30 March, 2015

A year of doing good: one woman, one New Year's resolution, 365 good deeds by Judith O'Reilly [Surani, Waitakere Central Library]

"I would do one good deed a day for a year. It couldn't be that hard - could it?"

Now, I don't know about you, but personally, I very rarely make New Year's resolutions I know are impossible, let alone decide to follow through and actually do them! The author of this book chronicles a year of following through with one such resolution.

Judith O'Reilly, bestselling author of the hugely popular blog and book Wife in the North, decided to embark on a year-long experiment where she does one good deed each day. While juggling family, friends and neighbours in the small Northumberland village where she lives, Judith recounts the many deeds and hard work of doing good.

Ranging from the small - babysitting, cleaning up dead mice, buying a bread bin for the neighbours - to the larger - trying to raise money for charity with her Jam Jam Army - she describes the lessons she learns along the way.

At times hilarious, this book made me think about the joy and gratification that comes from contributing to someone else's life and making them happy, even if it is for a short while. Although this is technically a biography, it has more inspiration than most titles for me. I found myself reflecting on my own life after finishing this, and resolved to 'be' good as much as possible and 'do' as much as I could this year.

If you want to make good deeds your next resolution, and gain the unexpected benefits of happiness and health, then this is definitely the book for you!!

Title: A year of doing good: one woman, one New Year's resolution, 365 good deeds.
Author: Judith O'Reilly
Published: 2013
Publisher: London: Penguin
ISBN: 9780670921133

24 March, 2015

Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction 2015, edited by Jolisa Gracewood and Susanna Andrew [Claire G, Grey Lynn Library]

This book brings together a mix of interesting topics and talented writers. It’s the kind of anthology we’ve seen from the small indie publisher Awa Press, which specialises in New Zealand non-fiction and has already brought out collections of sport and science writing. This one, though, is from Auckland University Press, and they have done a really good job.

We’re accustomed to columnists such as Steve Braunias and Joe Bennett, who appear in mainstream newspapers and magazines and produce whole books of their own. Indeed Braunias makes an appearance here, with his hilarious piece ‘About an Egging’ (I think he’s at his best when his daughter comes into the story, as she does here). But Tell You What – which is a great title, isn’t it? – is packed with information, insights and really nice writing, much of it from the web.

Among the first pieces are the compulsory (in the last five years) considerations of Christchurch and earthquakes, but these absorb the reader rather than invoking too great a sense of duty. Lara Strongman’s ‘Song from under the Floorboards’ I found particularly affecting and thought-provoking.

After that the collection ranges over such diverse terrain as carnivorous snails, Kim Dotcom, cultural appropriation, and intellectual disability (David Herkt, in the only essay I’d read before, just as good the second time around). A few pieces I found too earnest but maybe that’s my (middle) age, and anyway, one can’t expect to like everything.

A favourite of mine relates an Overseas Experience. That is Ashleigh Young’s delightful ‘Small Revolutions, or: On My Bike in London’, which I credit with enabling me
finally to understand and appreciate the bicyclic enthusiasms of one of my near relatives. And while I can’t abide patriotism of the flag-waving, chest-swelling variety, I’m a sucker for real from-the-heart writing about the nature of this country. So when Naomi Arnold’s ‘Mother’s Day’ surprised me with this –
I loved living under the black night skies, salted with stars that hung so close over the rooflines it seemed you could float up and swim through them... knowing I was cradled in the curve of a bay bordered with such untrammelled wilderness that people disappear in it every summer, and cavers are still plumbing its deep passages. There are no killer animals in New Zealand. It is the land that will swallow you whole.
– I fell in love with this book. Reckon I'll read it again.

Title: Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction 2015
Editors: Jolisa Gracewood and Susanna Andrew
Published: Auckland University Press, Auckland
Date: 2014
ISBN: 9781869408244

22 March, 2015

When by Victoria Laurie [Erika, Central City Library]

Maddie has seen the numbers for as long as she can remember. They are always there on people's foreheads and they never change. The numbers are a date, the date the person will die, and knowing those numbers has made Maddie a social outcast that some people in her town go so far as to call a witch. 

