The Readings

A literary links list full of things we think you might like to check out.


Verb Wellington have launched the Verb Community, a membership community with sliding payment options, set up to support and nurture creativity and community. If you value arts (and who doesn’t?) and want to see artists and writers paid to create content, sign up and contribute. The gorgeous image above was commissioned for the Verb Community from Jessica Thompson Carr, aka Māori Mermaid.

Tupuranga Journal has launched it’s first issue, full of incredible writing by Indigenous and POC writers from Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa.

Paula Green invited New Zealand Booksellers (and even a couple of us here at Booksellers NZ!) to contribute to a list of comfort books over on Poetry Shelf. It’s a beautifully varied list, and a great source if you’re after a steady and calming to read, as so many of us are right now.

Don’t forget that you can attend the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards this year, right from the comfort of your own living room! All you have to do is tune in via Facebook or YouTube at 6pm on Tuesday May 12. See you there!

The Auckland Writers Festival are hosting an online 2020 Winter Series at 9am on Sundays. To tune in to the livestreams head to their Facebook or YouTube pages. And if 9am on a Sunday is a little early for you, the sessions will be uploaded to the AWF website. The next session on Sunday 10 May features Philippe Sands, Ian Wedde and Lisa Taddeo in conversation with Paula Morris.

The Pantograph Punch has had a redesign, and it’s looking gorgeous. Check out the lush new look, and the reasoning behind it, here.



Book Review: Built for Caffeine, by Ben Crawford

Built for Caffeine is a book celebrating design in the New Zealand cafe environment. ImageThe author, Ben Crawford is most popularly known for co-winning the reality TV Show The Block in 2012. Following that, he and his sister opened an advertising agency in Auckland. Ben also writes a design column for the New Zealand Herald. The aim of the book is to delve into the design features of cafes, commenting on how they could be applied in the home environment. Ben has an eye for detail and his photos and commentary clearly give a sense of the physical environment. For the cafes I am very familiar with I found Ben’s photos gave me a greater appreciation for the space and detail of the location.

What could have improved this book was a coherent theme or rationale behind the cafes picked. While I found my head nodding at many picks, I couldn’t work out how he came to know about the cafes or why they were chosen above other cafes. Many of the cafes are, still now, only a few months old. How did he know about them? Is it because it is difficult to find out about design direction once time has passed? The cafes are organised North to South but I wonder if organising by design style (e.g. industrial, retro etc) could provided a link between cafes or the application of design advice. That being said, there may not be enough of each style to do that.

ImageBen’s narration is half design speak, half Kiwi casual. I found it distracting at first, but appreciated the enthusiasm behind his approach. Ben clearly gets more out of the cafe experience than just coffee and you get a sense of an engaging personality – one who has very competently interviewed the owners and designers behind each cafe project.  In a very ‘behind the scenes’ style he draws out the stories beneath the design. The city map wall in ‘Little King Cafe’ was inspired by the owner’s childhood town memories – a reminder that sometimes the most memorable design features are those originally inspired. I found a real DIY narrative to Ben’s stories – the Kiwi DIY gene is not limited to houses but also the businesses we run. Many stories detailed the amount of hard labour the owners did, stripping back decades of renovation to find the genuine bones of the building. I really liked that, being a New Zealand design book, all the suggestions about replicating the style should be achievable in New Zealand and look good here.

Coffee addicts will appreciate that every cafe’s brand of brew is given.

There is a surprisingly mixed audience for this book.  I think aficionados of home design magazines will enjoy it, but equally cafe-frequenting hipsters.

Review by Emma Wong-Ming

Built for Caffeine
by Ben Crawford
Published by Beatnik Publishing
ISBN  9780992249366

Book Review: Flatter’s Survival Guide, by Lauren Earl

“Hi Steph. I came home from work today, and I thought the Invisible Man must have been in the bathroom, as the light was on and the fan was going. Please ensure that after using the bathroom you turn off the light and fan, as it wastes electricity. Malcolm.”
If you’ve ever been flatting, you will recognise the above as an example of the good ol’ flatmate-passive-aggressive-note.  Reading Flatter’s Survival Guide pulled me back in time through all the flats I’ve dwelt in, and face-to-face with all the colourful characters I’ve lived with. (And after 10 years of flatting, there’s been quite a few.) I lingered fondly in the memory-rooms of some flats, whilst bolting out the memory-door from others screaming ‘you’re not there anymore, you’re not there anymore!’ And when I came face-to-face with memory-Malcom, I told him that he’d totally walked in on the Invisible Man taking a shower, and that he was an inconsiderate jerk for not knocking first.

