Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 5 things I would include in a letter to my 16 year-old self

List by Tosca

"I'm writing this on the first piece of paper I could find. It's the kids notepad - yes you have three of them (kids, not notepads...)..."
- David Arnold in Dear me : more letters to my sixteen-year-old self edited by Joseph Galliano

I spent Tuesday evening reading a book I randomly picked up from Manukau Library's display shelf. Some of my best finds happen that way. The book was Dear me : more letters to my sixteen-year-old self and is a collection of letters by celebrities who wrote words of advice, assurance, humour for their 16 year old selves. Some are funny, some are blunt, some are truly sad. All are quite poignant and touching. (Wait. Do those mean the same thing?) My favs were those written by Jodi Picoult ('He won't remember hurting you. But when you write, you will always remember what it felt like to have that bandage ripped off your heart. And that's why, when people read your stories, they'll bleed a little on the inside'), Amistead Maupin, David Arnold, Gillian Anderson (P.S. Follow your dreams not your boyfriends') and Alan Rickman ('Make your own unique messes, and then work your way out of them'). They all made me teary eyed and a little wistful. They also made me wonder what I would write to myself if I had to. If I'd have known at 16 what I know today...what kind of person would I be? One I'd like? One I could live with? I mean, think about it, if we could send our 16 year old selves a letter with a heads up about who to love/not to love or what opportunities to grab/ignore, then I'm not fully sure we'd any of us be the people we are today. And, speaking for myself, I'm actually ok with who I am. I don't regret anything I've done. It's more a case of regretting chances I hadn't taken, or things I hadn't just gone out and done without all of the planning and lists and angsting. If I could, though, if I could somehow write a letter to myself without adversely affecting time and history (think Bradbury's 'butterfly effect' here, people), this is what I'd tell myself...

Honourable mention:
  • You were born to read. Your love of Austen, Dickens, Ludlum, Plato et al. at 9 years of age is not weird. In fact, read more. It's your ticket in life. You won't believe me but you will find a profession full of people just like you. It will all make sense later :)
  • Mum and dad were wrong. You *can* get a job being fluent in Māori, with a nose piercing and a tattoo. Cut them some slack. They just worry about you and are incredibly supportive whatever you choose to be in life (except possibly a serial killer but we've never tested this so I can't say it with any certainty, just a niggling suspicion that it is the case)
  • You've always believed that the people you choose to surround yourself with can say lots about your values and ethics. Stick with that, and temper it with a little more forgiveness (honest forgiveness not just lip service) and a little less grudge holding
  • That boy? And I know you know the one. He's a total frog. Kiss him, anyway, because he's not worth feeling like you can never open up to people again. Mark the experience up to 'just one of those things' and move on. At 16 you shouldn't be thinking about 'happy ever after,' anyway. Worry about finishing your assignments on time, instead. It'll stand you in good stead later in life, trust me. In a few years you'll twice consider marriage, but remember that if you can look at the mother and see the daughter twenty years on, then the same could be said of fathers and their sons as well

  • Wednesday, December 28, 2011

    5 cookbooks with tips for cooking roasts

    List by Tosca

    "As for those grapefruit and buttermilk diets, I'll take roast chicken and dumplings."
    - Hattie McDaniel

