BOOKS - THE FULL (UGLY) LIST

A low-fi list of books I've read over the last nineteen years or so. Books are listed in reverse order - from the ones I've read most recently, backwards - so the ones at the top are the ones I'm reading right now. These entries are the books I particularly liked.

Back to year by year... 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994
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BOOKS I'M READING IN 2015


A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists by Jane Rawson

Paradise Lost, the novel by Joseph Lanzara and John Milton

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins

The Inimitable Jeeves by PG Wodehouse

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

The World According to Garp by John Irving

Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory

How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World by Francis Wheen

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2014

Brideshead Revisted by Evelyn Waugh

For the Love of Physics by Walter Lewin
From the end of the rainow to the edge of time—a journey through the wonders of physics.

The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Carsick by John Waters
Hitchhikes across America

The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do
Charmin' tale.

Child of God by Cormac McCarthy
Finally! A stink Cormac.

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die edited by Robert Dimery
With Spotify (and Youtube for the Fab Four stop-outs) and a complicated system for streaming music across the room to the amp, this book makes a nice, distracting way to while away a few unemployed afternoons. Up to approx #150... running playlist

Biggles of the Special Air Police by Capt. WE Johns
A collection of stories too dull to make it to full novels.

Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M Conway
How a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming.

Museum of Hoaxes by Alex Boese
Fun. Do love a good hoax or con artist!

The Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories by James McConnachie and Robin Tudge
Great!

Mr Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester
Chappish good larks by Jove.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
A sparkling combination of conceits.

The Six Million Dollar Man: Wine, Women & War by Michael Jahn
Not quite as cerebral as the TV show. Also, Needless Alliteration alert: there's barely any wine.

The Communist Manfesto by Karl Marx & Fredrich Engels
YAWN

The Case for Astrology by John Anthony West & Jan Gerhard Toonder
It hasn't sold me, but this was a very sane discussion of evidence for and against, and not-least got me up to speed enough to be able to understand The Luminaries (read in tandem, tho this one's 500pp shorter!).

Can we Travel Through Time? The 20 Big Questions of Physics by Michael Brooks
Some really great explanations of tricky quantum biz.

Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
Nth time thru. Still love this story, and even more so having learned how careful HST was with every word, despite the appearance of drug-induced frenzy.

We Are the Weather Makers by Tim Flannery
Well overdue. Some of the science in this groundbreaker has been updated since, but tis still a very readable intro. Slightly jangling, perhaps, with the benefit of hindsight.

the World of Karl Pilkington by Ricky Gervais
Radio transcripts. The fine art of cruelty, but some gems too, like...
Is it Worth Going to the Moon?
There is nowt on it so you might as well look at it from the world, as it don't get any better the closer you get.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Kingesque story, with just a little too much 'King' ("hurt eyes").

Hotel New Hampshire by Irving
Nth time thru. This was my first ever 'favourite novel ever'.

Life: How Did it Get Here by the Jovies
Anti-evolutionary arguments. Woo.

The Geek Manifesto (Why Science Matters) by Mark Henderson
Some really great stuff here on theinteractions (good and bad) of science and politics. I quite loved the comparison of evidence-based policy and policy-based evidence. Some annoying bits too, such as a bit of Green hatery, but then it made me rethink some Greeny biz too, so not a bad result.

Chrysalids by John Wyndham
The first scifi i ever read, back before I even knew it was scifi. As great now as it was then (tho the ending still sucks, Sealand aside), and I may even have got Maxine interested in reading it!

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2013

The Rise & Fall of Athens: Nine Greek Lives by Plutarch
The stories of Theseus, Solon, Aristides, Pericles, Lysander and ... some less-memorable chaps.

Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh
Very funny.

The Summing Up by W. Somerset Maugham
Thoughts on writing, mostly. "Anything is better than not to write clearly."

The Quarry by Iain Banks
"We get back into Hol's little faded red Polo and drive off."
And that's it.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
A little inconsistent, but from around halfway onward an exciting read.

MacBeth by William Shakespeare
I'd meant to read this for a long, long time but the time was right. Loved it.

Civilisation: Twenty Places on the Edge of the World by Steve Braunias
A gift from a lovely pair of authors, who know my taste for the offbeat peculiar corners of NZ. Braunias has a good eye and a lovely touch with the pen. Lovin' the places I've been of course (Hicks Bay, Apia, St Bathans, Moerewa) but more-so the people he draws and occasional playful touches like: "Wanganui... a city about to be brought to you by the letter H".

Theories of the Universe by Milton E. Munitz
From Babylonian mythology thru Plato, Kepler right up to Einstein and the expanding Universe: how our ideas about the way our universe works have changed thru time. Essays early on, but from Lucretius on it's almost all in the writers' own words (so you can see how playful Galileo was, how pretty a writer Mr Copernicus, cf Messers Newton and Einstein).
I read this at the same time as working my way thru Professor Charles Bailyn's Yale astrophysics course online, including his elegant explanation of 'scientific fables' (eg, the fable of the Ptolomeic epicycles, the 'moral' of which is that simple theories are better, and the shittest theories are those that must become more and more complex the more measurements/observations we make). Nice wrap-in here with the Flat Earth book below too.
Babylonian Genesis, Ionian Cosmology, Pythagorians, Lucretius, Plato, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Medieval Cosmology, Cusanus, Copernicus, Bruno, Digges, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Huygens, Wright, Kant, Lambert, Herschel, Einstein, Hubble, De Sitter, Eddington, Lemaître, Milne, Robertson, Gamow, Bondi, Sciama, Hoyle.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Nth time thru. The first page or two still packs the same KAPOW as the first time I ever read it. A Top Five book. Atticus pic wiki

Billy Budd by Melville
Short, tho still not to the point.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
The title is a bit of a gimic (in fact the whole book's a bit of a gimic), but also very true. wiki

Theories of the Universe by Milton E. Munitz
From Babylonian mythology thru Plato, Kepler right up to Einstein and the expanding Universe: how our ideas about the way our universe works have changed thru time. A few essays, but mostly in the writers' own words.
I read this at the same time as working my way thru Professor Charles Bailyn's Yale astrophysics course online, including his elegant explanation of 'scientific fables' (eg, the fable of the Ptolomeic epicycles, the 'moral' of which is that simple theories are better, and the shittest theories are those that must become more and more complex the more measurements/observations we make). Nice wrapup here with the Flat Earth book below.
Babylonian Genesis, Ionian Cosmology, Pythagorians (spherical earth), Lucretius, Plato, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Medieval Cosmology, Cusanus, Copernicus, Bruno, Digges, Galileo, Kepler, Newton....

The Odyssey by Homer
(Prose translation.) Second time thru. e-book version this time, so there.


Run Rabbit by John Updike
Slow-moving novel.

The Stories of Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Short stories

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Funny, and jarring too. "Dear Margaret - we are leaving for Dresden today. Don't worry. It will never be bombed." And so it goes.

Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy
Third in the Border Trilogy.

Mapping History: Classical World by Ian Barnes
Maps + classic Greek/Babylonian/etc culture = happy. Visual displays make it much more 'real': the sudden expansion of Alexander T.G.; Genghis, etc.

Typee by Herman Melville
A considerably better read than that one about the bloody whale, even by the time we got to Nukuhiva. Still, as in that other one, whole chapters devoted to Not Much Going On.

Once While Travelling by Tony & Maureen Wheeler
After nearly 15 years working for the Planet, it was time to read some of the stories behind. Loved it.

Consider Phlebas by Iain M Banks
Thought I might revisit this first Culture novel, given this year's sad news.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway
Not a word wasted.

The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M Banks
Fun high-tech Culture scifi with a typically Banksy 'low-key' plot.

Flat Earth by Christine Garwood
Since finding the latest incarnation of this ancient society recently (and signing up!) I've been fascinated by their take(s) on life, science, the universe. This is an extremely well-researched and well-written guide to the full shebang right thru from the the first crazy charlatans of the 1800s to some sadly deluded chaps at the very end of the 20th century. Great myth-busting about Columbus and the religion-versus-science "story" too. Loved it!

The Secret History of Lucifer by Lynn Picknett
I was already sure I was going to love this, then to top it off found that not only is the author a writer of slightly offbeat (ok, a little crackpot-esque of tone) religious texts, she's seemingly also a bit of a fan of Lucifer himself! Brilliant. Where do I sign up?
Also has to be said it's incredibly well researched (if not always incredibly well written). Found some great stuff here from literature, mythology, pop culture and Christian texts.

The Return of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Arghghghgghgggggggggggg ahhhhhhhhhh eeeeeeeeeooooooooooo arghhhhhhh

Beatrice & Virgil by Yann Martel
Sweet little story that goes wrong very quickly.

How Did it Begin by Drs R. & L. Brasch
Customs, Superstitions and their Romantic Origins. A bit light on, truth be told.

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Zeus by Tom Stone
A study of the Mr Big of the Greek Pantheon

Wicked by Gregory Maguire
A brilliant revisionist prequel to Oz - the life of the Wicked Witch of the West before Dorothy dropped in. wiki

Rum Diary by Hunter S Thompson
Novel. Not his best.

She by Rider S Haggard
The original Lost-World romp. Plenty of silliness.

Aotearoa Whispers: the Awakening by Gonzalo Navarro
Maori mythology graphic novel.

My Name is Red by Benim Adim Kirmizi
Spectacular novel out of Turkey. Playful + thoughtful. (He got a Nobel. I think he might be quite good.) wiki

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2012

The Case of the Lucky Legs by Erle Stanley Gardner
Grabbed this silly little Perry Mason novel from a cool second-hand store in Sumner, Chch, for the cheesy cover mostly. Some parts are undreadful.

Jungle Heat by Dale Wilmer
Read this little bodice ripper only 'cos it was set in Malaya during the Emergency. It's bloody awful. Go Commies!

Mythology by Edith Hamilton
A retelling of mostly Greek myths, with very clever insights into the original writers (Appollodorus = boring but never ridiculous, etc).

Gulliver's Travels (the full monty) by Jonathan Swift
I've wanted to read the unabridged version ever since I found out that my old copy (a writing English prize from a million years ago) not only omitted flying islands and talking horses, but novel ways of putting out fires and Brobdingnag boob action.

The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
Very funny little novel.

Questions of Travel by Michelle de Ketser
Wonderful novel! The Lonely Planet bits a tad distracting for me (but almost perfectly captures the feeling of working there, and with one brilliant caricature).

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Gaiman plus apocalypse = happy Errol. Very fun - leaves Wormwood for dead. Spotted on a workmate's desk.

Ludmila's Broken English by DBC Pierre
Spectacular, weird, outrageous twinned novel that reverses the lives of the main characters to become cojoined. Picked up at the local Op Shoppe for a song.

Stonemouth by Ian Banks
Great thriller, a generation younger than Banks' usual pop-culture niche - devoured in a single day.

The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy
Second in the loosely connected Border Trilogy.

Bright Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich
"How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America". Some interesting ideas.

The Epic of Gilgamesh
Two-thirds' god, one-third man, and a sidekick who's a little bit of a whinger.

In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood
Musings on other worldly fiction and storytelling. Inspired me to add a few books to the "must read" list.

Doctor Grordbort's Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory written & illustrated by Greg Broadmore
A brilliantly funny steampunk gag by one of the Whakatane crew at Weta. Funny and beautiful.

The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
"The original spy novel", apparently. Lovin' Carruthers.

Apocalypse: a History of the End of Time by John Michael Greer
Great study of the "apocalypse meme" thru history from Zarathustra thru a thousand Christian variants and up to the silly Mayan business at the moment. Fascinating, and funny too. "The End is (Often) Nigh".

Howl, Kaddish & Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
A Penguin collection. Some brilliant moments, but far too annoying.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
About the third time I'd tried to read this, and really enjoyed it this time. (Struggled to keep all the characters straight tho.)

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
Holden Caulfield goes 21C.

Fathers Raising Daughters by Nigel Latta
Self-help, it's true, but he's got his target audience nailed: tools, zombies, etc.
Learned some stuff, too.

Cosmos by Carl Sagan

Infernal Devices by KW Jeter
Steampunk by the man who invented steampunk. Fun little novel.

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google by William Pounstone
A bunch of fun brainteasers and puzzles, in the midst of a self-help book for getting thru an IT job interview. The job-interview stuff is mildly interesting (and plays into one of my favourite theories: nobody knows anything, but they like to think they do). The puzzles are a lot of fun.
Btw the answer a definitive no. Google : your jobs are safe.

Ragnarok by AS Byatt
A retelling of the olde tale.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The second novel by Mister Kite runner. Love his simple style.

Death of a Salesman by JB Priestly
Haven't read this since school but it's still a great story.

Conan & the Sword of Skelos by
Even for a Conan story, this one's pretty awful.

Guerillas by VS Naipaul
Caribbean revolutionary-slash novel. A bit annoying in places, when it veered into Barbara Cartland territory, but ok. I'll try not to let this put me off other Naipaul stuff, considering the man's impressive rep.

The Short Reign of Pippin IV by John Steinbeck
Steinbeck does comedy - weird!

Carrie by King

The Place of Dead Roads by William S Burroughs
Whoah! Crazy man alert.

Red Pony by John Steinbeck
A nice little Western, found in an awesome second-hand bookshop in Kuala Lumpur.

Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies
An undiscovered Davies - what a joy!

Widows of Eastwick by John Updike

The Warlock by Michael Scott
The last in the Nicholas Flamel series, and the superlatives and breathless! chapter! endings! go supernova as we witness the end of Atlantis and find that everyone is related to everyone else, unless you thought they were, and then they're not!

The Quantum Universe by Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw
Spectacular physics-pop book. Haven't read anything for years that has so-often made me lunge for the slide rule. nerd nerd nerd.

Round the Moon by Jules Verne
Lovely old book from a 2nd-hand shop in Smith Street. Lots of technical detail, but a distinct lack of satisfying storyline oomph. Where are the MoonMen, Jules?!

Doc Savage : Death in Silver by Kenneth Robeson
OMG how have I never discovered Doc Savage before - he is magnificent, and his band of merry men superb! Chap-lit of the finest calibre old boy!
With strength unequalled, with a mind all-encompassing, Doc Savage - man of bronze - fights, against unbelievable odds, for truth and justice wherever evil exists.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Infinite bloody Endnotes.

The Hottentot Room by Christopher Hope
Wonderful novel - South African exiles in a dark club in London. The Zulu's grin seals it.

The West & the Map of the World by Matthew Richardson
Published by the Victorian Library, using old maps in their collection to tell the tale of the birth of Western civilisation. Beautiful maps! (I am such a map geek). But I also learned quite a bit about European history from this, cos the story is told so engagingly (and those maps!)

Innocent Erendira by GG Marquez
Short stories. Some of them quite Lovecrafty.

The Steampunk Bible by Jeff Vandermeer
Personally I'm more interested in the lit and the art than the clothes, but the history of the lit via Wells/Verne/Jeter is pretty interesting.

Rough Guide to Climate Change
Very comprehensive. (One small criticism: Foreword a mistake, I reckon. Should've been the CEO of Lloyds or British Petroleum.)

On Writing by Stephen King
Interesting little mini-bio from a great storyteller. I liked his notes on the craft and graft of being a novelist. But my favourite of all was this line from someone else's short story included (generously) at the end:
"It was five thirty when the man jumped. It was five thirty when he landed. The mall was not due to close 'til six."

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A beautiful little novel even before the teaser at the end. Loved the floating island, shades of Prince Caspian or Sindbad.

A Certain Chemistry by Mil Millington
Second time thru. Hilarious novel. Amy the agent needs a sequel (actually, a prequel).

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
I hadn't hunted this out yet, perhaps just because I'm not a great Dickens fan. But it's GREAT. Devoured in a single evening.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Loved this novel - complex and fun.

Stamboul Train by Graham Greene
Slow-starting thriller set on the Orient Express.

Bluebeard by Angela Carter
Short stories - retold fairytales.

Don't Tell Mum I Work The Rigs (She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse by Paul Carter
Basically, a diary of life working rigs, and whatever else happened to be happening at the time. Not a great writer but a good storyteller, and there are some cool stories.

How to Lie with Maps by Mark Monmonier
Cartography tricks.

Manhood by Michael Chabon
Various pop-culty musings on being a bloke/dad. Cool.

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
One I read as a teenager - re-read to see what it looks like now...
Breathless, is what it looks like - Ludlum must have worn out the "!" key on his Remington multiple times.

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
The man cannot write a bad novel. This was magnificent, despite my inability to read Spanish.

The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
Incredibly powerful novel.

How to be Good by Nick Hornby
A bit light on.

Centauri Device by John Harrison
Space opera.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Nice little tale. I did like the ending, even with all the ambiguity.

The War at the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa
Great novel set in Brazil at the end of the 19th century. Lots of crazy churchfolk seeing in the Apocalypse - just my thing. revolution as ritual

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Enjoying the flibbertigibbet story and writing styles, tho the airport novel-esque style quite annoys (liked the VW's hood tho).

The Alchemist Part 5 by Michael Scott
Get on with it.

Transit of Venus by Nick Lomb
It's Astro-nomical. It's Explora-tological. It's Pacific-ological. Nerd Lightnin'. (I'm a happy nerd.)

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2011

What If by Robert Cowley
"The World's Foremost Historians Imagine What Might Have Been". Counterfactual supposes, would-haves, could-haves, might-haves, could-haves, possiblys, perhapses, probablys, and maybes, in all their dizzying permutations. The battle stuff is more interesting than I would have thought.

History of New Zealand by Michael King
King was a lovely storyteller and this is a really readable blast thru the country's life

The Machine Stops by EM Forster
1920s distopian scifi. A cute wee book of short stories that I've been carrying around in my man-bag since September to occasionally dip into.

He Died With a Falafel in His Hand by John Birmingham
Second or third time thru but first time for a while. I love this book. Absolutely crazy yet still makes you nostalgic! More than a trace of Hunter S.
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The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
From Hay on Wye in Wales.

Conan the Unconquered by Robert Jordan
He's not Howard, but this is a pretty good stab at what makes Conan Conan. A little self-parodying sometimes, perhaps. (That's not bad - Conan is after all pretty bloody laughable!)

The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel García Márquez
The complete lack of paragraphs make this very 'string of consciousness', plus to make it even more confusing, you're never sure quite whose consciousness it is - the general? His mother? His lover? Anyway, I loved the crazy, evil, tragic old general, who measures his life in revisits of "the comet". reviews

Twitterature by Alexander Aciman & Emmett Rensin
Cute: 75 Western classics tweeted. Personal favourites:
From Macbeth: @LadyMac: THERE'S NOTHING ON YOUR HANDS, YOU'VE WASHED THEM 100 TIMES ALREADY!!
From The Old Man and the Sea: And he is too big for the boat so I will have to pull him And DiMaggio Di Maggio
From The Inferno: SATAN HAS THREE HEADS AND THEY ARE TOTALLY EATING DUDES
From Romeo and Juliet: @Montague, @Capulet: Can't we all just get along?
From Odyssey: @Suitors: You have defiled my house, dishonoured the gods and tried to seduce my wife. TIME TO TASTE MY BLUE STEEL.
From Don Quixote: WHAT THE FUCKIN FUCKITY FUCK ARE ALL THESE FUCKING GIANTS DOING. HOLY SHIT THEY HAVE 4 FUCKING SPINNING ARMS!!!

Cain by José Saramago
Cain inexplicably teleports from Biblical happening to Biblical happening, Forest Gump-style. I'm not sure where I stand on this novel. I love Cain. I love any Lilith. I loved the ending. (I loved the ending.) I loved the angels. I didn't mind the peculiar grammar. I did get a little bored of popping into all the stories between the Garden and the Flood. Great line: "The logical, natural and simply human response would have been for Abraham to tell the lord to piss off..."

I, Claudius by Robert Graves
Nicely written Roman novel from the pov of the emperor.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
A spin-off from American Gods. Quite a bit sillier, which I didn't love as much, but I still devoured this in 12 hours.

Porno by Irvine Walsh
Sequel to Trainspotting (which I've never read, so here's hoping the film was accurate). Some of the phonetic Scots accents tough work, but you get into it.

Mysterious Monsters by Daniel Farson & Angus Hall
Another Hurlingham Books find. Great illustrations of my favourite things (Giant Squids!! Loch Ness Monster!! The Abominable Snowman!!). The writing is not great tho, in fact it's often just plain silly, even for a book about monsters. (Yes, I know I should have known that considering the quite silly title, but this was silly even considering that!)

Mr Pye by Mervyn Peake
Sweet little book. Found it at the fantabulous Hurlingham Books in Fulham, London - the Room of Requirements for book geeks.

Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace
A chance find at Castle Books, Hay on Wye. Magnificent short stories - the first I've ever read of DFW's but clearly I'll have to find more. The story "John Billy" is my favourite short story of all time (I have absolutely no idea what it means).
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No & Me by Delphine De Vigan
Tidy little kid lit story set in Paris. At Maxine's recommendation.

home button The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
Only my second time thru. The first third of the book hits you like a thunderbolt: You're left sitting thinking "WOW". Reading it straight after Irving was funny (actually, similar plots in the last sections of the novels in some ways).

Cider House Rules by John Irving
Amazing novel. Can't believe I'd never read it 'til now. If you read an Irving every year or two, you couldn't go wrong. Includes the ubiquitous Irving dwarves and wrestlers.

Light by M John Harrison
Clever scifi recommended by Messers Gaiman, Banks and Sowerbutts.

A breath of Lucifer by RK Narayan
Short stories by (the blurb reckons) India's foremost storyteller. I reckon: nah.

They Found Atlantis by Dennis Wheatley
Gloriously bad holiday pulp. Spoiler alert: they really did find Atlantis. Also the chap gets the girl, and the cad gets his come uppance, what what.

In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker
Catholic/England history was all pretty interesting.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
True story, and incredible for that. But the author a little too keen on the sound of his own voice. Too preachy.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory.
God's truth. This be stirring stuff, tho oft hard to penetrate. Nay matter, for peradventure my brainpan ist ever clove asunder by some vengeful knave for accidental discourtesy... having read this litany of offended Sirs and dolefully swooning damosels (and occasional swooning Sirs) wilt mean I'll perceive whysomuch I probably got what's coming.

Kim by Rudyard Kipling
Lot of fun.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman Fabulous collection of short stories - the first, a mashup of Conan-Doyle and Lovecraft, hooked me completely.

To Have & Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
Great little story. Here's Harry, early morning when some Cuban is giving him grief: 'Listen', I told him. 'Dont be so tough so early in the morning.' I'm sure You've cut plenty people's throats. I haven't even had my coffee yet.'

No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
As stark and beautiful as The Road, and no more cheerful. I love his regional accents. Even tho I don't know the mannerisms, they sound right. Sadly, I'd already seen the film, so the shock of the end was diminished.

Luka & the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie
Fun home-spun fable with bits of Playstation etc. Hello Maui/Coyote/Prometheus! authors website

Say When by Catherine Deveny
Funny woman, funniest when she is filthy angry at someone, or something. (Usually Channel Nine.) I could only take a few stories at a time tho, perhaps cos of the themed grouping (men are pigs, men are pigs, men are pigs, etc).

The Ganymede Transfer by Philip K Dick
I do hope this is PKD's worst novel. It's fer-certain the worst I've read. High-school stuff.

Crime & Punishment by Dostoyevsky
At John's insistence. Stalled I'm afraid...

Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman
A bit of science to reactivate the brain. Inspired me to work out the mass of the Earth on a bit of paper (the answer I got was ~300kg - probably lucky I'm out of the science trade these days huh?).

FutureBabble. Why Expert Predictions Are Next to Worthless, and You Can Do Better by Dan Gardner
Loved this. I respect that Gardner isn't pushing too hard to sell his pet theory, giving evidence against as well as for. As he says, anyone with a pet theory, and who tries to shoehorn everything on Earth into that theory, is probably wrong. (I no doubt liked this bit because it fits with my own pet theory!) This is Hedgehogs vs foxes: foxes more likely to be right but hedgehogs always more popular! Sometimes the most correct answer is "we don't know".