The main message I took from Flatter’s Survival Guide is that the decisions you make when going flatting can be the difference between having the best year of your life, or ending up bitter and miserable, only one step away from high-fiving your flatmate in the face with a frying pan. The first thing that went through my mind after finishing this book was “God, I wish this had been published when I was 18”.

23-year-old Lauren Earl wrote and designed Flatter’s Survival Guide as her major project as a student at Massey University School of Design. A luxurious hardback, printed on heavy card and exquisitely designed, it is a gorgeous object. The design and content are cleverly entwined, with the information being presented in a hilarious and informative way that is easy to read and a pleasure to the eye.

Earl takes you through the whole flatting process in beautifully laid out sections: Preparation, flat hunting, flat life, right through to an exit plan when it’s time to move on. The book has practical advice on things such as flat finances, a checklist of things to ask about when viewing a flat, how to avoid flat dramas, and dealing with problematic flatmates. I thoroughly enjoyed the section of creative ways to say sorry for being a bad flatmate – there is even a recipe for vanilla cupcakes! Image

It also has entertaining illustrations and diagrams of situations that all flatters will recognise: people not doing their dishes, late rent payments, passive-aggressive notes, and, my personal favourite, a flowchart on toilet etiquette. It is also peppered with “Top Tips”, comical quotes from previous flatters, and interesting surveys: FYI it is never all right to use notes, unless they are funny. E.g. “Whoever owns these eggs I give you 2 dollars. I am drunk. Thank you for chickens’ babies.”

Flatter’s Survival Guide would make a brilliant gift for anyone who has flatted, is flatting or will flat. I actually think that along with your diploma at high school graduation, you should also be issued with a copy of this book.

So, if you are about to embark on the journey of flatting, just remember this: “The key is perfecting the art of the smile and nod when all you want to do is punch them in the face.” And also, if you’ve been a douchey flatmate, always sniff your toothbrush before you use it.

Reviewed by Stephanie Soper

Flatter’s Survival Guide
by Lauren Earl
Published by Awa Press
ISBN 9781877551895

Book review: We Will Work With You: Wellington Media Collective 1978-1998

work-with-youThis book is in bookshops now.

A cursory glance through We Will Work With You suggests it might be a somewhat light-hearted accompaniment to last year’s exhibition of the Wellington Media Collective’s (WMC’s) work at the Adam Art Gallery. But the colourful poster plates with their catchy slogans and designs belie the activism at work. Indeed, this title works in the same way as the WMC’s best campaigns, capturing readers’ attention with expert aesthetics, and then demanding an engagement with far more serious and complex socio-political concerns.

We Will Work With You is about the two decades in which the non-profit WMC operated, providing media, design, marketing and advertising support to a myriad of local organisations and causes. The WMC were careful about the way their working relationships were defined, and to ensure that projects operated collaboratively with mutual opportunities for learning, rather than the client service model adopted by many groups today. Their mission statement? We will work with you, not for you.

Eclectically arranged, We Will Work With You comprises two plate sections of the WMC’s posters, separated and book-ended with essays about the WMC’s social, design and activist history.

Polly Cantlon’s essay Design Democracy is particularly fascinating for anyone interested in the use of design as a means of political dissent, and she ends it with the most pertinent question posed in the book, ‘don’t we need another Wellington Media Collective today?’

The present moment is as turbulent a time for New Zealand as the revolutions of the last 40 years, and it’s worth considering the value of such a group to keep pace with the changing technologies and economic factors affecting all parts of society. And yet, with mass access to computers and social media, today’s political activists are arguably more engaged than ever, as the Arab Spring and worldwide occupation movement have attested to. Perhaps, with the reinvigoration of grassroots community organisations, we are moving closer to a shared learning environment once more.

Three short essays at the back of the book are easy to miss in this treasure trove, but worthwhile digging out to understand the WMC’s work in an international context, alongside other political histories such as Cuba’s which have played out through poster design. The inclusion of more first-person accounts might have brought the bold history of the WMC to even greater life, but it’s nonetheless an engrossing and visually appealing read, certain to intrigue anyone with an interest in design or New Zealand history.

Reviewed by Caitlin Sinclair

We Will Work With You: Wellington Media Collective 1978-1998
Edited by Mark Derby, Jennifer Rouse and Ian Wedde
Published by Victoria University Press
ISBN: 9780864738837