Bubble Burst Book List: Emily Writes

We’re sneaking ever closer to bookshops being able to deliver more than just the government mandated essentials. Many are already taking online orders in preparation for the shift to level 3 next week. Today we have Emily Writes sharing her extensive Bubble Burst Book List with us.

Emily Writes is a mum of two and author of the bestselling Rants in the Dark and the parenting collection Is it bedtime yet?  Rants in the Dark was recently made into a play that toured New Zealand. Emily is a columnist with The Spinoff.


Head Girl by Freya Daly Sadgrove (Victoria University Press)

I just bought this today online at The Twizel Bookshop and I’m so excited. I saw Freya Daly Sadgrove read from her debut collection at a charity event and I was absolutely hooked. Fangirl for life! But then Covid-19 happened and I’ve had no way to get Head Girl. I’m going to be waiting by my mailbox when we hit level three! I’m not a poet myself but I love to read poetry and I’m starting to get a good collection. Freya’s reading from Head Girl made me laugh and almost cry within seconds and I love work that moves me to that level. She’s going to be huge I just feel it in my waters.

Southern Nights by Naomi Arnold (Harper Collins)

Not a day goes by that I haven’t wished I’d bought this book before lockdown! But I’m looking forward to my local Unity Books opening so that I can buy this one from there and start star gazing with my children. I’ve heard so many great things about this book and the way Naomi Arnold writes about the traditional stargazers and Te Whanau Marama, our family of light. I would read anything she writes (so I hope she never writes Gareth Morgan’s biography) she is such a powerhouse writer. There’s so much heart and passion in her writing no matter what the subject is. I also felt like I followed her writing this book through Instagram so I feel very invested!

Taking the Lead by David Hill and Phoebe Morris (Penguin Random House)

I’m about to order this one online at The Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie. My children are huge fans of this series on New Zealand leaders and adventurers. We already have First to the Top about Sir Edmund Hillary, Speed King about Burt Munro, and Jean Batten’s Sky High. We just need Sir Peter Blake’s Hero of the Sea and the Joan Wiffen story Dinosaur Hunter. But since my boys are both Jacinda Ardern superfans I thought I’d buy this one and save my pennies for the other two. My little ones love inspiring stories of real people and Jacinda Ardern’s story is a lovely message for kids in lockdown.

Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press)

I have severe FOMO because everyone is talking about this book. I need it. I want it. I must have it. Becky Manawatu is incredible and I can’t wait to read her novel Auē. It’s the first novel from the Westport journalist and if you’ve read anything she’s written you’ll know how good it will be. I really trust Catherine Woulfe (The Spinoff Books’ Editor) as a reviewer and she has raved about it, calling Becky Manawatu’s writing “wild, intuitive sort of magic”. I could not agree more with that description so I’ll be buying this one online at Scorpio Books in Christchurch when I’ve got some cash!

Nothing to See by Pip Adam (Victoria University Press)

It’s not even out yet but I am So! Excited! Basically all the exclamation marks. I’ve heard Pip read from Nothing to See a few times and I know it’s going to be a masterpiece. I’m a Pip Adam superfan and I just cannot wait. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a book. Can you believe it comes out on my birthday? Can you believe?! I’ve already pre-ordered and you can too.

Politics in the Playground by Helen May (Otago University Press)

The third edition of Politics in the Playground: The world of early childhood in Aotearoa New Zealand tells the story of early childhood education and care in Aotearoa. Helen May used to be the Dean of the University of Otago College of Education but probably more importantly – she’s worked as an ECE teacher, a primary teacher and a secondary teacher. She helped create Te Whāriki the ECE curriculum. This is a must-have for nerds obsessed with ECE and teaching politics.

The Goddess Muscle by Karlo Mila (Huia)

If I’m allowed to include another not-yet released book I have to include Karlo Mila’s The Goddess Muscle due on 31 July. This is Karlo Mila’s third book of poetry after the incredible and award-winning Dream Fish Floating and A Well Written Body. Karlo Mila’s writing is something you feel all through your body as you read. It feels like it touches every part of you. I don’t know where it will be published but I assume it will be through her original publishers Huia and as soon as it’s on pre-order I’m getting it.