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings
Aloud with Max. Eddings' stories are great for kids. Just a touch past fairytale simple, but the characters are "classic" enough to instantly resonate.

I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan
Magnificent novel about the Cloven One living on Earth for a month. Filthy funny. I loved the various angelic/demonic characters and their foibles (Michael and his weight training). And this magnificent line from the chap himself (speaking in third person, as befits the character): "You don't, darling, 'summon' Lucifer. He's not a fucking butler"

Natural History by Justina Robson
Sci fi. Again, at a recommendation I couldn't ignore. Banks-esque, I thought.

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
Rollicking fun. Blood a fun character, oscillating between melancholy and rakish.

Two Towers by JRR
Aloud with Maxine. (Halfway thru)

Jekyll & Hyde by RLS
Hadn't read this for years but it's a great little mystery.

Living in the Maniototo by Janet Frame
Great Kiwi novel, long overdue.

Everything Explained through Flowcharts by Doogie Horner
Piss funny.
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Keeping it Real by Justina Robson
Sci fi. Enjoyed the Tolkien in-jokes.

Dreamland by Kevin Baker
Magnificently rich novel - the New York of evil kids, dwarves and moxies.

The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico
A lovely little story from school years. This was a standard text in Koro Hunt's class at Whakatane Intermediate.

Sandman by Neil Gaiman
The comic series thru which I first ever heard of Gaiman, tho I hadn't read it 'til now. Amazing. You can see why it won so many awards and so many people rave about it.
Some interesting people along the way: Fiddlers Green Death Emperor Norton Rustichello Astarte

Hamlet by W.S.

Men without Women by Hemingway
Short stories about men behaving badly. So badly.

Final Solution by Michael Chabon
Brilliant fun novel about (we assume) Sherlock Holmes in his dotage. Recommended by an author I couldnae ignore. I loved it so much I had to dig out some old Sherlock to continue with.

Medicine Road by Charles de Lint
Kinda cool fantasy/American folklore story. Writing a bit lame occasionally.

Fear & Loathing by Hunter S. Thompson
Lovely, crazy writing. From opening lines that blow your mind, it's a wicked, wicked trail. Which bit to choose... perhaps this... Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only real cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas.

The Histories by Herodotus
Loved this - the combination of the fantastic (men with no heads and their face in their chests) and the seemingly fantastic but now explained (small men, dog-headed men, the position of the sun in the sky as explorers rounded Africa).

AntiChrist by Bernard McGinn
"Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination With Evil". Bernard seems to have a thesaurus stuck in his gullet, but despite the overly academic language, it's a great story and thoroughly researched with some really interesting insights. This description of the AC from a fifth-century writer is Worth noting, in case you ever run into AC in the street... (tho the first half of this could apply to me on a Saturday morning)... "the appearance of his face is gloomy; his hair like the points of arrows; his brows rough; his right eye as the morning star and the left like a lion's. His mouth is a cubit wide, his teeth a span in length, his fingers are like sickles. His footprints are two cubits long, and on his forehead is the writing "The Antichrist"." That end bit is the give-away, I reckon.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2010


New Zealand Forest-Inhabiting Birds by Forest & Bird Protection Soc of NZ
Wonderful old portfolio MS dating from the 1950s and picked up in a wee treasure of a 2nd-hand bookshop in Picton. Great watercolour plates, and occasionally poignant descriptions of birds that are exceedingly rare, or possibly even extinct, eg the South Island kokako and the huia, both now sadly gone altogether.

The Destruction of Atlantis by Frank Joseph
Another self-published Atlantis book, with a couple of variations on a favourite theme: first, he's quite dismissive of crazy Atlantic theories counter to his own, and second, on the theory that you can't appreciate Atlantis on the basis of cold facts alone, he paints a fictional tale of the Emperor's last hours. I loved it!

The Power & the Glory by Graham Greene
Almost a Philip K Dick scifi alt-reality novel. Stark. The two cocks' crow was when I knew I was hooked.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Arabian Nights-flavoured kidlit. Wonderful language and ideas!

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Lost me occasionally, but the triumphant return of the prodigal son (in his floral nighty) won me back.

Encyclopaedia of the Strange Mystical & Unexplained by Rosemary Ellen Guiley
Excellent encyclopaedia of Strange and Wonderful myth/religion/folklore/new-age flakery. Sometimes presented (by the author) rationally/sceptically, sometimes with a degree of gee-whiz and total buy-in, seemingly randomly dependent on whether the author buys a particular bit of flakery or doesn't. Lemuria makes frequent appearances (hooray!), as does occulty fun such as Templars, Masons, Rosecrucians... SO MUCH FUN!. Excellent companion to Brewers .

Hornblower & the Atropos by CS Forester
A Hornblower novel - my first. Rollicking chappish fun, probably with more nautical expertise than literary ability, altho the action scenes are as good as anything Tarzan, Conan or Quartermaine might describe. One of the occasional clunky exceptions: "Atropos rode easily, just meeting the waves with her bow, as the sharp struggle with the wind changed to yielding acquiescence, like a girl's resistance giving way in her lover's arms.
But this was no time for that sort of sentimental simile — here was another long signal from the flagship."

home button bone people by Keri Hulme
Second or third time thru. Loved it, much much more than last time, especially the mashedup words and random mythologies. This has definitely joined the vague cloud of novels that form my 'Best Novels Ever', with Messers Rushdie, Peake and Chabon. Kiaora Keri!

Recollections of a Rogue by Samuel E Chamberlain
Fascinating stories by a 19th-century mercenary and rootbag. Kinda like Flashman, but real. Amongst the tally-ho and the chip-chip-cherrio, there's some really sobering stuff. Wartime atrocities are no recent development.

Fellowship of the Ring by JRR
Aloud with Maxine. Had some fun replacing Boromir with "Poppy", to compensate for JRR's lack of female characters.

Temptresses by Shahrukh Husain
The Virago book of evil women. I bought it for the retelling of Lilith, of course, but Sheba and Morgan le Fay close behind. A few of them slightly too breathless for my liking.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Graphic novel about growing up in Iran around the time of the Revolution.

Villa Incognito by Tom Robbins
Midnight's Children put me in the mood for some more Robbins. I've forgiven Tom now for how annoyed I once got with his novels (clearly, never Tom's fault; probably just a self-inflicted Tom overdose). Anyway now I'm really enjoying his gear again.

Surface Detail by Iain M Banks
I never tire of Banks' Culture novels. The writing is fine but the ideas and characters are fantastic. He is the ultimate scifi author. (Sorry Philip K.)

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
I'm trying to decide if I loved this even more than Satanic Verses, which would make it the new number-one best-loved novel. Regardless, it's beautiful. Complex to frustration but worth the effort.

Montmorency by Eleanor Updale
Kid lit novel at Maxine's recommendation. Fun.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick
Wonderful novel - devoured it in a day.

The Skinny Louie Book by Fiona Farrell
NZ novel. A bit magic realism; a bit 50s (and onwards) Kiwiana. Loved it thru to the end, where it went WEIRD. Still loved it.

Mysteries of Pittsburgh: A Novel by Michael Chabon
I had no intention of reading two Chabon novels in a row, but read one chapter of this and was hooked.

History's Worst Inventions: And the People Who Made Them by Eric Chaline
A few quirky inventions such as flying cars, but mostly what the author reckons have really buggered us up - either via war (landmines) or environmental damage (petroleum, internal combustion engines!).

Werewolves in their Youth by Michael Chabon
Lovely short stories - each one with the depth of character that could fuel an entire novel. (Kinda frustrating that way - how does little Paul deal with his guilt over his act of cowardice landing his only friend in Retard School?). If there's a theme, it's failed or failing relationships, so hardly a pick-me-up read. Final story tho is 100% Lovecraft, which was nice timing having just finished a collection of Lovecraft angst. Nice too 'cos I'd actually found my way to Lovecraft via circuitous (Gaiman) routes over a few years' reading, from Chabon himself! (That's something of a Lovecraft "reveal".)

Tales of HP Lovecraft by the angsty man himself
Terribly over-dramatic, gothic short stories. Even Maxine finds this fun (it panders to her sense of the dramatic). I'm loving Cthuhlu: "my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human charicature. ..A pulpy tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings"

Angelology: A Novel by Danielle Trussoni
Breathless, so breathless, vampire-lit style novel albeit about a topic I've always been fascinated by: Those glimpses of the angels and their progeny (the nephilim) early on in Genesis always intrigued me, and I was fustrated beyond belief that the story didn't find time to tell us more. (Enoch did try.)
Anyway, the breathlessness got too much for me in the end and when I mislaid the novel in the closing stages, I couldn't even be bothered looking very hard to find it.

The Planets by Dava Sobel
Wonderfully random descriptions of the planets. author website

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Great story,Pinkie and Ida wonderful characters; the rest of them almost deliberately a bit 2D. Wonderful closing lines.

The Necromancer by Michael Scott
Fourth in the series aloud with Maxine.

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre.
Someone with a quite furious chip on his shoulder about alternative medicine. Fun, tho often enough laced with quite bad science itself. Ah well...

It's Superman by Tom DeHaven
Quite a fun novel set in the grimy farms and cities of 20s and 30s America (tastes of On the Road, plus some bits of Mice & Men/Grapes of Wrath), with the occasional character some bloke called 'Clark Kent'.

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky
"Overcoming the obstacles between vision and reality". Yeah, it's a 'management' book. I know, I know. It won't happen again I promise. I enjoyed this one tho, and actually got a bit out of it. Still, reading time's too precious to spend it on management lit.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Magnificent fantasy/steampunky novel set in an underworld beneath London. Writing tends to just slightly too campy (Douglas Adamsy) a very few times, which jars, but overall swept me right along. I want this to be a movie, NOW!

Superpowers by David J Schwartz
Okay story.

Smoke & Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
A collection of short stories. Story #2, 'Nicholas Was...' made me put the book straight back down (I'd picked it up at fellow Gaiman fans Tony and Kath's) and jump on amazon to get my own copy. A bit of Lovecraft, a bit of Lucifer, even some Elric. I loved it all !

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
One of my favourite novels. Nth time thru. Still magic.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
Second time thru - this time aloud with Maxine.

Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock
At Waikato Uni in the 80s I distracted myself from studying physics texts with seemingly endless numbers of Moorcock's novels, gifted to the uni's library by some past student equally disinterested in nuclear physics. They're pretty damn hilarious...
It is the colour of a bleached skull, his flesh; and the long hair that flows below his shoulders is milk-white. From the tapering, beautiful head stare two slanting eyes, crimson and moody...

Last Chance to See by Mark Carwardine
Sequel to the book I loved back in the 80s, with the benefit (and sometimes slight impediment) of Stephen Fry's humour.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Steampunky magic novel, at Kath and Tony's suggestion.

The Happy Prince & Other Stories by Oscar Wilde
Reading aloud with Maxine.

My Secret History by Paul Theroux
A book I was surprised to love, kind of a pretend autobiography, zwooshed up a bit to make it more interesting I guess. Starts off quite the little Holden Caulfield, and gets steadily less likeable as he goes on. Loved it !

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Dead Sea Scrolls by Leonie Star
Surprisingly interesting study of a furore that blew up in the 1980s when scholar Barbara Thiering put forward some slightly wacky theories about an alternative reading of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Very enjoyable. Babs might even have been right, tho some of the reasoning feels stretched.

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Pretty cool, kinda steampunkish kid lit, reading aloud with Maxie. Slightly brutal ending for a nine-year old.

The Great Shark Hunt by Hunter S. Thompson
Collected works. Long and FUN. Some of the stories behind his coverage of Nixon ("how low do you have to sink to be President in this country?", Hells Angels, Fear & Loathing. profile

The Sorceress by Michael Scott
Number three in the series, aloud with Maxine. We're up to day five. Mike, have you ever heard of e.d.i.t.o.r.s?

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
A truly lovely, surprising, story, tho yes it tend to be a little melodramatic occasionally. review ... interview

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2009

Robert Crumb's The Book of Genesis
Brilliant ! review

Element Encyclopaedia Of Secret Signs And Symbols by Adele Nozedar
Fascinating encyclopaedia. Lots of different religions, superstitions, myths and cultish stuff. amazon

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die Edited by Peter Boxall
A book designed for dipping into, which is what I'd done up 'til now. It's actually fun to read start to finish tho, as it explains the evolution of a novel. Spectacular illustrations. Turning up a good list of Books I Must Read too (lots of Gothic stuff on my list, so far).

Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
Wonderful rollicking adventure tale, originally published as a serial. Complete with Boys Own type engravings ("What a pair of swindlers!" he said admiringly) and silly chapter names (On Discord Arising From the Excessive Love of a Hat"). Delicate hints of Robert E. Howard and S. Rider Haggard. interview

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Excellent story, of a truly awful human being. I couldn't get Jack Black out of my head (from the fillum), which was annoying, and was not all that happy about the ending (I wanted him to stay appalling!) but still a great novel that I consumed in a few short days

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Beautiful, rich storytelling. I love the way it 'telegraphs' the climax, so you know what's going to happen long before it actually does. It shows a huge confidence in your story-telling ability, I reckon, to so completely abandon the power of the plot. wiki

Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois
Reading aloud with Maxine. A little slow to get into the story, for a nine-year old, but once we got there, she loved it. study notes

Demons - Visions of Evil in Art by Laura Ward and Will Steeds
Beautifully illustrated, wonderful images of the Devil and his cohorts thru-out history. (Some Goya, some Blake, some Rackham, lots of old dudes) My only complaint is that so many images chosen are too detailed - without a magnifying glass you miss too much. Quite a bit of Dante- and Milton-inspired stuff.

Jungle Doctor Attacks Witchcraft by Paul White
I bought this on the basis of the horrendously racist pic on the front cover of a juju witchdoctor in full flight, but it's no-where near as appalling a tale as it appeared. Pretty obvious agenda (encouraging Good Clean Christians back home to give generously) but it's pretty up-front about that.
Sitting on the verandah as I came back was a man. A flash type, wearing the particular style of pink corduroy velvet short to which I objected.

The Atlas of Legendary Lands by Judyth A McLeod
Beautiful old maps, lovely old stories about mythological lands. A bit of Lemuria; a bit of Hawaiki. What's not to love? amazon

The Magician by Michael Scott
Sequel, aloud with Max the Girl I love the Mostest. Lovin' the random mythologies.

The Bible, again
Ezekiel: Spacemen,a bit more Nebuchadnezzar (we ain't sick of him yet), multiple metaphors for whopp-ass, and the bit Jules got wrong in Pulp Fiction
Jeremiah: Nebuchadnezzar smites Israel, then God smites EVERYONE.
Hosea: backtrack... God talks to Hosea inside his head and tells him to lie with harlots (yeah, good one Hosea).
Made it to New Testament at last !

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The most gripping, harrowing, terrifying book I've ever read. Impossible to put down, but NOT to be read before trying to sleep (particularly if you're a parent). Beautiful, pared-back writing - almost poetry. guardian ... amazon discussion ... NYT ... wiki

Transition by Iain Banks
Non-Culture (tho similar) scifi by Banks. Whisky, elite "fiddlers", multiple storylines. Very Banks.

Paradise Updated by Mic Looby
Lonely Planet-based novel. I had some fun reading this, altho a little distracted by trying to spot who's who. Not sure if anyone outside the company would find it as much fun.

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
Second time through. I love these characters! Could have filled a hundred books! fanart ... wiki

Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
A last-minute buy at the airport when I'd left Gormenghast at home. (Thank God for Penguin orange spines!) LOVED this book, tho the ending was a little non-committal. review

The Alchemist by Michael Scott
"The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel". Reading it aloud with Maxine, mostly because Flamel appeared in the first Harry Potter book, and I thought she'd get into that. In fact, the fact he was a real character, and appears in wiki, was much more impressive. (Along with badguy John Dee, which was even spookier, apparently.) Good reading! wiki

The Lone Ranger at the Haunted Gulch by Fran Striker
I realised a while back that the Lone Ranger was my first ever superhero, back when a week's pocketmoney (20c) was precisely enough to buy one Lone Ranger comic. Striker's the man who created the Lone Ranger (and his grand-nephew, the Green Hornet, too), so when he says there's a (very dodgy sounding) reason for the silver bullets, he knows what he's talking about. wiki ... snopes ... imdb

Te Kaihau/The Windeater by Keri Hulme
Short stories. Second or third time through. Lookin' for material to filtch, then got in touch with her to write me something original!

Bulibasha by Witi Ihimaera
Second time thru, partly for work-related reasons. Loved this book even more this time, with my new-found passion for Christian mythology, and perhaps more appreciation for a good yarn, almost a Western in that way. Reading too for visual feasts because of the impending movie, and thinkin' the movie will be GREAT... there's so many great movie moments. wiki

Peter & Wendy by JM Barie
Second time through, this time aloud with Maxine. Wonderful imagery. She gets it. wiki

The Angel's Cut by Elizabeth Knox
Sequel to one of my favourite-ever novels, Vintner's Luck. Not as great, but still fun. A lot more Lucifer in this one, which is both cool and at the same time shows why his brief, unheralded appearance in Vintners Luck knocked your socks off.
A revealing quote: "We all have one story. But what would you do after that, and that, and that, day after day after dozens hundreds thousands and ten thousands of time?" wiki

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Aloud with Maxine. A bit trying at times, for an eight-year old, but Maxine endured and there's some cool stuff. Film impending - Tim Burton and Johnny Depp - yeehar. wiki

The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones
Fourth in the Chrestomanci series. Aloud with Maxine. Best so far! wiki

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
This is my second time thru this book. Long, long ago, about 15 years ago, a bloke sitting on the floor beside me in 'The Club' on Smith St Collingwood at around 3am told me to read this novel. Good advice, Unknown Dude. Crazy crazy energy. wiki ... who's who

The Arabian Nights - Entertainments Found this lovely little old hardcover in a second-hand bookshop up near Bendigo and it inspired me to finally read all these old stories. Loving them! Did Sinbad steal some of Ulyssess' action? wiki ... #1002!

home button Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Finally read this novel, famous for the subsequent hoohar of course. I'm glad I waited - would not have enjoyed it anywhere near as much without getting to grips in the last few years with such flowery writing and the last year getting into Christian (and Islamic) mythology really helped too. I'm even reading Arabian Night at at the same time, which is kinda funny.
Actually, I reckon this is my new FAVOURITE NOVEL EVER, toppling Gormenghast at last! Going to have to read up more on some of the in-stories now... wiki ... article

Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Another centre-of-the-Earth romp by Burroughs, his hero "the Emperor David" subduing baddies and spreading the martial benefits of higher civilisation amongst the barbarians. wiki ... geeks guide

Almuric by Robert E Howard
More 'Man Love'. Howard's good at this kind of brutal stuff. Much more elemental and 'alive' than Burroughs (above) for example. Devoured this in one sitting on a flight from Singapore to HCMC. wiki

Shane by Jack Schaefer
The novel that the high-panted movie was based on, and for me much much better than the cinema version. A lot of Man Love going on here. I love that Shane's backstory is never explored - he's quite a mythical character. (That said, perhaps there's a film in Shane's backstory?) '"Yes," said Mr. Weir. "He's alive all right. Wilson got to him. But no bullet can kill that man." A puzzled, faraway sort of look flitted across Mr. Weir's face. "Sometimes I wonder whether anything ever could."' wiki ... article

The Hobbit by JRRT
Reading it aloud with Maxine. The most delightful language, something I'm appreciating even more reading aloud (as always). The ascent of the Misty Mountains is one of the most beautiful passages. wiki ... tolkien

84 Charing Cross Rd by Helene Hanff
Perhaps my favourite autobiography. Made me cry. Made me want to visit London (or perhaps made me want to want to visit London?) wiki ... wiki

Ghost Stories by Charles Dickens
Collection of spooky short stories and excerpts. I've tried to get into Dickens a few times, but never with any success, but this has been brilliant! Some great stuff from Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickelby.

The Princess Bride: (S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure) by William Goldman
Read aloud with Maxine, as we both love the film so much. Doing the voices = much fun, particularly the wonderful Inigo Montoya wiki

All Blacks Myths & Legends by Ron Palenski
Xmas pressie from my Mum. Interesting stories.

Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
Really, really wonderful Australian novel. If it's not yet a Most-Favourite-Novel-Ever, it's certainly in the Top Ten. (Don't ask me what the others are, other than Gormenghast it all moves around a little.) Soooo many beautiful ideas carelessly woven in that you really wonder if the poor chap has a second novel left in him! wiki ... book

Christian Mythology by (Bro.) George Every
Beautifully illustrated. Particularly cool stuff about the fall, the harrowing, revelation.

Strange Country by Mark Dapin
"Travels in a Very Different Australia" SMH

The Dancing Wu-li Masters by Gary Zukav
Last time I read this, I was half-way thru a physics degree. The time before that I hadn't yet started in physics. Now, third time thru, I've pretty much abandoned physics. Funny. Actually, first time thru, this was a book that helped inspire me to drop a career in government sloth for a uni degree, so there's a soft spot in my heart for it. But jaysus, talk about new-age pap. Think Jonathan Livingston Seagull in a labcoat. To Zukav's credit, he always includes the full explanation in footnotes, even when it contradicts his flaky take on things. (Also to Zukav's credit, he's an ex Green Beret with anger issues, so I aint saying nothing against him.) wiki

Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones
The third in the Chrestomanci series. Aloud with Maxine. Much snappier and more interesting than numbers one and two. wiki

Metamorphoses by Ophid
I've been meaning to read this a while, but needed to wait til I could find a prose version. This old classic (8 AD) is where all those "then he turned into X" stories are gathered together, ALL of them, as the story leaps from metamorphosis to metamorphosis like a frantic five-year old.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2008

Secret Societies by Karin Gutman
Rather melodramatically subtitled "The Hidden masters controlling Our World". Assassins, Templars, Freemasons, the Mafia, Priory of Sion... lots of fun.

Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins
Second time thru. I read a stack of Robbins' novels many years ago and got a little sick of them because of the slightly repetitive novelists' voice, but reading this again, it is a GREAT novel. Sorry Tom, you crazy Californian acid-freakin', baby boomer you, I've been doing you a dis-service. There's crazy Catholic stuff, some Zukav-style science, even a bit of Tarzan! - what's not to love.
From Marx Marvellous: here's a line I might add to my CV: "By neither reputation nor inclination am I still a scientist".

Poe's Tales of Mystery & Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe
Collection of short stories by the Gothic Horror Master, beautifully illustrated by Arthur Rackham. The constant woe and ennui particularly suited my mood while ill. (However Poe's Sherlock Holmesy predecessor, C. Auguste Dupin, needs a smack in the head.) Rackham ... mp3

The Bestiary of Christ by Louis Charbonneau-Lassay
Animals in Christian (and Jewish, Greek, Egyptian) symbology and myth. Really fascinating and authoritive, with only very momentary flashes of flakiness (such as magnetic flux flowing from the fingertips).

Tarzan the Terrible by Edgar Rice Burroughs
A wonderful find in a little 2nd-hand place in Barwon Heads. It was a choice between this and "Tarzan and the Ant People", but this one won on the basis of the cover. Ended up a great choice - Tarzan, Jane and Koryak reunited at last, evil nazis, rampaging dinosaurs, savage half-monkey dudes...
The language is quite Homeric at times (in fact before getting into all that ancient nonsense, I wouldn't have enjoyed this half as much - when I first read Burroughs years ago I found him kinda laughable)... "Tarzan rose to his full height upon a swaying branch - straight and beautiful as a demigod - unspoiled by the taint of civilisation - a perfect specimen of what the human race might have been had the laws of man not interfered with the laws of nature". wiki

The Greek Gods by Evslin, Evslin & Hoopes
Zillionth time thru, this time reading it aloud with Maxine. The language works even better out loud. Loving Maxine getting into the Greek gods too - "Dad, why is Hades so mean? He pretends to be nice, but he's just being mean."

Trickster Makes This World by Lewis Hyde
Another book inspired by Maps & Legends (part of a Chabon-inspired Amazon spending spree!) A study of trickster gods: Coyote, Loki, Hermes, etc. (Maui far too absent.) Starts off interesting enough, but spends just a little too long contemplating its own navel - Loki, Hermes, or Coyote would never have stood for that - they'd have stolen your meal, girlfriend or magic apples while you were busy angsting. author ... hermes

The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones
2nd Chrestomanci novel, aloud with Maxine. Needs an editor!

