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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Kiwi Tracks by Andrew Stevenson
Note to North America: please stop sending your whinging brokenhearted travel writers to the South Pacific. Theroux-like, Stevenson wanders the length of NZ and finds lovely scenery but plenty to complain about. His wanderings are dotted with a series of very earnest, very implausible conversations.

The Flamingo Anthology of New Zealand Short Stories edited by Michael Morrissey
Excellent compilation of NZ short stories. Morrissey himself is one of the best 'finds'.

A History of Europe by JM Roberts
Long, dry and basically hard work.

The Lagoon is Lonely Now by Ronald Syme
A rather lame narrative about life in the Cook Islands earlier this century. Stop Press: 'things these days just ain't what they used to be'.

AW Reed From North Cape to Bluff by AH Reed
A long incredibly dull narrative - pretty much a list of the people Reed met while walking from Cape Reinga to Bluff. A remarkable story (he was 84 years old at the time) tediously told. I found a signed copy of this at a second-hand bookshop in Daylesford - don't think they knew what treasure they had!

Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
Number three in the series. The twists in the plot become slightly predictable by book number three but that just adds to the fun 'cos you can try to figure it out in advance.

Ask That Mountain by Dick Scott
The story of Te Whiti and his passive resistance campaign based at Parihaka (Taranaki) at the end of the 19th century. Second time through.

Strangers in Paradise by Martin Sutton
Famous/infamous Palagi visitors to the Pacific Islands (Stephenson, Melville, Gaughan, Fletch Christian...) The presentation makes it look like any crappy old coffee-table book but this is actually a very good read. Great images too.

Harry Potter and the Secret Chamber by JK Rowling
Number two in the series. Still great! (I wonder what parents/teachers around the world think of the strong anti-ambition message? More subversive than any wizardry and magic I would've thought.)

Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling
The first in the series and I can see why they're so popular! The first single-sitting read through a book I've done for a very long time!

Kava - The Pacific Elixir by Vincent Lebot, Merlin and Lamont Lindstrom
All the information about kava you'd ever want to know and much much more. Comes at the stuff from chemical, ethnobotanical and linguistic sides ֠doesn't ease up on the jargon at any point.

A History of the Pacific Islands by Ian Cambell
Second time through. Great summary - a little more pro-missionary than most but that's probably not a bad thing.

Mars Attacks - War Dogs of the Golden Horde by Ray W Murill
Sci-fi based on the collectors' cards (which, I think, the movie was based on). Sci-fi at it's best with one-dimensional characters, blood, gore and amazing guns that go 'zap zap'. Magnificent work.

Unfit for Life - a handbook by Dave O'Neil
A bit light-on unfortunately. O'Neil's a damn funny man but this is not as funny as his standup stuff. Good Melbournian in-jokes though.

Long John Silver : The True and Eventful History of My Life of Liberty and Adventure As a Gentleman of Fortune & Enemy to Mankind by Bjorn Larsson
Larsson takes up the story that RLS left untold. Long John himself ain't very believable (just 'cos he could read doesn't make him a goddamn professor of literature, Bjorn) but the supporting cast - Flint, England, Pew etc - are fine. A good read.

Why Weren't We Told? by Henry Reynolds
An Australian history teacher's angry discovery of the country's "hidden" history. If only Little Johnny Howard would read something like this!

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Great story.

The Paper Men by William Golding
I hate books about people going mad - they're either unbelievable or confusing as hell. This one's worth it for the twist RIGHT at the end.

Searching for the Volcano by Jane Downing
Short stories based in Australia, the Pacific and Africa.

Tarzan and the Castaways by Edgar Rice Burroughs
"By Simba's mighty tail - this book is shite!"

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Fascinating story about a young man who "lost himself" in Alaska a few years ago and died there.

The Beach by Alex Garland
Excellent novel - lots to think about. Disappointingly, the novel all gets a bit silly and Lord of the Flies-like at the very end but otherwise REALLY good. Great holiday read (switch brain to 'off'). (Now is "Beach" the old missing continent I wonder?)

Kylie by Dino Scatena
Unauthorised biography of Kylie Mingue - and it's not surprising it wasn't authorised 'cos it's really pretty crap. Reads like a conversation with a wide-eyed fan of Ms Minogue, willing to forgive any slip-up except from her agent (I think Dino's after his job).

Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson
Very funny short whinging essays about the USA.

Soldier F - Guerillas in the Jungle by Shaun Clarke
Heavily-researched but childishly-written novel about the British SAS in the Malayan Emergency (1950s).

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Great story well told. Stoker's mouthpiece (the irritating Doctor H) could keep his mouth shut a bit more often.

Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener
WW2 fiction. Pretty cool but you've gotta get your head around the racist shit.

Suspect History by Humphrey McQueen
"Manning Clark and the Future of Australia's Past" For my money - a little too much on the Courier Mail and their attack on Manning Clark (easy target Humphrey - a bit like a scientific refutation of The National Inquirer's "Bat Boy Found in Cave") and not enough on the politicisation (is that a word?) of history.

The Vintner's Luck The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox
Excellent magic, mythical kinda novel by a kiwi author - tho' set in France. Hmmm - what else has she written?

Travels & Adventures Among the Islands of the Pacific
Condensed from John Dyson's story about travelling through the Pacific.

The Business by Iain Banks
Great story although a little predictable. 'Nicer' (less dark) than most offerings from the Banks (non-scifi) stable.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Rabbit rabbit rabbit - avast! get to the point man! The whale in question appears on page 510 - call me fussy but I prefer books that move a little faster.

We the Navigators by David Lewis
A in-depth users guide to the ancient arts of Pacific navigation. How to find islands by wave reflection and cloud shapes, how to navigate from Samoa to Niue by the stars taking into account cross currents. Great book though the sailing terminology leaves me astern sometimes.

Gary's Guide for the Millennium Man by Gary McCormack
Bullshit artist's guide to life. Very funny.

Great Feuds in Science by Hal Helman
Ten great disagreements in the history of science - from Galileo versus the Pope to Margaret Mead versus Derek Freeman. Lots about the philosophy of science and the teaching of science. Veeeery interesting.