Reader, We Replaced Them

One of the main parts of our business at Booksellers NZ is the sale and redemption of Book Tokens. We came back from the Anzac Day off to this heartfelt tale from a dedicated user of Book Tokens, and we thought, rather than it wallowing in our inbox, we’d share it. Yes, he got some replacement tokens. 

Tokens_sales_lineupDear Booksellers,

I am writing to tell you a somewhat sad story. It was the year 2009, yes 10 years ago, that I received $30 of your vouchers. It was a magic time, a time of hope, a time of joy, a time of awesome book reading possibilities. But, alas, the enchantment was about to be dashed.

While travelling home from Whangarei after and amazing holiday, with a favourite Aunt, we stopped in Hamilton. We decided to explore ‘The Base’. A place of wonder, movies and food courts. It was here that this story takes a sad turn. While at The Base, I jumped out of our car, and what I thought happened, was I inadvertently dropped a pile of vouchers, including yours, while exiting said car.

When we returned to the car, I realised what had happened. I searched high and low. I asked at local shops, information kiosks and ice cream shops – yes, I was desperate. At this point we realised all was lost. All my Christmas vouchers gone. It was a cruel fate to suffer at what should have been such a joyous time.

Why, you may be asking, am I contacting you now? Here is the twist in this tale. I was packing to take away my amazing youth group for a camp over Easter. As I was rummaging through a bag, I found a somewhat hidden pocket (not really hidden, but obviously not looked in properly), and lo and behold, there were the missing vouchers.

Of course with such a huge passing of time, my decade-old vouchers have expired. With much weeping and gnashing of teeth, I have realised the bitterness of my situation. But in one last Hail Mary attempt, I am reaching out to you to see if you can find it in the kindness of your hearts to rekindle the hope that burnt out in the Hamilton carpark so many years ago? Is there a way to save these vouchers and give them a chance to fulfil their potential?

I hope, if nothing else, this email has given you a little chuckle.

Blessings from a hopeful expired coupon holder.

Ben Tennant

Shared with permission of the writer.

If you too have expired tokens, please feel free to email us your story on or call us on (04) 472 1908.  Or you can take them into a participating bookshop and ask them to call us if it is during office hours, to confirm they can be redeemed.

If you have tokens so old that they don’t even have an expiry date, they are valid indefinitely and you can go into a participating bookshop and use them at any time. 

Why New Zealand literature deserves your support, by Melinda Szymanik

Children’s author Melinda Szymanik posted this on her blog this morning, and I immediately wanted to repost it. Melinda is the author of many wonderful books, most recently Fuzzy Doodle, illustrated by Donovan Bixley, which is still in my top 10 children’s books for this year.

pp_melinda_szymanikWhy New Zealand literature is necessary…

My parents were immigrants. World War 2 pushed them out of their home country Poland and brought them, via a truly circuitous route, to New Zealand. I was born here about seven years after their arrival.

My Polish heritage informed so much of my early life. The food we ate, the people we socialised with, the traditional folk dancing I learned, the national costume I owned and sometimes wore. To my regret, I didn’t learn the language. In my tender years I didn’t appreciate the value of doing so. I found it hard. And I eagerly embraced the language of my peers (I love the English language. We are always doing gymnastics together). But at school I enjoyed having this exotic Eastern European background. I was the only Polish kid in class. It felt special. So I wore it with pride.

I was a booky kid. I read a lot in school right from the beginning. I hung out at libraries all the time. The Lion,The Witch and The Wardrobe (although I started with The Silver Chair after picking up the hardback for a bargain price at a school fair), The Famous Five, Paddington Bear, The Moomintrolls, Baron Munchausen, The Moon in the Cloud, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Little House on the Prairie, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, The Hardy Boys, The Hobbit, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Flambards, The Outsiders, A Wizard of Earthsea, The Dark is Rising, Fairy Tales, The Odyssey, Robin Hood, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and many, many, many more. Are you sensing a theme to my reading yet?