    So...Christmas has come and gone. Somewhere around 8am on Sunday I found myself sitting in the middle of a lounge strewn with discarded wrapping paper, watching while Miss 7 tried on earrings and Mr. 1 zoomed around on his toddler-size skateboard eagerly clutching a toy car in either hand. I suspect that if not for the two of them it may have ended up feeling like just another day. I would like to be all virtuous and say that I slaved over a hot stove all day but that would be a blatant lie. Instead, we had brunch, mooched around for a couple hours, had a celebratory glass of wine (or two), and then everyone took nana naps. Such is life in your mid-thirties, apparently. Eventually, somewhere around 2pm, we realised that somebody was going to have to cook or we were all going to starve (although not really but it would sure feel like it). Ugh. Luckily, I drew out actually getting to the kitchen for so long that my sibling and her husband volunteered. Nice save, what? It has just occurred to me today, though, that that means I will be cooking New Year's lunch. Turnabout is fair play and all that. Huh. I've checked the freezer and we have a very large chicken, and lamb. Roast it is, then. Only, it's been over ten years since I had to cook a roast anything, and I'd like to do something a little flasher than just shove them in the oven. I'm just not quite sure what. Rosemary? Thyme? Garlic? White wine? Orange juice? Gah so much to decide. So, I did what I usually do...requested some books. Seriously, that's my answer for most things I want to try. In this instance, I'm fairly certain this selection of titles will give me some ideas for where to start with cooking a roast. Hopefully. If you're looking to find your way back to cooking like I am (only probably with a lot more skill and a lot less haphazard luck) then feel free to use these books as suggestions. I took my cooking skills for a test drive on Tuesday night and made dinner: roasted lamb chops with herb potatoes. Nobody gagged and nobody suffered food poisoning, but I didn't count it a successful evening until I noticed that nobody had asked for bread. I'm not sure if it's a Kiwi thing or a Māori quirk that bread and butter be at every meal. Either way, it bodes well for this Sunday :)

    Saturday, December 24, 2011

    Top 5 books that encourage you to change the world

    List by Tosca

    "By changing nothing, nothing changes."
    -Tony Robbins

    You might remember that I don't do New Year resolutions. Changing myself is boring. I do, though, often think about how I'd like to change the world. Not all of it, obviously. Just the bits that I can change. And not in huge chunks, either. Little things, here and there. Things that can really make a difference. I'm just never sure where to start. I'm always a little haphazard, and lurch from one activity to another without any clear idea of what I'm doing. What I should do is choose what it is that I'd like to change, and then make an action plan that supports it, and then I'd live it. What's that saying? Be the change you want to be. I don't know if these books have all the answers. I do know that they're a great place to start.'s to changing the world, one person at a time.

    It's Christmas Eve, folks. That means that this is the last of our 12 posts of Christmas lists. I hope you've enjoyed reading them as much as I've enjoyed blogging them. Whether you're spending the day with friends, family or a combination of both tomorrow, I really do wish you all a very merry Christmas :)

    Honourable mention:
  • 365 ways to change the world by Michael Norton
  • The teen guide to global action : how to connect with others (near & far) to create social change by Barbara A. Lewis

  • Friday, December 23, 2011

    Top 5 books I'm using to learn how to play the mandolin

    List by Tosca

    "The sound of the mandolin is a very curious sound because it's cheerful and melancholy at the same time, and I think it comes from that shadow string, the double strings."
    - Rita Dove

    This is a picture of a mandolin. Not just any mandolin. MY mandolin. It's beautiful. And it makes the loveliest sound. Just...not when I play it. I'm teaching myself to play the mandolin. Why? One big reason: I want to play bluegrass music! I want to be good enough to play the songs in The complete idiot's guide to bluegrass mandolin favourites. :) One day (obviously not today) I want to be good enough to be the Earl Scruggs of the mandolin. (I can't think of a mandolin equivalent of his style of banjo playing, so stop mocking me). And if you ask me, 'Who is Earl Scruggs?' I'm going to cry :P Why bluegrass? I'm not sure. I just know that I fell in love with the style of music when I was about 9 or 10 years old. There are only three places in my whole life I've had such a yearning to see: New Orleans, Route 66 and Kentucky. Specifically, Kentucky for all of their various bluegrass festivals and the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. This has to happen. It just *has* to. Confession: I also want a banjo of my very own, and have done so since I was about 12. I just don't think I'm ready for one yet. Weirdly, when I do buy myself a banjo, I want to play it not like Earl Scruggs, but like Steve Martin. And if you haven't seen him play with Men With Banjos Who Know How To Use Them you so need to fix that. I can help! Here's a YouTube clip of them playing on the David Letterman show. MAD LUV. I'm going to use the Christmas/New Year period to learn to play a tune in a halfway decent manner. Or something approaching it. Hopefully, 5 tunes so that that can make up another post. Maybe. So, not today, but someday very soon, I'm going to stun you all with my mandolin. And not by whacking you over the head with it :)

