Books that don’t make the cut

Probably not for book club

Here are some books that I have recently read and enjoyed to some degree. Others will have loved them. They miss the cut of my recommended books because something is lacking: elegant writing, spirit, a character to love or simply they don’t add up. Or they may be just too weird for your regular group of bookies. If you see a book you love here, please tell me what I missed.


Lost Roses, by Martha Jane Kelly

Once again, I fine myself applauding Martha Jane Kelly for her research and her passion and railing against a poorly edited book (can’t believe I just said that. Who am I to criticise Penguin? And yet, here I go.) This could have been a great read. It has all the elements: a fascinating period in history with the Bolsheviks being bolshy and the White Russians fleeing their palaces. A cliffhanger at every chapter end. There are interesting characters with some power to change their lives and a workable plot line. But there are easily fixed flaws that spoilt the read for me. Just me, perhaps, so don’t worry, Penguin. You’ve got a million other readers for this. Continue reading “Books that don’t make the cut”

Wellington’s 180th anniversary

Wellington turned 180 years old this week. Here are twelve facts about the foundation of the settlement.

  1. 22 January 1840 marks the arrival of the Aurora, the first ship carrying colonial settlers to the colony.
  2. The immigrants initially camped at Petone, a town they called Britannia. The proposed town plan was drawn by men with no local knowledge and looked very similar to London (pictured above). The Hutt River flooded. Continue reading “Wellington’s 180th anniversary”

Damascus. Sex, violence & empathy

Damascus, by Christos Tsiolkas

This isn’t a book review as such because, a) I only review books I love, and, b) it is full of gratuitous violence which I abhor. The gratuitous violence, however, is the point of this post. And on a more positive note, in the real world we have progressed from the days when such violence was accepted without heed. Time to move on with our books?

Continue reading “Damascus. Sex, violence & empathy”

Singing the Trail – book review

The Story of Mapping Aotearoa New Zealand, by John McCrystal

I think this is the nicest book anyone has ever given me. Thanks Davie. GOD! I love old maps and here, for the first time, is a whole, beautiful book of them. They’re not of the ancient European world, either. These are New Zealand maps and they tell our (mostly colonial) history through the contemporaneous pens of the early cartographers. I love all the cartographers, too. Continue reading “Singing the Trail – book review”

Sapiens – book reveiw

Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari

This is one of those books like a pregnant women. When you’re lugging the great lump around, so, it suddenly seems, is everyone else. The thing is everywhere. In the course of one week my son recommended it, my husband was reading it, I met a bloke on a tramp who couldn’t look up at the trees because his head was in the book and his girlfriend said it changed her life. Yeah, yeah. I got a copy.

Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind is a big book. Lots of pages, yes, but I mean big in the sense that every chapter is packed with some thought provoking perception. I didn’t agree with all Harari’s ideas but they were all interesting enough to make me rest the book on my lap for a while and think…hmmm…maybe he’s right. This is designed to be a life changing book. Bill Gates and Barack Obama both recommend it on the cover. It claims to be the “thrilling account of our extraordinary history—from insignificant apes to rulers of the world,” Quite the thesis.

Continue reading “Sapiens – book reveiw”

The running graph

Optimism for over the hill runners

You’re born, you run, you die.

Somewhere in the middle there’s a peak when it all comes together: age, training, body, everything adding up to the perfect run where you hit the hills and can run for hours. God, I miss it!

I will never run that well again. I am over the hill, as it were.

So what’s to do? I’ve never been one for analysis. I don’t record my times and speed, I do different trails all the time, always off-road. It’s difficult to compare times when the track’s washed away or the dog’s decided to avoid the zigzag and go cross-country for a change. But even so, it is hard not to consider that once I ran Te Mata Peak, fast and furious, without falling over. Obviously the sensible thing, as we age, is to continue to run, consistently, patiently, accepting the fact that as you slide from “peak you”, every run will be that little bit less. “Good for your age” people will say, but it will be a challenge just to stay on the path of steady decline. Look, I’ve drawn it for you:

Continue reading “The running graph”

Washington Black – book review

Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan

This book delivers everything it promises on the cover: a surreal balloon ride through a tropical jungle, a black boy holding fast with no control over things and an pith-helmeted explorer with a telescope looking like he knows where he’s going.

Washington Black, as the name suggests, is a slave boy and the explorer is the eccentric brother of his owner on a slave plantation in Barbados. They are drawn together, Titch because of the boy’s uncanny drawing ability and Wash for the enticement of freedom. But what is freedom?

Continue reading “Washington Black – book review”