Sunday, November 30, 2008

If you only buy one book this Christmas make sure it's...

The Times Christmas Books Special

Michael Parkinson, Sheila Hancock, Roger Moore, Elaine Paige and Andrew Castle pick out some perfect reading for the festive period :

Michael Parkinson: A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré
"I marvel at le Carré's mastery of his craft. He is, in my view, our greatest living novelist, and here shows again that his imagination is as undimmed and his prose as precise and stylish as ever. I can think of no contemporary writer more deserving of occupying that special place reserved for national treasures."Parky: My Autobiography by Michael Parkinson, is published by Hodder & Stoughton, £20

Elaine Paige: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
"The uncommon reader is the Queen, who Bennett has discovering the joy of books when her escaped corgis overrun a mobile library. Much of the breezy humour comes from the change that reading brings over someone as unique as the Queen and the panicked reaction of her courtiers. It is an extremely funny but also rather touching novella about the power of books to change one's view of the world."Memories by Elaine Paige is published by Oberon Books, £25

Read the rest at The Times online.
Season's readings part two -
Hari Kunzru to Philip Pullman: writers and politicians pick the best books of 2008
Compiled by Ginny Hooker writing in, Saturday 29 November.

Hari Kunzru

Joseph O'Neill's Netherland is a melancholy and controlled novel about cricket. There aren't many of those around. JG Ballard is also a cricket fan, and his volume of autobiography, Miracles of Life, provides a key to his strange, hallucinatory fiction.

I'm living in New York, and the only thing that's made me feel homesick is a photography book called No Such Thing As Society: Photography in Britain 1967-1987 (Hayward Publishing). It shows a world I remember from growing up, a world that now feels very far away in time, as well as space.

Philip Pullman

Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise has been widely praised, and quite right too. It's a history of 20th-century music so vivid and original in approach that it made me listen again to many pieces I thought I knew well. It was so interesting that I even forgave him for saying nothing about my favourite composer, Nicolai Medtner.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, translated by Reg Keeland (Quercus), is several cuts above most thrillers I've read recently - intelligent, complex, with a gripping plot and deeply intriguing characters. The author's sudden early death is a great loss: he would have lit up the fiction lists for a long time to come.

A book I read slowly and with continuing pleasure and fascination was Philip Waller's Writers, Readers and Reputations: Literary Life in Britain 1870-1918 (OUP). The vulgar brutality of the bestseller lists, the profitable misery of lecture tours, the iniquity of reviewers, the knife-in-the-back competitiveness - nothing has changed.
Read the full list of picks from the various contributors at the Guardian online.
The Well-Tended Bookshelf
By LAURA MILLER writing in Thw New York Times confronts a problem I know well:
Published: November 28, 2008
Illustration by Adam Simpson

In order to have the walls of my diminutive apartment scraped and repainted, I recently had to heap all of my possessions in the center of the room. The biggest obstacle was my library. Despite what I like to think of as a rigorous “one book in, one book out” policy, it had begun to metastasize quietly in corners, with volumes squeezed on top of the taller cabinets and in the horizontal crannies left above the spines of books that had been properly shelved. It was time to cull.
I am not a collector or a pack rat, unlike a colleague of mine who once expressed the fear that he might perish someday under a toppled pile of books and papers, like a woman whose obituary he once read. I was baffled the first time a friend explained to me that the book in my hand was his “reading copy,” while the “collection copy” resided upstairs, in some impenetrable sanctum. Having reviewed hundreds of books over the past 20-some years, I no longer subscribe to the notion that I have a vague journalistic responsibility to keep a copy of every title I have ever written about. I am not sentimental.
Read her full essay at the NYT online,

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Image left by Paul Cox.

You might find this site worth a visit if you are interested in the future of the book.
Season's readings
Antonia Fraser to Jackie Kay: writers and politicians pick the best books of 2008
Compiled by Ginny Hooker,, Saturday November 29 2008

Antonia Fraser

By far the best novel I read this year was Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture (what on earth were the Booker judges thinking about?). I have always admired Barry's work, both on stage and off it, but I feel this is the finest thing he has done. The book has two narratives, one being the story of a very old woman indeed, possibly over a hundred, and the other the doctor who has to assess her when the mental asylum where she lives is being shut down. Dr Grene's life is woven in to hers in a way the reader does not foresee (and should not), but the real narrative is that of Ireland in the 20th century, a romantic Ireland indeed, but a cruel one to its outcasts - thankfully or hopefully it's dead and gone.

Charlie Higson

There was a small and slightly silly outcry when Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (Simon & Schuster) was longlisted for the Booker. A thriller! What is the world coming to? The fact is, it's an enormously well written book with a fantastic premise: in the 1950s, the Soviet government has decreed that crime is a thing of the past. In a perfect communist state everyone has everything they need. The central character is a police chief who gets drawn into a nightmare Alice Through the Looking Glass world, in which, by investigating crimes, he becomes a wanted man himself.
Read the picks of all the contribuotors at The Guardian online.