It's not all bad though; her gift allows her to bring some money into the house when she does readings for people - if only her mother didn't drink away most of the money she made. It seems such a harmless gift, one that can bring people peace about their death or the death of a loved one. 

But all that is about the change.

When Maddie does a reading for Mrs. Tibbolt she is startled to discover that one of the Tibbolt children has a week to live - and it is not the child Mrs. Tibbolt is worried about. When the Tibbolt child turns up dead, Maddie is an immediate suspect, especially for the sceptical FBI agents who believe Maddie predicted the death because she is the killer. 

When another person goes missing, Maddie and her friend Stubby find themselves in the cross-hairs of the FBI. Someone out there knows what Maddie can do, and they are using her gift against her, making her look like the perfect suspect. Can Maddie crack the mystery before she becomes the target, or Stubby is sent to jail for a crime he didn't commit?

When is not your typical teen thriller - it blends together the psychic phenomena with a tensely written murder mystery that will keep you guessing right to the end. Maddie is perfectly imperfect, flawed by her own doubts and worries, but still intensely loyal to her family and friends. Although not particularly gory or gruesome, there are some themes that are better suited to teens rather than younger readers. 

A promising debut novel and hopefully there are many more from Victoria Laurie.

Recommended for ages 14+. 

Title: When
Author: Victoria Laurie
ISBN: 9781484700082

Published: 2015
Publisher: Hyperion

18 March, 2015

Room: inside contemporary interiors [Louise, Central City Library]

Sometimes I get books just for the pictures, but if you ask me, it still counts as “reading a book”. I picked up this particular book using all my arm muscles at once – as weighty tomes go, this is definitely on the hefty side – but it’s absolutely worth lugging home if you love interior design.

Room features 100 of the most interesting and innovative interiors from around the world constructed in the last five years, and chosen by 10 curators with their collective finger on the pulse.

The interiors are all amazing (read: fancy and expensive) but they have a certain quality that makes them extra appealing. Whether it’s a café, hotel, apartment or office - rustic, glam, industrial or minimalist – the thing that seems to unite all the interiors in this book is their true human scale and a strong connection to the natural world, with lighting, plants or just a general earthy texture.

Like my personal favourite, a house in Tokyo that has a dirt floor inside with trees growing out of it. Consider my mind blown.

Title: Room : inside contemporary interiors
Publication info: London: Phaidon, 2014.
ISBN: 9780714867441

History of the Rain by Niall Williams [Biddy, Highland Park Library]

Ruth Swain is a young woman bedridden by a mysterious illness. She lies in her bed in the attic of a thatched farm cottage surrounded by 3958 books piled beneath the skylight in her room and watches and listens as the rain continues interminably. A poetic image, and a story brought to life by Williams' lyrical language that had me pausing to re-read sections just to enjoy the prose.

While tracing the history of her family and their idiosyncrasies, Ruth continually relates experiences to one of the books in her room. When describing her Grandfather Swain in action in World War I: "He's got all that mind... Mind has Mountains, that's in Gerard Manley Hopkins (Book 1,555, Poems and Prose, Penguin, London)".

Ruth's life is one filled with hardship in the grey, poverty-stricken part of  Ireland she inhabits. However, her tone is not melancholic but filled with hope and humour.

She relates her family's history - their endless challenge in striving to achieve the Swains' Impossible Standard that always succeeds in just eluding them, the loss of her beloved twin brother Aeney, and her father's quest to write the perfect poem.

This is a book worth reading-and re-reading!

Title: History of the Rain
Author: Niall Williams
Publisher: London, Bloomsbury
Date: 2014
ISBN: 9781408852026

15 March, 2015

Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy [Erika, Central City Library]

Three children went into the woods at Berwick Waters, but only two came out again. Jennifer Jones became instantly famous as the child who killed, a media sensation for all the wrong reasons. As her release date looms the press starts up again, feeding the frenzy of interest. 