Steampunk edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer
Collection of steampunk stories. A great one by Chabon, nice chap-lit type tale from Blaycock (more of the wonderfully evil Ignacio Narbondo). podcast

The Digging Leviathan by James P. Blaylock
Steampunky novel. Another Chabon-inspired purchase.

Capt. Hook by JV Hart
"The Adventures of a Notorious Youth". The story of the young James Hook. Fairly light-on, but a story worth exploring because he's such a wonderful character. Great illos by Helquist. book site

Margaret Mahy A Writer's Life by Tessa Duder
Bio of one of the more famous people to come out of my hometown. Loving the Whakatane references plus Mahy's development as a storyteller - was delighted to find that her favourite book is King Solomon's Mines (which I've just finished reading myself) and that her first ever published story became the fairly ridiculous "Dance Around the World" song by Blerta. Less ridiculous in its original form... as a short story for kids it's a cracker. wiki ... bio

That'd Be Right by William McInnes
More reminiscing, this time his recollections of various bits of Australian history as they happened. Works really well. Excellent story teller. review ... errrrrr wtf?

The Cookbook Tour by Flip Grater
Travels in New Zealand food and music. Part travel diary; part cookbook. Cute! music vid ... dark!

Maps & Legends by Michael Chabon
Non-fiction by one of my favourite novelists, about the books (and comics) he loves. Only a couple of chapters in and already we'd been thru Gaiman, Sherlock Homes, Norse mythology, Gormenghast, comics - Michael, you're speaking my language !! A book that makes you buy other books.

You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming
Chappish fun.

Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
The first of the Chrestomanci novels. Read aloud with Maxine, in hopes it'd replace the gap that Harry's left! Not quite doing it for me, but Max's liking it. wiki

Bombproof by Michael Robotham
I'm not a crime fan, so not sure if this is actually a good example of the genre or or as crap as it appears. Has some good moments, but the bad bits are much more common. One of my favourite lines : "She shakes her head. Her eyes swim with the knowledge that her life contains elements of loss and betrayal." authors website

Foucalt's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
Read on recommendation for the Templars and cultist nonsense. Nice and fun and lots of refs to other books to keep your brain active. Coulda been shorter I thought. Golems - woo. wiki

Phantom Islands of the Atlantic by Donald S Johnson
"The Legends of Seven Lands That Never Were". Had great hopes for this - lost islands, a love of old maps, silly ancient ideas about geography. But not sure it paid off. The old Christian mythology in particular was a lot of fun tho. Hy Brasil ... St Brendan

Harry Seven by JKR
Reading it aloud to Maxine. Finally getting to the point, with great effect on the audience. Was great to share Max's discovery of Snape, JKR's "gift of a character". Was actually sad to finally come to an end of the series, both concerned about what we're going to do now!
A line so wonderful that it makes me cry (you'll need to be a fan to get this): "Albus Severus, you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew."

King Solomon's Mines by S. Rider Haggard
I'd never read any Allan Quartermain stories, only hearing of the ultimate Great White Hunter via other books. He's quite a cool character tho, less priggish and a teeny-tiny bit more self-mocking than, say, Biggles yet more uptight and amusing than anything in, say, Wilbur Smith. Quartermain's an unrepentant Empire man of course, with little regard for lilly-livered theories about equality. wiki

Gods & Spacemen in the Ancient East by W. Raymond Drake
Splendidly trashy non fiction. Woo Lemuria ! In amongst the Space Men and Flying Saucers (both always in crazy capitals) there's actually some interesting stuff about Indian, Chinese, Egyptian mythology - lots of reports by old Herodotus. Also some really interesting stuff about Hebrew mythology (Including plenty of Space Men that the Bible incorrectly identifies as Angels. Fools.) proof!

Cults : from Bacchus to Heaven's Gate by Michael Jordan
Great stuff in here from ancient Hebrew and Classic cults thru Charles Manson and Jonestown to the modern-day (comets and sarin gas). Surprisingly intelligent text, considering each cult gets just a double-page spread and there's pictures in with that too. (The pic of L. Ron Hubbard E-metering a tomato is one of my favourite images ever!)

Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
I've had a soft spot for the Bounty story ever since having to write about it many years ago. This was the first novelisation of the story, and the one that kicked off 70 years (and counting) of renewed fascination with Bligh and Christian (about the time of the first film, the appallingly bad one starring Errol Flynn). I expected this book to be pretty bad, partly cos of the wonderfully crap cover (complete with dusky maiden), but it's actually quite a good read! Lot of nautical terms and polite English bluster. Must find book 3 (Fletcher's Frolics on Pitcairn) later... amazon

Speak of the Devil Edited by North & Boutell
Cool collection of stories about Old Nick, from ancient fables of various cultures to late 50s short stories, including something from the classics (the wonderful Dante climax, way too much Faust, a little Paradise Lost, etc).

The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox
Second time thru. The book that got me all excited about Knox (sadly, none of her other books ever got me half as excited). This is a magic book. Today I'd put this somewhere in the top ten, if not top five, of my best novels ever. truly excellent movie news ... and more

How to Be a Man by John Birmingham
Mostly interesting wee stories, and some excellent quotes too, tho largely of the fridge-magnet variety.... "I love work ... I could sit and watch it all day".

The A Team (#1) by Charles Heath
The first in the series of novels based on the old 80s TV show. Scored from a 2nd-hand shop in the Dandenongs on a work 'fun day'. Wonderfully bad. (The book, not the fun day.)

Series of Unfortunate Events #4: The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snickett
Following in Maxine's footsteps as she's reading this series to herself.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Fantastic. A rippin story, with almost constant stream of the great one-liners you'd expect, amongst the annoying pontifications of Lord Henry and the constant weak-kneed trembling. "Exquisite sorrows; exquisite joys", my favourite line. Corker of an ending!

Bulfinch's Mythology by Bulfinch
Old (1850s) version of Greek, Norse, Arthur, Charlemagne stories. The latter something I hadn't read before, tho they were obviously so recent as to require Joe Reader's correction on some misapprehensions. Bulfinch's tip-toeing around the rude bits is fun - I particularly loved the story of Aeneas and Dido, where "some months were spent in pleasant intercourse". Ooer.

Matter by Iain M. Banks
Another culture novel. A few interlinked stories, none of them yet particularly startling, but it's fun enough and clever enough to hold your attention.

The Voyage of Argo by Apollonius of Rhodes
The ultimate supergroup, with so many heroes and superpowers it makes the mind whirl. (Via EV Rieu, of course, who writes a damn fine intro too.) wiki

Harry Six by JKR
Read aloud with the kid i love the mostest.

My Legendary Ex-Girlfriend by Mike Gayle
Slacker-lit. Maybe it's a little light-on, and maybe the big ending was pretty obvious, but I really loved this book. It's really engaging. I loved that it happened so *fast*. I loved that Wil was such a dropkick. It grew on me more and more. Definitely a book that makes you want to find another one by the same author. authors' Q & A

Route 66AD by Tony Perrottet Woo ! This might be a book custom written just for me. An ancient-Greek-history/mythology nerd travels the old Roman-era tourism roads with ancient guidebooks and maps for company.
Also known as "Pagan Holidays". authors' website amazon

Kiwis Might Fly by Polly Evans
Travelogue - around NZ by motorbike. Fun! And some really beautiful (and evil) descriptions of NZ and NZers. authors' blogs etc

Flight of the Fire Thief by Terry Deary
Kids' lit - Prometheus in the modern (almost) world.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson My favourite ever (my only ever) 'mathematical' novel, complete with graphs! Maintains an incredible pace thru almost a thousand pages. Exhausting!

The Encyclopaedia of Mythology by Eric Flaum Beautifully illustrated encyclopaedia of Greek Mythology.

I am Legend by Richard Matheson
Relentless vampire stuff from an old master of horror (the novel that the Wil Smith movie was l o o s e l y based on).

Tales from Shakespeare by Charles & Mary Lamb
An interesting prose retelling of some of William's stories. Irresistible in its littleness and its leatheryness as well as being mercifully short on angsty rhyme. I'm hoping that this might help me overcome my inability to read a little more of the real thing.

Harry Five by JKR
The chunkiest of the Harrys and the emptiest (the literary equivalent of bread-crumb stuffing). Reading it aloud with Maxine the Wonderkid.

The Turning by Tim Winton
My new favourite Winton book ever - a whole new, revolutionary, mindblowing, approach to short stories. I need to read it again!

Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce
Fantastic cynicism. the free library ... wiki

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Interesting story tho I reckon he needs work - just a bit too Boys' Own.

The Running Man by Richard Bachman
One of Stephen King's Bachman books - perhaps a little grittier and gory than his usual stuff. Nice stuff about the future being ruled by TV - tho these days some of the reality TV stuff isn't as shocking as it probably was back in the 80s when this was written.

Coral Island by RM Ballantyne
Hilarious hijinks in the Pacific Islands. Ralph, Jack and Piggy (err, I mean Peterkin) gambol, frolic, exclaim 'by-jove', and rescue dusky maidens in the name of Christianity. Fabulously corny.

The Aeneid by Virgil
Cool continuation of the world's most famous story, with blatant political rewrites. Revealed that Camilla, amazonian queen, was the handmaid of Diana! Fancy that?! wiki

Dumped edited by Sarah Neal
A collection of very short Oz stories about being dumped, or being the dumpee. Great stuff from John Safran, Nick Earl, Eliot Perlman, Matt Condon. Philippa Burn good too.

Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
Hilarious.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2007

Anthem by Ayn Rand
Scifi about (predictably enough) the evils of community and anything approaching socialism, and the wonders of individuality and man-eats-man competition. As a novel there are some good ideas, but a teenager-like habit of labouring some points to make sure we get it. wiki

Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis
Fun, but once you've got the idea there are far too few interesting bits amongst the endless pontificating about Christianity. The final letter in the series is gold though. wiki

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham
Again John seems just slightly too keen for everyone's entire family to be wiped out, but this story's interesting too for the media lens. (Filched from a hostel in Southland and left at another.) wiki

Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith
Euphonic and gentle.

King Lear by Willy Shakespeare
The one Shakespeare play I really enjoyed at school (the 'vile jelly', of course), and enjoyed it again this time thru. Good while travelling.

The Royal Changeling by John Whitbourne
Interesting alternative-reality fantasy novel, partly cos King Arthur is a baddie.

Flashman & the Dragon by George MacDonald Fraser
More rogering and tally ho from the world of Flashman. wiki

The Tale of Troy by Roger Lancelyn Green
Drags together all the various stories in a fairly innocuous short book.

The World of Tolkien by Mitchell Beazley
"Mythological Sources of the Lord of the Rings". A lot of the same stuff as Ruth S Noel's book, but better, and with pictures! Some really great artwork - some recogniseable from other Tolkienalia. (Some duds too.)

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
This was meant to be a sidestep from American Gods, but ended up in deepest HarryPotterLand. It was kinda fun, but I don't think I'll be looking for the rest of the inevitable trilogy.

Harry Four by JKR
Read aloud. The first of the really 'chunky' Harrys and nowhere near as good for reading with kids. Even Max can recognise that.

Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt
Great book! A bit too prone to posit shocking conclusions for the sake of a good shock, and too often does that annoying poor-science journo thing of treating any scientific study as gospel (well, any study that says something they want to treat as gospel anyway!). Far better on this than most though, and some really interesting (and, yes, shocking) results from looking at the stats.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I came at this book from Michael Chabon in two directions: it's part of the story in Fanboy & Gothgirl, which I was interested in ever since Kavalier & Clay, and it's a modern story about the Norse gods in America, which is very Summerland. A spectacular story, especially when you realise Gaiman's predominantly a comic author. It had me running to wikipedia for all the mythic characters. I was convinced Shadow was to become the new Odin. nerd review ... wiki ...

The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
Awesome novel, even for someone like me who knows almost nothing of Jewish American culture. I lost track by the end tho, and need to go back and re-read. interview the age

Fanboy & Gothgirl by Barry Lyga
Oh. My. God.

Myths of the Norsemen by Roger Lancelyn Green
A bit prudish, which is a shame as the Norse gods bang like dunny doors (consider Loki's adventures as a horse, or Thor as the bride of the giant king...). This is a great story tho.
norse mythology ... this guy did my favourite ever pic of odin, but I can't for the life of me find a copy online!

Jonestown by Chris Masters
Way too much about Jones being gay, but a great read otherwise.

Beowulf prose version by EV Rieu
What a startlingly dull story: Monster eats scandies. Beowulf boasts endlessly. Beowulf rips off monster's arm (actually, that's the only good bit!). Monster dies. Beowulf boasts endlessly. Monster's mum eats another scandi. Beowulf kills Mum. Boasts. Gets old. Kills/is killed by a dragon. Yawn.
Kinda weirdly, the fillum came out shortly after. They did a better job with the shitty ancient story than you might have thought.

High Spirits by Robertson Davies
A Collection of Ghost Stories. Davies' love of mythology/saints comes thru.

The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay
A book about the love of books.

Five Black Ships by Napoleon Baccino Ponce de Leon
Indulging my nerdism for ancient explorers. This is a novel following Magellan's voyage in 1519 - lovely rich language and great characters! I'd read the story of Magellan and his mutinies a few times and never been all that interested by it, but 'Ponce de Leon' is a magnificent story teller.

Harry Three by JKR
Reading aloud. Bliss is reading to a kid you love.

Flashman's Lady by George MacDonadld Fraser
My first foray into the world of Flashman. It's good ! What a great way to learn history too ! wiki

Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz
'Dispatches from the unfinished civil war'. Looks at Civil War nuts in the North and the Southern states. Some harmless, nutty fruitballs - some deeply-scary racist shit, but complex, y'know. amazon

Harry Seven by JKR
The end at last. A better read than most of the chunky Harrys, with more happening in the middle bit than usual.

Transit of Venus by Julian Evans
('Travels in the Pacific') A really interesting modern (lefty) travelogue across the pacific islands. One of the best Pacific travel books I've ever read. At first glance similarities with O'Rourke's famous whinge-fest, but this is far more engaged and fascinating. amazon

Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
Good fun. uhhrrrr!

Harry Two by JKR
Read aloud. Maxine starting to really get into having to solve the mysteries.

The Invisible Man by HG Wells
poster

The Son of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
I bought this old gem solely because of the very campy cover (not the one to right, but even better!): a pic of Korak (he's the son of Tarzan!) in fetching leopardskin loincloth, poised to rescue swooning maiden from the snarling ape). But I loved this book! So much fun!!
A shot from the old Weissmuller show: uhhrrrr! ... comics

The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks
Yet more drunken, rich Scots families driving fast cars, talking about music, obsessing about clothes and lusting after cousins. A tad disappointing in the end.

Peter Pan & Wendy by JM Barrie
The novel of the play. Beautiful, beautiful ideas and language. Love the individual pirates, and the Lost Boys, and how cruel and heartless Peter is, not glossing over children's evilness. Nerdily enough, I kind of got into this via Treasure Island : Flint feared Silver ('Barbeque'). Silver feared Hook. And it turns out that Hook feared Smee!

Paradise Lost - The Novel by Joseph Lanzara (from John Milton).
A really lovely prose version... I just couldn't handle it in verse. Bloody fantastic! Appropriately pompous and strange language. Lovely illos by Gustave Doré .This was an absolutely magnificent read. I was inspired to look up occasional phrases in the poetical original, but could *never* have read the entire story thru in that form, and wouldn't have understood what was going on even if I had! wiki the war .. wiki gustave .. text of the poem ..
This is a book that will get you obsessing about ancient illustrations

Port Out Starboard Home by Michael Quinion
"the fascinating stories we tell about the words we use" (and how most of those stories are bogus!). You gotta admire how the author (fussy and superior tho he might be) doesn't let a good story get in the way of accuracy ... if the origin of a phrase is unknown, he just says so, despite that being bloody unsatisfying!

Harry One by JKR
Read this thru with my six year old. (JK's critics would say that's about the right target audience!) Fun!

Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Medievil Sherlock Holmes (He's even from Baskerville!). Some of the catholic navel gazing gets a bit wearying at times (apparently this novel is notoriously easy to abandon!), but for me there was always another dead monk to get things moving again. notes for nerds .. wikip

Dear Jack by Flip Shelton & Kate Langbroek
'Break-up letters from famous and infamous Australians.'

Dirt Music , by Tim Winton
Fantastic story.
notes .. wiki

King Arthur & the Round Table by Alice M. Hadfield
A very clean, very '50s version of the stories. As might have been told by Johnny Howard or Enid Blyton. Lancelot and Guenevere were JUST GOOD FRIENDS, okay?!
One of my favourite bits: Sir M, who was a coward and a thoroughly unworthy man, had thought himself in love with the Queen for a long time. His love was of the kidnapping and not the knightly kind, and he waited for a chance when Sir Lancelot was away. "Of the kidnapping and not the knightly kind"... lol. teaching notes

Children of the gods by Kenneth McLeish
Really great 'raw' versions of Greek myths and legends, not tidied and up and prettified for the masses. Interesting alternative versions too. Blood, gore, rape ... woo hoo. Nice illos by Elisabeth Frink. plays by the author

The Crow Road by Iain Banks
Banks in a nutshell: weird Scots family and friends wrangle with Docs, alcohol, cars and music. Great mystery and a strangely detailed delivery, obsessively describing what characters are wearing or listening to. Second time through. Ended up donating this spare copy to bookcrossing.com. author's website .. article about Banks

The Sword in the Stone by TH White
King Arty's childhood - the 1930s version that became the Disney film. Some wickedly clever, funny parts. wikipedia

Unintelligent Design by Robyn Williams
An ABC science journo on why I.D. is bollocks. Not particularly enlightening and sometimes kinda annoying. Very much preaching to the converted: if you're one of those that buy into I.D., this book won't change your mind. If you're *interested* in I.D., this book won't help you understand what it's about. wikipedia

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I haven't read this for a long time - had forgotten quite how great a book it is. (Tho that business with the crippled left arm seems as unlikely now as it did when I was at school.) chapter notes

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Second time through. amazon .. author's website .. notes .. wikipedia

Robin Hood retold by JW McSpadden
Many comely young yeomen clad in Lincoln Green prance through the woodlands loosing their shafts truly. Sadly, the illustrations in this version aren't the full-colour ones I remember from an edition of this that we had as kids, but they're funny enough even in black and white. You can see where Errol Flynn got his motivation. (The fox version was *so* much cooler!) full text

Inversions by Iain M Banks
Brilliantly subversive Culture novel. (You have to know the Culture before you realise it's Culture.) wiki (spoiler)

Inferno by Dante
I managed to find (yay for eBay) a translation with notes by the same writer as Purgatory, the matronly Mrs Dorothy L Sayers. Fantastic story, even tho Peter Standford had given away the ending. which level of hell will YOU end up on? .. cool diagram of Hell .. danteworlds .. flash

The Bible by Moses et al
(stalled at Jeremiah ...) On the same basis as reading The Odyssey/Iliad and those old Grail stories, partly I just wanted to see where all the stories/sayings/cultural refs come from. And a lot of these insane stories, scarily, are still relevant now (the mark of Cain, the Caananites...).
I'm up to: Jeremiah (the story continues to stall, while God justifies exile)
Other thoughts along the way:
Isaiah (one man's rambling predictions of smitings to come. Oh, also the messiah's announcement which was to cause SO much trouble later on). 33.23 appeals to my puerile sense of humour. 43.6 is quoted by Dubwize in one of my favourite reggae songs.
Proverbs: Solomon, get over her!
Psalms goes on and on, but #44 is my favourite... cop that whinging! Slightly ahead of #137, think BIG HAIR and flares).
The Kings and the Chronicles: You smite them and You smite them, but the moment You turn Your back, they're sacrificing their kiddies to Baal and worshipping golden cows again.
King David was naughty! (And a shirt lifter!)
Genesis: As someone famous once said "God, God is a shit!"

archie & mehitabel by Don Marquis
Collection of poems and writings from a cockroach and a cat. Very fun very cute. Archie's full of wise, useful sayings: "don't cuss the climate it probably doesn't like you any better than you like it ...". donmarquis.com

The Runestaff by Michael Moorcock
Trash fantasy. I used to read a bit of Moorcock's "Elric" series at uni, as an alternative to learning anything about physics. Moorcock's a shit writer, but Elric was an interesting antihero - albino, sickly, a bit gothic. Dorian Hawkmoon (star of this bit of rubbish), on the other hand, is just a dil with a big sword.

The Devil - a Biography by Peter Standford
Not incredibly well written, but this is a really fascinating book! It gave away the climax of Dante's Inferno (and WHAT a surprise - I have not been so impressed, nor so frustrated at not having discovered something properly, since a mate telling me that Darth Vader was Luke's Dad.) Lots too about Paradise Lost which made me want to read that, and classical myths, apocryphal gear omitted from the bible, nut-bag "voices in their heads" saints, witch-hunts ancient and modern, and loopdeloops through the ages. Also ideas thru the ages of the old testament God in fact being the devil, which having recently read Genesis-Exodus, makes some sense!

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
I love the idea of serialised novels. Scotland St is serial extreme, with daily instalments. I reckon it shows tho. The characters are cardboard cut-outs, and all viewed from the perspective of a fussy old-timer (which is perhaps why Mma Ramotswe rings so true?!). And the story itself is pretty underwhelming.

Other Temples Other Gods; The Occult in Australia by Nevill Drury & Gregory Tillet
Non fiction 1980 book with some really great images of occult artwork (old and new) as well as Ma and Pa Kettle types in (and out of!) their wizarding robes. The late 70s photos help make it all even better! Astrology, wicca, wizards, Satanists, 'The' church and some loopy churches, new agers ... oh, and Lemurians again!

Prester John by John Buchanan
Prester John has always fascinated me and I love these old rollicking chap-lit type books. This one didn't disappoint, with gobsmacking racism throughout (well, it was written in 1901) and a hilarious prig of a hero. The author, John Buchan, ended up Governor General of Canada, which is pretty hilarious when you look at his writing here and consider what current GGs can get in trouble for! wiki on the author .. wiki on Prester John

Summerland by Michael Chabon
Good fun. Not the beautiful language of Kavalier & Clay - more easily-digestible like (eek!) Stephen King or JK Rowling. (I was sick and bed-rid, so ploughed thru it pretty fast.) Really nice mythology - American Indian, Anglo Indian and some nice scatterings of Scandy too. Features 'Coyote', who I always loved, and makes him (aka Loki, another of my favourites) a believable, quite likeable, fairly evil, appropriately fallible kind of god. (Maui would have been another alias to add to his CV, I thought.) Coyote .. Loki .. amazon

Tales of the Greek Heroes by John Walsh
Nice little book. Written for older kids, in the 40s. All the biggies are here (Theseus, Jaaason, Herk) along with some good stuff from The Iliad and Odyssey.

The Literary Companion edited by Emma Jones
Lots of literary titbits. Some pretty cool, some a bit dumb.

The Way to Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa
Two stories: Paul Gauguin (in France and in Tahiti, and mad), and his grandmother an (also mad) socialist activist in Peru and France. The story flips between Paul and Grandma, and back and forward in time for Granny between France and Peru, and in tone between third person and ... "addressing" the characters. "Paul walked thru the door, but you knew what lay beyond, didn't you Paul". But it all works okay. Translated from Spanish. wiki

Harry VI
Second time through - a bit of an antidote to the tortuous Llosa, popcorn for the brain. The last Harry comes out this year and these books are so ... easily digested ... that I couldn't remember what had happened in number six.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
Second time through. Banks' *fantastic* first novel.
wiki

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2006

Purgatory by Dante
A bit of a go at some ancient poetry, helped thru my anti-poetry forcefield by copious nerdy footnotes. I love the trainspotter Catholic stuff - how many years does it take to purge specific sins, who ends up on which level, etc. So nerdy, but fun. Might have a go at Inferno after this. wiki

Ubik by Philip K. Dick
Great story. Pulp characters. Really winds up in the second half.