Original Sins

By DAVID GATES writing in The New York Times, November 28, 2008

By Toni Morrison
167 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $23.95

The Greeks might have invented the pastoral, the genre in which the rustic life is idealized by writers who don’t have to live it, but it’s found its truest home in America. To Europeans of the so-called Age of Discovery, the whole North American continent seemed a sort of Edenic rod and gun club, and their descendants here still haven’t gotten over their obsession with the pure primal landscapes they despoil with their own presence.

A straight line — if only spiritually — runs from Fenimore Cooper’s wild Adirondacks and Hawthorne’s sinister Massachusetts forests to Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River” to Cheever’s domesticated locus amoenus of Shady Hill to the theme park in George Saunders’s pointedly titled “Pastoralia” — where slaughtered goats are delivered to employees in Neolithic costume through a slot in the wall of their cave, much as Big Macs appear at a drive-through window.

The line even leads to “Naked Lunch,” which pronounces America “old and dirty and evil before the settlers, before the Indians” — simply a calculated blasphemy. Apply enough ironic backspin, and almost any American novel this side of “Bright Lights, Big City” could be called “American Pastoral.” Or for that matter, “Paradise Lost.”
Read the full piece by David Gates at The NYT online.

Fourth Estate – NZ$49.99

My guess is that cookbooks may represent as much as 50% of all non-fiction sales in bookshops in this part of the world? Perhaps bookseller visitors to this blog may like to comment?

There is no doubt, whatever the exact percentage is that they represent, it is significant and must be the biggest selling individual genre by a county mile.

One of the reasons, apart from our passionate interest in all matters food, is the uniformly high quality of the cookbooks published in New Zealand and Australia.

The latest welcome example to hit my desk is Donna Hay’s No Time To Cook . So far I have made two salad meals from it, chicken salad with coconut dressing, and minted pea & feta salad.
Both took me less than 15 minutes to prepare and assemble, and I’m really slow at chopping and making dressings, both were healthy and very tasty and made a welcome change to the trad green salad I usually make. Sunday morning coming I plan to make her Pancetta Baked Eggs which looks scrummy and again is going to be dead simple and quick to prepare. (I reckon I can make it while Annie is away getting the Sunday Star-Times and Herald on Sunday).

This is a large format book with in the main four recipes on each page, all illustrated in colour, and while they can all be prepared quickly by those with no time to cook, the food presentation is superb and will have your guests thinking you have been slaving in the kitchen for hours. My kind of book. Thanks Donna.

Recipes and images from No Time To Cook by Donna Hay, published by Fourth Estate (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers), 2008.
Text and design copyright © Donna Hay 2008
Photographs copyright © Con Poulos 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Barbara Anderson - VUP.

Report from The Bookman's Wellington reporter.

Last evening Wellington launch was an absolute delight, not only were we celebrating a terrific autobiography by one of New Zealand’s best writers, we also got to sing-along!

In the course of a very funny reading about Barbara’s mother’s attempts to get her nose out of a book via horse-riding and general farm-based fun, Barbara burst into song to illustrate her love of the movie western. Her rendition of “Ole Faithful” had us clutching our sides, then we shared the fun with a group sing-song of “Home On the Range” further through the extract. The reading gave us all a taste of the witty, easy style of her work.

It was a marvellous group of friends and admirers who gathered to wish Barbara and her book well, with lots of good cheer and plenty of booksales!
Pic showws Publisher Fergus Barrowman with his much-admired author.

VUP’s website has further launch info and a selection of pictures from the party
The University of Auckland s Gus Fisher Gallery named Best Arts Institution
by Metro magazine s annual Best of Auckland awards (December 2008).

Located inside the Kenneth Myers Centre on upper Shortland Street, the Gus Fisher Gallery is named in honour of its primary patron, Mr Gus Fisher. Both Gus and his wife Irene are active participants in the gallery s wide range of events including exhibition openings, book launches, gallery talks and public programmes.

In awarding the accolade, Metro describes the Gus Fisher Gallery as a dynamic centre for both art buffs and curious passersby , and offers particular commendation for its dynamic arts programme.

Saturday afternoon talks with artists or experts are a particular treat. Events aren t constrained to within the walls of the historic broadcasting house. For a recent exhibition on modern architecture [the gallery] conducted a guided walking tour of the city. All this and free admission.

Under the guidance of Associate Professor Linda Tyler and her team the Gus Fisher Gallery has grown in scope and reputation within Auckland s vibrant art community, says Professor Sharman Pretty, Dean of the University s National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries (NICAI), which oversees the gallery as part of the Centre for NZ Art Research and Discovery. By engaging with contemporary debates about visual arts and culture, and encouraging creative and academic research, the gallery fills an important role in a city that is rich in visual arts.