 Alice Tully reads every article with intense interest, trying to absorb everything the media has to say about this child killer who is about to be set free. It is not a morbid fascination with a killer though, it is her way of keeping up to date about what the media knows about Jennifer Jones - because Alice Tully is Jennifer Jones. 

Alice has not forgotten what happened, even as she struggles to find her way in the world, she can't help but remember what happened in the lead up to that horrible day. 

Under the terms of her release Jennifer has a fresh start as Alice, and a chance for a bright future under her new identity - but that future is threatened when a private investigator comes to town and starts looking for her. As her future becomes more uncertain, the memories of her past and that day grow stronger. She may be free on the outside, but will she ever be truly free on the inside?

Looking for JJ is a provocative and confronting book that may be a very uncomfortable for some readers. Jennifer/Alice is not pure villain; she is portrayed in a realistic and sympathetic light, not only because the murder wasn't intentional, but also because of her struggles to rejoin the society that no longer wants her. This is the 10th anniversary edition, and it has lost none of its power in the past decade.  

If you enjoy Looking for JJ then try reading the sequel Finding Jennifer Jones.

Recommended for ages 14+. 

Title: Looking for JJ
Author: Anne Cassidy
ISBN: 9781596439382

Published: 2004 (2014)
Publisher: Scholastic

14 March, 2015

It's mine! by Rod Campbell [Dave T, Point Chevalier Library]

On a walk, wading through the swaying grass, surprises and strange things are moving in the jungle. It's time to put on your story time spectacles and get ready to spot all the hidden creatures, lurking in amongst the wild pages within.

With lovely large text, this boyish book explores a search and discover tale about ownership of our favourite things. Fun, folding flaps reveal a pop-up parade of colourful creatures to the unsuspecting eye, with a chance at the end to count together the friends we met along the way.

Parents be warned, before the tale flicks shut, our over excited king of the jungle bares his teeth with a surprise snarl.

Great to growl along with!

Title: It's mine!
Author: Rod Campbell
Publisher: Macmillan (2010)

Useful by Debra Oswald [Sue W, Central City Library]

This is a delightful read, poignant, gently humorous and ultimately life-affirming. For those that are a little bruised by life, the cynics of the happy-ever-after myth, it is nonetheless a novel that suggests life can in fact be better than just bearable.

Useful is tinged with black humour, tackling the big issues like depression, suicide and self-worth. Hardly topics you normally associate with humour, but this is handled in just the right way. A quirky drama that avoids falling into cloyingly sweet sentimentality.

Here's how things kick off: Sullivan Moss, our hapless protagonist, wakes up hung over and chastened in a hospital bed after attempting suicide, not successfully as it turns out. He's pretty much at rock bottom, even finding the exit to his miserable life hasn't worked.

This is when he stumbles across a genius idea: he will become a living kidney donor. And so begins his quest to find some meaning and garner some sense of self-respect from the detritus of his life.

This is a gentle read, with enough stuffing to make it interesting. Fans of Nick Hornby, particularly his novel A long way down, will especially enjoy this book.

Title: Useful
Author: Debra Oswald
ISBN: 9780670077823
Publisher: Penguin Australia 2015

13 March, 2015

The little book of scientific principles, theories & things by Surendra Verma [Christine, Takapuna Library]

Despite its dull cover, this book is a little gem.  It is packed with most if not all of the big ideas that could possibly stroll into the camp of Science.

Starting with Pythagoras and Zeno, way back in 6th and 5th centuries B.C we meet the men and ideas that made the Age of Reason an apt description for the 1600-1800 years. Modern thinkers and experimenters who have been able to see further because of the technology available to them are here too.
Each entry is only one or two  pages long; the theory, law or discovery is summed up in an easy-to-read style and a glimpse of the scientist's personality is given.

Very few Africans, Asians or women make it into this book;  bias or a reflection of reality?
This is a great reminder of  exactly which revolutionary concepts belong to which well-known names as well as an introduction to people whose ideas are well known but their names are not.

