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.
The Belgariad and Belgarath by David Eddings
Extremely successful, readable fantasy series based partly on amusing racial stereotypes and the phrase 'let it pass'. Third or fourth time through? Who's counting? A holiday for the brain.
Into the Blue by Tony Horwitz
Wonderful book. I mostly read this for the Pacific chapters (Tahiti, Niue, Tonga) but the insights into Cook (variations on the 'up through the ranks' theme) made old Jimbo an even more fascinating character and the 'background story' of the author and his hopeless mate was surprisingly interesting too. Tony's a nice guy - he wrote some stuff for me.
The Green Mile by Steven King
Second time through. One of his best, partly because of the serial release of the chapters (goddamn brave experiment, Stevo) but a great tale regardless.
The Map That Changed the World by Simon Winchester
Are you Dave Gorman? by Dave Gorman & Danny Wallace
Daughter of Fortune by Isabelle Allende
A great read! I respect cutting the reader short at the end - but "Christo!" that's frustrating.
How the Garcia Sisters Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
A book that requires more concentration than I had going, but still fun.
Bare-foot Bushwalker by Dorothy Butler
Apart from the truly woefully-written early years chapters, this is quite a good read. Certainly not for the writing, which is so bad as to be quite startling, but for the fascinating life Dot has lead.
Stonedogs by Craig Marriner
Up and down. Very surprising book in a lot of ways - not least having a hero who is professes the occasional slightly racist opinion (not unusual in real life but certainly is in a novel, particularly one that's otherwise a bit lefty). Cops out somewhat with his best mate, though (compromise for the publisher?), and winds up a simple action adventure. Loved the finish.
Red Dwarf by Grant Naylor
Still funny but a little tiresome by the end.
Black Oxen by Elizabeth Knox
Hard work (And long!) but rewards the effort eventually. Not a book for casual reading - if you don't devote 100% of your attention you'll be lost.
Sardonyx Net by Elizabeth A Lynn
Perfectly adequate sci fi.
The Malloreon (pentology? is that a word) by David Eddings
Great fodder to see you through an illness - nothing too challenging for the grey matter.
Farther Than Any Man by Martin Dugard
A more interesting telling of Captain James Cook's life than most, but that's partly because it tends to invent stories when the truth fails to be interesting enough. Some interpretations are really interesting, eg that Cook was chosen exactly because he was a commoner, but these lose a lot of cred' because of some of the more ridiculous claims (if it wasn't for a storm mid-Tasman, Australians would all be speaking French!)
Niue - The Island and It's People by S Percy Smith
(A USP reprint of an old Polynesian Society paper.) Another lovely old missive by my old pal "S". Insights into traditonal Niuean culture run side-by-side with insights into 19th-century patronising-old-white-fart culture. (I love Percy, I really do - I think I want to be him!)
Salon.com's Wanderlust edited by Don George
"Real life tales of adventure and romance". Some great stories - don't let the tosspot of a foreword put you off. Consistently, the articles I enjoyed most were the ones from Salon.com writers.
Look to Windward by Iain M Banks
Yet another Culture novel - this one set further in the future than most (and interestingly more critical of the Culture). Long - too long - but once it gets going it's as good as any. News flash: the Culture doesn't last 100 million years.
Foundation Quadrology by Isaac Asimov
I'd read this as a kid but had obviously forgotten how shallow it really was. The premise for the whole kilogram of books (psychohistory - kind of a statistical/quantum mechanics treatment of people's reactions) is an interesting idea, but really only interesting enough to hold together a short story or two. But then that's what Asimov was all about huh? Taking a good three-page essay and turning it into a mind-numbingly-dull bookshelf full of novels.
Murther & Walking Spirits by Robertson Davies
Interesting - it appears that not even an author as talented as RD can hold up a novel with no discernable storyline.
Blast from the Past by Ben Elton
A midly interesting story serves as a useful vessel for wry comments on life and popular culture.
The Navigator by Morris West
Great idea - the discovery of ancient Polynesia's mythical home for navigators. But the hero is too much of a Heyerdahl for my liking and it turns all "Lord of the Flies" for the last half of the book. (Then again, I was always going to be critical of a book like this - it's great that it was written at least!)
The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
Second - or third? - time through. What a story! A great older-kids' book! Watching out for the movie now ...
Blood Vengeance by Matt Freke
NZ needs more trashy, Maori mythology-based horror stories - and for that reason I salute the author. In fact this is a really thrilling ride - factual errors pop up willy nilly but I loved it anyway. (It says more about me than it says about the book that I can accept zombies walking the earth, but have to stamp my pedantic little feet at Maori names that don't end with a vowel or native NZ trees that are not deciduous. Yes Marcus, I am a pedant.)
Hi Matt !