    What I really want to be able to play:
  • The complete idiot's guide to bluegrass mandolin favorites [music] : 16 bluegrass classics, all in both easy & intermediate arrangements by Dennis Caplinger
  • New classics for bluegrass mandolin [music] by Butch Baldassari
  • Mel Bay presents mandolin classics in tablature [music] [arranged] by Robert Bancalari

  • Thursday, December 22, 2011

    5 books to kickstart your literary bucket list

    List by Tosca

    "You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend."
    - Paul Sweeney

    Every now and then I wonder about the quality of books I read. This thought is often followed by the idea that I'm not 'reading well' (and by 'well' I mean 'worthy'). I then feel guilty and decide that I need to do something about it. That something usually translates as checking a bunch of places (interwebs, books, magazine articles) to see, roughly, what other people are recommending, reading, enjoying, disliking. What I end up with is a huge list of 'possible reads' that I then try to narrow down to things. Stuff and things - see how scientific I am about it...? And then I pick (or try to pick, anyway), books that appeal. Sometimes by cover, sometimes by write-up/review and sometimes by title. Sometimes I'll deliberately pick ones that people thought were truly awful. One thing I discovered about myself years ago is that my opinion will, more often than not, be the total opposite of critics. Books that they wax lyrical about I don't see the same way. I often find myself appreciating the style of writing while not feeling any emotion or empathy for the characters or their journey. One book I return to every now and again for 'literary bucket list' ideas is The big read : book of books by the BBC. In 2003 they conducted a poll to find out what the British public considered their most popular 100 novels were, and the result was this book. It was a customer who first pointed this gem out to me. Back then I was working in City Centre Library, which used to be in Westfield Manukau mall. This particular customer was a regular and we'd often have some great discussions about all sorts of books. One day she brought the book up to the desk and declared that she was going to work her way through it. I remember we both commented on the fact that we'd read quite a few of the listed titles already, but that it'd be nice to continue to read as much of the rest as we could. Not all in one hit because, hey, life is what happens when you're making other plans, but in and around everything else. It's probably one of the more enjoyable literary bucket lists I could ever think to have. A sibling asked me the other week why this book, and the only reason I can think of that makes sense to me is that the authors, the titles, the writing styles are familiar to me. My parents either read them to me, or encouraged me to read them (or books much like them) for myself. This coming Christmas break I intend to cross another one or two books off, which will leave me with about 10-15 to go. Slow but steady. So if, like me, you have your own higgledy piggledy version of a literary bucket list, or if you want to kickstart one, here are some suggestions to get you started.

    More suggestions:
  • Time Out 1000 books to change your life
  • 501 must-read books project editor Emma Beare
  • Best books - subject search with 80+ titles to choose from

  • Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    Top 5 books I've read this week that are ALL about the laughs

    List by Tosca

    "I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose."
    - Woody Allen

    I don't know about anybody else but I know from firsthand experience that laughing until milk, coca cola and/or tea comes out of your nose HURTS. But I wouldn't take back the laughter that caused it. No way. I'm not a fan of Woody Allen, but the quote above? I heart it. I suspect I'm not a fan because his humour feels complicated and so far above my head that it loses me. I watch other people laugh at his wit and I feel left out and somewhat disgruntled. I am a frat-boy-movie-with-toilet-humour kind of girl. Sad, but true. And usually, by this time of year, my well of good humour (very small to begin with) has well and truly run dry. For some reason, though, the 'I hate Christmas' Scrooge mentality has hit me late. The reason for it, I believe, is that I've unintentionally been in the middle of a comedy fest of my own. After reading F in exams: the funniest test paper blunders by Richard Benson, I decided that I'd like more books in that same funny vein. A quick search in the catalogue and I'd requested some *does a quick count* 9 or 10 books that have kept me in high spirits the last week or so. And that's today's 12 posts of Christmas list! Oh, and no, you don't have to be a Woody Allen fan or a frat-boy-movie-with-toilet-humour kind of person to enjoy these books. They'll appeal to most people :)