The Gus Fisher Gallery is located at 74 Shortland Street in Auckland s CBD. The Power of Portraiture will be mounted from 28 November 2008- 24 January 2009.

For details phone (09) 373 7599 ext 86646 or visit
The Bookman offers the University his congratulations. The Gus Fisher Gallery has certainly been the hot location for book launches during 2008.

Just Another fantastic Anthology
Auckland in Poetry
Edited by Stu Bagby
Antediluvian Press -$28.95

Stu Bagby, who has been writing poetry for many years, published in various literary journals and several anthologies including Best New Zealand Poems 2005, has now put together a most interesting, and I suspect unique collection, of verse all of which has Auckland as its theme.

It includes verse from the likes of C.K.Stead, Sam Hunt, J.K.Baxter, Kevin Ireland, Iain Sharp, Michele Leggott, Louis Johnson, Albert Wendt, Glen Colquhoun, David Eggelton, Keith Sinclair, Bob Harvey, Allen Curnow , Stephanie Johnson , Vincent O'Sullivan, Hone Tuwhare and lots of others too.

I especially enjoyed this one from Bob Orr:

Container Terminal

The sun rising
above Rangitoto...
there were tracks
across the tide
I stood in sunlight
the colour of containers.
An old freighter with
a beard of rust
lay anchored
in midstream.
Gulls flew between
the masts of moored ships.
Huge wharf cranes
walked the water's edge.
Into my hand they lowered an island.

And from Kevin Ireland:

Pity about the Gulls

Walking the beach this morning
you could see yachts putting out
the white flags of their sails to sue
for peace on Earth, jaunty waves
leaning up against the horizon,
shelling out buckets of small change,

and an ocean liner, with a toothpaste
smile, sporting Rangitoto
on its beam like a cocked hat.

Pity about the gulls.
Heads down,backs hunched,
they humped the misery of the world,

drilling screams into the cliffs,
rubbing the shine off the day.
Always, some bastard has to spoil it.

An excellent and thoroughly entertaining anthology that will be especially welcomed by poetry-loving Aucklanders and ex-pat Aucklanders.
Available now from your independent bookseller or from the editor at
Cover art - Richard Killeen - Man, land,sea and sky.
Apology to Bob Orr and Kevin Ireland for the double spacing in their poems. Technical glitch that I cannot fix.


Jacki Passmore –Penguin - $25

Ian D. Robinson – David Bateman - $39.99

This is an Australian publication but apart from a couple of recipes featuring barramundi and bugs the recipes are all totally relevant to New Zealand. I made the Tapas of tuna with marinated capsicum & rocket pesto and it was delicious.
This is a smallish compact bible rather than a big family version so it is perfect to take away on the boat or camping trip over the holidays.
Mouth-watering colour pics throughout and a good index.
A stocking stuffer if I ever saw one.


This is a companion volume to Robinson’s earlier and equally appealing volume, COROMANDEL. Again he has littered his book with the most gorgeous colour shots which show the Hauraki Gulf at its very best.
He skirts the mainland fringes of the Gulf from the treasure that is Goat Island through Auckland city and out to Kawakawa Bay before heading out to the islands of Rangitoto, Motutapu, Rakino and Waiheke and all the little islands in between, then exploring Great Barrier, Little Barrier and Tiritiri Matangi.
A gem.
If you are boating out on the Gulf these holidays these two books are ideal companions to take with you.
Speech! Speech! But Could You Please Cut the Price?

By MOTOKO RICH writing in The New York Times, November 26, 2008

Pic Al Gore, Getty Images, NYT.
Talk is cheap, they say, but these days some people are hoping it will become even cheaper.
For decades high-profile figures from areas like politics and the electronic and print news media have been able to augment their earnings with a steady stream of well-paid speaking engagements before university audiences, corporate gatherings and other groups. Some of the speakers, including best-selling authors, have come to rely on such fees as a significant part of their income. But with a host of industries that regularly book speakers for conferences and motivational meetings now facing dire economic conditions, budgets for speaking engagements are being examined, and, increasingly, less expensive alternatives are being sought.
In the past few weeks agents at American Program Bureau, which represents authors, entertainers, politicians and others who make the lucrative rounds of the speaking circuit, have received several calls from organizations looking to book someone to speak about the environment.
“They all say, ‘Can you get us Al Gore?’ ” said Robert Walker, founder and chief executive. His agency doesn’t represent the former vice president, but Mr. Walker said that when his agents pointed out what kind of fees Mr. Gore tends to receive, none of the organizations could afford such sums in this economic climate.
So the agents recommended others on their client roster, including John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA, and Summer Rayne Oakes, a board member and occasional correspondent on the Planet Green network. “She’s not even a quarter of the price of someone like Gore, but she has a lot to say,” Mr. Walker said.
Read Motoko Rich's full piece at the NYT online.
100 Notable Books of 2008

The New York Times has published their annual list fiction, potery, and non-fiction - and I note scanning through the list that I have only read four of them!

