for grabs including a laptop computer, a Sony camcorder, an iPhone and hundreds of dollars worth of vouchers.

Best First Book: Mohammad Hanif - A case of exploding mangoes.

Hanif paid thanks to Jill Rawnsley, festival director. Hanif said his son even stopped playing PSP for a minute!

Dedicated award to Dept of Immigration and Customs – he was delayed by them for two hours. Apparently they wouldn’t let his son (or someone in the group) go to the toilet.

He ended his speech by saying: Thank you very much I’ll now go and pee!

Best Book: Christos Tsiolkas The Slap.

He said: Great pride to be in the company of other fantastic and brilliant writers and comrades and generous people. There is no competition in art. I can’t believe I’m gonna meet the Queen and my mum said I have to ask for the Parthenon marbles back.

Vanda Symon is our guest on the wrap up tonight – to be recorded at the Aotea Centre.


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