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    5 book-related tweets you may have missed on our tweetstream

    List by Tosca

    "Using Twitter for literate communication is about as likely as firing up a CB radio and hearing some guy recite ‘The Iliad.’"
    - Bruce Sterling, science fiction writer and journalist

    What we're #reading: Danielle is reading Jasper Jones, which is said to be 'an Australian To Kill a Mockingbird' 7 days ago via HootSuite · powered by @socialditto

    Whenever I'm asked to explain why I find Twitter so appealing, I find that it makes me sound more manic and demented than ever. Possibly because the very busy-ness of it that puts most people off, is where I feel like I'm in my element. The visual cacophany of so much information and opinions and links and ideas (from the inane to the profound, from the absolutely useless to life changing beyond words) passing from person to person and at such a fast and furious rate is exciting. I made that comment to a friend recently, and I thought for sure he would laugh himself off his chair and onto the floor. His response was, 'Tosca, Twitter is the talkback radio of the internet.' I suppose, for some of us, that's a true statement. And just like talkback radio I can change the station (or website), or turn the radio (computer) off altogether and do something offline, instead. Our work tweetstream is not only about everything we're doing in Auckland Libraries because that would be too much like spam. I'm interested in my family, books, friends, movies, work, music, being inspired, literacy, inspiring others...the list is very possibly endless. I suspect that if my interests are quite eclectic, then perhaps yours are, too, which is why I keep it varied. If something we've tweeted strikes a chord, and people can use it in some way, then I consider it a win all around. Kind of like an online version of 'pay it forward.' Our list today is just a very small sample of what we tweet on a daily basis, in this instance: 5 book-related tweets you may have missed on our tweetstream. Should you ever find yourself on Twitter, feel free to follow us. I hope that you enjoy the links.

    Honourable mention:

    If you're looking for possible graphic novel reads, has some suggestions 2 days ago via HootSuite · powered by @socialditto

    My first time visiting @nybooks website and, so far, am in LIKE! How had I not heard of this? 6 days ago via HootSuite · powered by @socialditto

    @nytimes Editors & critics pick their fav books of 2011 9 days ago via HootSuite · powered by @socialditto

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Top 5 most requested general fiction reads

    List by Tosca

    A very short post for today that lists, essentially, our most requested general fiction reads at the moment. I offer it up as possible 'What do I read next?' suggestions. Don't be in a hurry to read them, though, as they have a fair few requests. Where I can I've also listed similar books/authors :)

    I apologise most unreservedly for the brevity of this post. I am, currently, on sick leave due to a bout of food poisoning. Right at this moment in time I look, feel and smell like something crawled into my mouth and died. True story. I shall see you guys tomorrow with another 12 posts of Christmas list, where I plan to be at my sparklingest, bestest, ever :P

    Sunday, December 18, 2011

    5 books with umpteen ideas for celebrating Christmas

    List by Tosca

    For the first time in forever, our family will be celebrating Christmas in two different places. Five of us - myself, two siblings, one brother-in-law and Mr. 1 will be staying in Auckland. Everyone else - two sisters, one brother, one brother-in-law, one sister-in-law, five nephews and one niece - will be spending it with the parents in Taipa. From what I can gather, the plan is to have lunch either at Taipa riverside, across the road from the house, or at Taipa seaside, five minutes walk from the house. Assuming the weather is good enough. Looking out the window today I find it hard to envision a hot, sunny Christmas day. Were I a beach-type person I would be envious, but I've seen Jaws, it wasn't pretty. Images of chewed up body parts and boats has stayed with me through to today. Although a teeny, tiny part of me is a tad bit envious that they might be eating fresh fish, or gathering pipi and mussels :( I wish them well, however the day turns out. As for the rest of us, we're not quite sure how we're spending the day, where we'll be spending it, or even if we're putting up the tree. What are we, 7 days out and we still haven't decided that much? Eek. To give us a few ideas, or at least kickstart some, I've rounded up a few books, five of which make up today's 12 posts of Christmas list. Most of you probably already know what you're doing to celebrate because, no doubt, you're much more organised than we are. For those of you still unsure, I hope some of these books can help :) And if you can think of any to recommend - ideas or books - feel free to leave them as a comment!