The Lost Civilization of Lemuria by Frank Joseph
'The Rise and Fall of the World's Oldest Culture'. There's some nice stuff about Pacific archaeology in here, but always thru the filter of hardcore flakiness. The usual reincarnations and dodgy science abound. My favourite quote so far is Frank when quoting from a source who got his information via trances "Doubtless, including the trance-state utterances of a psychic will only drive sceptics further and faster away from any consideration of the subject. But no amount of unimpeachable evidence can ever win over such closed minds." Funny.
Perhaps because he hasn't travelled the Pacific like Mark Williams, the book is riddled with errors minor and major. flaky review .. flaky review #2 .. the author's amazon reviews

Lord of the Flies by Golding
Second or third time through. This really is a great story! I love the imagery and the iconic characters (Jack, sooo wild), Ralph (soo charismatic, sooo torn), Simon (so dreamy, sooo desperately GOOD)... but it works well as a story too. The conversations are really plausible considering the age of the kids. Even the horde of nameless littluns are convincing.

Atoll by Colin D. Peel
Rather magnificent little pulp adventure set around Moruroa Atoll in French Polynesia, complete with ruggedly handsome heroes, winsome/doomed girlfriends and dastardly French agents. Mon dieu! Ce'est merde! Apparently Colin writes one of these per year - that must be fun!

The Collector Collector by Tibor Fischer
Similar to Tom Robbins in just a few too many ways, which is a shame, because this came damn close to being a favourite novel ever. Some really nice language and lots of great stories... but in the end it was like one of those people who are so desperate to talk about themselves they won't shut up. Ah well, it's still a great read. wikipedia .. amazon

White Fang by Jack London
Comes and goes .. trying to speak from the wolf's perspective gets a bit silly sometimes. Weedon Scott is a selfrighteous prig of Biggles proportions. wikipedia

The Secret River by Kate Grenville
Historican novel set around the Sydney convict settlement. There's some slightly silly debate raging through the leather-armpatched brigade about whether this novel redefines or destroys history as storytelling. Get ya hand off it. article .. authors' website (delightfully daggy)

The Iliad by Homer (not Simpson, the other Homer)
A mythological Who Weekly, complete with convoluted sentences and squabbling gods. Fantastically, lovingly gory! ('His eyes popped out and rolled at his feet'...) wikipedia .. who's who

Tristan in Brittany by Thomas the Englishman
The amusingly tragic tale of Tristan and Iseult. Pieced together from various sources, some poetical (I survived, but barely). wikipedia

Lone Star Ranger by Zane Grey
Late 19th-century western by the bloke who wrote the book (and talked to fair dinkum Texan outlaws 'n' rangers, so he's got some cred). Apparently this book was the inspiration for the Lone Ranger, who was my very first superhero, and the first comic I ever bought, so I have affection for the masked chap. wikipedia

Newton's Wake by Ken Macleod
One of the cleverest scifis I've read in a while. Ian Banks liked it. (And was generous enough not to mind the borrowings?)

Zorro by Allende
Allende struggles a bit with Zorro - too much of a clown for her writing style? Bernardo is done nicely though. wikipedia .. amazon

Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake
Lacks the magnificent castle itself, but the introduction of a bit of modernity helps (Muzzle's car is great!). Slightly less convoluted writing style perhaps the result of someone else finishing it off. mervynpeake.org .. wikipedia

The Time Traveller by HG Wells
Good story despite the painfully transparent social morale. The ending is nice and open; apparently someone else wrote a sequel, which would be worth finding.

Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith
Second in the series. So nice.

Dead Sexy by Cathy Lette
Lette is a poster-child for 'chick lit'. Sorry, for me this was just endless one-liners and a fairly lame plot. Maybe it's just that I'm a male pig?

The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
Nice, readable fantasy. King in his storytelling mode is really great fun. amazon

The Quest of the Holy Grail by someone or other in the 13th century
Really nice mix of Biblical and Celtic mythology along with an obsession with virginity. Gawain, poor dear, dim Gawain, was easily my favourite. (Galahad needs to get himself laid.)

Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne
One of the first scifis. Harry the perpetual whinger needs a good bop in the nose.

How it Works: the Motor Car A Ladybird Book
The main reason for reading this was the illustrations of well-dressed young men in cardies and neatly parted hair. But frighteningly enough I ended up learning a couple of things!

Conan by Robert E Howard
The first collection of Conan stories. Marvelous trash. As his editor points out, he may have shortcomings as a writer but he's an adequate storyteller. Lots of flexing of mighty thews - and even the appearance of a few Lemurians! wikipedia

The World Atlas of Mysteries by Francis Hitching
UFOs, magnetic anomolies, missing links, megaliths.... amazon .. wikipedia .. Hitching on creationism

The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Run, Johnny, Run by Mungo MacCallum
"The Story of the 2004 Election". Not even pretending to be unbiased. Some really funny stuff! (Some really edgy stuff too - "could he please explain the precise nature of his relationship with Barbara Williams?") review

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
Even better than the first part of the trilogy. The crumbling castle and it's crumbling occupants continue their dark complicated rituals... I love this book. It think it might just be my new most-favourite novel ever!
The day after I finished reading this book I stumbled across the third in the series in a wee 2nd-hand bookshop. Karma baby. amazon .. mervynpeake.org

1984 by George Orwell
Second time through but I haven't read this for YEARS either. Ruder than I remembered and generally a lot deeper and more enjoyable than when I read it as a kid. Concepts such as doublethink, oldthink, bellyfeel are very funny when you think of them in context of corporate culture!
amazon

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Second or third time through but I haven't read this for YEARS. If I had been a member of the Wyndham family, I would have been a little concerned by how eager Johnny seemed about the idea of losing everybody. amazon

South Seas Myths & Legends by Donald A. MacKenzie
Second time thru this 1930s ramble. Some of the (rather painfully constructed) links to "classical" Euro/middle-Eastern mythology are cool, along with crazy, crazy theories. A bit of googling reveals that Donald A. MacKenzie was published in Babylonian mythology too.

LA Confidential by James Ellroy
A distracting way to tell a story - full of violent staccato and 1950s cop jargon. Once you get into it, though, it's hard to put down, and once the plot starts to reveal itself, it's GOLD. I'm not convinced I like the end itself though ... a little dis-satisfying to virtually introduce an entire subplot to solve the case, rather like 'it was aaaall a dream'!. amazon

Ten Little Niggers by Agatha Christie
Errol said:
'This is quite fun!' amazon

Magical Thinking by Augusten Burrows
More stories of drugs, debachery and the advertising industry. Not up to his previous standard - Feels like he's stretching for material too often. "How about escalators, huh..." amazon

Kon-Tiki & I by Erik Hesselberg
A cute large-format illustrated diary by one of Thor Heyerdahl's sailing companions. Cool illos. amazon

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
For obvious reasons. amazon

Oceanic Mythology by Roslyn Poignant
A great collection of Polynesian, Melanesian, Micronesian and Australian mythology - lovin' the Polynesian stuff: the slightly different takes on familiar tales (Hina, Maui, Tangaloa) in different islands are fantastic. This is one of the few books I've read that actually looks at the differences between the myths as well as the similarities. Also really strong on themes in Melanesian and Micronesian myths - oft ('oft'?) ignored in favour of the 'tidier' Polynesians. Some great pics of old carvings too. Sad. amazon

Lion Boy by Zizou Corder
An older kids' book but good fun. King Boris' best quote: "Do I look like the kind of king who would hand stowaway Lions over to a railway funtionary? You insult me.". amazon

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
A book I bought largely on the basis of the trick worn-out-looking cover (not the one on amazon) but turned out to be great! Almost inspired me to read Jane Eyre, except that I've so recently waded through Pride & Pontification and am slightly over ancient chick lit. for the time being. amazon

The Curse of Lono by Hunter S. Thompson
Gonzo travels in Hawai'i, plus tales of Cpt Cook and Hawai'ian mythology. Wonderful illustrations by Ralph Steadman. amazon

A Man's Got to Have a Hobby by William McInnes
Stories from McInnes' childhood. He's a great storyteller. His Dad reminds me of my Dad.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2005

In Search of Lemuria by Mark R Williams
Wonderful crackpottery! "The lost Pacific Continent in legend, myth and imagination". There's some fantastic stuff in here! The author strikes an interesting balance somewhere between being open minded and willing to consider anything, and just a little TOO open minded. Some of the facts get a little bent in order to support the Lemurians. The book appealed not only to my love of mythology but to my fondness for conspiracy theories, new-age claptrap and fascination with the old European myths of the southern land - or even better, Lemuria/Mu - and the crazy reasons Europeans came up with to explain how Polynesians had achieved such superior feats of navigation.
Hilarion is hilarious. amazon .. Hilarion

Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Actually I only got a third of the way through - the rest will have to wait til another time. Slightly more complex than it appears at first glance, Holmes is something of a pompous git, tho he does appear to have superhuman strength (that poker!).

The Tree Where Man Was Born by Peter Matthiessen
"The" Africa book.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austin
A vaguely interesting story told in language so painfully polite that it's almost a foreign language. Amiable.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Great story! A little 'naive'. author's website

David Lange My Life by David Lange

Weapons of Choice by John Birmingham
Nothing like his other stuff, apart from a very few flashes of humour, but surprisingly readable. Appropriately, I bought it at the airport (and it saw me through two four-hour flights).

Day of the Giants by Lester del Ray
I can't believe I read this pap again! But having just read up on Norse mythology it was a lot more enjoyable, especially seeing del Rey's interpretations: Thor's seriousness, Heimdallr's foppishness.

The People's Lawyer by Phillip Ells
A Brit lawyer's stories from Tuvalu. Kinda similar to Sex Lives of Cannibals in a lot of ways - probably not quite as funny and a little more loving in its humour. More serious stuff too, and well done.

The Magical World of the Lord of the Rings by David Colbert
"The Amazing Myths, Legends and Facts Behind the Masterpeice." Some interesting stuff about the mythical origins of the LoTR but pretty lame and gee-whizz overall. A pale shadow of Ruth S Noel's book. Strictly for newcomers: those who saw the film first.

An Introduction to Viking Mythology by John Grant
In the same series as Bellingham's Greek myths but more irreverent and (after starting a little badly with an annoying Who's Who) a lot more fun reading. Some good images.

home button The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
I think this might possibly be my favourite novel ever! amazon .. reading notes! .. wikipedia .. chabon fansite

Myths & Legends of Fiji & Rotuma by AW Reed & Inez Hames
Some good stories, great for reading to loved ones.

Biggles in the Jungle by Capt. WE Johns
Biggles stared, and saw a man in white ducks sitting next to [Algy]. "Great Scott!" he ejaculated for Ginger's benefit, "it's Carruthers".

Kokopu Dreams by Chris Baker
NZ's very own version of "The Stand". Great mythology; great story!

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Nice. One of the few books I've read where I found myself wondering whether I liked the bloke ... why is that important? (I decided that Holden is a nice guy deep down, despite the superiority complex.)

An Introduction to Greek Mythology by David Bellingham
Great, illustrated copy with nice, short explanations of the artwork and a consistent approach to the stories themselves. Right into the comprehensive family tree so ends up skipping a lot of interesting stories for the detail.

They Wanted to Rule the World by CV Portus
Studies of Six Dictators [Alexander the G, Julius C, Charlemagne, Ghenghis K, Charles V, Napoleon] and Other Essays. A bit light-on as far as what they did and too much pontificating about their far-reaching influence and whether they meant that to happen. Finishes with some silly alternative history business. Writing from a mid-40s perspective the most interesting thing about the book.

The Greek Gods by Evslin, Evslin & Hoopes
The same copy of the same book I read in primary school - the one that got me hooked on mythology. Short and sweet.

The Odyssey by Homer via EH and DCH Rieu
A very readable prose version. Nice to see the original home of some of these old stories. The wordy bits that are retained from ancient Homer are some of the most interesting aspects. (And "rosy fingered dawn" always makes me giggle.)

Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick
Fascinating old-fashioned sci-fi set in a world where the axis won WW2. Implications of Japanese and German rule, and a focus on race, are really clever.

Harry Six by JK Rowling
She could get to the point soooner, don't you reckon?

A Certain Chemistry by Mil Millington
Very clever. 'Every time you make friends with a publisher, a pixie dies.'

Off One's Tits by John Birmingham
"Ill-Considered Rants and Raves from a Graceless Oaf Named ..." Collected (or lumpen) writings from Australia's (self-proclaimed?) gonzo journo. A master of the Rant. pap description

A Son of the Circus by John Irving
A tale of inappropriate sex and midgets, as usual.

Three Dollars by Elliot Perlman
Magic. Sad, but lovely writing.

Conversations in Cabs by James McClelland
Short articles on politics and life from the Sydney Morning Herald in the early 90s.

Man or Mango: A lament By Lucy Ellman
Alternating points of view from two fucked-up ex lovers. Nice.

Margaret Mead & Samoa by Derek Freeman
"The making and unmaking of an anthropological myth". Really well researched with ten times the credence of Mags on matters fa'aSamoan, but a fraction of the interest factor. Sex sells, yeah, but so does good writing.

Gilden Fire by Stephen Donaldson
Excised from the interminable trilogy (for good reason).

Players by Tony Wilson
Any resemblance between characters appearing in this novel ...

Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
Kiribati travelogue. Very funny.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The tedium. The tedium.

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail
A beautiful story about beautiful stories.

God Under Howard by Marion Maddox.
"The rise of the religious right in Australian politics". Quite good, although it does slip into fairly irrelevant (even contradictory) criticism sometimes.

Journey to Nowhere by Keith Quinn
The story of John Mitchell's All Black "journey", RWC 2003.

The Treaty by Marcia Stenson
"Every NZer's Guide to the Treaty of Waitangi"

A Land of Two Halves by Joe Bennett
NZ/hitch-hiking travelogue. Bennett plays the likeable misanthrope.

Day of the Jackal by Fredrick Forsyth
Oh, this is pretty bad! The kind of book a teenager might write if they'd spent too long reading Soldier of Fortune magazines. "Half a million pounds" (gasp! sacr顢leue!) is very Doctor Evil.

Two Worlds by Ann Salmond
The story of the first meetings between Europeans and Maori in NZ, with interesting info about Europe of the time, with all its superstitions and other parallels to the Maori. Perhaps a little long. Great images.

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
Gothic .. hard work sometimes, but beautiful.
Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls. They sprawled over the sloping arch, each one half way over its neighbour until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock. These dwellings, by ancient law, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them. Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.

The Old Man & The Sea by E Hemingway.
Still amazing.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2004

Being Dead by Jim Grace
Ok.

A Fortunate Life by AB Facey
Not great writing, but a riveting story.

Dopeland by John Birmingham
Hilarious.

From Maui to Cook by David Lewis
'The Discovery and Settlement of the Pacific' pre- and post-European discovery. A fairly simple introduction. (Second time through - this is the book that got me hooked on Polynesian navigation.)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Stunningly good.

The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook (Extended Version) by Ian Brodie
The writing doesn't exactly inspire, but this is a great book for LoTR geeks and NZ fans. Some really excellent images of both locations, filming and shots from the film (a bloody coup persuading Jackson and Newline!) and great explanations of how to find the locations. This book made me invent the word "nerdtastic".

In Search of Moby Dick by Tim Severin
Travelogue tracing Herman Melville's Moby Dick across the Pacific. The mad Tongan priest/ex-whaler was my high point.

The Business by Iain Banks
Second time through. Enjoyed it even more this time. Perhaps alerted by Banks' whiskey book to watch for puns, cars, gadgets, wealth...

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
The first in Rice's Vampire series. Not enough to make me want to look any further, though I can understand why some would like them. Language and conversations just a bit too bloody intricate and painful for me... Thomas Covenant with fangs. There's some nice stuff though it only really gets going in Paris.

Dry by Augusten Burroughs
Less flippant and more powerful than his first. Still hilarious, still scary.

The Culture of Middle Earth by F MacDonald Kells
This is seriously "geek's only" stuff: "Everyday life in Tolkien's World". At its best, cleverly and gently pokes fun at JRRT's writing on the sly: eg, there are very few women in any race, nobody ever needs to go to the toilet.

The Salterton Trilogy by Robertson Davies
Second time through. One of his best ('cept the third in the trilogy, which drags).

The Riddle & the Knight by Giles Milton
Magnificent. The story of Sir John Mandeville, the world's first travel writer, and whether he falsified the story. A centuries-old manuscript assessment!

Young Nick's Head by Karen Hesse
Fictional journal of The Endeavour's ship's boy, Nick Young. Based on Cook/Banks' ocassional mentions of the lad, with imagination filling in the gaps. Works really well.

Cruel Enchantment by Janine Ashless
Ooer short stories.

Harry V by JKR
Second time through.

The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket
Very funny faux-biography with pasted in-photos and other cutesies for book geeks like me. author website .. < Helquist illos

Bullshit, Backlash & Bleeding Hearts by David Slack
Not just a funny title - a really excellent look at Treaty and race issues in NZ. Claims to be unbiased but a lot of NZers would probably say it comes down on the bleeding-heart-lefty side of the argument. (However since that's where I sit, it works for me.)

Biggles & the Black Peril by Capt. WE Johns
Oh by Joves, this is splendid stuff old chap!

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
Nth time through.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
Off and on, but mostly very good.

The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies
Third time through. A great storyteller tho' these (particularly #1) are some of the more old-fashioned of his novels (fitting the narrator).

Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson
Beautiful.

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
Despite a luke-warm start (a bit too keen to show off the author's clever research) I came 'round to this wee thriller and ended up unable to put the bloody thing down. I loved being led up the wrong path so cleverly, and I'm a sucker for short chapters.

Dark Victory by David Marr & Marian Wilkinson
Australia's noble ongoing fight against refugees and children. John Howard, you are are a nasty little shit of a man.

Faster by James Gleick
A collection of articles about time and hurrying? Had to give up on it eventually.

A Historian's Apprenticeship by Manning Clark
The story behind the writing of Australia's definitive history. Surprisingly interesting. Really!

So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson
A Year of Passionate Reading. Very inspiring. "Call me Ismael..." is a lovely start.

Raw Spirits by Iain Banks
"In search of the perfect dram". Part travelogue, part whiskeylogue, part rambling biography. An insight into the characters in Banks' non-scifi: wealthy, pop-culture fiends, hard-drinking, hopeless tech adicts, gamers, v close group of friends...

Museum of Hoaxes by Alex Boese (Curator)
Great book for a short attention span.

Schott's Original Miscellany by Ben Schott
A book lovers' book. Why actually 'yes', Dr Johnson, I did read it through.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The cad!

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
So funny it's hard (and kinda frightening) to believe it's true.

The Clash of Fundamentalisms by Tariq Ali
Wonderful history of Islam, Europe, the ME, US policy, Israel ... Dribbles off into incoherency in a couple of chapters (and assumes the reader is far cleverer than me in many others!) but overall a great read.

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Funny! Brilliant!

Trafficking in Old Books by Anthony Marshall
Collection of stories about running a second-hand bookshop.

Recollections of a Bleeding Heart by Don Watson
Memoirs of Keating's speechwriter. Way too long.

Trial of the Cannibal Dog by Anne Salmon
Magnificent combination of history and anthropology to make sense of 18th century Euro/Pacific encounters from both ends of the musket/taiaha. Brilliant! Finally, a treatment of the importance of Tupaia's story worthy of someone who was probably one of the greatest navigator/priest/diplomats in the Pacific at that time. Tales of NZ tribes remembering Tupaia, not Cook, when Jimbo revisited a few years later, reinforce T's mana. They thought Cook was Tupaia's lacky!

Eats Roots & Leaves by Lynn Truss
Bloody funny.

Death Sentence by Don Watson
Rant about the death of English via managementspeak. Strangely frustrating book - not enough structure and not enough explanation sometimes but other times spot on. I wanted more explanation ("but why is that bad") rather than the stream of consciousness. Maybe could have been shorter?

Rough Guide to Lord of the Rings
Good, fairly light-on combination of cutesy info about the book(s), the author, the places, the film(s)...

Overtime by Tom Holt
Very funny (Douglas-Adams-esque) sci-fi fiction

A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away by Christopher Brookmyre
Fantastic Scots novel - a little bit Iain Banks (mayhap too much?) and a little bit Ben Elton (ditto). Disposable characters at the book's beginning throw everything else into confusion - "But he's not following the rules!" I cried.

The Silmarillion by JRRT
Billionth time through but first for many years. Not particularly well written but a classic nevertheless for the story of the world behind the LoTR.

The Hobbit by JRR
So much - SO much - more fun to read than the LoTR. Actually a wonderfully-written book, for adults as well as kids.

A Series of Unfortunate Events 1,2,3 by Lemony Snicket
Hilarious writing (although the constantly-repeating plot might wear thin by book 12?) Spectacularly good illustrations by Brett Helquist.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2003

A Short History of Everything by Bill Bryson
Brilliant.

Day of the Giants by Lester del Ray
Trash sci-fi/fantasy that manages to combine Norse mythology with zombies and nuclear weapons. (Yep! Really!)

A History of the World in 10 Chapters by Julian Barnes
Great collection of stories/essays nebulously linked (in a way that makes you think the author is terribly clever even if the reader can't see any links). Clever.

My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
Ho ho old chap. Brilliant!

Oscar & Lucinda by Peter Carey
Hard work.

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
Magnificent book. Wonderful mastery of the language of the insane.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Third time through and (I think) the first time I've felt like I 'got' the strings theory.

Matthew Flinders' Cat by Bryce Courtney
Well researched but woefully written airport-bookshop novel. One scene (it's the one with four inmates talking in their room at the AA hostel, if you're interested) wins my all-time "implausible conversation" prize.

The Crocodile Club by Kaz Cooke
Off-and-on Australian comic novel.

Dead-Eye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut
Hilarious.

Season of the Jew by Maurice Shadbolt
Third time through. One of my favourite NZ novels, set in the East Coast in the time of Te Kooti and the last of the NZ wars. Beautiful staccato use of English.

The Greenstone Door by William Satchell
Great old NZ-wars novel from the 1910s. Dramatic entrances, women swooning - it's all right here.

The Island of Lost Maps by Miles Harvey
"A True Story of Cartographic Crime". A bit too try-hard in spots, but a book by map geeks for map geeks and about map geeks is hard to pass up. Fascinating and extremely well researched. In equal parts the story of "the crime" (and the crook), mapping ancient and modern and Harvey's own obsession with the story.

McCarthy's Bar by Pete McCarthy
Fantastic Irish travel book (I could have done without the "who am I" angst but at least he acknowledges he's being a wanker).

Stupid White Men by Michael Moore
An interesting, inspiring read (no doubt partly because Moore doesn't let exact science or the exact truth get in the way of a good story).

Artemis Fowl 1, 2 and 3 by Eoin Colfer
Great fun.

One for the Road by Tony Horwitz
Good fun Australian hitch-hiking tale from the 70s. Onya Tone.

Bachelor Kisses by Nick Earle
Very funny, very clever Aust novel with a medical bent.

The Battle for the North Island of NZ by Peter Maxwell
Covers the wars of the 1860s. Very readable and well researched. I liked the lot *except* for the bizarre attacks on "the Professor" (Belich) - a few too many bees in the old bonnet and too much time devoted to justifying their buzz. Still, amateur historians are some of my favourite people, and I LOVE this guy's passion.

Captain Cook by Vanessa Collingridge
Interesting life story of the Yorkshireman, with the author's great grandpappy thrown in to diferentiate it from a million other Cook books. I found a massive foli-sized book of grandpappy's maps later, after reading this, that brought out the nerd in me in SO many ways!

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
Getting into this kiddie fiction gig. I read this as a kid too.

Wizard of Earthsea (I-IV) by Ursula LeGuin
Thought I'd give another kiddie fiction book a go. I read this as a kid meself and enjoyed it. Good the second time through too, though taking itself all a little too seriously. Book IV becomes hilariously feminist.

Harry V by JK Rowling
Still great. Good on ya JK.

Unknown Lands by Fran谩s Bellec
("Log Books of the Great Explorers") Large-format illustrated history of European exploration. Magnificent colour images and old maps tho' rather poorly written.

