A low-fi list of books I've read over the last 20 years or so. These entries in bold are the books I particularly liked.
This Accursed Land by Lennard Bickel
The story of Douglas Mawson's incredible survival on his disastrous Antarctic trek early this century. Amazing story really, though Bickel's writing style is difficult at best (stream of consciousness almost).
The 'Caine' Mutiny by Herman Wouk
A bit of a classic novel set in WWII on a battered old minesweeper in the Pacific. No 'goodies', and only a few 'baddies' who you slowly realise are not all that bad after all - top stuff.
Polynesia's Sacred Isle by A. Dodd
The story of Rai'atea in the Society Islands, the Hawaiki of the NZ Maori. Written by a guy who lived there and whose enthusiasm for the place is fascinating - though not necessarily always informative.
Vikings of the Sunrise by Sir Peter Buck, (Te Rangi Hiroa)
It's a bit famous this book. Interesting to see some old attitudes to race too. Te Rangi Hiroa's habit of interspersing personal anecdotes with historical essays is kind of cute in such a serious historical book.
The Tyranny of Distance by Geoffery Blainey
Suffers the usual affliction of "theme" histories, EVERYTHING has to fit the theory that distance shaped Australia.
The Future Eaters by Tim Flannery
Excellent book, very scientifically correct, presents evidence against his theories as well as in support. Some great stuff about the original migration into the Pacific through SEA and Melanesia, a couple of pretty flaky theories about repopulating Australia with prehistoric fauna.
Captain Quirk by Dennis Hauck
An "unauthorised" biography of William Shatner. A bit crap really.
Hidden Agendas by John Pilger
Media shenanigans and corporate imperialism. Some good stuff, although Pilger tends to lose the plot sometimes in his passion.
The Roof of Voyaging by Garry Kilworth
What a cool idea for a book - set in Polynesia of a couple of thousand years ago but when Kupe sails out from Hawaiki he finds Arthurian Britain instead of Aotearoa. Great idea, lots of research but sadly not much in the way of story-telling ability. I like the way various Polynesian cultures are combined.
Shardik by Richard Adams
This book was much better than I expected, but then I had pretty low expectations - Watership Down with bears? Adams must have just bought a new thesaurus. "Flowery language" doesn't even begin to describe it - gets a bit wearing by the end.
The Dream Swimmer by Witi Ihimaera
The sequel to The Matriarch. A mix of Maori and classical mythology with life in downtown Waituhi. I'm a big Ihimaera fan but this book was a little disappointing - even before I got to the party political broadcast on behalf of the Winston First Party.
Errol Flynn The Untold Story by Charles Higham
A pretty shonky biography of the world's sleaziest Tasmanian. Lots of unsubstantiated stories including some doozies about Flynn's nazi spy career. You'd expect some backup to allegations like that but Higham doesn't seem to feel they're necessary.
South Seas by Donald A. MacKenzie
A anthropological study of South Sea Islanders and their mythology, written in the 30s. Some ideas that have since been "proven" incorrect such as the two phase migration into NZ but a lot of really really interesting theories about the migration of myths and techniques. "Nothing is original" reckons Donald.
The Rise and Rise of Kerry Packer by Paul Barry
A biography of one of the nastiest men in Australian media. Gives some clues as to what might have made him so nasty.
Rugby - A Referee's Guide by Ed Morrison and Derek Robinson
Takes the form of an interview by Derek on Ed. Fairly interesting if you are into such things. Ed 'aint into the "infallible ref" concept much, and he hasn't got much nice to say about Kiwis.
Burning Your Own by Glen Patterson
Novel set in Northern Ireland about a wee laddie growing up in Belfast. Pretty cool.
New Zealand Mysteries by Robyn Gosset (1996 update)
Great book. Looks at lots of NZ mysteries like "are moas still alive?" and a few archeological finds with interesting implications for "first whitey" to discover the joint. A critical view - I appreciate that.
Some Aspects of Maori Myth and Religion by Elsdon Best
Fairly old study of pre-European mythology in NZ. Looks at some links between Polynesian mythology and Egyptian, Assyrian and Teutonic. (Fairly bloody tenuous links if you ask me but I'm sure they went down a treat at Best's country club.)