I am a Human Being by Jackson Nieuwland (Compound Press)

There are just too many great books coming out in June. I have to include one more. Jackson Nieuwland’s debut collection I Am A Human Being. It’s available on pre-order now and I’m very excited. Jackson is easily one of the most exciting poets out there. I’ve had the privilege of being on a panel with them and I am so excited every time I see a new poem of theirs online. In the meantime while you wait, read this incredible essay and tell me this isn’t the most stunning and important writing you’ve read in forever. Talking about the writing of one of my most absolute favourite poets (and favourite humans actually) Chris Tse, Jackson said “Putting this kind of work out into the world takes a lot of bravery.” They’re so right and that bravery will change the world.

Bubble Burst Book List: David Eggleton

Today’s Bubble Burst Book List comes courtesy of Poet Laureate David Eggleton. 

David Eggleton is a past recipient of a Janet Frame Literary Trust Award, an Ockham New Zealand Book Award, and the Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry. His two most recent poetry publications are SNAP, a limited-edition collaboration with artist Nigel Brown and printer John Holmes for the Otakou Press, and Edgeland and other poems, published by Otago University Press in 2018. An arts critic and a book reviewer, he is the current New Zealand Poet Laureate.


Time hangs heavy in these perforce largely sedentary times, sequestered in an iso-bubble, and one reads in marathon bouts, able to tackle at last the monumental novels on the teetering coffee table stack, from Richard Powers’ The Overstory (Vintage), an eco-warrior narrative, to Neal Stephenson’s weird mega-riffs on bio-technology and myth in Fall or, Dodge in Hell (HarperCollins). But eventually one longs for something new to read smacking of the local, and to this end I can barely wait to be able to go back into an actual bookstore and browse, skimming my eye across the neatly assembled new releases and dipping in and out of promising titles before making some hard choices.

To this end, Dunedin’s University Book Shop is ideal for my typically dilatory and roundabout approach to catching up on New Zealand books that have been out for a few months and that I was slowly but steadily making my way towards.

For me these books include Peter Simpson’s Is This the Promised Land? (Auckland University Press), Volume Two of his thorough-going study of Colin McCahon, which I am eager to place alongside my copy of the first volume Colin McCahon: There Is Only One Direction 1917 -1959, purchased from University Book Shop last year.

Also still catching up with last year, I want to get hold of Gregory O’Brien’s Always Song in the Water (Auckland University Press), a sequence of essayistic journeys and discoveries in the form of an oceanic epic, which is partly his account of personal consciousness-raising about where exactly we are at this moment in time in the South Pacific, and the unmooring of the great waka of Aotearoa and its launching out into the wider Moana.

I am also keen to read the second volume of Witi Ihimaera’s memoir Native Son (Penguin Books). While its title echoes that of Richard Wright’s classic Native Son, a harrowing novel of deterministic black oppression in Depression-era Chicago, it is a story  which I hope will help illuminate the state of race relations in New Zealand in the middle years of the twentieth century.

A newish collection of poetry that I would like to track down as soon as the lockdown lifts or permits is Jenny Bornholdt’s Lost and Somewhere Else (Victoria University Press), Which I gather is mostly explorations and epiphanies through the landscape and seasons of Central Otago, seen with fresh eyes when the Wellington-based writer was living in Alexandra for a year.


Bubble Burst Book List: Gavin Bishop

We’ve got another Bubble Burst Book List to share with you today, this time from author and illustrator Gavin Bishop.

Gavin Bishop is the creator of more than 70 books. Among the numerous fellowships and book prizes throughout his career, highlights include the Margaret Mahy Award for Services to NZ Children’s Literature (2000), an honorary doctorate from the University of Canterbury (2016), the Te Waka Toi Nga Tohu a Ta Kingi Ihaka / Sir Kingi Ihaka Award for services to Maori art and culture (2018), the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (2019) and he was made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit in 2013.

gavin bishop

Te Hei Tiki by Dougal Austin, published by Te Papa Press.