Breath - Tim Winton

Diary of a Bad Year - J.M.Coetze

The Most Wanted Man - John Le Carre

Netherland - Joseph O'Neill

To read the full list, which naturally enough has a heavy US bias, link here to the NY Times, they have also prepared a list of notable children's books.

Anna Sanderson, talented NZ essayist

I reported last week on the Arts Foundation New Generation Awards and the two young writers who are recipients, Jo Randerson and Anna Anderson.

I notice this morning that author/blogger/bookseller Mary McCallum has written an interesting piece on Anna Sanderson on her blog.
James Naughtie to Chair The Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2009

James Naughtie, one of the country’s best-known broadcasters, is to be the Chair of the judges for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2009.

Ion Trewin, Literary Director, comments: ‘I am delighted that Jim will be chairing the judges for the 2009 prize. As host of Radio 4's monthly Book Club he displays his passion for fiction, and as presenter of Today on BBC Radio 4 he is no stranger to fervent debate, even to controversy - both admirable qualifications for the role.’

During his career, Naughtie has anchored BBC radio coverage of British and American presidential elections and has written and introduced numerous documentaries and programmes for BBC Radio and television.

As an author, he has written two books on contemporary politics, The Rivals – The Story of a Political Marriage, and The Accidental American – Tony Blair and the Presidency. His book, The Making of Music, based on his Radio 4 series, an account of the Western classical tradition, was published in paperback this year.

James is connected with a number of arts organisations and charities, is a member of the advisory board of the Edinburgh International Festival, a patron of the Prince of Wales Foundation for Children and the Arts, a trustee of the Classical Opera Company, a trustee of the Art Fund Prize for museums and galleries and a patron of Southbank Sinfonia. In 2008 he was appointed Chancellor of the University of Stirling. He is also a former chairman of judges of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction.

The longlist, ‘The Booker Dozen’ – the 12 (or 13) titles under serious consideration for the prize - will be announced in early August. The shortlist of six books will be announced in early September. The Man Booker Prize 2009 winner will be televised live on the BBC Ten O’Clock News at the Guildhall at an awards ceremony on Tuesday 6th October 2009.

The full panel of judges will be announced in December.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

MATAKANA – A special place, and now a special book.

MATAKANA is a small village with a twice-weekly farmers’ market an hour’s drive north of Auckland. It is one of my favourite places. We are fortunate enough to own a cottage about 10 minutes beyond Matakana and most Saturdays will find us prowling around the market buying organic eggs, capsicums, blueberries, and all sorts of other fresh seasonal produce.
The market is surrounded by a new, small, architecturally-pleasing retail centre including a number of real gems, The Village Bookshop, The Village Butcher and Piece Gallery among my favourites.Then of course there is the boutique cinema and of course the area around Matakana includes a number of excellent wineries, fine beaches and reserves.

That is Matakana the place, now we have MATAKANA, the book, and it is a real gem, a must for the car glove box for everyone who lives in and around Matakana and for all those visiting the area as thousands do every weekend through the summer.
Lauraine Jacobs – Random House - $36.99

The farmers’ market is held on Wednesday evenings, mainly for the benefit of people who live in the district and then again on Saturday mornings when weekenders and folk from Auckland and further afield arrive in great numbers.
It seemed very appropriate then that last evening at the market this new title was launched by Penny Webster, the Mayor of Rodney, with further comments from the author, and the publisher, Nicola Legat of Random House. Pic shows left to right, author, publisher and Mayor.

In her compact book, with appealing colour pictures by Ken Downie throughout, Lauraine Jacobs provides a brief, jolly interesting history of the Matakana district, followed by a close look at the farmers’ market, introduces us to the growers and artisan producers, and then provides the reader with a real treat - easy-to-make recipes for five starters, five main courses, five salad and vegetable dishes, and five desserts using fresh market produce and all made originally at her Omaha Beach kitchen upon her return from the market on a Saturday morning. The first one I am going to try, (this weekend), is Harvest Baked Chicken.

The book then visits the wineries and vineyards of the area, makes suggestions for exploring the district with information about the numerous and diverse attractions, where to eat, where to stay, and winds up its 224 glorious pages with maps and a list of names and addresses of the growers and producers.
I’m off to buy another copy so that we will have one at home in the city and one at the cottage up north. I will have to wait though until next Friday, 5 December, the book’s official publication date.
Last night’s event was held in advance of publication because two star guests are going overseas today and will not be back until well after publication date.
About the author
Lauraine Jacobs is one of New Zealand’s most highly respected food writers; she is a longstanding food editor at the superb Cuisine magazine, has established international connections with leading culinary professionals and acts as an important food and wine ambassador for New Zealand. Her most recent book prior to MATAKANA is the very successful THE CONFIDENT COOK, also published by Random House.
Three assorted pics from book appear below.