Title: Little book of scientific principles, theories & things
Author: Surendra Verma
ISBN: 1877069205
Publisher: Frenchs Forest
Date: 2005

A long way home by Saroo Brierley [Suneeta, Highland Park Library]

1987.  A five year old boy from a poor, uneducated family, living in a small town in India gets totally and utterly lost on a train. Separated from his brother on the journey, he tries to find his way back home, but unable to read, unaware of the name of his town or even his own last name, he is cut off from his loved ones and his life is altered forever.

Flash forward 25 years; meet Saroo, now 30 years old, a naturalised Aussie and businessman transplanted into a secure, middle-class environment, happy with his loving adopted family, living a busy, productive life.   But through the intervening years his longing to understand what happened to him before that life-changing train journey makes him search for ways to reconstruct the circumstances he was born into and reconnect with his birth family. 

Miraculously, through the internet, a small crew of friends and the adoption agency that helped him, he is able to find his way back and meet up with the family. There sadly, he find out that his brother never returned from that  trip either and was found dead a few weeks later. Having lost one son, his mother, for several years travelled up and down to neighbouring towns in search of her “Sheru” and refused several times to move away from the house they all had lived in, in the hope that he would one day return.

Very few people have lived life as Saroo Brierley has and he tells his story with simplicity and honesty, sans sentimentality. This feel-good story of determination and triumph which attracted global media attention has all the right ingredients to be adapted to film and not surprisingly, one is underway.

Watch a short clip of Saroo Brierly at

Title: A long way home
Author: Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose
ISBN: 9780399169281
Published: 2014
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons

12 March, 2015

Doll & Em [DVD] by Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer, directed by Azazel Jacobs [Jonny, Central City Library]

Real-life best friends, Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer have written a six-episode story, where they play ‘versions’ of themselves.  London-based Wells suffers a breakup/down and Mortimer offers her a job as her P.A. and a home in her LA pad. Mortimer is pleased, at first, to have the company as she faces the pressures of being the lead in a movie and is away from her family.

The six episodes of this TV show follow the disintegration of a close friendship tested by a power-shift; a move from the private to the professional world.

I loved the mix of comedy, usually courtesy of Wells, who has excellent comic timing and is adept at physical comedy, Mortimer counterbalances Wells as the A-lister haunted by the anxieties which plague any actor. On top of this she has to deal with her needy best friend/employee.

As with a lot of HBO comedies Doll & Em is constructed with a looseness that gives the actors room to breathe and improvise and the story a chance to flow. The many awkward moments between the friends slowly build each episode in intensity and complexity in a downward spiral that is perfectly plotted over six episodes.

I can’t think of a recent TV comedy that offers such an in-depth look at the challenges of close friendships that so deftly combines comedy with real depth.

Title: Doll and Em
Author: Written by Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer, directed by Azazel Jacobs
Publisher: Madman Entertainment
Published: 2014

10 March, 2015

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith [Judy, Orewa Library]

The FarmThis month's visit to New Zealand by English thriller writer Tom Rob Smith was a highlight for his many fans here. His latest novel, The Farm, is a frantic and intriguing read, in which a son's loyalties are tested as he is caught between the two very different stories being told to him by his mother and father.

The story is set partly on an isolated farm in Sweden, where his parents planned an idyllic retirement, and partly in London where Daniel lives. Unfortunately things have gone terribly wrong in Sweden and an unprepared Daniel finds himself embroiled in his parents' sinister situation.

Tom Rob Smith has written four novels - the first three belong to the Leo Demidov trilogy - Child 44, The secret speech and Agent 6. The Farm is a stand-alone novel, surprisingly based on strange but true events in his own life.

Child 44 is soon to be released as a movie, and Smith has been writing a spy thriller series for television. With such credentials by his mid-thirties, I'm sure there's a lot more to come. To quote one of the smitten audience members at his recent author talk, Tom Rob Smith is a "class act".

