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.

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The Last Navigator by Stephen D Thomas
A slightly oversentimental account by an American bloke who trained under one of the most famous Micronesian navigators. Lots of technical detail about navigating by the stars etc. Cool book!

Nuclear Free by David Lange
The story of NZ's nuclear free legislation in the late 80s. Funny man.

Captain James Cook by James Hooker
The screenplay of the miniseries. Good book and takes advantage of the benefit of hindsight. Oooh that Bligh character is a strict one isn't he? And do you think James gets a little too worked up about the locals nicking his stuff? He'll be sooooorrry ....

What if the Moon Didn't Exist? by Neil F Comins
A book of "what ifs", or as it's subtitled "Voyages to Earths That Might Have Been" - What if the moon was closer, what if the Earth was smaller ... Well explained most of the time. Tends to assume that the whole world's populations lives in the mainland USA occasionally - not unusual in a US book, but it's a little ironic since this book likes to consider the effects of removing aspects of life we take for granted.

martian Managing Martians by Donna Shirley
Design of the Mars rover ... sounds pretty dull but this is one of the best poorly-written book I've ever read, And it is badly written. However enthusiasm, natural story-telling ability and a damn good story make up for a lot. The image of the wee rover circling mummy and crying for help almost had me in tears.

Throwim Way Leg by Tim Flannery
Ethno-paleo-fossilo-biological adventures in New Guinea. A great mix of science, Boys' Own 'adventure' and (rather nerdy) enthusiasm. Flannery is a great storyteller - never afraid to cast himself as the buffoon. (I ended up commissioning Tim to do some writing a few years later.)

Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead
The infamous anthropological study. Without getting into the nitty gritty, one of the first things you notice (with the benefit of hindsight) is how damn few people she spoke to to make all those assumptions. She justifies that by explaining that Samoans are a very "simple" people. Now you wouldn't get away with that these days Maggie.

One Hundred Years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Not as brilliant as its PR - but still brilliant!

Hitching by Kirsty Brooks
"Tales from the byways and superhighways" - I'm sure I'm not the first person who, after seeing this book shouted "I wish I'd written that". I've long been a fan of hitching, hitching culture, hitching philosophy and hitching stories. This is actually a bit light-on for material though. Too much white space for my liking. And a few that have the stench of urban myth about them ... "a mate of mine was hitching ..." - Still, it's fantastic stuff really!

Nga Waka Maori by Anne Nelson
A pretty good illustrated book about Maori canoes - past and present. Uses lots of Best's stuff without seeming to give him credit but introducing such good info to the late 20th century is probably not a bad thing. Lots on Te Kaupapa Waka project of 1990 which is pretty cool. Not just a coffee-table book approach either, a few bad stories as well as the obligatory heart-lifting ones.

All American Boy by Scott Peck
An incredibly powerful autobiography by an American lad trying to deal with growing up gay and baptist.

The Kon Tiki Expedition by Thor Heyerdahl
Fascinating book - a very motivated man.

Treasure Island by R.L. Stevenson
The best thing about this book (I reckon) is Captain Flint. The pirate, not the parrot. He's made out to be the most evil man who ever lived, but we never get to meet him. Some day someone should write the story of Flint, how Silver lost his leg and Pew his eyes etc. It'd be great.
Postscript: someone *did* write that book! See above.
The only problem with this particular printing is that it didn't have the map! How crap is that? What were they thinking? The map defines the book! Didn't they realise that? (Fortunately I found a good scan on the internet.)

The Moor's Last Sigh by Salmon Rushdie
Excellent novel set in India. A bit of magic, a bit of myth and a bit of history. Great. Waaay better than 'East West', the only other Rushdie book I've read.

I've spent the last few months (for work on LP's new South Pacific guidebook) browsing sporadically through: The Cambridge History of the Pacfic Islanders, Ian Cambell's A History of the Pacific Islands, the USP's New Politics in the South Pacific, the Fiji Times' The Pacific Islands Yearbook, A. Price's The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific, Eric Conte's Tereraa, Jack Golson's Polynesian Navigation, Jeff Evan's The Discovery of Aotearoa, the Cultural Atlas of Australia, NZ and the South Pacific, Jacques Brosse's Great Voyages of Exploration, Hugo Verlomme's Travel by Cargo Ship, R & B Kane's Cargo Ship Cruising, K Howe's Tides of History, Thomas, Tuia & Huntsman's Songs and Stories of Tokelau, Huntsman & Hopper's Tokelau: A Historical Ethnobiography.

A Merry Heart by Robertson Davies
A collection of Robertson's speeches and musings, mostly about writing and reading, published after his death. Roberston's novels are nothing short of brilliant and this was a great read. However, it's a little disappointing to realise what a grumpy, old-fashioned Tory he was, and no matter what the subject it seems that he eventually returns to how young people these days don't know how lucky they are ...

Samoan Medley by C.C. Masark
Memoirs of a NZ judge who spent time in Western Samoa prior to independence. Published in the 50s and you've got to allow something for the attitudes of the day. Still, it's hard to believe that even in the 50s Mr Masark wasn't viewed as something of a racist, sexist prat. Apart from illustrating what prats once worked in the Samoan judicial service, it's interesting (and surprising) to see how understanding NZ law sometimes was of Samoan culture.
On the expansion of the Samoan parliament: "Why it should be necessary to have a Parliament of 48 representatives to manage the affairs of fewer than a hundred thousand primitive people I o not understand." - Plonker !

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Excellent novel set in the Caribbean around the turn of the century. Just a little bit magic.

Leaves of the Banyan Tree by Albert Wendt
Novel set in Samoa in the 1930s. Pretty good tale.

A Pattern of Islands by Arthur Grimble
Biography of the British resident commissioner of what is now Kiribati in Micronesia. Very funny, and surprisingly cynical of what he calls "the Empire of the great god Jingo". The story of the grandmother and the 'Greek tragedy' village crowd made me laugh 'til I cried.

Don Quixote by Cervantes
Early 17th-century novel about the famous windmill-tilting Spaniard. Surprisingly good reading even now, though some of the jokes have worn thin in the intervening centuries. Incredibly wordy; takes several pages to decribe a paddock at one stage. Wanders off the plot more often than you'd think possible.

Arcadia by Jim Crace
Novel set in an un-named modern city, perhaps Paris but it doesn't really matter where it is (and that's coming from a certifiable map geek who has Michener's "a man's gotta know where he stands" quote hanging on the wall). Bloody great book!

best The Maori Canoe by Eldson Best
Pretty much anything by Best is worth a read. With him, the story was always as important than the facts (or even more important some critics would say). This looks (very in-depth) at NZ Maori canoe-building styles during the 19th century and earlier ึ and compares them with other Polynesian/Melanesian styles. A bit of migration mythology too.