Gordon Dryden’s web marketing pays off

Auckland author Gordon Dryden practises what his new book preaches.
UNLIMITED (The new learning revolution and the seven keys to unlock it) was published in New Zealand earlier this month, with Auckland publisher David Bateman Ltd. as the bookshop distributor.

Dryden’s own company, The Learning Web Ltd., is the international publisher and, in New Zealand, handles direct-marketing and internet sales.

Anyone can read the first 34 pages of the book (Preface, Foreword and Introduction) free at and place an order there, from anywhere in the world.

Dryden says that first week’s orders have come in from Russia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Canada, Israel, Australia and the United Kingdom. Several have since reordered multiple copies; and inquiries have come in from three countries to become joint direct-distribution partners.

I like the fact that Dryden keeps faith with the book trade by offering individual books online for the recommended retail bookshop price of $50 (but including postage). Australian prices are the same as in New Zealand, but in Australian dollars (including postage ex-New Zealand), North, Central and South America at US $30, plus $10 postage; and the United Kingdom and Europe at £20 plus £5 postage.

Dryden himself has a background in book marketing: he set up a direct-marketing book club while running a daily talkshow on Auckland’s Radio I in the early 1970s, then set up Gordon Dryden’s Book Corner in Queen Street*- see footnote - (built around his own broadcasting studio)—now the main Auckland site for Whitcoulls.

But he sees the really big future in Amazon-type marketing: “Of the US$16 billion in retail book sales last year, big three—the Borders group, Barnes & Nobel group and Amazon—accounted for $13 billion, with Amazon now slipping into top spot.”And he also sees computer-savvy authors now “doing what musicians do—selling their products on line, promoted through outlets such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace” as well as through retail stores.

Unlimited—co-authored with former American doctor of education Jeannette Vos, now also living in New Zealand—argues that Web 2.0 innovations are changing the entire face of learning and literacy. “In New Zealand,” he argues, “twenty-first-century literacy is what Peter Jackson has done with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings—multimedia literacy”.

Unlimited is a 320-page A4 landscape, hard-cover book, with a large color photo on every page. And Dryden tells The Bookman that he is currently turning those photos—with other videoclips—into a DVD which will also be sold online early in 2009. All books for direct sales come from the Shanghai-based, Singapore-owned color printed encased in easy-open individual mailing cartons.

Dryden says one of the keys to Web marketing is “the Google model”: give away important information free—and then sell a total product to those really interested. And his book argues that this is about to become a major part of “the new economy”, with anyone now able to “turn their own passions and interests” into Web sales. “I think that will be particularly important for those thinking of writing books—and producing associated multimedia and other material—on subjects which may be of ‘minority interest’ in their own countries. For example, one of my favourite examples is the elderly woman, living in a village in the U.S, state of Maine, that a colleague met at an international conference on Web marketing. Her hobby, it turned out, was teaching parrots to talk, and then sewing fancy dress suits for parrots to perform in. So she was persuaded to give away free parrot-teaching lessons online—and sell the fancy dress costumes. Her first year costume sales: US $2 million.”

If you want to learn how to do that with your passion, Dryden recommends reading The Long Tail, by Wired Editor in Chief Chris Andersen.

*The Bookman was offered the job running Dryden's Book Corner, actually selling the books while Dryden interviewed their authors on air. I was tempted but declined as in those days I was still running Beattie & Forbes Bookshop in Napier, and subsequently joined Penguin Books in 1977. The rest, as they say, is history.
Is it a book? No, it’s a website!

Much more used to launching books, Victoria University Press is pleased to launch its new-look website. Its address is: :

We’re delighted to offer readers the chance to rummage in our back catalogue” says VUP’s publisher Fergus Barrowman. “Our brand new search function means plenty of scope for browsers and also effortless searches for specific books or authors.”

This is the third version of VUP’s website and it certainly has the most bells and whistles. Secure on-line ordering is possible for both individuals and bookshops, backed by ANZ’s e-gate system.

The website also contains information about VUP’s writers and also offers submission guidelines and links to some useful websites, plus lots of additional information.

A team effort by Webstruxure Limited, VUW’s Communications and Marketing department and VUP’s own staff; all involved are thrilled to see their ‘baby’ live.

Please contact to find out more.

Publisher disputes reports of book-buying freeze

By HILLEL ITALIE, AP National Writer Hillel Italie, – 10 mins ago

NEW YORK – Reports of a buying freeze at Harcourt Houghton Mifflin is news to the publisher of one its imprints.
"I don't work at the Harcourt offices so I called to find out if the story was true," Otto Penzler, whose Otto Penzler Books specializes in mystery books and releases 6-8 titles per year, said Wednesday.

Penzler was referring to media stories alleging that Harcourt Houghton Mifflin (HMH) had temporarily stopped acquiring new books.
"I was told that it had been blown out of proportion and that there was simply some belt-tightening going on. I asked, `Does this mean I can keep buying books?' `Absolutely,' I was told.
Penzler says the information came from a high-level Harcourt Houghton executive, whom he declined to publicly name, saying he wanted to preserve the official's privacy.