    More ideas for celebrating Christmas:
  • Christmas cooking
  • Christmas decorations
  • Christmas gifts

  • Saturday, December 17, 2011

    Top 5 new horror/supernatural covers I liked (plus three author recommendations you should try)

    List by Tosca

    "Like sex, horror is seductive - enticing the reader to accept the forbidden; allowing a fascination with the carnal, the forbidden; titillating the mind as sex does both the mind and sense. Reading horror is an act of consensual masochism: you willingly submit to the pleasures of fear - scare me! Please?"
    - Paula Guran

    What better time to get back into enjoying horror fiction than over the Christmas break? I'm serious. Think about it: long, hot sunny days (hopefully, even though I'm looking out the window at a miserably wild, wet afternoon) are as far removed from a dark, moody and atmospheric late night read. I get scared far too easily these days. It seems the older I get, the more my imagination can't handle the possibilities of a horror novel, no matter how unlikely the circumstances (e.g. zombies and post-apocalyptic life - or un-life). I remember a time when I used to devour scary books. (Get it? Devour? Har har har). Zombies, blood, gore, grisly deaths, supernatural elements - I enjoyed it all. Somewhere along the way I lost the anticipatory feel and let the actual fear of fear overshadow that, but a chance tweet I saw on our work tweetstream made me think that maybe it was time to reclaim what used to be fun. The tweet, by Andre Farant, asked if people had discovered horror authors Sarah Langan, Gary McMahon, and Robert Jackson Bennett. The link Andre included was to a post on his site; 'The new voices of horror,' and, in short, was what convinced me to give these books a try. Requested already, and waiting for them to come in from other branches. Merci beaucoup, Monsieur Farant :-) It then got me thinking, from our most recent batch of newly received horror/supernatural titles, where would I start? What would I request? It wasn't a huge list, but there were still too many for me to make up my mind about. In the end I decided to go with 5 of the most interesting covers which, not coincidentally, make up today's 12 posts of Christmas piece. Am I seriously encouraging you to read horror during a time when most people are celebrating the birth of baby Jesus and being with friends and family? TOTALLY.

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    Top 5 new Team Stetson romance novel covers

    List by Tosca

    "I always wanted to be a cowboy, and Jedi Knights are basically cowboys in space, right?"
    - Liam Neeson

    I'm a fool for cowboys. Slow talking (but not dumb), southern drawl, big belt buckle, boots, a horse, and a hat. I *adore* them. So much so that when I was in Fort Worth, Dallas airport (the airport lounge at 9 o'clock at night was about as 'Texas' as I was going to get in that trip), I hoped, hoped, hoped that I'd bump into a cowboy (complete with buckle, hat and boots) who would tip his hat and wish me 'Howdy, ma'am.' If he'd had a horse that would be the cherry on top. (Yes, I know, a horse in an airport just isn't going to work, but that didn't stop me from wanting it). I didn't get that in Fort Worth. So disappointed. Life, being what it is, didn't give it to me while I was in the Lone Star State. It gave it to me while I was in New Orleans, instead. I was walking through the Aquarium of the America doors while a group of Texans were walking out, and one gentleman (in required buckle, hat and boots) tipped his hat and said, 'Howdy, ma'am.' I was so taken aback with delight I stood there grinning like a fool for a little longer than was necessary. I still appreciated it as much as if it had happened while in Texas :)