The only New Zealand literature I was exposed to as a child was what the School Journal provided. There was no Margaret Mahy or Joy Cowley, Maurice Gee, Fleur Beale or David Hill back then. I read one short story by Witi Ihimaera and didn’t understand it at all, because it was a single drop in a vast ocean of the European and US literary heritage I was consuming in vast quantities.

It became difficult to sustain the atmosphere of Polishness as we all grew up. We had to get on with our Kiwi lives. We didn’t forget but wore it more on the inside than the outside. And the pre-war Poland of my parent’s experience was unreachable, existing in memory but no longer in reality. And my empathy and understanding of people and the world learned through books filtered everything through a foreign lens. What is it to be a New Zealander? I’m still figuring it out. I can’t help always feeling a restlessness that can’t be answered, predicated as it is on a nostalgia for a lost heritage that can never be recovered, and a literary education built on cultures to which I can never belong.

If you want New Zealand children to understand their own culture, to feel it in their bones, then it must be provided to them in their literature. It helps ground them, makes them feel strong in their roots, connects them to this place and to each other. It reflects their experience back at them, reinforcing its value. We must embrace our own literature. It is a tremendous gift that must be protected and encouraged. We can’t just measure it as a product with sales, because its impact is lifelong, far reaching and life changing. It needs to be everywhere and we need to pay it way more respect then it gets now.

by Melinda Szymanik

Melinda blogs here regularly about children’s writing and other things as they arise. Some great pieces recently include her post on getting through the mid-career doldrums and how to stay sane/hydrated/not-exhausted during launch week.

Where are all the Boys in YA?

by Sue Esterman

Jo Hogan recently blogged about her concern about the reading habits (or lack thereof!) of her 15-year-old son. He had been a great reader from an early age, but when she took him to a YALC (YA Lit Con) event he was clearly disenchanted and pointed out that it was all about girls and women.

I am intrigued by this observation – it was no doubt true of that particular event.
But it started me thinking – is it really not about the boys? Not for the boys? My experience as a tertiary, public and school librarian over more than 40 years has given me much to observe.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - July 21: New Zealand Bookshop Day July 21, 2015 Unity Books in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Tantrum/ http://mark

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – July 21: New Zealand Bookshop Day July 21, 2015 Unity Books in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Tantrum/ http://mark

It’s true that many boys – sweeping generalisation alert!! – on the whole prefer to be actively engaged. However it’s not the corollary that we can’t engage them actively in reading for pleasure. It’s more of a challenge for some than for others. To redress that takes time and effort on the part of trusted and enthusiastic readers/role models/parents/teachers/librarians/sports heroes.

cv_into_the_riverIt’s also true that there is a vast body of material written for and about teenage readers. Equally true, that the range of what constitutes YA material is one of those perennial dilemmas – should we designate particular books as “for” a particular age group? This is something which has happened in relatively recent literary history.

When I was a kid, there were children’s books and adult’s books, but there was not anything directed at the teenage market per se. Small wonder then that now kids with access to electronic media 24/7, bombarded by Twitter, active on Reddit, constantly messaging – may find it harder to focus on a sedentary activity which requires full attention.

However I believe that many of our boys do just that. They learn to enjoy reading, to be successful at it, and to broaden their reading base by exploring genres, classics, graphic novels and poetry.

This does not come easily to a lot of boys. They need care and attention – and feeding! – as they cross the boundary between learning to read and becoming fluent readers. They need male role models – I think many of us underestimate just how important that is. Jo Hogan’s son clearly picked up on that at the YALC event. Although he was (and no doubt continues to be) an able and competent reader, he found it was all a bit girly.

I don’t agree that it’s not about the boys
cv_the_absolutely_true_diary_of_a_part-time_indianBecause I don’t agree that it’s not about the boys, I trawled through some website lists of the best YA novels – Time magazine’s top 100 for 2015 has 56 male authors. NPR’s list had 40 out of 100. The Telegraph (I was trying to get a UK perspective) has 9 out of 17 male authors listed in its top reads for 2016.