The book world was stunned Monday by a posting on the Web site of Publishers Weekly that HMH had "temporarily stopped" buying books, the latest shock resulting from the economic crisis. HMH is the publisher of Philip Roth, Nobel laureate Gunter Grass and one of the literary world's most lucrative franchises, J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
Read the full story on Yahoo News online.
The Bookman thanks NZ novelist, Chad Taylor, currently living in London, for bringing this story to his notice minutes after it was published.

John Lloyd & John Mitchinson
Faber & Faber Hardcover – NZ$35

For a quotation nut like me this new collection from the QI elves ( is tremendous fun and a more than worthy addition to my largish collection of books of quotations, (over 40 at last count). They gathered a whole raft of funny, sometimes true, quotes from the best minds, many contemporary, and organized them into more than 400 subjects.

A Spotter’s Guide
Nick Baker – Icon Books - $39.99

Journalist Nick Baker invents then dissects the Groovy Old Men phenomenon with interviews with experts and archetypes like designer Sir Paul Smith, radical Tariq Ali, Glastonbury co-founder Andrew Kerr, and Peter Jenner, the original manager of Pink Floyd, along with not so groovy old rockers.
Baker reckons that groovy old men are part of a new and growing breed. I must try and get a New Zealand group going! I wonder if I might make the grade?

Real advice from real women for real life
Kate Reardon – Headline - $34.99

A fun book, a stocking stuffer for sure.
Kate Reardon has been Fashion Editor at Tatler (at age 21), has been a columnist for various newspapers including The Times and is currently a Contributing Editor at Vanity Fair.
Although the book is great fun it is also filled with serious tips on every subject you can think of from how to write a letter of condolence and how to get children to eat vegetables to how to get oil off a driveway when all else makes no difference to how to get more juice from a lemon. There are twenty section including cooking, dating, buying presents, dieting, car, gardening and f course, beauty tips.
Here is my favourite:
How to stop a pan from boiling over, e.g. when making pasta or rice- Place a wooden spoon across the pan and the bubbles will not rise above it.

Edited by Francis Payne & Ian Smith
Hodder Moa - $49.99

This is the 61st edition of this goldmine of information on New Zealand cricket at all levels and it is the 26th under the current editors -
covers twelve months on the cricketing calendar, including all the big action from the
men's and women's games.
The Almanack also has its usual detailed coverage of domestic cricket including State Championship, State Shield, State Twenty20, State League, Hawke Cup
and age-group cricket.
As ever, all the cricket is backed up by a detailed records section and and
a fascinating collection of the season's happenings.

Editors Francis Payne and Ian Smith are New Zealand's foremost cricket statisticians and have been editing the Cricket Almanack for many years. Payne, in particular, is well known to all cricket
followers. He is a regular guest on both radio and television as well as fulfilling the role as chief
statistician for New Zealand Cricket.

John Little – Macmillan - $39.99

This is the remarkable story of a truly remarkable woman, Dr.Catherine Hamlin. I picked the book up and thought to myself I’ll just have a quick read of the Prologue and leave the rest. Yeah, right. Warning. Do not read the Prologue unless you have time to read the rest of the book. It is totally arresting..

Dr.Catherine Nicholson graduated from Sydney University Medical School in 1946, later married NZ doctor Reginald Hamlin and in 1959 they travelled to Ethiopia to establish a school of midwifery in Addis Ababa. Fifteen years later they founded Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital to help the victims of fistula – devastating injuries caused by obstructed labour in childbirth, which condemn women to a lifetime of incapacity and degradation.

Almost five decades and over 30,000 operations later, and now aged 83, Catherine, a widow, (Reg died in 1993), is working as hard as ever helping women overcome thus cruel affliction.
I’m not surprised she has been liked to Mother Theresa. The woman is a Saint in my book. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and has been awarded honorary fellowships by medical associations all over the world.
A truly inspiring story.
An adventure on the French Canals
Bruce Ansley – Longacre Press - $34.99

Bruce Ansley was one of my favourite writers at The Listener until late 2006 when he just seemed to disappear. I now know where he went – he and his wife Sally bought a canal boat, the River Queen, in Holland and sailed it through Belgium to France where they spent a year travelling all over the country..

He is an excellent writer so this book is most entertainingly written with beautiful photos to complement. I especially love the cover pic.
This book is more than just a superb travel story though, it is a memoir, a memoir of a marriage and life together, and it is remarkably candid.
Here for example is an excerpt from near the end of the book:
Adventures are not simple events. They are complex things, filled with satisfaction, and moments of complete happiness, and danger, and shards of hardship, and fright, and despair. Otherwise they would not be adventures. They would be ten days in Fiji.
I’d hoped our journey would show us, or even just hint at, the way we might spend the rest of our lives. Perhaps that was too ambitious. Perhaps too much change shifts or breaks the patterns that keep people whole. Ours worked in a way we did not expect; it narrowed the options by revealing starkly what was important and even more urgently, what was not.
Neither of us imagined for a moment that it might put our marriage in danger.
How could it? Break-ups only happened to other people, like air crashes.