    I blame Louis L'Amour. Don't get me wrong, I love L'Amour (do you know how weird it feels to type, in essence, that I love the love?). I read his Sackett series while growing up, and the optimistic part of me that wanted to one day marry and have children wanted to use the Sackett family names (Orrin, Jubal, etc.) as theirs. (It's strange, looking back, to remember I was ever that optimistic). The closest we ever came to that was an Alsatian dog called Hondo. My earliest memories of my parents are of them reading: to us, to each other, and to themselves. They read anything and everything, and would quite often hand a finished novel over to the other one, both of them discussing it afterward. Dad is particularly fond of historical fiction/nonfiction. I remember him reading L'Amour and Edson when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I didn't think much of it, until we moved to Auckland and I had managed to read my way through the school library, my own books, and then, because there wasn't anything else in the house, mum and dad's shelves, as well. In particular, the Sackett books. And I fell in love with them. I laughed, got mad at the bad guys, cried, rejoiced with the good guys, learnt parts of American Indian history I'd never heard about in school, fell in love with the wild west and developed a yearning to visit the States and see the land the way L'Amour did. I believe that this series gave me an idea of how important my own indigenous history was, up until then I'd kind of taken it for granted. I distinctly remember bawling my eyes out when William Tell Sackett's wife, Angie, was murdered and he spent a good portion of the book tracking down the men who did it and 'reading to them from the good book.' That used to be a running joke in our house, my mum would say to dad, 'Did you read to them from the good book?' and dad would reply, 'Nope, I just showed 'em the pictures.' (Seriously, my parents are odd). L'Amour's Sackett books also put me on to Dee Brown's Bury my heart at Wounded Knee and I remember that it was one of the few nonfiction books that broke my heart. It is, to this day, my most favourite (if saddest) nonfiction read ever. I re-read the Sackett novels on and off right up until my late teens and then, for some reason, forgot all about them. Now, every time I read a romance novel, I'm reminded of L'Amour's love of the land and good hearted people who lived by their word. So, there you go. A longwinded introduction (seems to be my trademark) that serves, really, to tell you that you can blame Monsieur L'Amour for this romance novel-related post that is all about the cowboy and nothing but the cowboy (albeit modern ones): Top 5 new Team Stetson romance novel covers.

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    5 books to help you (i.e. me) de-clutter that I won't use because I no longer do New Year resolutions

    List by Tosca

    "Excuse the mess but we live here."
    - Roseanne Barr

    I try not to make New Year resolutions. I learned a long time ago that 1) I suck at them and 2) more often than not I set myself up to fail. Usually within the first few days of having jotted down some goals *winces* So, these days I don't make resolutions. But if I were to do so...I'd set them right about now, when I'm feeling somewhat reflective and hopeful (or as hopeful as I get) and envisioning quiet days leading up to the week in between Christmas and New Year. I would look at de-cluttering my desk/home/life (take your pick, all are relevant). At work, my desk can go to hell in a handbasket from Monday - Thursday, but come Friday afternoon I leave it spotless. As for my home life, I share a house with siblings/nephews, so I've learned to give up a little (a LOT) of control. Half of us riding herd on each other while the other half disavows all knowledge of any mess-making can be...chaotic. To put it politely. My nephews are living proof that you can live surrounded by constant mess and still thrive and remain quite unconcerned about it all. This isn't necessarily a good thing, it's just how they roll. And it's all mess that they make themselves, I'd like to point out. One sibling is extremely 'particular' (her words, I'd have used something much stronger). You can't put something down for 10 seconds before she comes along to clean it up. We have an unspoken agreement that I keep my bedroom door firmly shut all of the time because it constantly looks like gale force winds swept through it. It's my private space so I'm rarely ever fussed by the fact that my shoes are not in orderly pairs, or that I vaguely chuck things in the direction of the hanging racks and am not bothered if they fall to the floor instead. (Which they invariably do). I call it 'organised chaos.' Extremely 'particular' sibling calls it lots of interesting words that can never be repeated in polite company :) So, were I into resolutions at all, I would set about de-cluttering my room (and my nephews and, if I'm honest, the pile of paperwork on my desk) and use the books listed below to get me on the right track. Although I'm not sure I shall ever discover how to make de-cluttering my home/life an addictive pleasure. That sounds...terrible, actually.