I already have a copy of this book but I want another to send to a friend in the USA. I have read most of the text and have perused the illustrations admiring the terrific range of old and new tiki. Some of the designs by artists such as Lewis Gardiner and Joel Masters show the innovative ways that a traditional formula can be taken in new and exciting directions.

This book also has significant meaning for me because one of the artists, Phil Blecher, who works using traditional methods and techniques for carving stone, is an ex-student of mine from the days I taught high school art 25 years ago. I am proud to say I have some of his early pieces in my collection. He taonga enei.

Merchant, Miner, Mandarin – The Life and Times of the Remarkable Choie Sew Hoy by Jenny Sew Hoy Agnew and Trevor Agnew, published by Canterbury University Press.

This was written by two friends of mine who are great supporters of New Zealand literature and children’s literature in particular. Jenny is a Sew Hoy, from the well-known Chinese family who have for many generations lived and worked in Dunedin. As a child from Invercargill I remember the name of Sew Hoy above the doors of shops when we visited Dunedin during the school holidays. The launch of this book has been held up because of the Covid pandemic, but I are hoping to see it in the shops sometime in June.

Greenery: Journeys in Springtime by Tim Dee, published by Penguin NZ.

I only know of this book through a couple of reviews but it sounds like the sort of book we should be reading at the moment when the natural world that we constantly abuse has been give a few weeks rest from our onslaught. Bird song has increased, the rustling of leaves in the wind is no longer drowned out by the sound traffic and in the north of India the Himalayas can be seen on the horizon once more.

The author, Tim Dee follows the paths of migratory birds from South Africa to Scandinavia and later watches the progress of Spring across Britain. As an elderly father Dee wrote this book for his young son and as one reviewer noted, “It is a lesson in how to love the world, in how to look at it, and behind everything there beats a deeper message: that spring cannot exist without winter, that life needs death to define it.”

Bubble Burst Book List: Chris Tse

With bookshops around the country closed, readers have been forced to shop their home bookshelves and work their way through the books they had at hand when New Zealand went into Level 4 lockdown. But that hasn’t stopped us from dreaming about visiting our favourite bookshop, and browsing the shelves for a new title to take home and cosy up with. Bookshops will be back, and when they are, we’ll be ready and waiting for them. 

We’ve asked some of our favourite people to share what books they’ll be rushing out to purchase when the bookshops of New Zealand open their doors. 

First up is Chris Tse. Chris is the author of two poetry collections published by Auckland University Press: How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes, and HE’S SO MASC. He is currently co-editing an anthology of LGBTQIA+ Aotearoa writers. 

Chris Tse - June 2019 - resized

Whatever the world might look like post-lockdown, I’m most looking forward to being able to see my friends and fellow writers. It’s been wonderful being able to hang out and hear from them virtually, but there’s nothing like running into people and catching up at a launch or an event. Trips to Unity Books and VicBooks are definitely high on my list once they’re allowed to re-open.

 The first book I’ll be looking for is Michele Amas’ posthumous collection Walking Home (VUP). Michele’s is a voice we lost too soon but I’m so grateful that we’ll soon have more of her poetry to read and savour.

 Sticking with poetry, there are a couple of other new collections I’m looking forward to picking up: The Lifers by Michael Stevens (OUP) and Pins by Natalie Morrison (VUP). I managed to get a copy of Michele Leggott’s Mezzaluna: Selected Poems (AUP) before we went into lockdown and I thoroughly recommend it. It’s a beautifully designed book and has been a dream to dip in and out of over the last few weeks.

Shakti by Rajorshi Chakraborti (Penguin) is also high on my list. Everything I’ve seen or heard about it has been glowing, praising its timeliness and thought-provoking storytelling.

 And I can’t wait to be able to wander through some secondhand bookshops again. Even though I’ve managed to catch up on my own to-read pile, seeing what everyone else has been reading and recommending is definitely going to make me question how I’ll fit all my post-lockdown purchases in my tiny house…