I am pleased to say that Bruce and Sally are still married and back living in Christchurch and Golden Bay, both of which places play cameo roles in this most interesting of travel stories.

Publishing Displays Its Split Personality

By MOTOKO RICH writing in The New York Times, November 25, 2008

Talk about a business of extremes. In less than a week the book publishing industry has been set abuzz by the news that one publisher is so uncertain about the economic climate that it has temporarily shut its doors to most manuscripts while another is celebrating a banner year by handing out extra bonuses to all its employees.

At the other end of the spectrum was Hachette Book Group, whose Little, Brown and Grand Central Publishing units together represent some of the biggest commercial authors, including David Baldacci, Nelson DeMille and James Patterson, not to mention the category-killing vampire queen, Stephenie Meyer.

As first reported by Publishers Lunch, an industry newsletter, Hachette is giving bonuses equal to one week’s salary to every employee in the company, in addition to the regular bonuses for which staff members are eligible. Just last month Reagan Arthur, a star editor at Little, Brown, signed a deal for a reported $6 million with the actress and writer Tina Fey to write a book of humorous essays.

On the surface these twin pieces of news would seem to suggest that success in the book industry, as with other forms of entertainment, is increasingly dependent on the production of major hits, works that are so successful that they can support a family of less successful siblings. David Young, chairman and chief executive of Hachette Book Group, said that the company had racked up 104 New York Times best sellers this year.

Once upon a time, some publishers suggested, they could cultivate under-the-radar authors and slowly build an audience for them over several books. Now, with few exceptions, books tend to come out of the gate at the top of the best-seller list or be deemed failures.
Read the full NYT piece here.
Publishing Bigshots Told to Open Canned Tuna, Eat at Desk
The New York Observer

Though prayers this week should undoubtedly be with the editors of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who were told a few days ago by their CEO that they can no longer afford to acquire new books, it should not go unremarked that editors at other houses are being forced to give up something almost as essential: lunch!

Though many agents say they’re still being wined and dined several times a week, a number of the publishers who are paying for it agree that it should no longer be part of an editor’s job description to regularly eat in fancy restaurants on the company tab. Forget those two martinis, we’re talking about food—as in, no more of it.

“All over town, people are saying, ‘Cut back,’ and that’s certainly what we’re saying,” said HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham, who stunned agents last spring when he asked his staff in a memo to eliminate their lunch expenses for the entire month of March. “I think it’s mutual—I think agents expect to be taken out less. It’s not like they’re calling and no one’s returning their calls. It’s just that the idea of sitting down for a lunch that costs $130 for two, or even $80 for two, seems beside the point.”

At Collins, Harper’s sister division at 10 East 53rd Street, editors have been asked to scale back on their expenses, and at Random House, several sources confirmed, some supervisors were recently given guidelines indicating how much employees should tip and which restaurants near the company’s midtown headquarters are thrifty enough to do business in. While the guidelines were advisory, the message was clear.

“I think some lunching might still be going on, but I think one does that at one’s own peril,” said a senior editor who works at one of Random House’s varsity league imprints. “I think it’s generally understood that it is not the smartest way to show your individuality.”
Stuart Applebaum, Random House’s corporate spokesman, denied that there had been any top-down mandate to cut back on expenses, but acknowledged that the atmosphere in the building was one of frugality.

“We’re all very cost- and expenses-conscious these days throughout book publishing, and probably throughout most cultural businesses in the city, if not nationwide,” Mr. Applebaum said. “Prudent leadership should be suggesting that if your expensed lunch isn’t absolutely mandatory now, why not postpone it, or eat in the cafeteria?”
By “cafeteria,” Mr. Applebaum meant the company-subsidized mess hall on the second floor of Random’s headquarters at 1745 Broadway. “The cafeteria works for me,” he said. “I always like the turkey sandwiches I get down there.” Then again, he noted: “You’re talking to a guy who most every day eats lunch at his desk.”
The full story online at The New York Observer

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

NZ Post Book Awards judges announced
127 books and counting!Judges prepare for a long, hot summer of reading...

The judges for the 2009 New Zealand Post Book Awards have positioned their deck chairs, turned off their phones and slapped on the sunscreen as they embark on what will be a wonderful summer of reading. Writer and former children’s librarian Bill Nagelkerke, Children’s Literature Consultant Rosemary Tisdall, and children’s editor and career bookseller Jenni Keestra, are the three people who have been chosen to judge the Awards in 2009.