TitleThe Farm
Author: Tom Rob Smith
ISBN: 9781847375704
Published: 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Spark of life by Erich Maria Remarque [Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library]

Set in a (fictitious) German concentration camp the narrative starts from the point of view of political prisoner 509. He has been there for 10 years surviving the hellish conditions. The main part of the camp is a labour camp but on the edge is Small camp where those too weak to work are sent to die. Most do, but there is a group of  veterans in Small camp who have persevered. . . "they didn't live longer because they had more to eat; they lived because they had preserved a desperate remnant of resistance." In the veterans' corner at this time lay a hundred and thirty four 'skeletons'. There was room for only forty. Fights for space, blankets and rations were common. We follow prisoners who work in the crematorium and other areas of the camp, see what happens in those places, and how deals are made for survival.

The author spent five years researching and writing this book and I feel he has done his best to get into the mindset of these prisoners (if that is possible), how survival is the only focus and even hope is a waste of energy. How time can stretch away forever but also how it can start to have meaning again when the neighbouring town is bombed and it becomes apparent that the war is not going well for the Germans. Now the challenge is to hold on until the liberation, or even find enough left in themselves to fight the Nazis so their suffering will not have been in vain.

There are chapters from the point of view the German guards and Commandant, a jarring contrast to  that of the prisoners. Death and brutality are so commonplace it no longer registers to them. In addition there are those who derive enjoyment from torment and torture, they do not see the prisoners as being human, more like objects that are disposable. With the enemy at the doorstep they react differently.  Some ratchet up the terror, no survivors means no witnesses, while the commandant has hopes of redeeming himself by acting more benevolent.

A compelling read, this book will stay in your mind for quite a while. The author Erich Maria Remarque was the author of the famous book "All Quiet on the Western Front".

Title: Spark of Life: a novel
Author: Erich Maria Remarque
Published: 1998
Publisher: New York : Ballantine
ISBN: 780449912515

09 March, 2015

Maggie & Me by Damian Barr [Monica, Orewa Library]

Once in a while a book stands out for me because it is so cleverly written and so different that I cannot put it down, and this book is such a story.

Damian Barr grew up, gay and clever, in a rough neighbourhood in Glasgow, where being either counted against you. He has a love-hate relationship with Margaret Thatcher and draws strength from her iron will, despite the fact that her policies are undermining the stability in his childhood, for example by shutting down the steel mill where his father works and stopping the free milk for schools service.

I am so tired of stories of the triumph over adversity written with such a negative tone that, despite the positive ending, I feel depressed after I have finished the book. Damian does not do that in Maggie & Me: his writing shows him as an innately happy person who sees the humour in the darkest of situations and this is what has got him through a truly appalling childhood, his telling of which is thoroughly entertaining. I am a fan.

Title: Maggie & Me
Author: Damian Barr
Published: 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781408838099

08 March, 2015

Around the world in seventy-two days and other writings by Nellie Bly [Ella, Central Library]

Today is International Women’s day, and what better way to celebrate than with a book by one of the wonderful women writers held in our collections. If you need some inspiration, look no further than one of my latest heroines, the delightful Nellie Bly. 

I came across Nellie’s book by chance, and became instantly fascinated by this inspiring woman. In the 1880s Nellie was a young writer, an investigative journalist, and later a successful business woman, fierce feminist, and idol to girls and women all over the world. In a time when many women were without a voice, Nellie Bly was speaking out – and loudly. 

This collection gathers together Bly’s writing, from her first published work – a fiery rebuttal to a sexist opinion piece written under the pen name “Lonely Orphan Girl” - to her later pieces of investigative journalism that brought her worldwide fame and sent her undercover on fascinating and often dangerous assignments.

Styled as a ‘girl stunt reporter’ by ‘The New York World’ newspaper, but not satisfied writing the sort of puff pieces and “women’s interest stories” that were expected from a female reporter, Nellie Bly captured the world’s attention with a series of daring forays into investigative journalism. Her first undercover job involved spending ten days in an asylum on New York’s notorious Blackwell island, and it makes for a harrowing read. After this experience Nellie continued to defy expectations, travelling to far flung destinations to write travelogues. These soon got her into more hot water as she once again ignored the advice of her editors and wrote pieces that were increasingly critical and political. 

