Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Top 5 reads for my NZ Book Month challenge

List by Tosca

"No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting."
- Mary Wortley Montagu

I don't read a lot of NZ authors as an adult. As a child, yes. As a teen, absolutely. As an adult - very, very few. If I see an NZ sticker on the spine in the library I tend to wince and move on. The 3 most recent NZ books I read were Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones, The 10pm question by Kate de Goldi and Ruined: a novel by Paula Morris and those were well over a year ago. It was while reading 'Ruined' that I realised I'd become an NZ-book bigot and, really, my reason for being so wasn't good enough: I don't identify with a lot of NZ books. Which sounds totally daft because, as some of you know, I edit our romance newsletter and there's no way in Hades I identify with a Greek gazillionaire tycoon nor an impossible virgin secretary. Maybe, then, it's that I identify too much with NZ characters. I don't read romance stories with Maori or African-Americans because the character voices - and the possibilities - would feel too much like I was looking into my sibling's backyard. That would strike too close to home. And I think I'd prefer to have it all one giant step removed.

A year or two ago I set an NZ book challenge and lost focus halfway through. This year I plan to step outside my comfort zone (or maybe step back into it, I'm not totally sure yet) and pick 5 books across kids, teens and adults (fiction and nonfiction) and read them all for this year's NZ Book Month. The hardest part of setting this challenge has been choosing the books. Remember, it's been years since I've really read anything NZ-ish that hadn't been picked by our branch book club so I had no clue where to start. In the end I looked up a mix of book award finalists and winners from the Montana Book Awards,NZ Post Children's Book Awards and the NZ Post Book Awards - and so I offer up a jumbled mishmash of all.

I'm already partway through my Top 5 NZ Book Month challenge and, so far so good! Touch wood it stays this way. This month could either be really interesting. Or really awful. I'm about to find out. There are no re-reads on this list - everything is a first-time read for me. Almost as if I were an impossible virgin secretary about to meet a Greek gazillionaire tycoon but yet not.



Honourable mention - titles I may use depending on whether or not I like my initial list
  • Nonfiction - Just this by Brian Turner
  • Nonfiction - Go fish by Al Brown
  • Teen fiction - Banquo's son by Tania Roxborogh
  • Teen fiction - Like wallpaper : New Zealand short stories for teenagers edited by Barbara Else



  • The uncle's story / Witi Ihimaera
    Michael Mahana tries to discover the truth about a love affair that happened between his Uncle Sam Mahana and American helicopter pilot Cliff Harper, during the Vietnam war. After the war Cliff came to New Zealand to visit Sam, so now Michael goes to the USA looking for Cliff.

    Tosca's comment: Apprehensive pick. Haven't read anything of Ihimaera's since I was a young adult so a bit anxious about this one.

    Through thick and thin / Shirley CorlettTwo families, linked through friendship of both the parents and sons, come in to conflict when one of the boys is accidentally killed by the other while biking.

    Tosca's comment: Random pick from a book award list.


    Tomorrow all will be beautiful / Brigid LowryThis intense journey through the private world of girls and women, tell of friendship, love, family, troubled and fun time. With its charming scrap-book illustrated design, this book is perfect for teenage girls - and their mums.

    Tosca's comment: Random pick.


    Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! / by Kyle Mewburn ; illustrated by Ali Teo & John O'Reilly
    Andy really does love his Aunty Elsie, but she insists on grabbing him and giving him a big kiss, first on one cheek and then on the other, every time she sees him. And Andy hates it. So he hides. But every time Aunty Elsie finds him out. Then, one day Aunty visits his school! Suggested level: junior, primary.

    Tosca's comment: Recommended by Danielle. Read this with Mr. 7 a couple of nights ago and he LOVED it!


    The tram conductor's blue cap / Michael Harlow
    Featuring a variety of lyrical poems, this remarkable new collection illustrates the allegorical and philosophical while still gesturing towards the ecstatic. Constantly finding new ways to express wonder, this anthology begins with a springtime “shout of green” and ends with an “invisible reader.” Traveling from Athens to Mexico and dictating the thoughts of Marco Polo and Emily Dickinson, each piece underscores the imaginary, cultivating patience, anticipation, and even regret. Fans and aficionados of poetry will delight in this exploration’s assured voice and consistent element of surprise.

    Tosca's comment: Ordinarily, poetry makes me cringe - it's often so personal that it makes me feel like a voyeur or so academic as to be obscure - but last year I read All Black's kitchen gardens by Tim Jones (which I reviewed on Manukau's website) and changed my mind. That great experience with NZ poetry meant that I was feeling quite optimistic about reading this particular title and, I'm glad to say, I really, really liked it! So much so you can expect a Top 5 post with my top fav lines from some of Harlow's poems.

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