Pic shows L-R: Rosemary Tisdall, Jenni Keestra, Bill Nagelkerke
In search of the very best, they will each read and assess over 130 books for Children and Young Adults published in New Zealand in 2008. From picture books by iconic authors and illustrators, to exciting junior and young adult fiction and a huge variety of non-fiction titles, the judges will read them all.

Judges’ convenor, Bill Nagelkerke says “Books are an incredibly important part of childhood.”
“Those dog-eared pages of much-loved favourites become a part of who we are, and often shape our view of the world.
”In the past it has been Hairy Maclary’s curious adventures, Maui’s heroic acts, and Margaret Mahy’s stories about tentative steps into teens, that have taken on a life of their own in the imaginations of young readers. We’re looking for stories that the current generation of young New Zealanders, and their parents, will fall in love with.”

Jenni Keestra says “the Awards promote excellence in children's literature.
”It’s vital that we celebrate and acknowledge great writing, illustration and publishing in New Zealand,” says judge and bookseller Jenni Keestra. “The standard of publishing here is very high, and these awards are a real boost for authors and publishers, resulting in many of our award-winning books becoming extremely popular, both at home and internationally.”

Rosemary Tisdall is passionate about books that encourage young people to read.
“A really good book will resonate with a child, and either transport them to another world, or make them see their own world differently. The use of language, storyline, illustration, factual information and an opportunity to use their own imagination are the key ingredients we’ll be looking for as we read all these books over summer.”The 2009 New Zealand Post Book Awards finalists will be announced on 3 March, 2009, and winners announced at an Awards Ceremony in Auckland on 20 May, 2009. Children and teenagers will also have the opportunity to vote for their favourite book, selecting from the finalist titles, for the popular Children’s Choice Award.

Voting begins online at, and via voting cards available in bookshops and libraries nationwide, when the finalists are announced on 3 March, 2009.
New Zealand Post has been a steadfast sponsor of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults for more than 10 years.
Their partnership has seen the awards flourish, growing from strength to strength over the last decade. New Zealand Post’s support of these awards reflects their deep commitment to promoting literacy and literature throughout the country.

Working closely with Booksellers New Zealand, New Zealand Post and other dedicated segments of the community actively encourage New Zealand children to read and enjoy books. For those with limited access to new works, New Zealand Post also purchases and distributes books by the New Zealand Post Book Awards finalists by supporting the Books in Homes programme each year.
The New Zealand Post Book Awards are also supported by Creative New Zealand and Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd and are administered by Booksellers New Zealand.

Earlier today, two years and one month since I first set up this blog, I posted my 4000th story. Phew!
Later today I might allow myself a celebratory drink even though I'm trying (not with a lot of success) to cut back my wine intake during the week, for waistline reasons!
Oak Tree Fine Press

Doris Lessing’s Nobel Lecture is being printed for the first time in a signed letter press limited edition available for Christmas this year.

It will be available from December 5th. The lecture, On Not Winning the Nobel Prize, was presented by Doris Lessing to the Swedish Academy following their decision to award her the Nobel Prize for Literature.

All profits from book sales go to support children living with HIV and AIDS. The lecture offers a fascinating journey through the thoughts of this inspirational and pioneering writer. A deeply moving study of the essential and permanent importance of books and literature, it combines vivid personal recollections with an exploration of key challenges faced by contemporary society, such as poverty, inequality and a fragmenting culture.

Oak Tree Fine Press was established through the support of Nobel Laureate J. M. Coetzee to raise money to help care for some of the more than 2,000 children around the world who become HIV-positive every day of the year.
Staffed mainly by volunteers, it produces one-off signed editions by world leading authors, accompanied by sensitive artistic interpretations.
All profits go to selected charities.

For more information, please contact:Nancy BrayPhone: +44 (0) 1865 596 719
email: or click here
Between the lines: Andrew Motion's advice to the next poet laureate

The Guardian, Wednesday November 26 2008

Be warned. If you interpret the job as I have done - that being poet laureate means not just writing poems but trying to champion poetry - you will find there is an unimaginable difference between leading a relatively private life and the public life suddenly required of you.

It is not just about having to get up early to appear on the Today programme. It is everything that comes with having your life picked over.Be aware of the almost continual slew of requests to do or write this or that.

It took me a while to work out what I could and should say no to. Part of the job, of course, is that the poet is required to write on public occasions. These poems can be difficult to write; left-handed poems written with a right hand, so to speak.

Read the full piece at The Guardian online.

Obama cornered by Canongate
Charlotte Higgins, Wednesday November 26 2008

Who are the most ardent fans of Barack Obama in Britain? The people at Canongate, the Edinburgh-based publishers. Why? Because they were canny enough to buy Obama's books Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, way back at the start of 2007, when Obama was nought but an unlikely outsider for the presidency. And, says Canongate boss Jamie Byng, they got them for "pretty modest five-figure" sums. Bless Byng - you'd think he was the one who'd just run for election: "It's been an amazing journey for us," he says.
Last week, Dreams sold 24,000 copies; and Audacity 16,000.