So clearly, there are many male writers who are among the most successful and most appealing to young male readers.

In New Zealand, there are some fantastic men working in school libraries, teaching English, blogging about books. It’s probably fair to say there are far fewer men than women, however. I guess this is probably true of most western education systems. But it does not necessarily equate to “it being all about the girls”.

My experience in working with boys is that you do have to work harder to find what is appealing. Quirky novels, things that come out of left field a bit, things which resonate with an individual reader – any of these can make a huge difference to a boy who is finding it hard to find the right book. And often it’s that connection between reader and book, right book at the right time, which can help that transition. And yes, it’s important to promote the really good books to our boys. Peer recommendations are a real help here.

cv_the_10pm_questionBut there’s another point this young man made – he said that “YA is not a genre, it’s a marketing tool”. He is spot on with that observation, in my opinion. What appeals to teenage boys is not necessarily what has been written with them in mind – and of course there are exceptions! But my personal opinion is that the best writing for young people is not necessarily the result of an author “writing YA books” – it comes from writers who tell a good story, with great characters and a good plot. Good writing transcends artificial age boundaries and stereotypes, and draws the reader in.

I think that Jo Hogan should be reassured that the boys are reading, at least in New Zealand. And that her son is also right when he says that his mates don’t read much – in the middle of secondary school years, there is little time for reading for pleasure unless it’s a top priority.

But I know many young men who do read for pleasure, regardless of where they are at in their education. They may not read what parents or teachers think they SHOULD read, but at least they are reading. And that, after all, is what matters.

Sue Esterman was the Director of Library & Information Services at Scots College in Wellington until 2015. 

Classic book characters on Social Media

Original story via Flipsnack, reproduced with the permission of the artists.

With World Book Day just around the corner, graphic designers Matt Lindley and Jazmin Batisti took eight timeless books, a mixture of children’s titles and classic literature, and stopped to ask themselves the question: what if these stories featured the modern technology we rely on today?

What if Juliet had used Tinder to meet her one true love instead? What would Oliver Twist’s TripAdvisor review of his workhouse be like? What if Frodo had used Google Maps to help him get to Mordor?

Here is where they ended up:

  1. Juliet swipes right for her Romeo on Tinder
  2. Oliver Twist gives a terrible review of his host on tripadvisor
  3. Willy Wonka gets some design inspiration from Pinterest
  4. GrubHub can’t keep the Caterpillar satisfied
  5. Holden Caulfield vents on Twitter
  6. Frodo & Sam Google their way to Mount Doom
  7. The White Rabbit gets a ride to court
  8. Aslan is big on Instagram – the ultimate group selfie with cat

Original story via Flipsnack, reproduced at the request and with the permission of the artists.

About the artists:

Matt Lindley is a content strategist who’s involved in coming up with digital creative campaigns. Jazmin Batisti is a graphic designer from Buenos Aires. They are both currently based in London.

Our Nation’s Fiction: Read or Dead?

I was really looking forward to this session, and I was not disappointed: authors Catherine Robertson, Witi Ihimaera, Paul Cleave and Paula Morris in conversation about the fiction of Aotearoa.

witi ihimaeraAlmost immediately, we ran up against the problem of nomenclature. Ihimaera talked a lot about ‘New Zealand literature’, by which he seemed to mean ‘New Zealand literary fiction’. He was obviously reveling in the role of provocateur, and delighted in lobbing conversational grenades such as “I write New Zealand literature, they [fellow panellists] don’t”; “New Zealand literature is dead (when you think about it statistically)”; “I can’t write crime fiction because it’s too far below me”. It was (mostly) received in good humour, though, and it was gratifying to see Bats Theatre packed out with people keen to join the conversation. The room was buzzing for the whole hour.