1889 the fearless Nellie Bly set off to complete a ‘round the world trip, in less than eighty days. In typical Bly style she pulled it off in just seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds, setting a world record in the process. She wrote a book about it and captured the imagination of millions. Bly was not only interested in sensational stories however. Her sympathetic stories of the lives of ordinary working women and her intimate interview with another passionate feminist, suffragist Susan B. Anthony are equally as interesting as her tales of adventures around the world. 

Authors: Nellie Bly, Jean Marie Lutes
Publishing info: New York, New York : Penguin Books, [2014]
ISBN: 9780143107408

04 March, 2015

Sing in the morning, cry at night by Barbara J. Taylor [Monica, Orewa Library]

Sing in the morning, cry at night is set in an anthracite mining community in America in 1913. The harsh realities of mining in freezing temperatures with no legal protection of minors at work or any other sort of health and safety regulations are brought home by the thorough research that the author has done. The overall tone of the book is tragic, and the relief offered by several of the characters is all the more hilarious for its contrast. This story is a well-spun web of despair, tragedy, hardship and hope, in a harsh setting where immigrants from Wales, Poland and Lithuania (amongst others) have arrived to what they believed would be a better life.

With their various languages and culture come different religions, and a large part of the story is given over to Christianity in all its forms. The true meaning of the word “Christian” is debated in a study of certain characters’ words and deeds leading up to the arrival of a famous evangelist who is to hold a revival in the town.

Title: Sing in the morning, cry at night 
Author: Barbara J. Taylor
Published: 2015
Publisher: Akashic Books
ISBN: 9781617752278

A sudden light by Garth Stein [Kathy, Collections Development]

When 14-year-old Trevor’s parents agree to a trial separation, his mother returns to her British birthplace and his father takes Trevor to his family estate near Seattle. Trevor is fascinated by the house and its secrets and spends his summer exploring the estate and bonding with his grandfather, while his father and aunt try to persuade the old man to sell the land to developers. Visits from a supernatural being and the discovery of an old diary make Trevor keen to find out the hidden stories of his family.

Narrated by Trevor looking back as an adult, this is a haunting tale of relationships between fathers and sons spanning several generations of a Seattle family. Stein's writing is beautifully descriptive and atmospheric and he introduces quite unusual characters. I liked the way the view was from that of a young boy who was not afraid to question the past and was curious about everything around him, and the subtle comments on progress and how we treat the environment.
A passage that resonated with me observed the way we make our surroundings overly safe for children and elders ‘they didn’t realise they were raising a generation of children who could only walk on level ground. The pathfinders of the world, henceforth, would be confined to the pre-paved paths’

This title is available in print, and as an Overdrive e-book.

Title: A sudden light: a novel
Author: Garth Stein
ISBN: 9781439187036
Published: 2014
Publisher: Simon and Schuster

03 March, 2015

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien [Leonie L, Whangaparaoa Library]

It is a real joy to revisit books you loved when you were a child, and an even greater joy to discover that they are not just as good as you remember, but even better. That's how I felt on rereading this classic story and the 1972 winner of the Newbery Medal for children's literature.

The rats of the title live under a rosebush on a farm and to all the surrounding woodland creatures they are mysterious and dangerous. You didn't mess with the rats. So imagine Mrs Frisby's surprise when she seeks advice for a potentially life-threatening problem and the two wisest people she knows advise her to speak to the rats.

The writing in this book is the clear winner as it immediately draws you in and the characters become your closest friends from the very first page. There is adventure, action and cunning throughout the book to keep even the most fidgety of youngsters thoroughly entertained, and the story of how the rats of Nimh came to be living on the farm and the connection between them and the Frisby family is a great tale within the tale.

This book will appeal to both girls and boys, is extremely well-written, and the Newbery Medal was very well-deserved.

Title: Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Author: Robert C. O'Brien
Published: 1971
Publisher: Aladdin Books
ISBN: 9780689710681
Target age group: 8 - 13 yrs

The Public Library - A photographic essay by Robert Dawson [Ana, Central Library]

I saw this book with photos of libraries and decided to take it home to peruse it in my own time. I was glad I did. The book is interesting not only for its photographs but for the stories.