    Lucky I don't do New Year resolutions, anymore, huh?

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    Top 5 recommendations (as suggested by followers on our tweetstream)

    List by our twitter followers

    "The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful."
    – Jonathan Zittrain

    Twitter is not everybody's cup of tea, and nor should it be, but neither is it the demon that some people believe it is. Your own personal experience of twitter is all down to you. It is as meaningful as you make it. It is as much a business tool as you want it to be. It is as useful as you allow it to be. It can be as lighthearted or as serious as you are.It's a blank slate just begging to be utilised. And utilised properly. Personally, I find that it provides me with a wide range of curiosities, and I have some of my most interesting conversations there with both colleagues and customers. A few days ago, on our work tweetstream, I asked the following question: "Curious: If you had to recommend only one book (or film or album), what would it be? All answers welcome!" It's a question I love to ask people. Not because I think it tells me anything in particular about the person, or that I feel they could be defined by one book/cd/dvd. Life isn't always that simple, so I certainly don't think people would be. I just love the way it makes people think. I enjoy the way it makes me think and, as ever, it provides new reading/listening suggestions for me to try, and then pay forward by recommending to others. I had no preconceived ideas about the sorts of responses I'd get so, really, anything would have been a delightful surprise. In the end I received 5 answers, all of which were quite varied and hugely interesting, and make up this list.

    By the way, if you had to recommend only one book (or film or album), what would it be? Come on, now! You should have *known* that I would ask that question :) Just a reminder that this post is a part of our 12 days of Christmas posts series that, hopefully, you're enjoying.

    Answers that came in at 6th and 7th:
  • To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The power of one by Bryce Courtenay

  • Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    5 books full to the brim with Christmas craft projects for kids.

    List by Tosca

    "He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree."
    - Roy L. Smith

    As a kid, my mum always had a roll of butcher paper, a container of crayons, colouring pencils, felts, various craft supplies and books full of craft ideas for all sorts of occasions. She would often tell us they were for rainy day activities and, seeing as how we lived in Wellington, there was certainly no shortage of those. Mum has always preferred homemade presents over store bought ones and, over the years, it's something I've been a bit wary about. I find it easier to to buy something than agonise over making something. Weirdly now, as an adult (or a pseudo-adult, anyway), I've found that it's something I'd like to go back to. So for those of you with children (sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren) who're hoping to find some craft ideas to work on, look no further: 5 books full to the brim with Christmas craft projects for kids! (Although we do have screeds more titles if you need more ideas - I'm never sure in this instance whether 'less is more' or not).

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Top 5 most requested nonfiction reads

    List by Tosca

    "What is reading but silent conversation?
    - Walter Savage Landor

    Something I find endlessly fascinating about people and how they connect with books, is that we all approach the act of reading in different ways. When some of us read fiction we're usually doing so for reasons of fun and leisure and relaxation. The fact that we might learn something along the way is an added bonus. When others of us read nonfiction we're primarily doing so with an expectation of learning/re-learning (about places, people, times...). If we get some enjoyment out of it that, too, is the cherry on top. I also find it interesting that we take something different away from each book and use what we've learned in some literary version of paying it forward. I had a quick look around online and found a post by Michael Hyatt who, after a discussion with friends, listed ten practices he observes when reading nonfiction:

    How to read a non-fiction book by Michael Hyatt
  • Don't feel that you need to finish
  • Start with the author bio
  • Read the table of contents
  • Quickly scan the whole book
  • Highlight important messages
  • Take notes in the front or the margins
  • Use a set of note-taking symbols
  • Dog-ear pages you want to re-visit
  • Review the book and transfer actions to your to-do list
  • Share the book's message

  • While I might not use every single one of these, I might do some. I also think that it isn't something that I'd restrict just to nonfiction. I'd be equally as likely to use some of Hyatt's list for fiction, too. How about you?