Cleave articulated a common problem when he said he was put off NZ fiction at school by being forced to study Owls Do Cry, which was not the kind of story he was after when he was a teenager. It gave him a long-lasting (but, he realises now, erroneous) impression that that’s what all NZ fiction is like. Cleave suggested that we need to get into schools and educate kids about the entire spectrum of our writing. Morris pointed out that the new initiative Hooked on NZ Books aims to help do that by providing a forum for young people to review NZ YA literature.

We heard a lot of ideas about what young people should or should not be doing and reading. Ihimaera suggested that literary festivals should have two-for-one tickets where adults have to bring a young person with them. He said “our young people like to see things, they don’t like to read things”, so we need to use visual media to reach them. He worries that the whakapapa of NZ literature isn’t being passed on. Morris bemoaned the fact that she sees tertiary students who still have Harry Potter notebooks, and says young people need, at some point, to put the things of childhood away and graduate to adult literature.

paula morrisI see her point, but I’m not sure I entirely agree with Morris there. During this session no one mentioned fan culture, and how it influences NZ readers’ behaviour. One of the reasons young adults continue to read Harry Potter despite no longer being children themselves is that they value being part of the fan community: it’s much wider than just the books. Perhaps some fruitful questions to consider in future literary festivals might be, which NZ authors are inspiring a fan community? How does that influence New Zealanders’ reading behaviour? Who is reading NZ fan fiction? How does NZ fan fiction fit into the wide and diverse landscape of NZ literature?

My fellow festival reviewers Charlotte Graham and Ellen Falconer – both in their 20s – have also made some interesting points about young people at literary festivals, which I think are pertinent to the question of who’s reading NZ fiction.

Graham says: “everyone wants to know both how we get more young people (a) along and (b) buying books, so that the industry will not die, but at the same time they don’t REALLY want young people there because they enjoy the whole Q and A at the end just being about how young people are crap and obsessed with their phones and Breaking Bad (which would be awkward in a room full of young people).

“Most of the young people I know read literary fiction (yes, on their phones) and also watch Breaking Bad. Yesterday, I finished a book of literary fiction and tonight I plan to binge-watch House of Cards. It’s just that a lot of us don’t feel like literary festivals are really for us. I don’t know how exactly this happened, but it is important when, as Witi pointed out, book awards and writers fests are the main ways that New Zealand writers get attention and promotion.”

Falconer said she really valued the Taking Form event at Writers Week (a panel discussion with writer Courtney Sina Meredith, graphic novelist Mariko Tamaki and artist and curator Kerry Ann Lee, chaired by Sarah Laing) because “the speakers are about 5-10 years older than me, and ask themselves a lot of the same questions about their work and life as I do my own.”

Catherine_Robertson_150There is also the problem of elitism. Robertson made the point that YA fiction is presented as all being on par, but when we become grown-ups, we’re expected to specialise and distinguish between ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ qualities of writing. Ihimaera criticised literary festivals for being elitist, but at the same time insisted that we must have a literary canon to “write New Zealand into existence”. He said we’ve only a had a 30-year window (in the mid-to-late twentieth century) to say ‘this is New Zealand literature’. He finds it frightening to let that go. I was glad when Morris pointed out that there are lots of writers engaging with New Zealand-ness still, and producing all kinds of really interesting work.

It was fascinating to see the ways in which the panel members made value judgements about their own work. Morris, who has written both YA and literary fiction, frankly admitted that she considers her work for adults to be worth a lot more: people will forget her YA books but “Rangatira [a literary novel] is my contribution to the conversation about NZ literature”. She notes that authors have much more freedom in writing adult literary novels – but the penalty you pay is that publishers may not publish them and readers may not read them.

Cleave, PaulCleave, who writes crime fiction, said he would leave writing NZ culture to others. He has made a conscious decision not to market his books as NZ novels. Robertson, who writes romantic and contemporary fiction, pointed out that many commercially successful NZ authors are not well known here because we tend to celebrate the literary authors more.