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Very clever writer. Very funny and, surprisingly, one of the better 'potted histories' of Australia I've read.

No Shitting in the Toilet by Peter Moore
Backpackers' humour. Funny stuff but could have been a third shorter.

Harry Potter III and IV by JK Rowling
Second time through.

Kidnapped by RLS
Many a mickle makes a muckle.

The Tournament by John Clarke
Very peculiar. (And makes one feel very poorly read.)

The Searchers by Alan Le May
You wouldn't get away with hanging poo on noble Amerindians like that these days.

Lime Bar by Matt Condon
Magnificent Sydneysider fiction with an healthy respect for the perfect G&T (and the man who serves it).

A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain
Travel and food (and belligerance, and diatribes, and humour...).

Where's Waari edited by Witi Ihimaera
Great compilation - even the stories you don't enjoy tell part of the story.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtney
Surprisingly good for a rah-rah book.

Hitch-hikers' Guide by Douglas Adams
Nth time through. Still ace.

All the Weyrs of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
Ho hum. Brain to 'off'.

Dogside Story by Patricia Grace
A bit up and down - starts with a hiss and a roar, then struggles around halftime, but gripping by the end.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2002


The Real Muldoon by Spiro Zavos
Very fair biography from way back when Piggy was still in power.

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
Did it?

Are you Dave Gorman? by Dave Gorman & Danny Wallace
Hilarious!

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 Ii 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 !

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2001


White Mischief by James Fox
Tragic old fart (Lord Braughton) kills playboy (Lord Erroll) and gets away with it. Like something out of Cluedo except it really happened. The book is a surpisingly good study of the murder of Josslyn Hay (Lord Erroll - thus the interest: ko Hay tetahi o oku iwi) in Kenya in 1941. Lords and ladies living it up in the colonies - riveting stuff. No really it is. Honest!.

Australia: A Biography of a Nation by Phillip Knightley
A bit erratic in places (much like anyone's bio' I guess?) but comes up with some surprising facts and histories and has some good theories about what makes Australian's Australian (including the bad stuff - the origin of good ol' fashioned Aussie racism for example).

The Silent Gods - Mysteries of Easter Island by Catherine and Michel Orliac
Part of the New Horizons series. Surprisingly good - with some great historical images and text.

The Constellations by James Finney Boyton
Wonderful, rich, magical novel.

The Age of Kali by William Dalrymple
Stories of the Indian subcontinent. Magnificent.

Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
Good escapism swords-n-sorcery made just a wee bit trippy by the hint of D&D game rules in the background.

First & Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson
As annoying now as the first time through. Lovely language but does everyone have to be such a basket case?

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
(Nth time through.) Thought I'd better read it again before the film came out. Great, yes, but the film is better! Go Ben. Go Warren.

Cannibals & Converts by Maretu
Contemporary account of missionaries in the Cook Islands.

Cook Islands Politics by Ron Crocombe et al
Surprisingly interesting 1970s political essays from the Cook Islands.

A Boy & His Uncle by Anne Kennedy NZ novel. Some really nice writing.

Black Ivory by Clint Rockman
Surely that's not his real name? "Clint Rockman"? No way! (Let's face it, would you put your real name on a book like this?)

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
No worse than any other Fleming book.

The Hounds of Tindalos by Frank Belknap Long
Forgettable.

Survivalist No 7: The Prophet by Jerry Ahern
Hilariously bad, post-apocalyspe trash.

Frontier: The Battle for the North Island of New Zealand by Peter Maxwell
A good, in fact surprisingly good, history of the NZ Wars (1860s only) by an amateur historian with an unfortunate bee in his bonnet about James Belich.

Pre-Tasman Explorers by Ross Wiseman
Pre-Tasman (European) discoverers of NZ. Staring with the Spanish and the Portuguese (some tenuous evidence and speculation used to construct the most fantastic theories) then just gets better and better - Sinbad the Sailor. Whoo hooo! Barking mad.

Tarawera & the Terraces by Philip Andrews
The story of the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera and the destruction of the Pink and White Terraces. Some good old photos of the terraces and the area before and after - including one by Great Grandpa Cromwell.

Cook Island Legends Retold by Jon Jonassen
Kinda lame Cook Island myths and legends.

Signals of Distress by Jim Crace
Fantastic, rich novel. Everyone knows an Aymer Smith.

Legends from the Atolls by Kauraka Kauraka
Myths and legends from Rakahanga and Manihiki in the northern Cook Islands.

Guide to Staying Alive in New Zealand by Gary McKormick
Stop Press: Aging Hippy Claims That Things These Days Just Ain't What They Used To Be.
Takes itself more seriously than other McKormick books I've read but still presented in the same wacky format.

The Riders by Tim Winton
Magnificent!

After Z Hour by Elizabeth Knox
A Kiwi novel. Gripping but tiring. Are there really people out there who have conversations like this?

Cook Islands Companion by Eliot Smith
A self-published guidebook. Good on history and the general "feel" of the place; chatty and easy to follow too.

Polynesian Navigation edited by Jack Golson
(A symposium on Andrew Sharp's Theory of Accidental Voyages.) Six experts in various fields comment on Sharp's "it's all bullshit" theory. For die-hard Polynesian voyaging geeks only (that's me - I loved it!). If only Tupaia had lived!

Moko by HG Robley
(The Art & History of Maori Tattooing). First published in 1896, the author freely admits that his writing ain't up to much but justifies the book by saying it's a vessel for his illustrations. The sad thing is - his illustrations are crap.

Erewhon by Samuel Butler
A hundred-year-old fantasy set in inland South Island. Tiresome.

John Williams by Cecil Northcott
Fawning bio of the famous South Pacific missionary. Cecil doesn't even pretend to be unbiased about the chubby old Rev Johnny but by the end of the book the religious rants just get silly.

Land of Mists by Garry Kilworth
The third in the series (I missed the second but no great loss). The tale of 'Roof of Voyaging' continues - the characters have aged slightly but the author's lack of talent remains. Still, worth persevering with if you're a Pacific junky to see how various Pacific myths are woven in.

legends of the South Seas by Antony Alpers
A collection of Pacific island myths that tries to take a 'Pacific view' rather than reinterpreting the stories through Christian/European eyes. Lots of research involved in separating 'true' Pacific myths from those that have adapted to fit the times. Some of Greatetc Uncle JM Orsmond and Etcth Cousin Teuira Henry's work is included - gotta love that.

Consider Phlebas by Iain Banks
A sci-fi (Culture) novel.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
Not as good as the first three - I reckon - but still good. Red herrings too obvious, traditional twist at the end too deviously buried. Ha - maybe I'm just pissed off 'cos I couldn't predict it? Weird ending... Quite 'nasty' for a kiddies' book.

Against a Dark Background by Iain Banks
Sci-fi novel. Cool.

Cleary Independent by Phil Cleary
Autobiography by the Melbournian footy coach/MP. I used to be a big fan of this bloke - until he helped sink the republic a couple of years ago.

Omai: Pacific Envoy by EH McCormick
Very long study of the Raiatean Omai who spent a couple of years in England after hopping aboard one of Jimbo Cook's ships. Fascinating although it could be half the size - I think the author was showing off how many tiny uninteresting details he'd uncovered. Also strangely prudish - Omai's 'romantic liaisons' referred to only very obliquely. Omai comes across as a decent bloke but no rocket scientist; if only Tupaia had survived!

Aku Aku by Thor Heyerdahl
The story of the first major archeaological expedition to Easter Island, in the 1950s. Scientifically very interesting, although Heyerdahl starts with a conclusion and then goes looking for evidence to support it (not an uncommon scientific error). The human story is much more interesting though - Heyerdahl slowly (and without commenting on it) transforms from a man who openly laughs at the Easter Islanders' culture to taking it quite seriously. The hero, for me, is the mayor, who bravely protects his cultural treasures despite Heyerdahl's scorn, bribery, bullying and what sounds to me like simple criminal fraud (faking the discovery of the whale carving). (I assume Heyerdahl's lawyers read the book before he published so it probably wasn't strictly criminal.)
(This is the first time in this list that I've 'bolded' a book that shat me quite so much - Heyerdahl's behaviour was that of a complete shit of a man - but the book was riveting.)

State of the Art by Iain Banks
Sci-fi collection of short stories. A couple of typically Banksey train-of-thought rambles but great otherwise.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2000


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'.

From North to South 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.

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 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.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 1999


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.

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 never afraid to cast himself as the buffoon.

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) 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!

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.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 1998


Sophie's World by Josteen Gaardner
Sophie is a very gullible child who gets a free philosophy lesson from some old codger. The idea being that we get a lesson along with her. An interesting twist at the end, not enormously original but surprising because the rest of the book is so dull.

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.

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.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 1997


Heroes by John Pilger
A fantastic collection of articles by Pilger about various topics, social policies and the many wars he has covered as a journo. The usual Pilger bias but GREAT book anyway. The covering of the last few days of the USA in Vietnam was especially moving.

Civilization II by Sid Meir
The guide to the computer game. A huge tome of a book but we're talking about world domination here - not an easy subject to cover in a few pages.

Ratatui by Keith Ovenden
Political comedy set in Wellington (NZ). Very good. Cool ending too.

Popcorn by Ben Elton
A piss-take on the American film industry and Tarantino-type violence/sex. As funny as any of his other books and as un-subtle too. I laughed aloud at Xena's cameo mention. Pretty full-on in parts which is effective, y'see, 'cos you're just expecting more comedy.

Daughter of Regals by Stephan Donaldson
Short stories, mostly fantasy/sci-fi stuff. Two really good ones, "Unworthy of the Angel" and "Ser Visal's Tale"

Needle in a Timestack by Robert Silverberg
Short sci-fi stories. Nothing very challenging here.

Nga Pepa o Ranginui (The Ranginui Papers) by Marcus Ranginui
Dr Ranginui is a pretty well-known Maori authority. He's also fairly biased but as long as you keep that in mind most of the papers were pretty cool. The theory on the travels of the Mataatua and the origin of the carved meeting house were really interesting. The most disappointing article was the anti-immigration rant at the end where logic went out the window. (For example tabloid newspaper headlines which have previously been an example of institutionalised racism suddenly become the definitive proof that multiculturalism doesn't work - der.)

Star of Gypsies by Robert Silverberg
A Sci Fi novel based on the idea that the gypsies are a race of people from another planet. Cool idea and well carried off.

Pellucidar and Tanar of Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Hasn't science fiction come a long way? About the only interesting ideas in this book were the passageway between the inner world and ours, and the internal satellite (which I thought they should've explored in case it too had an internal world - oh Edgar a missed chance for a sequel!). Charming to see how dearly the values of sexism, racism and imperialism were held in past days.

The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World by Harry Harrison
I was persuaded to give Harry Harrison another go. So ooookay, I can see that it's meant to be taken tongue in cheek and this was far less an annoying book to read than "Space Rats" but it's all still pretty stink I reckon. "Slippery Jim" is a great name for a character.

The Official Batman Batbook by Joel Eisner
The complete guide to the Adam West/Burt Ward TV show of the 60s and 70s. An enthusiastic but poorly written attempt - but it doesn't matter, the series was so hilarious that the book's worth reading anyway.

Excession by Iain M. Banks
Another excellent "Culture" story by Ian M. Banks, this one told largely from the POV of the superclever "Minds" inside the Culture's ships. The only complaint I would have is that it becomes difficult to remember all the ships' names. I ended up making wee notes on each ship in my notebook. What a geek ay? Fantastic book though, apart from the Epilog.

The Further Adventures of The Joker Edited by Martin Greenberg
The same guy who compiled the Tolkien stories! I only just noticed that. This is a collection of short stories inspired by the Joker character from the Batman story, some are based on the DC comic character and some on the farcical Adam West version from the 70s TV show. Sheckley's "only a dream" story was by far the worst, Slesar's "53'd card" was a cool idea, Bryant/Simmons comedy story was fantastic.

Dick For a Day Edited by Fiona Giles
A collection of short stories by women about the concept of having a penis for one day. Interesting and often steamy. The only unreadable one was the multimedia abomination "Meta Morphenix". Now call me old-fashioned but ...

Pythagoras' Trousers by Margaret Wertheim
Another farewell pressy from my old work mates. A book discussing the history of physics. Goes into a lot of detail about the relationship between physics and the Christian church, and about the resulting effect on women physicists. This is a really good book! Some very powerful arguments against the very expensive quest for the Unified Field Theorem/TOE. All physicists should read this, actually so should non-physicists probably - to see what they're funding.

After the King edited by Martin Greenberg
"Stories in honor of JRR Tolkien". A mixed bag of short stories by people who thought Tolkien was god, some fantasy and some just peculiar. I found a few that were interesting enough that I'll keep an eye out for other stuff they've written, eg: Resnick, De Lint, McKillip. (Steven Donaldson's contribution may have been inspired somewhat by Werner Erhard.)

Outrageous Betrayal by Steven Pressman
The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile. A book about the founder of the mind-game company that eventually became Forum and Landmark. Scary stuff.

The Mask of Loki by Roger Zelaney and Thomas T Thomas
Pretty average scifi but then I got it out of the 'one dollar bin' so what can you expect? I don't know why Roger and Thomas felt the need to set the book in the future, it would have been less distracting to have it set in the present and they wouldn't have felt the need to occasionally (only very occasionaly) come up with an idea about what the future will be like. (I did love the last page!)

Rancid Aluminium by James Hawes
A retrenchment present from my old work mates. A pretty cool book, written almost entirely in first person with some very random thoughts. The story leaps back and forward a lot but when it all comes together near the end there is a great feeling of accomplishment. A bit like Tom Robbins but much less irritating.

Steel Beach by John Varley
A great book, sort of ties in with his other "invader" books but not entirely. He is fairly unapologetic about this. Some cool ideas.

Antigrav Edited by Philip Strick
A compilation of fairly old sci-fi short stories. Space Rats (by Harry Harrison) was the most incredible - I couldn't decide if he was a good author pretending to be crap, or a crap author doing his best.

Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins
Maybe you can only read a certain number of Robbins books in your life before they just get too annoying - Robbin's smug, pretentious views of the world don't change much from book to book. I had to force myself to finish this book to find out what was going on. Worse yet, I got to the end of the story and still didn't find out what was going on. Call me old fashioned but I like to know what's going on. Tom Robbins would probably say that's a sign of how uptight I am, or "a toad" in the parlance of this book's wearisome Robbins-channeling hero. Call me a toad then Tom, beats being a frog and a wanker.

A Life in the NZ Army by Col. Frank Rennie
This was written by my Dad's old CO in Malaya, thus many interesting stories about people who featured in Dad's stories. Well written too; Frank doesn't take it all too seriously

The Color of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, Interesting Times by Terry Pratchet
A few books from Terry Pratchets very long running and very well known series. Pretty funny though the style of humour was starting to wear thin by the fourth book. Maybe you're not supposed to read them all in a row?

The Conquest of Mexico by Hugh Thomas
An absolute tome of a book. Discusses the conquest of the Aztecs and nearby minors by the Spanish in the 1500's. Surprisingly readable.

Menzies by Alan Trengrove
A pictoral biography of Bob Menzies, the longest serving prime minister of Australia. The man who gave us the infamous referendum to make Communism illegal (he lost, bad luck Bobby) and changed the Australian flag from this to this without even worrying about all those Australians who had "fought and died" under the original one. A sympathetic study, Trengrove proclaims Menzies "the Greatest Australian PM ever".

The Island of the Colour-Blind by Oliver Sacks
A great book! Split into three sections, all about islands in Micronesia : an island called Pingelap where an amazing percentage of the population are completely colour blind (no colours at all!), the study of a unknown disease on Guam and same on Rota. All these stories are fascinating enough but Sacks is also a book-fanatic and his endnotes add an extra 70 pages to the book, makes bookmarking difficult, but worth it. Here's some more info on the book.

Life With Gough by Barry Cohen
A collection of quotes and anecdotes from and about Gough Whitlam. Prime Minister of Australia from 69 to 75 (when the Governor General sacked him). Fascinating. Whitlam is a very funny man but sheesh he must have been difficult to work with.

Chomsky For Beginners by John Maher and Judy Groves
The first half of this book, about Chomsky's theories on linguistics, went sailing over my head and left me feeling like a complete moron. The 2nd half is about social justice and international politics and is much more accessible and also (for me anyway) much more interesting.

The Greens by Bob Brown and Peter Singer
Shameless propaganda about the Greens party in Australia. I have never given the Greens more than a "2" in my votes but this book may have changed my mind, thus I guess it is good propaganda !

A Dagg at My Table by John Clark
Written by the famous Fred Dagg himself, this book is a classic. Funny? I wet meself.

A Line in The Sand by Comalco (aka Terry Ludeke)
Shameless and poorly-written propaganda by Comalco/CRA about the unions vs company goings on at Weipa in Queensland. Makes a damn good case for the need for unions while trying to present the opposite view. I used to work for these clowns so I recognise some of the rhetoric and bullshit from company memos.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 1996


A Trip to The Light Fantastic by Katie Hickman
A true story written by an English woman who spends a year living with a travelling circus in Mexico. Fantastic book! She really likes Mexico! I must find a copy of the other book she wrote.

Redemption Songs by Judith Blinney
(A Life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turiki)
A biography of Te Kooti, the prophet and general who fought the English from Te Urewera South of Whakatane for several years in the 1860's. HUGE book but very readable.

Tales of the Broken Hearted by Alan Duff
The blurb describes this book as "uncompromising", but that's shite because the first thing this book does is compromise. This new book was a far better read than ԏnce Were WarriorsԠbut it's transparently obvious that this one's written with the movie sequel in mind. Thus Jake is redeemed, he is proven to be innocent of the rape of his daughter and the rape is vaguely attributed to Uncle Bully to fit the movie. (If that's not a "compromise", what is?)
There is also another of those charming deliberate factual errors of which Mr Duff is so fond; although this one is far less important than getting the Maori Land Wars and the Treaty of Waitangi Ҳound the wrong way in Book #1 (many NZers at rec.sport.rugby might dispute that).Itӳ a subtle error this one. In a conversation with the (implausibly English-squire-like) Mr Trambert, Jake discusses the drop kick by Zinzan Brook in the 1995 World Cup final against South Africa - but the goal was actually against the English in the semi.Well spotted huh? Alan Duff should give out prizes for spotting these mistakes, then we might think he puts them in on purpose - and not just 'cos he's so fucking stupid.
Apparently my cousin Glen is in the movie, as Apeman's bodyguard. Cool huh?

Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson
A quite sympathetic view of the bike gang written in 1964 before they had even expanded out of California, let alone to their present status. Hunter S. is at his sarcastic scathing best, hanging shit on all and sundry including himself. Does his usual rant about irresponsible media.

Glimpses by Lewis Shiner
A really original idea for a novel. The hero is some sort of weird dood who can go back in time and listen to music that was never played by people like Hendrix, Morrison and The Beach Boys. Cool book and obviously written by a guy who knows his stuff (about the music not the time travelling stuff)

Talisman by Steven King and Peter Straub

The Road to Eternity by Clifford Simak
Surely the worst science fiction book ever written. Unoriginal unimaginative implausible twaddle. A 10 year old could write better science fiction. I'd seen lots of books by Mr Simak on the Sci Fi shelves before and sometimes wondered what they were like. Wonder no more - they are awful!

Lonely Planet Guide To Mexico by John Noble et al
Vital travelling companion for rookies like ourselves. Proof of Heidelberg's "the observer changes the system" theory for those who want to get a bit geeky.

Phaid The Gambler by Mick Farren
Science Fiction. Well written and some original ideas.

Evil Day by Errol Braithwaite
The last in the trilogy, set during the Waikato War in NZ in the 1860's. Pretty similar to the previous two, shows its age somewhat. (A bit of a historical slip-up at one point re the town of Mercer but hardly matters really. Certainly not in Alan Duff's league for historical inaccuracy.)

The Media and Me by Stuart Littlemore
An autobiography from the host of "Media Watch", surely the most sarcastic man on australian TV. Great show, great book... although Ray Martin has got much nicer hair!

Belgarath the Sorcerer by David Eddings
The "prequel" to the Belgariad and the Mallorean, which were series of five books each. Sort of "Sword and Sorcery" stuff, not very adventurous but amusing all the same.

Demon by John Varley
The third in the "Titan" series, and a book I'd been hunting for about the last six years. It didn't disappoint. Groovy science fiction set on a world/space station/God orbiting Saturn. Great twist at the end (as you'd hope after waiting six years to read it!

Encylopedia of Pop Culture by Jane and Michael Stern
A study of all the things that make the late 20th century weird. A lot of American stuff happening here (of course) but enough familiar stuff to make it really really interesting reading. Good preparation for Trivia night at the Homestead.

The Cunning Man by Robertson Davies
The last novel by this weirdo Canadian. A kind of a mix between mythology and mundane lives of people living in small town Hicksville.

The Paper Ark by Bill Clark
Describes itself as "an extraordinary illustrated journey to the wildlife world of the holy land". This is a cool study of all the animals which either featured in or were mentioned in the bible, koran and other "holy land" scripts. A fair historical barrage plus cool drawings and lots of theological trivia. Cool!

The Needle's Eye by Errol Braithwaite
The sequel to "The First Fish". This one's set in the Waikato during the war against the Kingites. Some of the same characters as the first book, bloody great!

The First Fish by Errol Braithwaite
A fictional story set in NZ's Taranaki land war in the 1860's. Good adventure story kind of stuff. Historically pretty good. Show's its age a bit "charmin, simple minded folk, those Maoris". But offers a few reasons behind the war too.

No Friends But The Mountains by John Bulloch and Harvey Morris
The story of the Kurds. Their history from 500AD or so. Very interesting but a bit disjointed. Possibly suffers because of the way it tries to follow what was happening to the Kurds in five different countries, with limited connections.

Evil Angels by John Bryson
The story of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain. Bloody shockin' story. The worthy journo Derryn Hinch pronounced that "Neither Lindy Chamberlain's release nor Evil Angels convinces me of her innocence." Luckily for Ms Chamberlain they don't let pig-stupid TV personalities decide court verdicts. I'm sure Derryn could use the extra money though.

"Mustn't Grumble" edited by Lois Keith
A collection of short stories, poems and other writings by disabled women. Some really really good stuff! Like the cover says, a very powerful book.

East West by Salman Rushdie
A collection of short stories from early in the Great Popular One's writing career. A bit childish I thought. I didn't like it much at all, but I probably won't kill him for it.

Out of The Shadows by Tony Healy and Paul Cropper
A study of all the "mystery" animals of Australia, like the Tassy Tiger (still alive?) and the Bunyip and the Grampians Puma and the Giant Marsupial Cat. Pretty cool, there are a lot of gullible fools out there seeing some pretty unbelievable stuff. But just maybe... (dot dot dot, pause for effect, dramatic intake of breath etc etc). I do like this sort of conspiracy theory mumbo jumbo!!

"Joh" by Hugh Lunn
The life and political adventures of Johannes Bjelke-Peterson. I suspect this book might sit slightly on the 'pro-Joh' side, but not too much. Reads a bit like a farcical comedy except it's true. Written in 1978 so it misses some of the really good stuff. Scary but awesome reading. (We'll be reading similar books called "Jeff" in 15 years time I reckon.)

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 1995


Whakaari by David McGill
I didn't realise until I was some way into the book that this was written by the same guy as the previous book. Observant ay? This is a semi-science fiction book set in NZ. Follows a part-Scots, part-Maori dood who grows up in Whakatane. Cool! Otherwise though, not that cool a book

The Kid From Matata by David McGill
A book written from a kid's point of view about growing up in (very) small town NZ. Quaint.

One Crowded Hour by Tim Bowden
The biography of Neil Davis, Australian war correspondent. Absolutely amazing story. The guy was a freak but what an amazing life!.

Maori Witchery by C. R. Browne
A fictional book set in the King Country in the 1870's when the government was trying to open the land up for the railroad. Written in 1928.

Wildcat Screaming by Mudrooroo
A book about an Aboriginal guy who gets thrown in prison. Starts off really good, swapping between the real world and this guy's daydreams. Then it turns into a really slack detective story for some reason. Maybe the author died and somebody finished writing it for him? I don't know.