    Our Top 5 list today is a very simple one: Top 5 most requested nonfiction reads and, maybe while you're reading the books below *hint hint* you can figure out how *you* read nonfiction. See? Method to madness. Today, anyway :)

    Honourable mention:
    Breaking silence: The Kahui case by Ian Wishart

    Friday, December 9, 2011

    Top 5 most requested titles for November 2011

    List by Tosca

    "A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint.... What I began by reading, I must finish by acting."
    - Henry David Thoreau

    I bet you thought we forgot all about our regular Top 5 most requested titles list, didn't you? We didn't! I've also added review comments where we have them listed in the catalogue. Which reminds me, I meant to ask: Did you know that you can look up reviews and author notes from within our catalogue? If you see a book that you're interested in *and* it has a picture of the cover attached to the record, click on the picture. You're then directed to an Additional Information page, and it's here that you'll quite often (*but not always*) find links to reviews, author notes, and excerpts. You can test it out now: click on this link to practice (and yes, I'm making you look at this book because it is full of WIN and BECAUSE I CAN).

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    Top 5 romance novels to cross my desk this week that live up to their titles/covers

    List by Tosca

    "If you prefer your romance a little spicier, if you prefer to walk on the wild side, this stellar line-up of writers will leave you hungry for more."
    - From The mammoth book of hot romance edited by Sonia Florens

    I edit our Romance eNewsletter and I try to read as much as I can across all romance genres. One of the things I often joke about with colleagues, family and friends is how the book covers and titles either over promise or under deliver. After how-ever-many-years of reading romances I'm still not sure which disappoints/surprises me the most. Today's selection, however, lets me know *exactly* what I'm going to be getting. See if you agree...

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    My Top 5 recipes from Alison & Simon Holst’s 'The New Zealand bread book'

    List by Annie

    "A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou."
    - Omar Khayyam

    My Top 5 recipes from Alison & Simon Holst’s The New Zealand bread book

    I grew up in a house where my mum made bread. And, because I was a kid and most kids’ mums didn’t make bread, sometimes this was embarrassing. But I do have fond memories of a group of my classmates around our house, all making bread with my mum.

    Because I’m a fan of Alison Holst’s recipes, the bread book caught my eye. I’m getting into baking in a big way – so seeing it for sale really cheaply persuaded me to give it a go.

    Now, a year on, I can offer my fav go-to recipes out of this book. In another year, I’ll probably have some more! Where available, I’ve added my notes from my copy of the book. I’m so addicted, my family bought me a food mixer for my 40th, one with a sturdy dough hook.

    If you’re looking for something a little bit different to contribute to those ‘bring-a-plate’ functions this season, try these out.
    ~ Annie, Central

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    5 exam answers I'd have been too scared to give my teachers

    List by Tosca

    "But the person who scored well on an SAT will not necessarily be the best doctor or the best lawyer or the best businessman. These tests do not measure character, leadership, creativity, perseverance."
    - William J. Wilson

    Lucky for these students, then, huh, that a test or exam doesn't measure the depth of their character? Just reading through their answers, I'm convinced they'd have failed spectacularly were that the case. What a way to go, though! I saw a tweet the other day about Benson's book F in exams: The best test paper blunders and immediately thought, "Oh! I gotta have it, need it, want it, live it, breathe it right now!" (Yes, I do talk in exclamation marks in my mind). It came in yesterday and has more than lived up to the funniness I wanted. If you haven't read this book yet, well, you really *must.* I laughed so hard I cried. (Although maybe that's not an incentive, considering I cry at Doctor Who episodes, romance novels, Torchwood episodes, Hallmark ads and Supernatural episodes. Whoa. A lot of my life revolves around fandoms). In short, the book is a collection of some awesomely hilarious examples of students answers to test questions. I wish I'd had half their gumption. Here for your entertainment (my ribs are sore from laughing so much): 5 exam answers I'd have been too scared to give my teachers!