Robertson made the excellent point that people read for many different reasons and should have all kinds of different books available to them to fulfil their varying needs. She said we need to scrutinise our own biases and our leftover colonial mentality that tells us that NZ writing isn’t as good as writing from overseas.

On the subject of internationality, I was intrigued to learn from Morris that in May she will be launching an Academy of New Zealand Literature. It will include genre-crossing work and Pasifika writing, and will help position and promote NZ writing overseas. Watch this space for more news on that.

Towards the end of the session, Ihimaera graciously told Cleave and Robertson that, contrary to what he had said earlier, “you do write New Zealand literature”. I agree with Morris that our books should and can contain everything about Aotearoa – and every Writers Week I discover a new aspect of that. Huge congratulations and grateful thanks to everyone involved in making it happen. See you next year!

Reviewed by Elizabeth Heritage

Our Nation’s Fiction: Read or Dead?
2pm, Sunday 13 March, BATS Theatre
Part of NZ Festival Writer’s Week

Do you love international YA literature? Kiwis do it just as well!

Since Eleanor Catton won the Man Booker Prize for The Luminaries, people have become more aware of the quality of our local fiction. Which is amazing. But did you know that our YA fiction is of the same quality as much that is produced overseas? No? Well let me educate you about a few of our top YA novelists writing right now.

Trilogies and series’
First of all – trilogies and series’. Internationally, trends have driven our teens through magical boarding schools (Harry Potter), paranormal and vampires (Twilight), dystopias (The Hunger Games), and extreme political situations (Divergent). Note that not only did these trilogies sell incredibly high volumes, they have also become films.

cv_juno_of_tarisLet me begin with one of my favourites. Fleur Beale wrote an incredible trilogy from 2008, beginning with Juno of Taris, about the life of a girl who was born into an isolated island community. This community is under a bubble, to protect them from the environment which they are led to believe by their ruling elders has been polluted to unliveable standards. The book questions the accepted, it has a gutsy heroine, and it has just a glimmer of magic to boot. The three books are Juno of Taris, Fierce September, and Heart of Darkness (all published by Random House).

cv_dreamhunterIf you want magical realism (think Patrick Ness, Philip Pullman, Margaret Mahy), you cannot go past Dreamhunter / Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox. The world of Southland draws you in, and makes you feel like anything is possible. I remember reading this for the first time, and wishing so much that I was reading it aged 13 or 14, simply to be closer to what I was like then, ready to believe that dreams were catchable, that magic was real. This has more recently been supplemented with Mortal Fire (Gecko Press), which is itself due a sequel one day!

cv_the_crossing_tnMandy Hager writes trilogies and stand-alone books with equal aplomb. The trilogy that comes to mind as an excellent dystopia based on an extreme political situation, is ‘The Blood of the Lamb’ series. Composed of The Crossing, Into the Wilderness, and Resurrection, the trilogy is prefaced on a ‘last survivor’ cult that operates from a ship in the Pacific Ocean. The storyline covers racial inequality, political persecution, and other broad dystopian themes. It is hard-hitting, and wonderfully written.

Our own John Greens
In terms of stand-alone, issues-based novels, there are few hotter right now than John Green. With his abilities on social media, and his hard-hitting topics, he is a hard one to beat. But I would say that there are several of our very own authors who come close.

cv_see_ya_simonFor instance, David Hill. One of David Hill’s first massive publishing successes (in 1992) was See Ya, Simon, in which the narrator’s best friend is a boy with muscular dystrophy, who doesn’t have long to live. This book was picked up around the world, and has been translated into many languages. David has written around 30 YA titles, all with strong believable characters, dealing with recognisable teenage emotions and dramas. (Others I would recommend are Duet, and My Brother’s War).

cv_the_nature_of_ashMandy Hager also comes to mind when thinking about health issues, with books like The Nature of Ash, which sees a teenage boy struggling with caring for his Downs Syndrome-suffering brother, while navigating the apocalypse. More recently, Dear Vincent, deals head-on with death of a sibling; as does Anna Mackenzie’s The Shadow of the Mountain.