Beak of the Moon by Philip Temple
Kind of like a Watership down for Keas. (Keas are a mountain parrot that lives in the South Island of NZ and are famous for their appetite for windscreen wiper rubber.) Liked the birds' eye descriptions of humans: tall birds with no wings and a silly beak.

War in the Tussock by Ormond Wilson
A mini-text-book about the last stand of the prophet Te Kooti with the Tuhoe and Ngati Tuwharetoa at Te Porere near Tongariro (Desert Rd, just North of Ruapehu). (Te Kooti lost.)

The Matriach by Ihimaera
Witi's third-to-most-recent book. Just catching up. Quite a weird book, jumps from ancient past to mythology to recent past to the present mid-sentence sometimes. Cool, but hard work.

Disorderly Conduct by Marilyn Duckworth
A NZ novel about a very ordinary woman. Quite a cool book. No bad guys, no good guys, no car chases and no moral of the story. I like that.

Race For The World by John Todd
The story of the first guy to visit every country in the world. A tale of how jolly inconvenient it is when petty countries let things like war and torture stand in the way of tourism, also details the evil of communism and the divine right of Christianity. What can you expect from a guy who poses on the front of his book in a pair of track suit pants?

The Gippsland Massacres by P.D. Gardener
A historical analysis of the Gippsland massacres that finished off the Kurnai people in the 1850's and 1860's. I went tramping through Kurnai country a couple of years ago and saw a few of their old middens so this was quite interesting, despite being extremely dry.

Pemulwuy, the Rainbow Warrior by Eric Wilmot
Very very cool historical novel based on Pemulwuy, who led the Eora tribe against the British at Sydney for 12 years. He was one scary dood, did the Rasputin thing and just would not die. Pemulwuy featured prominently in Grassby's book (see below).

The Mountains of Majipoor by Robert Silverberg
The fourth in the Majipoor series ֠and probably the worst.

The Jungle Book By Rudyard Kipling.
Cool storyteller

The World's Most Fantastic Freaks by Mike Parker.
A really shlocky trashy collection of stories about tall people, people with long noses and people with other heads growing out of their backs. Shows how many times the phrase "A distorted parody of a human being" can be used in one book (nearly) without sounding silly.

The Australasian Aluminium Smelter Technology Workshop by various wise people
Yep, I read it cover to cover. Ask me any questions. Ask me about Norwegian environmental studies, ask me about alumina, ask me about trying to stop Hayden from ripping one very boring speaker's head off

How Does Aspirin Find a Headache by David Feldman
The latest in Mr Feldman's series of books in which he answers lots of everyday questions. Sometimes badly but usually interesting anyhoo.

The Hard Disk Quick Reference by PD Moulton and Tim Stanley.
Very very very dull reading but quite useful for we poor saps who know not nearly enough of the basics to keep ourselves out of trouble.

Saga of Exiles Collection by Julian May.
Just another schlocky science fiction/ fantasy series really but with some quite cool ideas to keep it interesting. "Rivals Tolkien at his best" commented one particularly stupid reviewer on the first book.

A Night in The Gardens of Spain by Witi Ihimaera
Unlike his usual books which are generally semi-autobiographical stories about rural East Coast North Island Maori communities (Witi grew up in a East Coast North Island Maori community), this one is about a gay university lecturer in Auckland coming to terms with his marriage falling apart and what that does to his two daughters.
Witi is presently living in Auckland as a university lecturer. He has two daughters.

Shaka's Children by Stephen Taylor
A history of the Zulu people. Absolutely fascinating. Traces the history of the Zulus from the time of Shaka Zulu through the wars against the other South African tribes, the Boers and finally the English - through to the present day. Great book! Best non-fiction I've read since "The New Zealand Wars" without the benefit of being local.

Levitating Trains and Kamikaze Genes by Richard Brennan.
A kind of a "science for dummies" book. Scarily I even learnt some stuff from it. Not extremely well written, there are a lot of gaps.

Mission Earth by L Ron Hubbard.
I just had to read this book to see what the esteemed Father of Scientology wrote like. The answer: he writes like a dribbling, talentless fool. Disappointingly, there are no evil undertones and i didn't start acting funny after reading it.

Panati's Extraordinary Endings of Practically Everything and Everybody by Charles Panati.
An almost random but extremely entertaining and informative list of stories about disease, death, wills, famous people and historic miscellanea. Very good !

All The Weyrs of Pern by Anne McAffrey.
The latest in the incredibly long running series. Shallow scifi trash but I HAD to know what happened to F'lar and the rest.

Te Puea by Michael King.
A biography of Te Puea Herangi. A famous Maori leader of the Waikato tribe and specifically the King movement. Very interesting if you're into NZ history.

Whina by Michael King.
A biography of another great Maori woman. Whina Cooper of the Te Aupouri tribe in Northland. Whina died last year at the age of ninety-something. Some cool tie-ins with the "Te Puea" book.


.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 1994


Six Australian Battlefields by Al Grassby and Marji Hill.
Has some general stuff about the Aboriginal resistance in the 1800's as well as in depth study of 6 battles: The Eora tribe at Parammatta near Sydney, The Dharuk at Hawkesbury river north of Sydney, the Irish rebellion at Vinegar Hill near Sydney, the Wiranjeri at Bathurst inland NSW, the Kamilaroi just north of there, and the Kalkadoon at Mt Isa.

Hawke A biography of Bob Hawke. Written before he became PM. Pretty dull stuff.

Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff.
Yes, the one the movie was based on. I reckon the movie was better. Not as preachy and more realistic, but I've got to admit that's partly my bias against the esteemed Mr Duff. It's still worth a read. (Duff is tragically, and ironically, ill-informed about history.)

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham
Again John seems just slightly too keen for everyone's entire family to be wiped out, but this story's interesting too for the media lens. (Filched from a hostel in Southland and left at another.) wiki

Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith
Euphonic and gentle.

King Lear by Willy Shakespeare
The one Shakespeare play I really enjoyed at school (the 'vile jelly', of course), and enjoyed it again this time thru. Good while travelling.

The Royal Changeling by John Whitbourne
Interesting alternative-reality fantasy novel, partly cos King Arthur is a baddie.

Flashman & the Dragon by George MacDonald Fraser
More rogering and tally ho from the world of Flashman. wiki

The Tale of Troy by Roger Lancelyn Green
Drags together all the various stories in a fairly innocuous short book.

The World of Tolkien by Mitchell Beazley
"Mythological Sources of the Lord of the Rings". A lot of the same stuff as Ruth S Noel's book, but better, and with pictures! Some really great artwork - some recogniseable from other Tolkienalia. (Some duds too.)

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
This was meant to be a sidestep from American Gods, but ended up in deepest HarryPotterLand. It was kinda fun, but I don't think I'll be looking for the rest of the inevitable trilogy.

Harry Four by JKR
Read aloud. The first of the really 'chunky' Harrys and nowhere near as good for reading with kids. Even Max can recognise that.

Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt
Great book! A bit too prone to posit shocking conclusions for the sake of a good shock, and too often does that annoying poor-science journo thing of treating any scientific study as gospel (well, any study that says something they want to treat as gospel anyway!). Far better on this than most though, and some really interesting (and, yes, shocking) results from looking at the stats.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I came at this book from Michael Chabon in two directions: it's part of the story in Fanboy & Gothgirl, which I was interested in ever since Kavalier & Clay, and it's a modern story about the Norse gods in America, which is very Summerland. A spectacular story, especially when you realise Gaiman's predominantly a comic author. It had me running to wikipedia for all the mythic characters. I was convinced Shadow was to become the new Odin. nerd review ... wiki ...

The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
Awesome novel, even for someone like me who knows almost nothing of Jewish American culture. I lost track by the end tho, and need to go back and re-read. interview the age

Fanboy & Gothgirl by Barry Lyga
Oh. My. God.

Myths of the Norsemen by Roger Lancelyn Green
A bit prudish, which is a shame as the Norse gods bang like dunny doors (consider Loki's adventures as a horse, or Thor as the bride of the giant king...). This is a great story tho.
norse mythology ... this guy did my favourite ever pic of odin, but I can't for the life of me find a copy online!

Jonestown by Chris Masters
Way too much about Jones being gay, but a great read otherwise.

Beowulf prose version by EV Rieu
What a startlingly dull story: Monster eats scandies. Beowulf boasts endlessly. Beowulf rips off monster's arm (actually, that's the only good bit!). Monster dies. Beowulf boasts endlessly. Monster's mum eats another scandi. Beowulf kills Mum. Boasts. Gets old. Kills/is killed by a dragon. Yawn.
Kinda weirdly, the fillum came out shortly after. They did a better job with the shitty ancient story than you might have thought.

High Spirits by Robertson Davies
A Collection of Ghost Stories. Davies' love of mythology/saints comes thru.

The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay
A book about the love of books.

Five Black Ships by Napoleon Baccino Ponce de Leon
Indulging my nerdism for ancient explorers. This is a novel following Magellan's voyage in 1519 - lovely rich language and great characters! I'd read the story of Magellan and his mutinies a few times and never been all that interested by it, but 'Ponce de Leon' is a magnificent story teller.

Harry Three by JKR
Reading aloud. Bliss is reading to a kid you love.

Flashman's Lady by George MacDonadld Fraser
My first foray into the world of Flashman. It's good ! What a great way to learn history too ! wiki

Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz
'Dispatches from the unfinished civil war'. Looks at Civil War nuts in the North and the Southern states. Some harmless, nutty fruitballs - some deeply-scary racist shit, but complex, y'know. amazon

Harry Seven by JKR
The end at last. A better read than most of the chunky Harrys, with more happening in the middle bit than usual.

Transit of Venus by Julian Evans
('Travels in the Pacific') A really interesting modern (lefty) travelogue across the pacific islands. One of the best Pacific travel books I've ever read. At first glance similarities with O'Rourke's famous whinge-fest, but this is far more engaged and fascinating. amazon

Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
Good fun. uhhrrrr!

Harry Two by JKR
Read aloud. Maxine starting to really get into having to solve the mysteries.

The Invisible Man by HG Wells
poster

The Son of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
I bought this old gem solely because of the very campy cover (not the one to right, but even better!): a pic of Korak (he's the son of Tarzan!) in fetching leopardskin loincloth, poised to rescue swooning maiden from the snarling ape). But I loved this book! So much fun!!
A shot from the old Weissmuller show: uhhrrrr! ... comics

The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks
Yet more drunken, rich Scots families driving fast cars, talking about music, obsessing about clothes and lusting after cousins. A tad disappointing in the end.

Peter Pan & Wendy by JM Barrie
The novel of the play. Beautiful, beautiful ideas and language. Love the individual pirates, and the Lost Boys, and how cruel and heartless Peter is, not glossing over children's evilness. Nerdily enough, I kind of got into this via Treasure Island : Flint feared Silver ('Barbeque'). Silver feared Hook. And it turns out that Hook feared Smee!

Paradise Lost - The Novel by Joseph Lanzara (from John Milton).
A really lovely prose version... I just couldn't handle it in verse. Bloody fantastic! Appropriately pompous and strange language. Lovely illos by Gustave Doré .This was an absolutely magnificent read. I was inspired to look up occasional phrases in the poetical original, but could *never* have read the entire story thru in that form, and wouldn't have understood what was going on even if I had! wiki the war .. wiki gustave .. text of the poem ..
This is a book that will get you obsessing about ancient illustrations

Port Out Starboard Home by Michael Quinion
"the fascinating stories we tell about the words we use" (and how most of those stories are bogus!). You gotta admire how the author (fussy and superior tho he might be) doesn't let a good story get in the way of accuracy ... if the origin of a phrase is unknown, he just says so, despite that being bloody unsatisfying!

Harry One by JKR
Read this thru with my six year old. (JK's critics would say that's about the right target audience!) Fun!

Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Medievil Sherlock Holmes (He's even from Baskerville!). Some of the catholic navel gazing gets a bit wearying at times (apparently this novel is notoriously easy to abandon!), but for me there was always another dead monk to get things moving again. notes for nerds .. wikip

Dear Jack by Flip Shelton & Kate Langbroek
'Break-up letters from famous and infamous Australians.'

Dirt Music , by Tim Winton
Fantastic story.
notes .. wiki

King Arthur & the Round Table by Alice M. Hadfield
A very clean, very '50s version of the stories. As might have been told by Johnny Howard or Enid Blyton. Lancelot and Guenevere were JUST GOOD FRIENDS, okay?!
One of my favourite bits: Sir M, who was a coward and a thoroughly unworthy man, had thought himself in love with the Queen for a long time. His love was of the kidnapping and not the knightly kind, and he waited for a chance when Sir Lancelot was away. "Of the kidnapping and not the knightly kind"... lol. teaching notes

Children of the gods by Kenneth McLeish
Really great 'raw' versions of Greek myths and legends, not tidied and up and prettified for the masses. Interesting alternative versions too. Blood, gore, rape ... woo hoo. Nice illos by Elisabeth Frink. plays by the author

The Crow Road by Iain Banks
Banks in a nutshell: weird Scots family and friends wrangle with Docs, alcohol, cars and music. Great mystery and a strangely detailed delivery, obsessively describing what characters are wearing or listening to. Second time through. Ended up donating this spare copy to bookcrossing.com. author's website .. article about Banks

The Sword in the Stone by TH White
King Arty's childhood - the 1930s version that became the Disney film. Some wickedly clever, funny parts. wikipedia

Unintelligent Design by Robyn Williams
An ABC science journo on why I.D. is bollocks. Not particularly enlightening and sometimes kinda annoying. Very much preaching to the converted: if you're one of those that buy into I.D., this book won't change your mind. If you're *interested* in I.D., this book won't help you understand what it's about. wikipedia

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I haven't read this for a long time - had forgotten quite how great a book it is. (Tho that business with the crippled left arm seems as unlikely now as it did when I was at school.) chapter notes

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Second time through. amazon .. author's website .. notes .. wikipedia

Robin Hood retold by JW McSpadden
Many comely young yeomen clad in Lincoln Green prance through the woodlands loosing their shafts truly. Sadly, the illustrations in this version aren't the full-colour ones I remember from an edition of this that we had as kids, but they're funny enough even in black and white. You can see where Errol Flynn got his motivation. (The fox version was *so* much cooler!) full text

Inversions by Iain M Banks
Brilliantly subversive Culture novel. (You have to know the Culture before you realise it's Culture.) wiki (spoiler)

Inferno by Dante
I managed to find (yay for eBay) a translation with notes by the same writer as Purgatory, the matronly Mrs Dorothy L Sayers. Fantastic story, even tho Peter Standford had given away the ending. which level of hell will YOU end up on? .. cool diagram of Hell .. danteworlds .. flash

The Bible by Moses et al
(stalled at Jeremiah ...) On the same basis as reading The Odyssey/Iliad and those old Grail stories, partly I just wanted to see where all the stories/sayings/cultural refs come from. And a lot of these insane stories, scarily, are still relevant now (the mark of Cain, the Caananites...).
I'm up to: Jeremiah (the story continues to stall, while God justifies exile)
Other thoughts along the way:
Isaiah (one man's rambling predictions of smitings to come. Oh, also the messiah's announcement which was to cause SO much trouble later on). 33.23 appeals to my puerile sense of humour. 43.6 is quoted by Dubwize in one of my favourite reggae songs.
Proverbs: Solomon, get over her!
Psalms goes on and on, but #44 is my favourite... cop that whinging! Slightly ahead of #137, think BIG HAIR and flares).
The Kings and the Chronicles: You smite them and You smite them, but the moment You turn Your back, they're sacrificing their kiddies to Baal and worshipping golden cows again.
King David was naughty! (And a shirt lifter!)
Genesis: As someone famous once said "God, God is a shit!"

archie & mehitabel by Don Marquis
Collection of poems and writings from a cockroach and a cat. Very fun very cute. Archie's full of wise, useful sayings: "don't cuss the climate it probably doesn't like you any better than you like it ...". donmarquis.com

The Runestaff by Michael Moorcock
Trash fantasy. I used to read a bit of Moorcock's "Elric" series at uni, as an alternative to learning anything about physics. Moorcock's a shit writer, but Elric was an interesting antihero - albino, sickly, a bit gothic. Dorian Hawkmoon (star of this bit of rubbish), on the other hand, is just a dil with a big sword.

The Devil - a Biography by Peter Standford
Not incredibly well written, but this is a really fascinating book! It gave away the climax of Dante's Inferno (and WHAT a surprise - I have not been so impressed, nor so frustrated at not having discovered something properly, since a mate telling me that Darth Vader was Luke's Dad.) Lots too about Paradise Lost which made me want to read that, and classical myths, apocryphal gear omitted from the bible, nut-bag "voices in their heads" saints, witch-hunts ancient and modern, and loopdeloops through the ages. Also ideas thru the ages of the old testament God in fact being the devil, which having recently read Genesis-Exodus, makes some sense!

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
I love the idea of serialised novels. Scotland St is serial extreme, with daily instalments. I reckon it shows tho. The characters are cardboard cut-outs, and all viewed from the perspective of a fussy old-timer (which is perhaps why Mma Ramotswe rings so true?!). And the story itself is pretty underwhelming.

Other Temples Other Gods; The Occult in Australia by Nevill Drury & Gregory Tillet
Non fiction 1980 book with some really great images of occult artwork (old and new) as well as Ma and Pa Kettle types in (and out of!) their wizarding robes. The late 70s photos help make it all even better! Astrology, wicca, wizards, Satanists, 'The' church and some loopy churches, new agers ... oh, and Lemurians again!

Prester John by John Buchanan
Prester John has always fascinated me and I love these old rollicking chap-lit type books. This one didn't disappoint, with gobsmacking racism throughout (well, it was written in 1901) and a hilarious prig of a hero. The author, John Buchan, ended up Governor General of Canada, which is pretty hilarious when you look at his writing here and consider what current GGs can get in trouble for! wiki on the author .. wiki on Prester John

Summerland by Michael Chabon
Good fun. Not the beautiful language of Kavalier & Clay - more easily-digestible like (eek!) Stephen King or JK Rowling. (I was sick and bed-rid, so ploughed thru it pretty fast.) Really nice mythology - American Indian, Anglo Indian and some nice scatterings of Scandy too. Features 'Coyote', who I always loved, and makes him (aka Loki, another of my favourites) a believable, quite likeable, fairly evil, appropriately fallible kind of god. (Maui would have been another alias to add to his CV, I thought.) Coyote .. Loki .. amazon

Tales of the Greek Heroes by John Walsh
Nice little book. Written for older kids, in the 40s. All the biggies are here (Theseus, Jaaason, Herk) along with some good stuff from The Iliad and Odyssey.

The Literary Companion edited by Emma Jones
Lots of literary titbits. Some pretty cool, some a bit dumb.

The Way to Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa
Two stories: Paul Gauguin (in France and in Tahiti, and mad), and his grandmother an (also mad) socialist activist in Peru and France. The story flips between Paul and Grandma, and back and forward in time for Granny between France and Peru, and in tone between third person and ... "addressing" the characters. "Paul walked thru the door, but you knew what lay beyond, didn't you Paul". But it all works okay. Translated from Spanish. wiki

Harry VI
Second time through - a bit of an antidote to the tortuous Llosa, popcorn for the brain. The last Harry comes out this year and these books are so ... easily digested ... that I couldn't remember what had happened in number six.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
Second time through. Banks' *fantastic* first novel.
wiki

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2006

Purgatory by Dante
A bit of a go at some ancient poetry, helped thru my anti-poetry forcefield by copious nerdy footnotes. I love the trainspotter Catholic stuff - how many years does it take to purge specific sins, who ends up on which level, etc. So nerdy, but fun. Might have a go at Inferno after this. wiki

Ubik by Philip K. Dick
Great story. Pulp characters. Really winds up in the second half.

The Lost Civilization of Lemuria by Frank Joseph
'The Rise and Fall of the World's Oldest Culture'. There's some nice stuff about Pacific archaeology in here, but always thru the filter of hardcore flakiness. The usual reincarnations and dodgy science abound. My favourite quote so far is Frank when quoting from a source who got his information via trances "Doubtless, including the trance-state utterances of a psychic will only drive sceptics further and faster away from any consideration of the subject. But no amount of unimpeachable evidence can ever win over such closed minds." Funny.
Perhaps because he hasn't travelled the Pacific like Mark Williams, the book is riddled with errors minor and major. flaky review .. flaky review #2 .. the author's amazon reviews

Lord of the Flies by Golding
Second or third time through. This really is a great story! I love the imagery and the iconic characters (Jack, sooo wild), Ralph (soo charismatic, sooo torn), Simon (so dreamy, sooo desperately GOOD)... but it works well as a story too. The conversations are really plausible considering the age of the kids. Even the horde of nameless littluns are convincing.

Atoll by Colin D. Peel
Rather magnificent little pulp adventure set around Moruroa Atoll in French Polynesia, complete with ruggedly handsome heroes, winsome/doomed girlfriends and dastardly French agents. Mon dieu! Ce'est merde! Apparently Colin writes one of these per year - that must be fun!

The Collector Collector by Tibor Fischer
Similar to Tom Robbins in just a few too many ways, which is a shame, because this came damn close to being a favourite novel ever. Some really nice language and lots of great stories... but in the end it was like one of those people who are so desperate to talk about themselves they won't shut up. Ah well, it's still a great read. wikipedia .. amazon

White Fang by Jack London
Comes and goes .. trying to speak from the wolf's perspective gets a bit silly sometimes. Weedon Scott is a selfrighteous prig of Biggles proportions. wikipedia

The Secret River by Kate Grenville
Historican novel set around the Sydney convict settlement. There's some slightly silly debate raging through the leather-armpatched brigade about whether this novel redefines or destroys history as storytelling. Get ya hand off it. article .. authors' website (delightfully daggy)

The Iliad by Homer (not Simpson, the other Homer)
A mythological Who Weekly, complete with convoluted sentences and squabbling gods. Fantastically, lovingly gory! ('His eyes popped out and rolled at his feet'...) wikipedia .. who's who

Tristan in Brittany by Thomas the Englishman
The amusingly tragic tale of Tristan and Iseult. Pieced together from various sources, some poetical (I survived, but barely). wikipedia

Lone Star Ranger by Zane Grey
Late 19th-century western by the bloke who wrote the book (and talked to fair dinkum Texan outlaws 'n' rangers, so he's got some cred). Apparently this book was the inspiration for the Lone Ranger, who was my very first superhero, and the first comic I ever bought, so I have affection for the masked chap. wikipedia

Newton's Wake by Ken Macleod
One of the cleverest scifis I've read in a while. Ian Banks liked it. (And was generous enough not to mind the borrowings?)

Zorro by Allende
Allende struggles a bit with Zorro - too much of a clown for her writing style? Bernardo is done nicely though. wikipedia .. amazon

Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake
Lacks the magnificent castle itself, but the introduction of a bit of modernity helps (Muzzle's car is great!). Slightly less convoluted writing style perhaps the result of someone else finishing it off. mervynpeake.org .. wikipedia

The Time Traveller by HG Wells
Good story despite the painfully transparent social morale. The ending is nice and open; apparently someone else wrote a sequel, which would be worth finding.

Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith
Second in the series. So nice.

Dead Sexy by Cathy Lette
Lette is a poster-child for 'chick lit'. Sorry, for me this was just endless one-liners and a fairly lame plot. Maybe it's just that I'm a male pig?

The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
Nice, readable fantasy. King in his storytelling mode is really great fun. amazon

The Quest of the Holy Grail by someone or other in the 13th century
Really nice mix of Biblical and Celtic mythology along with an obsession with virginity. Gawain, poor dear, dim Gawain, was easily my favourite. (Galahad needs to get himself laid.)

Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne
One of the first scifis. Harry the perpetual whinger needs a good bop in the nose.

How it Works: the Motor Car A Ladybird Book
The main reason for reading this was the illustrations of well-dressed young men in cardies and neatly parted hair. But frighteningly enough I ended up learning a couple of things!