From Maui to Cook by David Lewis
"The Discovery and Settlement of the Pacific". Study of migrations across the Pacific Ocean. Goes into interlinking mythologies and languages between the islands a bit which is really interesting. Devotes slightly more time to pre-European discovery than most similar books.
Microserfs by Douglas Copeland
Fictional story set in the land of geekdom. Pretty amusing and some familiar stuff (like whole days spent playing Doom) but tiring eventually.
The Mythology of Tolkien's Middle Earth by Ruth S. Noel
A study of JRR Tolkiens' world seen through the eyes of other mythologies - Greek, Roman, Teutonic, Bilblical, Celtic. Really well written. Really interesting.
All Stories are True by John Edgar Wideman
A collection of short stories. A bit too "stream of consciousness" for my liking, not easy to read by any stretch of the imagination. Still there are some really good stories and you feel kind of virtuous for struggling through such difficult but obviously excellent literature.
The Strongest God by Heretaunga Pat Baker
Historical novel set amongst the Whakatohea of Opotiki. I suspect it's trying to justify the killing of Rev Volkner which irks me somewhat - lets face it, the man was a spy!
The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco by John Birmingham
The sequel (sort of) to "He Died With a Felafel in his Hand" but with no attempt to pretend it's even slightly true. One of the funniest books I've read in a long time
Hothouse by Brian Aldiss
A sci-fi book set on Earth when the sun has gone hot and plants rule the planet. Great book actually - some real surprises. The only complaint would be the "third person" type narration bits to describe some historical or biological points. It would've been better just not knowing I reckon.
Samoa mo Samoa by J W Davidson
A history of Samoa. Half the book is general history up to 1946 and the other half is Davidson's recollections based on his own position in Samoa assisting the government towards self-government. Extremely fair and unbiased account. The second half has rather more detail than most people would want. The slogan "Samoa mo Samoa" means Samoa for Samoans and was originally used by the NZ administration but adopted by the stroppy Mau movement.
Stirring the Possum by James McClelland
Autobiography of an Australian politician judge and ex-communist. Very funny and really interesting. What a fascinating man!
Lonely Planet Guides to Tonga and Samoa by Deanna Swaney
Slightly out-of-date now but still vital. A couple of the more biased books in the LP catalogue but as long as you recognise that - and especially if you share her biases - that's fine. Lelei.
These two books became particularly useful, as I based my original application to work at Lonely Planet on them, and was still travelling in Samoa when the call came for an interview (which must have made me seem much more travel-savvy than I actually was!). In the interview, I was a little critical of poor Deanna's politics, but turned out that's what they wanted to hear. Phew!!
Tokelau by Neville Peat
A short informative book about the Tokelau islands. NZ, pull finger!
Maori and Missionary by Nola Easdale
An interesting account of the trials and tribulations of the early missionaries in Kerikeri, Far North NZ. Really interesting but I have to admit that's partly cos Great Great Great Great Grandpa James Shephard features strongly.
Friendly Islands by Noel Rutherford
A fairly dry collection of articles on the history of Tonga. Some good reading but like I said pretty dry, except for the chapter on Queen Salote which could only be described as extremely wet. Probably not everyone's cup of kava. Ho ho.
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
A fictional story set in post WW2 Perth. Bloody great!! A bit magical.
The Rugby War by Peter Fitzsimmons
An account of the battle between the World Rugby Corp and the rugby establishment in 1995 soon after rugby went professional. This is a pretty amazing read, lots of skullduggery and political manoeuvrings. A different world.
My Life in Tights by Burt Ward
Oh dear oh dear. Burt Ward played the part of Robin in the old 60's Batman & Robin series. I guess part of his appeal in the part was his youthfulness and that seems to have stayed with him. A less kind-hearted person would call it immaturity. Or stupidity perhaps? how about childishness? Robin and Mrs Robin now own their own publishing company so they could publish this without anyone else being allowed to edit it. Still a great read though.