Let me also mention Kate De Goldi, with her crossover award-winner The 10pm Question. Also Penelope Todd, with the trilogy Watermark (still available in e-book format), which itself is faintly reminiscent of something more otherworldly, classic children’s trilogy The Halfmen of O, by Maurice Gee. While on the topic of Gee, let me just recommend the Salt Trilogy – it is rather wonderful.

Can you tell how much I love kiwi dystopian YA trilogies?

The Children and Young Adults’ Book Awards
WhenWeWake_CVR_128x198x21.5_FA.inddThe YA section of the New Zealand Children’s and Young Adults’ Book awards is always strong, and I always wonder how the judges can possibly choose a winner. This year, Karen Healey was one of the contenders. Healey is somebody you cannot fail to mention while discussing and recommending current kiwi YA fiction. Author of four books, two of which are part of the When We Wake trilogy, she is one to watch for her very real teenage voices. Pick it up.

If you like your YA set in the past, Tania Roxborogh and Anna Mackenzie are both ones to watch. Each have written broadly about teen themes, so they aren’t one-trick ponies, but I would recommend Banquo’s Son and the others incv_cattras_legacy Roxborogh’s trilogy for those who like their teenage problems with a 12th-century dramatic twist; while Mackenzie has two titles in the Cattra’s Legacy trilogy out so far, set in medieval times.

For action along the lines of Robert Muchamore’s CHERUB series, but keeping it kiwi, you can’t go far wrong with Brian Falkner. He has been publishing great action books for teens for many years now, and is currently in the midst of a series called Recon Team Angel. One stand-alone that I must recommend, from a few years ago, is Brain Jack. I seem to remember reading it over a few hours when I got my hands on it. Another author to check out both current and past titles of along these lines is Ken Catran – he writes stand-alone books packed with drama and excitement.

The wonderful thing about writers of YA in New Zealand is that I haven’t met one I didn’t like. They are humble and generous, while writing these incredible books that transport teenagers all over New Zealand into different worlds. Let’s hope that the melding of Random House and Penguin doesn’t interrupt this incredible industry. Or perhaps it will prompt the creation of a new company: does anybody fancy starting a new publishing house dedicated to good-quality kiwi YA?

By Sarah Forster

People I haven’t mentioned, who are also worth looking up (i.e. I think this piece is long enough): Bernard Beckett, Barbara Else, R.L Steadman, David Hair, V. M Jones, Jack Lasenby, Ted Dawe, Joy Cowley, Adele Broadbent, Melinda Szymanik, Alison Robertson, Maryanne Scott, Sherryl Jordan (I loved her writing as a kid), and newcomer Rachael Craw. If there are more I have missed, please add your recommendations in the comments!

Office choice: Our mother’s day picks

A book is an obvious choice for a mother’s day gift, and where would we be, the Thursday before Mother’s Day, without a few recommendations.

Cherie Donovan, Association Manager

  1. What type of books does your mum read? Maeve cv_the_storytellerBinchy, my Mum enjoys reading from a wide variety of authors but always came back to her one favourite author.
  2. What was the last book you gave your mum that she really enjoyed? The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult (Allen & Unwin) 9781743318690
  3. What do you think she might enjoy this Mother’s Day? Under the Wide and Starry Sky, by Nancy Horan (Two Road) 9781444778427

Megan Dunn, Projects Manager

  1. What type of books does your mum read? My Mum loves reading self help books.
    She is a very productive, positive person who enjoys affirmative messages and new ways of looking at the world.
  2. What was the last book you gave your mum that she really enjoyed? Gulp, I can’t remember. However the last book she gave me was A Book is A Book (Gecko Press) 9781877579929; a delightful story. She knows I worked as a bookseller for years and so she also paired this present with Weird Things Customers Say in cv_too_soon_old_too_late_smartBookstores, by Jen Campbell (Overlook Press) 9781468301281, which made me hoot with laughter.
  3. What do you think she might enjoy this Mother’s Day? I don’t know, but I better go over to Unity and have a look at the psychology section because there are not many days left to get her something. In fact she might enjoy Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart by Gordon Livingston (Hodder Headline) 9780733621482. The title sounds depressing but the book is actually warm, insightful and rather wonderful.