Conan by Robert E Howard
The first collection of Conan stories. Marvelous trash. As his editor points out, he may have shortcomings as a writer but he's an adequate storyteller. Lots of flexing of mighty thews - and even the appearance of a few Lemurians! wikipedia

The World Atlas of Mysteries by Francis Hitching
UFOs, magnetic anomolies, missing links, megaliths.... amazon .. wikipedia .. Hitching on creationism

The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Run, Johnny, Run by Mungo MacCallum
"The Story of the 2004 Election". Not even pretending to be unbiased. Some really funny stuff! (Some really edgy stuff too - "could he please explain the precise nature of his relationship with Barbara Williams?") review

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
Even better than the first part of the trilogy. The crumbling castle and it's crumbling occupants continue their dark complicated rituals... I love this book. It think it might just be my new most-favourite novel ever!
The day after I finished reading this book I stumbled across the third in the series in a wee 2nd-hand bookshop. Karma baby. amazon .. mervynpeake.org

1984 by George Orwell
Second time through but I haven't read this for YEARS either. Ruder than I remembered and generally a lot deeper and more enjoyable than when I read it as a kid. Concepts such as doublethink, oldthink, bellyfeel are very funny when you think of them in context of corporate culture!
amazon

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Second or third time through but I haven't read this for YEARS. If I had been a member of the Wyndham family, I would have been a little concerned by how eager Johnny seemed about the idea of losing everybody. amazon

South Seas Myths & Legends by Donald A. MacKenzie
Second time thru this 1930s ramble. Some of the (rather painfully constructed) links to "classical" Euro/middle-Eastern mythology are cool, along with crazy, crazy theories. A bit of googling reveals that Donald A. MacKenzie was published in Babylonian mythology too.

LA Confidential by James Ellroy
A distracting way to tell a story - full of violent staccato and 1950s cop jargon. Once you get into it, though, it's hard to put down, and once the plot starts to reveal itself, it's GOLD. I'm not convinced I like the end itself though ... a little dis-satisfying to virtually introduce an entire subplot to solve the case, rather like 'it was aaaall a dream'!. amazon

Ten Little Niggers by Agatha Christie
Errol said:
'This is quite fun!' amazon

Magical Thinking by Augusten Burrows
More stories of drugs, debachery and the advertising industry. Not up to his previous standard - Feels like he's stretching for material too often. "How about escalators, huh..." amazon

Kon-Tiki & I by Erik Hesselberg
A cute large-format illustrated diary by one of Thor Heyerdahl's sailing companions. Cool illos. amazon

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
For obvious reasons. amazon

Oceanic Mythology by Roslyn Poignant
A great collection of Polynesian, Melanesian, Micronesian and Australian mythology - lovin' the Polynesian stuff: the slightly different takes on familiar tales (Hina, Maui, Tangaloa) in different islands are fantastic. This is one of the few books I've read that actually looks at the differences between the myths as well as the similarities. Also really strong on themes in Melanesian and Micronesian myths - oft ('oft'?) ignored in favour of the 'tidier' Polynesians. Some great pics of old carvings too. Sad. amazon

Lion Boy by Zizou Corder
An older kids' book but good fun. King Boris' best quote: "Do I look like the kind of king who would hand stowaway Lions over to a railway funtionary? You insult me.". amazon

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
A book I bought largely on the basis of the trick worn-out-looking cover (not the one on amazon) but turned out to be great! Almost inspired me to read Jane Eyre, except that I've so recently waded through Pride & Pontification and am slightly over ancient chick lit. for the time being. amazon

The Curse of Lono by Hunter S. Thompson
Gonzo travels in Hawai'i, plus tales of Cpt Cook and Hawai'ian mythology. Wonderful illustrations by Ralph Steadman. amazon

A Man's Got to Have a Hobby by William McInnes
Stories from McInnes' childhood. He's a great storyteller. His Dad reminds me of my Dad.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2005

In Search of Lemuria by Mark R Williams
Wonderful crackpottery! "The lost Pacific Continent in legend, myth and imagination". There's some fantastic stuff in here! The author strikes an interesting balance somewhere between being open minded and willing to consider anything, and just a little TOO open minded. Some of the facts get a little bent in order to support the Lemurians. The book appealed not only to my love of mythology but to my fondness for conspiracy theories, new-age claptrap and fascination with the old European myths of the southern land - or even better, Lemuria/Mu - and the crazy reasons Europeans came up with to explain how Polynesians had achieved such superior feats of navigation.
Hilarion is hilarious. amazon .. Hilarion

Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Actually I only got a third of the way through - the rest will have to wait til another time. Slightly more complex than it appears at first glance, Holmes is something of a pompous git, tho he does appear to have superhuman strength (that poker!).

The Tree Where Man Was Born by Peter Matthiessen
"The" Africa book.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austin
A vaguely interesting story told in language so painfully polite that it's almost a foreign language. Amiable.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Great story! A little 'naive'. author's website

David Lange My Life by David Lange

Weapons of Choice by John Birmingham
Nothing like his other stuff, apart from a very few flashes of humour, but surprisingly readable. Appropriately, I bought it at the airport (and it saw me through two four-hour flights).

Day of the Giants by Lester del Ray
I can't believe I read this pap again! But having just read up on Norse mythology it was a lot more enjoyable, especially seeing del Rey's interpretations: Thor's seriousness, Heimdallr's foppishness.

The People's Lawyer by Phillip Ells
A Brit lawyer's stories from Tuvalu. Kinda similar to Sex Lives of Cannibals in a lot of ways - probably not quite as funny and a little more loving in its humour. More serious stuff too, and well done.

The Magical World of the Lord of the Rings by David Colbert
"The Amazing Myths, Legends and Facts Behind the Masterpeice." Some interesting stuff about the mythical origins of the LoTR but pretty lame and gee-whizz overall. A pale shadow of Ruth S Noel's book. Strictly for newcomers: those who saw the film first.

An Introduction to Viking Mythology by John Grant
In the same series as Bellingham's Greek myths but more irreverent and (after starting a little badly with an annoying Who's Who) a lot more fun reading. Some good images.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
I think this might possibly be my favourite novel ever! amazon .. reading notes! .. wikipedia .. chabon fansite

Myths & Legends of Fiji & Rotuma by AW Reed & Inez Hames
Some good stories, great for reading to loved ones.

Biggles in the Jungle by Capt. WE Johns
Biggles stared, and saw a man in white ducks sitting next to [Algy]. "Great Scott!" he ejaculated for Ginger's benefit, "it's Carruthers".

Kokopu Dreams by Chris Baker
NZ's very own version of "The Stand". Great mythology; great story!

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Nice. One of the few books I've read where I found myself wondering whether I liked the bloke ... why is that important? (I decided that Holden is a nice guy deep down, despite the superiority complex.)

An Introduction to Greek Mythology by David Bellingham
Great, illustrated copy with nice, short explanations of the artwork and a consistent approach to the stories themselves. Right into the comprehensive family tree so ends up skipping a lot of interesting stories for the detail.

They Wanted to Rule the World by CV Portus
Studies of Six Dictators [Alexander the G, Julius C, Charlemagne, Ghenghis K, Charles V, Napoleon] and Other Essays. A bit light-on as far as what they did and too much pontificating about their far-reaching influence and whether they meant that to happen. Finishes with some silly alternative history business. Writing from a mid-40s perspective the most interesting thing about the book.

The Greek Gods by Evslin, Evslin & Hoopes
The same copy of the same book I read in primary school - the one that got me hooked on mythology. Short and sweet.

The Odyssey by Homer via EH and DCH Rieu
A very readable prose version. Nice to see the original home of some of these old stories. The wordy bits that are retained from ancient Homer are some of the most interesting aspects. (And "rosy fingered dawn" always makes me giggle.)

Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick
Fascinating old-fashioned sci-fi set in a world where the axis won WW2. Implications of Japanese and German rule, and a focus on race, are really clever.

Harry Six by JK Rowling
She could get to the point soooner, don't you reckon?

A Certain Chemistry by Mil Millington
Very clever. 'Every time you make friends with a publisher, a pixie dies.'

Off One's Tits by John Birmingham
"Ill-Considered Rants and Raves from a Graceless Oaf Named ..." Collected (or lumpen) writings from Australia's (self-proclaimed?) gonzo journo. A master of the Rant. pap description

A Son of the Circus by John Irving
A tale of inappropriate sex and midgets, as usual.

Three Dollars by Elliot Perlman
Magic. Sad, but lovely writing.

Conversations in Cabs by James McClelland
Short articles on politics and life from the Sydney Morning Herald in the early 90s.

Man or Mango: A lament By Lucy Ellman
Alternating points of view from two fucked-up ex lovers. Nice.

Margaret Mead & Samoa by Derek Freeman
"The making and unmaking of an anthropological myth". Really well researched with ten times the credence of Mags on matters fa'aSamoan, but a fraction of the interest factor. Sex sells, yeah, but so does good writing.

Gilden Fire by Stephen Donaldson
Excised from the interminable trilogy (for good reason).

Players by Tony Wilson
Any resemblance between characters appearing in this novel ...

Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
Kiribati travelogue. Very funny.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The tedium. The tedium.

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail
A beautiful story about beautiful stories.

God Under Howard by Marion Maddox.
"The rise of the religious right in Australian politics". Quite good, although it does slip into fairly irrelevant (even contradictory) criticism sometimes.

Journey to Nowhere by Keith Quinn
The story of John Mitchell's All Black "journey", RWC 2003.

The Treaty by Marcia Stenson
"Every NZer's Guide to the Treaty of Waitangi"

A Land of Two Halves by Joe Bennett
NZ/hitch-hiking travelogue. Bennett plays the likeable misanthrope.

Day of the Jackal by Fredrick Forsyth
Oh, this is pretty bad! The kind of book a teenager might write if they'd spent too long reading Soldier of Fortune magazines. "Half a million pounds" (gasp! sacr顢leue!) is very Doctor Evil.

Two Worlds by Ann Salmond
The story of the first meetings between Europeans and Maori in NZ, with interesting info about Europe of the time, with all its superstitions and other parallels to the Maori. Perhaps a little long. Great images.

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
Gothic .. hard work sometimes, but beautiful.
Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls. They sprawled over the sloping arch, each one half way over its neighbour until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock. These dwellings, by ancient law, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them. Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.

The Old Man & The Sea by E Hemingway.
Still amazing.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2004

Being Dead by Jim Grace
Ok.

A Fortunate Life by AB Facey
Not great writing, but a riveting story.

Dopeland by John Birmingham
Hilarious.

From Maui to Cook by David Lewis
'The Discovery and Settlement of the Pacific' pre- and post-European discovery. A fairly simple introduction. (Second time through - this is the book that got me hooked on Polynesian navigation.)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Stunningly good.

The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook (Extended Version) by Ian Brodie
The writing doesn't exactly inspire, but this is a great book for LoTR geeks and NZ fans. Some really excellent images of both locations, filming and shots from the film (a bloody coup persuading Jackson and Newline!) and great explanations of how to find the locations. This book made me invent the word "nerdtastic".

In Search of Moby Dick by Tim Severin
Travelogue tracing Herman Melville's Moby Dick across the Pacific. The mad Tongan priest/ex-whaler was my high point.

The Business by Iain Banks
Second time through. Enjoyed it even more this time. Perhaps alerted by Banks' whiskey book to watch for puns, cars, gadgets, wealth...

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
The first in Rice's Vampire series. Not enough to make me want to look any further, though I can understand why some would like them. Language and conversations just a bit too bloody intricate and painful for me... Thomas Covenant with fangs. There's some nice stuff though it only really gets going in Paris.

Dry by Augusten Burroughs
Less flippant and more powerful than his first. Still hilarious, still scary.

The Culture of Middle Earth by F MacDonald Kells
This is seriously "geek's only" stuff: "Everyday life in Tolkien's World". At its best, cleverly and gently pokes fun at JRRT's writing on the sly: eg, there are very few women in any race, nobody ever needs to go to the toilet.

The Salterton Trilogy by Robertson Davies
Second time through. One of his best ('cept the third in the trilogy, which drags).

The Riddle & the Knight by Giles Milton
Magnificent. The story of Sir John Mandeville, the world's first travel writer, and whether he falsified the story. A centuries-old manuscript assessment!

Young Nick's Head by Karen Hesse
Fictional journal of The Endeavour's ship's boy, Nick Young. Based on Cook/Banks' ocassional mentions of the lad, with imagination filling in the gaps. Works really well.

Cruel Enchantment by Janine Ashless
Ooer short stories.

Harry V by JKR
Second time through.

The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket
Very funny faux-biography with pasted in-photos and other cutesies for book geeks like me. author website .. < Helquist illos

Bullshit, Backlash & Bleeding Hearts by David Slack
Not just a funny title - a really excellent look at Treaty and race issues in NZ. Claims to be unbiased but a lot of NZers would probably say it comes down on the bleeding-heart-lefty side of the argument. (However since that's where I sit, it works for me.)

Biggles & the Black Peril by Capt. WE Johns
Oh by Joves, this is splendid stuff old chap!

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
Nth time through.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
Off and on, but mostly very good.

The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies
Third time through. A great storyteller tho' these (particularly #1) are some of the more old-fashioned of his novels (fitting the narrator).

Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson
Beautiful.

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
Despite a luke-warm start (a bit too keen to show off the author's clever research) I came 'round to this wee thriller and ended up unable to put the bloody thing down. I loved being led up the wrong path so cleverly, and I'm a sucker for short chapters.

Dark Victory by David Marr & Marian Wilkinson
Australia's noble ongoing fight against refugees and children. John Howard, you are are a nasty little shit of a man.

Faster by James Gleick
A collection of articles about time and hurrying? Had to give up on it eventually.

A Historian's Apprenticeship by Manning Clark
The story behind the writing of Australia's definitive history. Surprisingly interesting. Really!

So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson
A Year of Passionate Reading. Very inspiring. "Call me Ismael..." is a lovely start.

Raw Spirits by Iain Banks
"In search of the perfect dram". Part travelogue, part whiskeylogue, part rambling biography. An insight into the characters in Banks' non-scifi: wealthy, pop-culture fiends, hard-drinking, hopeless tech adicts, gamers, v close group of friends...

Museum of Hoaxes by Alex Boese (Curator)
Great book for a short attention span.

Schott's Original Miscellany by Ben Schott
A book lovers' book. Why actually 'yes', Dr Johnson, I did read it through.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The cad!

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
So funny it's hard (and kinda frightening) to believe it's true.

The Clash of Fundamentalisms by Tariq Ali
Wonderful history of Islam, Europe, the ME, US policy, Israel ... Dribbles off into incoherency in a couple of chapters (and assumes the reader is far cleverer than me in many others!) but overall a great read.

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Funny! Brilliant!

Trafficking in Old Books by Anthony Marshall
Collection of stories about running a second-hand bookshop.

Recollections of a Bleeding Heart by Don Watson
Memoirs of Keating's speechwriter. Way too long.

Trial of the Cannibal Dog by Anne Salmon
Magnificent combination of history and anthropology to make sense of 18th century Euro/Pacific encounters from both ends of the musket/taiaha. Brilliant! Finally, a treatment of the importance of Tupaia's story worthy of someone who was probably one of the greatest navigator/priest/diplomats in the Pacific at that time. Tales of NZ tribes remembering Tupaia, not Cook, when Jimbo revisited a few years later, reinforce T's mana. They thought Cook was Tupaia's lacky!

Eats Roots & Leaves by Lynn Truss
Bloody funny.

Death Sentence by Don Watson
Rant about the death of English via managementspeak. Strangely frustrating book - not enough structure and not enough explanation sometimes but other times spot on. I wanted more explanation ("but why is that bad") rather than the stream of consciousness. Maybe could have been shorter?

Rough Guide to Lord of the Rings
Good, fairly light-on combination of cutesy info about the book(s), the author, the places, the film(s)...

Overtime by Tom Holt
Very funny (Douglas-Adams-esque) sci-fi fiction

A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away by Christopher Brookmyre
Fantastic Scots novel - a little bit Iain Banks (mayhap too much?) and a little bit Ben Elton (ditto). Disposable characters at the book's beginning throw everything else into confusion - "But he's not following the rules!" I cried.

The Silmarillion by JRRT
Billionth time through but first for many years. Not particularly well written but a classic nevertheless for the story of the world behind the LoTR.

The Hobbit by JRR
So much - SO much - more fun to read than the LoTR. Actually a wonderfully-written book, for adults as well as kids.

A Series of Unfortunate Events 1,2,3 by Lemony Snicket
Hilarious writing (although the constantly-repeating plot might wear thin by book 12?) Spectacularly good illustrations by Brett Helquist.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2003

A Short History of Everything by Bill Bryson
Brilliant.

Day of the Giants by Lester del Ray
Trash sci-fi/fantasy that manages to combine Norse mythology with zombies and nuclear weapons. (Yep! Really!)

A History of the World in 10 Chapters by Julian Barnes
Great collection of stories/essays nebulously linked (in a way that makes you think the author is terribly clever even if the reader can't see any links). Clever.

My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
Ho ho old chap. Brilliant!

Oscar & Lucinda by Peter Carey
Hard work.

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
Magnificent book. Wonderful mastery of the language of the insane.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Third time through and (I think) the first time I've felt like I 'got' the strings theory.

Matthew Flinders' Cat by Bryce Courtney
Well researched but woefully written airport-bookshop novel. One scene (it's the one with four inmates talking in their room at the AA hostel, if you're interested) wins my all-time "implausible conversation" prize.

The Crocodile Club by Kaz Cooke
Off-and-on Australian comic novel.

Dead-Eye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut
Hilarious.

Season of the Jew by Maurice Shadbolt
Third time through. One of my favourite NZ novels, set in the East Coast in the time of Te Kooti and the last of the NZ wars. Beautiful staccato use of English.

The Greenstone Door by William Satchell
Great old NZ-wars novel from the 1910s. Dramatic entrances, women swooning - it's all right here.

The Island of Lost Maps by Miles Harvey
"A True Story of Cartographic Crime". A bit too try-hard in spots, but a book by map geeks for map geeks and about map geeks is hard to pass up. Fascinating and extremely well researched. In equal parts the story of "the crime" (and the crook), mapping ancient and modern and Harvey's own obsession with the story.

McCarthy's Bar by Pete McCarthy
Fantastic Irish travel book (I could have done without the "who am I" angst but at least he acknowledges he's being a wanker).

Stupid White Men by Michael Moore
An interesting, inspiring read (no doubt partly because Moore doesn't let exact science or the exact truth get in the way of a good story).

Artemis Fowl 1, 2 and 3 by Eoin Colfer
Great fun.

One for the Road by Tony Horwitz
Good fun Australian hitch-hiking tale from the 70s. Onya Tone.

Bachelor Kisses by Nick Earle
Very funny, very clever Aust novel with a medical bent.

The Battle for the North Island of NZ by Peter Maxwell
Covers the wars of the 1860s. Very readable and well researched. I liked the lot *except* for the bizarre attacks on "the Professor" (Belich) - a few too many bees in the old bonnet and too much time devoted to justifying their buzz. Still, amateur historians are some of my favourite people, and I LOVE this guy's passion.

Captain Cook by Vanessa Collingridge
Interesting life story of the Yorkshireman, with the author's great grandpappy thrown in to diferentiate it from a million other Cook books. I found a massive foli-sized book of grandpappy's maps later, after reading this, that brought out the nerd in me in SO many ways!

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
Getting into this kiddie fiction gig. I read this as a kid too.

Wizard of Earthsea (I-IV) by Ursula LeGuin
Thought I'd give another kiddie fiction book a go. I read this as a kid meself and enjoyed it. Good the second time through too, though taking itself all a little too seriously. Book IV becomes hilariously feminist.

Harry V by JK Rowling
Still great. Good on ya JK.

Unknown Lands by Fran谩s Bellec
("Log Books of the Great Explorers") Large-format illustrated history of European exploration. Magnificent colour images and old maps tho' rather poorly written.

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Very clever writer. Very funny and, surprisingly, one of the better 'potted histories' of Australia I've read.

No Shitting in the Toilet by Peter Moore
Backpackers' humour. Funny stuff but could have been a third shorter.

Harry Potter III and IV by JK Rowling
Second time through.

Kidnapped by RLS
Many a mickle makes a muckle.

The Tournament by John Clarke
Very peculiar. (And makes one feel very poorly read.)

The Searchers by Alan Le May
You wouldn't get away with hanging poo on noble Amerindians like that these days.

Lime Bar by Matt Condon
Magnificent Sydneysider fiction with an healthy respect for the perfect G&T (and the man who serves it).

A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain
Travel and food (and belligerance, and diatribes, and humour...).

Where's Waari edited by Witi Ihimaera
Great compilation - even the stories you don't enjoy tell part of the story.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtney
Surprisingly good for a rah-rah book.

Hitch-hikers' Guide by Douglas Adams
Nth time through. Still ace.

All the Weyrs of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
Ho hum. Brain to 'off'.

Dogside Story by Patricia Grace
A bit up and down - starts with a hiss and a roar, then struggles around halftime, but gripping by the end.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2002


The Real Muldoon by Spiro Zavos
Very fair biography from way back when Piggy was still in power.

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
Did it?

Are you Dave Gorman? by Dave Gorman & Danny Wallace
Hilarious!

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 Ii 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 !

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2001


White Mischief by James Fox
Tragic old fart (Lord Braughton) kills playboy (Lord Erroll) and gets away with it. Like something out of Cluedo except it really happened. The book is a surpisingly good study of the murder of Josslyn Hay (Lord Erroll - thus the interest: ko Hay tetahi o oku iwi) in Kenya in 1941. Lords and ladies living it up in the colonies - riveting stuff. No really it is. Honest!.

Australia: A Biography of a Nation by Phillip Knightley
A bit erratic in places (much like anyone's bio' I guess?) but comes up with some surprising facts and histories and has some good theories about what makes Australian's Australian (including the bad stuff - the origin of good ol' fashioned Aussie racism for example).

The Silent Gods - Mysteries of Easter Island by Catherine and Michel Orliac
Part of the New Horizons series. Surprisingly good - with some great historical images and text.

The Constellations by James Finney Boyton
Wonderful, rich, magical novel.

The Age of Kali by William Dalrymple
Stories of the Indian subcontinent. Magnificent.

Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
Good escapism swords-n-sorcery made just a wee bit trippy by the hint of D&D game rules in the background.

First & Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson
As annoying now as the first time through. Lovely language but does everyone have to be such a basket case?

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
(Nth time through.) Thought I'd better read it again before the film came out. Great, yes, but the film is better! Go Ben. Go Warren.

Cannibals & Converts by Maretu
Contemporary account of missionaries in the Cook Islands.

Cook Islands Politics by Ron Crocombe et al
Surprisingly interesting 1970s political essays from the Cook Islands.

A Boy & His Uncle by Anne Kennedy NZ novel. Some really nice writing.

Black Ivory by Clint Rockman
Surely that's not his real name? "Clint Rockman"? No way! (Let's face it, would you put your real name on a book like this?)

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
No worse than any other Fleming book.

The Hounds of Tindalos by Frank Belknap Long
Forgettable.

Survivalist No 7: The Prophet by Jerry Ahern
Hilariously bad, post-apocalyspe trash.

Frontier: The Battle for the North Island of New Zealand by Peter Maxwell
A good, in fact surprisingly good, history of the NZ Wars (1860s only) by an amateur historian with an unfortunate bee in his bonnet about James Belich.

Pre-Tasman Explorers by Ross Wiseman
Pre-Tasman (European) discoverers of NZ. Staring with the Spanish and the Portuguese (some tenuous evidence and speculation used to construct the most fantastic theories) then just gets better and better - Sinbad the Sailor. Whoo hooo! Barking mad.

Tarawera & the Terraces by Philip Andrews
The story of the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera and the destruction of the Pink and White Terraces. Some good old photos of the terraces and the area before and after - including one by Great Grandpa Cromwell.

Cook Island Legends Retold by Jon Jonassen
Kinda lame Cook Island myths and legends.

Signals of Distress by Jim Crace
Fantastic, rich novel. Everyone knows an Aymer Smith.

Legends from the Atolls by Kauraka Kauraka
Myths and legends from Rakahanga and Manihiki in the northern Cook Islands.