The book includes great photographs of libraries from all over America - some small, some quirky, and some grandiose. We see the classical grandness of Carnegie West Branch Library in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Central Library in Milwaukee with its dome and columns.  At the other extreme, we are introduced to Rudy’s Library in Monowi,  Nebraska, with a staff of one.  It is run by a woman called Elsie Eiler, who, when her husband Rudy died, decided to open Rudy’s Library - it is just a shed but holds 5,000 volumes.  Another community based library is the Richard F. Boi Memorial Library, the First Little Free Library in Hudson, Wisconsin. The photographs  illustrate the library as a wooden container on a post on Todd Boi’s lawn. It looks like a mailbox but is glass through which you can see the books. A key hangs beside it with the  sign “Little Free Library”.

The book has chapters on Art and Architecture, Evolving Libraries, Literature and Learning, Economics, The American Public Library and ‘Civic Memory and Identity’, with letters by famous authors with comment on what libraries mean to them. It includes  a great chapter titled “How Mr Dewey Decimal Saved My Life” by Barbara Kingsolver. She describes herself as a skinny, grumpy and not very popular girl who made up shocking stories about her home life in order to gain attention. She recalls how the school  librarian, Miss Richey, saved her from herself, when she put her on a project of cataloging and shelving the books in the library! She complained that she didn’t see any point in organizing books that nobody ever looked at, but Miss Richey just smiled. Barbara recalls the process  helped her  to make book loving discoveries of titles such as Gone with the Wind, and the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Between the images and the stories, there really is something for everyone in this book.

Title: The Public Library - a photographic essay
Author: Robert Dawson
ISBN: 9781616892173
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press, New York
Date: 2014

02 March, 2015

Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann [Sue W, Central City ]

We all know our favourite fairy tales are steeped in myth and symbolism. Some say the plots of most narratives can be unravelled to trace their threads to the primordial tales of old. So Christine Hepperman picks up this idea and runs with it, bringing those tales of old into contemporary times.

These modern-day Cinderellas and red-hooded girls face their arch nemeses and engage in battle. Evil incarnate might be a particular cultural cliche that shoots poisoned arrows at those trying to infiltrate its ranks, or it might be a battle against their own psyche.

This is the sort of book to gift to females of any age, an allegorical instruction manual for adolescence on how navigate the treacheries of modern life. Consider it a contemporary handbook for surviving modern warfare.

Title: Poisoned Apples
Author: Christine Heppermann
ISBN: 9780062289575
Publisher: Harper Collins, New York
Date: 2014

52 new things: the least famous Nick Thorpe in the world and his journey to conquer the boredom of modern life by Nick Thorpe [Surani, Waitakere Central Library]

Have you ever found yourself wondering how you could get out of the daily grind that is your life? Well, the author of this fascinating read asked the same question and decided to experience something new each week for a year. The end result is this book.

Each chapter informs us of each new thing that Nick experienced, and is told in his unique matter-of-fact voice. Nick has managed to squeeze in some amazing experiences in the span of a year. Some of these may seem like obvious choices anyone can try like getting a tattoo, swimming (52 laps in the pool!), taking a dance class, growing your own food and trying a new sport. Others sound bizarre and somewhat painful like getting something on your body waxed, ear candling, walking on broken glass and having a colonic irrigation!

The chapters that appealed to me the most were the ones where he spoke about lifestyle changes and his family. Nick had actually included 'Spend more time your family' as one of the new things he was going to do.

After reading this it got me thinking. Not many of us are comfortable leaving the routine of our lives. Nick Thorpe's delightful book and the bizarre adventures he had and the people he met over the course of the year, helped me realise that it's the new things you try, no matter how small they may seem, that makes your life memorable and worth living to the maximum.

So why not give 52 New Things a read and try something new today!

Title: 52 New Things: the least famous Nick Thorpe in the world and his journey to conquer the boredom of modern life
Author: Nick Thorpe
ISBN: 9781781351338
Published: 2014
Publisher: Bancyfelin: Independent Thinking Press