Sarah Forster, Web Editor 

  1. What type of books does your mum read?cv_the_luminaries_HB My Mum is a big crime fiction fan. She
    also enjoys historical fiction, and true crime non-fiction. If it comes with a conspiracy theory, all the better.
  2. What was the last book you gave your mum that she really enjoyed? She enjoyed The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton when I passed on my copy last year. She also enjoyed The Casual Vacancy, by J K Rowling.
  3. What do you think she might enjoy this Mother’s Day? I have lost a bit of confidence in my book-buying, as she tossed Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn in the bin because it was too ridiculous. However, I might seek out a copy of The Collector, by Nora Roberts (Piatkus Books) 9780749959319 for her. (If my own family are reading this – I would like The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt)

Lincoln Gould, CEO 

  1. What type of books does your mum (wife) read? cv_the_secret_magdalene
    Literary novels
  2. What was the last book you gave your mum (wife) that she really enjoyed? Memories of My Melancholy Whores, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  3. What do you think she might enjoy this Mother’s Day? The Secret Magdalene, Ki Longfellow

Amie Lightbourne, Awards Manager

  1. What type of books does your mum read? My mother enjoys historical fiction andcv_the_game_of_kings whodunnits,
  2. What was the last book you gave your mum that she really enjoyed?  I gave my mother The Game of Kings, by Dorothy Dunnett (Penguin) 9780140282399, a swashbuckling authentic historical drama set in 1500’s Scotland.
  3. What do you think she might enjoy this Mother’s Day? I know she’s been interested in The Empress Dowager Cixi, by Jung Chang (Jonathon Cape Ltd) 9780224087445 which combines truth, history, and a wonderful cultural angle. She’d probably love that for Mother’s Day.

Vote! Help us decide our summer read for 2012

After the unmitigated disaster that was our winter read of 2012 (I think only one person read Middlemarch), we’re opting for something short and cheerful for our summer read. We want you to help us decide…

Vote for your favourite below and we’ll announce which book we’ll be reading over summer on Thursday, 13 December. To make it easy there’s only two choices.

Your pick: library or stables?

I read an article online recently that said that in years to come a personal library will be as outdated as a house with a stables. Seems a bit extreme … but also a chance to revel in some wonderful personal libraries.

A couple of years ago we ran a ‘New Zealand’s Next Top Bookshelf’ competition – see those amazing shelves here.

Announcing the 2012 winter read…

The Booksellers NZ 2012 winter read is Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot. If you thought last year’s Anna Karenina was long – this book is about 300 pages longer.

The reason I chose this is because my Mother-in-law suggested it (she’d also discussed it with my brother-in-law who thought it was a good idea too). And Good Reads people also seem to agree it’s a good book. After really enjoying the scenes in Anna Karenina with Kitty, Levin and the peasants I think the provincial life scenes will make for an enjoyable mid-winter companion.

Sign up to be part of the 2012 winter read.

About the winter read
The winter read begins on the shortest day (this year that’s Wednesday, 20 June) and is a very casual affair. Most readers don’t know each other and the reading is very self-directed. We published the names of people taking part on our Winter reading page and once our group is established we set up a Good Reads group for discussion. We also chat on Twitter too.

If you don’t finish the book then it doesn’t matter – lots of people signed up for Anna Karenina (last year’s read) and didn’t finish. And almost everybody who read Wuthering Heights (our summer read) disliked it.