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2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Shortlist

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards celebrate the best of New Zealand books. This month we are highlighting the shortlist for fiction and illustrated non-fiction. The winners of the awards will be announced in May at the Auckland Writers Festival.

Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction shortlist

Nothing to see by Pip Adam

It's 1994. Peggy and Greta are learning how to live sober. They go to meetings and they ring their support person, Diane. They have just enough money for one Tom Yum between them, but mostly they eat carrot sandwiches. They volunteer at the Salvation Army shop, and sometimes they sleep with men for money. They live with Heidi and Dell, who are also like them. It's 2006. Peggy and Greta have two jobs: a job at a call centre, and a job as a moderator for a website. They're teaching themselves how to code. Heidi and Dell don't live together anymore, and Dell keeps getting into trouble. One day, Peggy and Greta turn around and there's only one of them. It's 2018. Margaret lives next door to Heidi and her family. She has a job writing code that analyses data for a political organisation, and she's good at it. Every day she checks an obsolete cellphone she found under her bed, waiting for messages. She struggles to stay sober. Then, one day, there are two of them again, both trying to figure out where they have come from. Nothing to See is a compelling, brilliantly original novel about life in the era of surveillance capitalism, when society prefers not to see those who are different, and the line between reality and simulation feels dissolvingly thin.

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Bug Week by Airini Beautrais

A science educator in domestic chaos fetishises Scandinavian furniture and champagne flutes. A group of white-collar deadbeats attend a swinger’s party in the era of drunk Muldoon. A pervasive smell seeps through the walls of a German housing block. A seabird performs at an open-mic night. Bug Week is a scalpel-clean examination of male entitlement, a dissection of death, an agar plate of mundanity. From 1960s Wellington to post-Communist Germany, Bug Week traverses the weird, the wry and the grotesque in a story collection of human taxonomy.

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Remote sympathy by Catherine Chidgey

Moving away from their lovely apartment in Munich isn’t nearly as wrenching an experience for Frau Greta Hahn as she had feared. Their new home is even lovelier than the one they left behind, and best of all – right on their doorstep – are some of the finest craftsmen from all over Europe. Frau Hahn and the other officers’ wives living in this small community are encouraged to order anything they desire, whether new curtains made from the finest French fabrics, or furniture designed to the most exacting specifications. Life here in Buchenwald would appear to be idyllic. Lying just beyond the forest that surrounds them – so close and yet so remote – is the looming presence of a work camp. Frau Hahn’s husband, SS Sturmbannführer Dietrich Hahn, is to take up a powerful new position as the camp’s administrator. As the prison population begins to rise, the job becomes ever more consuming. Corruption is rife at every level, the supplies are inadequate, and the sewerage system is under increasing strain. When Frau Hahn is forced into an unlikely and poignant alliance with one of Buchenwald’s prisoners, Dr Lenard Weber, her naïve obtuseness about what is going on so close at hand around her is challenged. A decade earlier, Dr Weber had invented a machine: the Sympathetic Vitaliser. At the time he had believed that its subtle resonances might cure cancer. But does it really work? One way or another, whether it works or not, it might yet save a life.

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Sprigs by Brannavan Gnanalingam

It is Saturday afternoon and two boys' schools are locked in battle for college rugby supremacy. Priya, a fifteen year old who barely belongs, watches from the sidelines. Then it is Saturday night and the team is partying. Priya's friends have evaporated and she isn't sure what to do. In the weeks after 'the incident' life seems to go on. But when whispers turn to confrontation, the institutions of wealth and privilege circle the wagons. Sprigs is the latest novel from Brannavan Gnanalingam. His previous novel Sodden Downstreamas short-listed for the Acorn Foundation prize for best fiction of the year.

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Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand for Illustrated Non-Fiction

An exquisite legacy: the life and work of New Zealand naturalist G. V. Hudson by George Gibbs

George Hudson, 1867–1946, was one of New Zealand's pioneer naturalists, who devoted his life to collecting and describing the New Zealand insect fauna. He amassed what is probably the largest collection of New Zealand insects, now housed at Te Papa. Hudson also wrote seven books on insect fauna between 1898 and 1946, each illustrated in colour with immaculate paintings of the specimens, a total of over 3100 paintings, mainly focused on moths and butterflies. An Exquisite Legacy is a biography of Hudson, written by his grandson Dr George Gibbs, himself a prominent entomologist. Gibbs outlines the life of this naturalist and artist, whose dedication and output was truly remarkable. Hudson remained an amateur naturalist his whole life, but his contribution to our knowledge about the New Zealand insect world is of enduring significance, while his artistic legacy, built up over nearly seven decades, is truly remarkable. This extensive collection of exquisite illustrations is without parallel in New Zealand.

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Hiakai: modern Māori cuisine by Monique Fiso

This book, ranging between history, tradition and tikanga, as well as Monique's personal journey of self-discovery, it tells the story of kai Māori, provides foraging and usage notes, an illustrated ingredient directory, and over 30 breathtaking recipes that give this ancient knowledge new life.

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Marti Friedlander: portraits of the artists by Leonard Bell

For fifty years, Marti Friedlander (1928-2016) was one of New Zealand's most important photographers, her work singled out for praise and recognition here and around the world. Friedlander's powerful pictures chronicled the country's social and cultural life from the 1960s into the twenty-first century. From painters to potters, film makers to novelists, actors to musicians, Marti Friedlander was always deeply engaged with New Zealand's creative talent. This book, published to coincide with an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in Wellington, brings together those extraordinary people and photographs: Rita Angus and Ralph Hotere, C. K. Stead and Maurice Gee, Neil Finn and Kapka Kassabova, Ans Westra and Kiri Te Kanawa, and many many more. Marti Friedlander: Portraits of the Artists chronicles the changing face of the arts in New Zealand while also addressing a central theme in Marti Friedlander's photography. Featuring more than 250 photographs, many never previously published, the book is an illuminating chronicle of the cultural life of Aotearoa New Zealand.

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Nature - stilled by Jane Ussher

The Museum of Te Papa Tongarewa holds over one million items in its vast natural history collection. Award-winning photographer Jane Ussher spent several days capturing their astonishing beauty and power, and the result is a stunningly photographed and beautifully packaged book.

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