Guide to Staying Alive in New Zealand by Gary McKormick
Stop Press: Aging Hippy Claims That Things These Days Just Ain't What They Used To Be.
Takes itself more seriously than other McKormick books I've read but still presented in the same wacky format.

The Riders by Tim Winton
Magnificent!

After Z Hour by Elizabeth Knox
A Kiwi novel. Gripping but tiring. Are there really people out there who have conversations like this?

Cook Islands Companion by Eliot Smith
A self-published guidebook. Good on history and the general "feel" of the place; chatty and easy to follow too.

Polynesian Navigation edited by Jack Golson
(A symposium on Andrew Sharp's Theory of Accidental Voyages.) Six experts in various fields comment on Sharp's "it's all bullshit" theory. For die-hard Polynesian voyaging geeks only (that's me - I loved it!). If only Tupaia had lived!

Moko by HG Robley
(The Art & History of Maori Tattooing). First published in 1896, the author freely admits that his writing ain't up to much but justifies the book by saying it's a vessel for his illustrations. The sad thing is - his illustrations are crap.

Erewhon by Samuel Butler
A hundred-year-old fantasy set in inland South Island. Tiresome.

John Williams by Cecil Northcott
Fawning bio of the famous South Pacific missionary. Cecil doesn't even pretend to be unbiased about the chubby old Rev Johnny but by the end of the book the religious rants just get silly.

Land of Mists by Garry Kilworth
The third in the series (I missed the second but no great loss). The tale of 'Roof of Voyaging' continues - the characters have aged slightly but the author's lack of talent remains. Still, worth persevering with if you're a Pacific junky to see how various Pacific myths are woven in.

legends of the South Seas by Antony Alpers
A collection of Pacific island myths that tries to take a 'Pacific view' rather than reinterpreting the stories through Christian/European eyes. Lots of research involved in separating 'true' Pacific myths from those that have adapted to fit the times. Some of Greatetc Uncle JM Orsmond and Etcth Cousin Teuira Henry's work is included - gotta love that.

Consider Phlebas by Iain Banks
A sci-fi (Culture) novel.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
Not as good as the first three - I reckon - but still good. Red herrings too obvious, traditional twist at the end too deviously buried. Ha - maybe I'm just pissed off 'cos I couldn't predict it? Weird ending... Quite 'nasty' for a kiddies' book.

Against a Dark Background by Iain Banks
Sci-fi novel. Cool.

Cleary Independent by Phil Cleary
Autobiography by the Melbournian footy coach/MP. I used to be a big fan of this bloke - until he helped sink the republic a couple of years ago.

Omai: Pacific Envoy by EH McCormick
Very long study of the Raiatean Omai who spent a couple of years in England after hopping aboard one of Jimbo Cook's ships. Fascinating although it could be half the size - I think the author was showing off how many tiny uninteresting details he'd uncovered. Also strangely prudish - Omai's 'romantic liaisons' referred to only very obliquely. Omai comes across as a decent bloke but no rocket scientist; if only Tupaia had survived!

Aku Aku by Thor Heyerdahl
The story of the first major archeaological expedition to Easter Island, in the 1950s. Scientifically very interesting, although Heyerdahl starts with a conclusion and then goes looking for evidence to support it (not an uncommon scientific error). The human story is much more interesting though - Heyerdahl slowly (and without commenting on it) transforms from a man who openly laughs at the Easter Islanders' culture to taking it quite seriously. The hero, for me, is the mayor, who bravely protects his cultural treasures despite Heyerdahl's scorn, bribery, bullying and what sounds to me like simple criminal fraud (faking the discovery of the whale carving). (I assume Heyerdahl's lawyers read the book before he published so it probably wasn't strictly criminal.)
(This is the first time in this list that I've 'bolded' a book that shat me quite so much - Heyerdahl's behaviour was that of a complete shit of a man - but the book was riveting.)

State of the Art by Iain Banks
Sci-fi collection of short stories. A couple of typically Banksey train-of-thought rambles but great otherwise.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 2000


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'.

From North to South 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.

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 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.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 1999


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.

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 never afraid to cast himself as the buffoon.

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) 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!

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.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 1998


Sophie's World by Josteen Gaardner
Sophie is a very gullible child who gets a free philosophy lesson from some old codger. The idea being that we get a lesson along with her. An interesting twist at the end, not enormously original but surprising because the rest of the book is so dull.

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.

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.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 1997


Heroes by John Pilger
A fantastic collection of articles by Pilger about various topics, social policies and the many wars he has covered as a journo. The usual Pilger bias but GREAT book anyway. The covering of the last few days of the USA in Vietnam was especially moving.

Civilization II by Sid Meir
The guide to the computer game. A huge tome of a book but we're talking about world domination here - not an easy subject to cover in a few pages.

Ratatui by Keith Ovenden
Political comedy set in Wellington (NZ). Very good. Cool ending too.

Popcorn by Ben Elton
A piss-take on the American film industry and Tarantino-type violence/sex. As funny as any of his other books and as un-subtle too. I laughed aloud at Xena's cameo mention. Pretty full-on in parts which is effective, y'see, 'cos you're just expecting more comedy.

Daughter of Regals by Stephan Donaldson
Short stories, mostly fantasy/sci-fi stuff. Two really good ones, "Unworthy of the Angel" and "Ser Visal's Tale"

Needle in a Timestack by Robert Silverberg
Short sci-fi stories. Nothing very challenging here.

Nga Pepa o Ranginui (The Ranginui Papers) by Marcus Ranginui
Dr Ranginui is a pretty well-known Maori authority. He's also fairly biased but as long as you keep that in mind most of the papers were pretty cool. The theory on the travels of the Mataatua and the origin of the carved meeting house were really interesting. The most disappointing article was the anti-immigration rant at the end where logic went out the window. (For example tabloid newspaper headlines which have previously been an example of institutionalised racism suddenly become the definitive proof that multiculturalism doesn't work - der.)

Star of Gypsies by Robert Silverberg
A Sci Fi novel based on the idea that the gypsies are a race of people from another planet. Cool idea and well carried off.

Pellucidar and Tanar of Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Hasn't science fiction come a long way? About the only interesting ideas in this book were the passageway between the inner world and ours, and the internal satellite (which I thought they should've explored in case it too had an internal world - oh Edgar a missed chance for a sequel!). Charming to see how dearly the values of sexism, racism and imperialism were held in past days.

The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World by Harry Harrison
I was persuaded to give Harry Harrison another go. So ooookay, I can see that it's meant to be taken tongue in cheek and this was far less an annoying book to read than "Space Rats" but it's all still pretty stink I reckon. "Slippery Jim" is a great name for a character.

The Official Batman Batbook by Joel Eisner
The complete guide to the Adam West/Burt Ward TV show of the 60s and 70s. An enthusiastic but poorly written attempt - but it doesn't matter, the series was so hilarious that the book's worth reading anyway.

Excession by Iain M. Banks
Another excellent "Culture" story by Ian M. Banks, this one told largely from the POV of the superclever "Minds" inside the Culture's ships. The only complaint I would have is that it becomes difficult to remember all the ships' names. I ended up making wee notes on each ship in my notebook. What a geek ay? Fantastic book though, apart from the Epilog.

The Further Adventures of The Joker Edited by Martin Greenberg
The same guy who compiled the Tolkien stories! I only just noticed that. This is a collection of short stories inspired by the Joker character from the Batman story, some are based on the DC comic character and some on the farcical Adam West version from the 70s TV show. Sheckley's "only a dream" story was by far the worst, Slesar's "53'd card" was a cool idea, Bryant/Simmons comedy story was fantastic.

Dick For a Day Edited by Fiona Giles
A collection of short stories by women about the concept of having a penis for one day. Interesting and often steamy. The only unreadable one was the multimedia abomination "Meta Morphenix". Now call me old-fashioned but ...

Pythagoras' Trousers by Margaret Wertheim
Another farewell pressy from my old work mates. A book discussing the history of physics. Goes into a lot of detail about the relationship between physics and the Christian church, and about the resulting effect on women physicists. This is a really good book! Some very powerful arguments against the very expensive quest for the Unified Field Theorem/TOE. All physicists should read this, actually so should non-physicists probably - to see what they're funding.

After the King edited by Martin Greenberg
"Stories in honor of JRR Tolkien". A mixed bag of short stories by people who thought Tolkien was god, some fantasy and some just peculiar. I found a few that were interesting enough that I'll keep an eye out for other stuff they've written, eg: Resnick, De Lint, McKillip. (Steven Donaldson's contribution may have been inspired somewhat by Werner Erhard.)

Outrageous Betrayal by Steven Pressman
The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile. A book about the founder of the mind-game company that eventually became Forum and Landmark. Scary stuff.

The Mask of Loki by Roger Zelaney and Thomas T Thomas
Pretty average scifi but then I got it out of the 'one dollar bin' so what can you expect? I don't know why Roger and Thomas felt the need to set the book in the future, it would have been less distracting to have it set in the present and they wouldn't have felt the need to occasionally (only very occasionaly) come up with an idea about what the future will be like. (I did love the last page!)

Rancid Aluminium by James Hawes
A retrenchment present from my old work mates. A pretty cool book, written almost entirely in first person with some very random thoughts. The story leaps back and forward a lot but when it all comes together near the end there is a great feeling of accomplishment. A bit like Tom Robbins but much less irritating.

Steel Beach by John Varley
A great book, sort of ties in with his other "invader" books but not entirely. He is fairly unapologetic about this. Some cool ideas.

Antigrav Edited by Philip Strick
A compilation of fairly old sci-fi short stories. Space Rats (by Harry Harrison) was the most incredible - I couldn't decide if he was a good author pretending to be crap, or a crap author doing his best.

Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins
Maybe you can only read a certain number of Robbins books in your life before they just get too annoying - Robbin's smug, pretentious views of the world don't change much from book to book. I had to force myself to finish this book to find out what was going on. Worse yet, I got to the end of the story and still didn't find out what was going on. Call me old fashioned but I like to know what's going on. Tom Robbins would probably say that's a sign of how uptight I am, or "a toad" in the parlance of this book's wearisome Robbins-channeling hero. Call me a toad then Tom, beats being a frog and a wanker.

A Life in the NZ Army by Col. Frank Rennie
This was written by my Dad's old CO in Malaya, thus many interesting stories about people who featured in Dad's stories. Well written too; Frank doesn't take it all too seriously

The Color of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, Interesting Times by Terry Pratchet
A few books from Terry Pratchets very long running and very well known series. Pretty funny though the style of humour was starting to wear thin by the fourth book. Maybe you're not supposed to read them all in a row?

The Conquest of Mexico by Hugh Thomas
An absolute tome of a book. Discusses the conquest of the Aztecs and nearby minors by the Spanish in the 1500's. Surprisingly readable.

Menzies by Alan Trengrove
A pictoral biography of Bob Menzies, the longest serving prime minister of Australia. The man who gave us the infamous referendum to make Communism illegal (he lost, bad luck Bobby) and changed the Australian flag from this to this without even worrying about all those Australians who had "fought and died" under the original one. A sympathetic study, Trengrove proclaims Menzies "the Greatest Australian PM ever".

The Island of the Colour-Blind by Oliver Sacks
A great book! Split into three sections, all about islands in Micronesia : an island called Pingelap where an amazing percentage of the population are completely colour blind (no colours at all!), the study of a unknown disease on Guam and same on Rota. All these stories are fascinating enough but Sacks is also a book-fanatic and his endnotes add an extra 70 pages to the book, makes bookmarking difficult, but worth it. Here's some more info on the book.

Life With Gough by Barry Cohen
A collection of quotes and anecdotes from and about Gough Whitlam. Prime Minister of Australia from 69 to 75 (when the Governor General sacked him). Fascinating. Whitlam is a very funny man but sheesh he must have been difficult to work with.

Chomsky For Beginners by John Maher and Judy Groves
The first half of this book, about Chomsky's theories on linguistics, went sailing over my head and left me feeling like a complete moron. The 2nd half is about social justice and international politics and is much more accessible and also (for me anyway) much more interesting.

The Greens by Bob Brown and Peter Singer
Shameless propaganda about the Greens party in Australia. I have never given the Greens more than a "2" in my votes but this book may have changed my mind, thus I guess it is good propaganda !

A Dagg at My Table by John Clark
Written by the famous Fred Dagg himself, this book is a classic. Funny? I wet meself.

A Line in The Sand by Comalco (aka Terry Ludeke)
Shameless and poorly-written propaganda by Comalco/CRA about the unions vs company goings on at Weipa in Queensland. Makes a damn good case for the need for unions while trying to present the opposite view. I used to work for these clowns so I recognise some of the rhetoric and bullshit from company memos.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 1996


A Trip to The Light Fantastic by Katie Hickman
A true story written by an English woman who spends a year living with a travelling circus in Mexico. Fantastic book! She really likes Mexico! I must find a copy of the other book she wrote.

Redemption Songs by Judith Blinney
(A Life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turiki)
A biography of Te Kooti, the prophet and general who fought the English from Te Urewera South of Whakatane for several years in the 1860's. HUGE book but very readable.

Tales of the Broken Hearted by Alan Duff
The blurb describes this book as "uncompromising", but that's shite because the first thing this book does is compromise. This new book was a far better read than ԏnce Were WarriorsԠbut it's transparently obvious that this one's written with the movie sequel in mind. Thus Jake is redeemed, he is proven to be innocent of the rape of his daughter and the rape is vaguely attributed to Uncle Bully to fit the movie. (If that's not a "compromise", what is?)
There is also another of those charming deliberate factual errors of which Mr Duff is so fond; although this one is far less important than getting the Maori Land Wars and the Treaty of Waitangi Ҳound the wrong way in Book #1 (many NZers at rec.sport.rugby might dispute that).Itӳ a subtle error this one. In a conversation with the (implausibly English-squire-like) Mr Trambert, Jake discusses the drop kick by Zinzan Brook in the 1995 World Cup final against South Africa - but the goal was actually against the English in the semi.Well spotted huh? Alan Duff should give out prizes for spotting these mistakes, then we might think he puts them in on purpose - and not just 'cos he's so fucking stupid.
Apparently my cousin Glen is in the movie, as Apeman's bodyguard. Cool huh?

Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson
A quite sympathetic view of the bike gang written in 1964 before they had even expanded out of California, let alone to their present status. Hunter S. is at his sarcastic scathing best, hanging shit on all and sundry including himself. Does his usual rant about irresponsible media.

Glimpses by Lewis Shiner
A really original idea for a novel. The hero is some sort of weird dood who can go back in time and listen to music that was never played by people like Hendrix, Morrison and The Beach Boys. Cool book and obviously written by a guy who knows his stuff (about the music not the time travelling stuff)

Talisman by Steven King and Peter Straub

The Road to Eternity by Clifford Simak
Surely the worst science fiction book ever written. Unoriginal unimaginative implausible twaddle. A 10 year old could write better science fiction. I'd seen lots of books by Mr Simak on the Sci Fi shelves before and sometimes wondered what they were like. Wonder no more - they are awful!

Lonely Planet Guide To Mexico by John Noble et al
Vital travelling companion for rookies like ourselves. Proof of Heidelberg's "the observer changes the system" theory for those who want to get a bit geeky.

Phaid The Gambler by Mick Farren
Science Fiction. Well written and some original ideas.

Evil Day by Errol Braithwaite
The last in the trilogy, set during the Waikato War in NZ in the 1860's. Pretty similar to the previous two, shows its age somewhat. (A bit of a historical slip-up at one point re the town of Mercer but hardly matters really. Certainly not in Alan Duff's league for historical inaccuracy.)

The Media and Me by Stuart Littlemore
An autobiography from the host of "Media Watch", surely the most sarcastic man on australian TV. Great show, great book... although Ray Martin has got much nicer hair!

Belgarath the Sorcerer by David Eddings
The "prequel" to the Belgariad and the Mallorean, which were series of five books each. Sort of "Sword and Sorcery" stuff, not very adventurous but amusing all the same.

Demon by John Varley
The third in the "Titan" series, and a book I'd been hunting for about the last six years. It didn't disappoint. Groovy science fiction set on a world/space station/God orbiting Saturn. Great twist at the end (as you'd hope after waiting six years to read it!

Encylopedia of Pop Culture by Jane and Michael Stern
A study of all the things that make the late 20th century weird. A lot of American stuff happening here (of course) but enough familiar stuff to make it really really interesting reading. Good preparation for Trivia night at the Homestead.

The Cunning Man by Robertson Davies
The last novel by this weirdo Canadian. A kind of a mix between mythology and mundane lives of people living in small town Hicksville.

The Paper Ark by Bill Clark
Describes itself as "an extraordinary illustrated journey to the wildlife world of the holy land". This is a cool study of all the animals which either featured in or were mentioned in the bible, koran and other "holy land" scripts. A fair historical barrage plus cool drawings and lots of theological trivia. Cool!

The Needle's Eye by Errol Braithwaite
The sequel to "The First Fish". This one's set in the Waikato during the war against the Kingites. Some of the same characters as the first book, bloody great!

The First Fish by Errol Braithwaite
A fictional story set in NZ's Taranaki land war in the 1860's. Good adventure story kind of stuff. Historically pretty good. Show's its age a bit "charmin, simple minded folk, those Maoris". But offers a few reasons behind the war too.

No Friends But The Mountains by John Bulloch and Harvey Morris
The story of the Kurds. Their history from 500AD or so. Very interesting but a bit disjointed. Possibly suffers because of the way it tries to follow what was happening to the Kurds in five different countries, with limited connections.

Evil Angels by John Bryson
The story of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain. Bloody shockin' story. The worthy journo Derryn Hinch pronounced that "Neither Lindy Chamberlain's release nor Evil Angels convinces me of her innocence." Luckily for Ms Chamberlain they don't let pig-stupid TV personalities decide court verdicts. I'm sure Derryn could use the extra money though.

"Mustn't Grumble" edited by Lois Keith
A collection of short stories, poems and other writings by disabled women. Some really really good stuff! Like the cover says, a very powerful book.

East West by Salman Rushdie
A collection of short stories from early in the Great Popular One's writing career. A bit childish I thought. I didn't like it much at all, but I probably won't kill him for it.

Out of The Shadows by Tony Healy and Paul Cropper
A study of all the "mystery" animals of Australia, like the Tassy Tiger (still alive?) and the Bunyip and the Grampians Puma and the Giant Marsupial Cat. Pretty cool, there are a lot of gullible fools out there seeing some pretty unbelievable stuff. But just maybe... (dot dot dot, pause for effect, dramatic intake of breath etc etc). I do like this sort of conspiracy theory mumbo jumbo!!

"Joh" by Hugh Lunn
The life and political adventures of Johannes Bjelke-Peterson. I suspect this book might sit slightly on the 'pro-Joh' side, but not too much. Reads a bit like a farcical comedy except it's true. Written in 1978 so it misses some of the really good stuff. Scary but awesome reading. (We'll be reading similar books called "Jeff" in 15 years time I reckon.)

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 1995


Whakaari by David McGill
I didn't realise until I was some way into the book that this was written by the same guy as the previous book. Observant ay? This is a semi-science fiction book set in NZ. Follows a part-Scots, part-Maori dood who grows up in Whakatane. Cool! Otherwise though, not that cool a book

The Kid From Matata by David McGill
A book written from a kid's point of view about growing up in (very) small town NZ. Quaint.

One Crowded Hour by Tim Bowden
The biography of Neil Davis, Australian war correspondent. Absolutely amazing story. The guy was a freak but what an amazing life!.

Maori Witchery by C. R. Browne
A fictional book set in the King Country in the 1870's when the government was trying to open the land up for the railroad. Written in 1928.

Wildcat Screaming by Mudrooroo
A book about an Aboriginal guy who gets thrown in prison. Starts off really good, swapping between the real world and this guy's daydreams. Then it turns into a really slack detective story for some reason. Maybe the author died and somebody finished writing it for him? I don't know.

Beak of the Moon by Philip Temple
Kind of like a Watership down for Keas. (Keas are a mountain parrot that lives in the South Island of NZ and are famous for their appetite for windscreen wiper rubber.) Liked the birds' eye descriptions of humans: tall birds with no wings and a silly beak.

War in the Tussock by Ormond Wilson
A mini-text-book about the last stand of the prophet Te Kooti with the Tuhoe and Ngati Tuwharetoa at Te Porere near Tongariro (Desert Rd, just North of Ruapehu). (Te Kooti lost.)

The Matriach by Ihimaera
Witi's third-to-most-recent book. Just catching up. Quite a weird book, jumps from ancient past to mythology to recent past to the present mid-sentence sometimes. Cool, but hard work.

Disorderly Conduct by Marilyn Duckworth
A NZ novel about a very ordinary woman. Quite a cool book. No bad guys, no good guys, no car chases and no moral of the story. I like that.

Race For The World by John Todd
The story of the first guy to visit every country in the world. A tale of how jolly inconvenient it is when petty countries let things like war and torture stand in the way of tourism, also details the evil of communism and the divine right of Christianity. What can you expect from a guy who poses on the front of his book in a pair of track suit pants?

The Gippsland Massacres by P.D. Gardener
A historical analysis of the Gippsland massacres that finished off the Kurnai people in the 1850's and 1860's. I went tramping through Kurnai country a couple of years ago and saw a few of their old middens so this was quite interesting, despite being extremely dry.

Pemulwuy, the Rainbow Warrior by Eric Wilmot
Very very cool historical novel based on Pemulwuy, who led the Eora tribe against the British at Sydney for 12 years. He was one scary dood, did the Rasputin thing and just would not die. Pemulwuy featured prominently in Grassby's book (see below).

The Mountains of Majipoor by Robert Silverberg
The fourth in the Majipoor series ֠and probably the worst.

The Jungle Book By Rudyard Kipling.
Cool storyteller

The World's Most Fantastic Freaks by Mike Parker.
A really shlocky trashy collection of stories about tall people, people with long noses and people with other heads growing out of their backs. Shows how many times the phrase "A distorted parody of a human being" can be used in one book (nearly) without sounding silly.

The Australasian Aluminium Smelter Technology Workshop by various wise people
Yep, I read it cover to cover. Ask me any questions. Ask me about Norwegian environmental studies, ask me about alumina, ask me about trying to stop Hayden from ripping one very boring speaker's head off

How Does Aspirin Find a Headache by David Feldman
The latest in Mr Feldman's series of books in which he answers lots of everyday questions. Sometimes badly but usually interesting anyhoo.

The Hard Disk Quick Reference by PD Moulton and Tim Stanley.
Very very very dull reading but quite useful for we poor saps who know not nearly enough of the basics to keep ourselves out of trouble.

Saga of Exiles Collection by Julian May.
Just another schlocky science fiction/ fantasy series really but with some quite cool ideas to keep it interesting. "Rivals Tolkien at his best" commented one particularly stupid reviewer on the first book.

A Night in The Gardens of Spain by Witi Ihimaera
Unlike his usual books which are generally semi-autobiographical stories about rural East Coast North Island Maori communities (Witi grew up in a East Coast North Island Maori community), this one is about a gay university lecturer in Auckland coming to terms with his marriage falling apart and what that does to his two daughters.
Witi is presently living in Auckland as a university lecturer. He has two daughters.

Shaka's Children by Stephen Taylor
A history of the Zulu people. Absolutely fascinating. Traces the history of the Zulus from the time of Shaka Zulu through the wars against the other South African tribes, the Boers and finally the English - through to the present day. Great book! Best non-fiction I've read since "The New Zealand Wars" without the benefit of being local.

Levitating Trains and Kamikaze Genes by Richard Brennan.
A kind of a "science for dummies" book. Scarily I even learnt some stuff from it. Not extremely well written, there are a lot of gaps.

Mission Earth by L Ron Hubbard.
I just had to read this book to see what the esteemed Father of Scientology wrote like. The answer: he writes like a dribbling, talentless fool. Disappointingly, there are no evil undertones and i didn't start acting funny after reading it.

Panati's Extraordinary Endings of Practically Everything and Everybody by Charles Panati.
An almost random but extremely entertaining and informative list of stories about disease, death, wills, famous people and historic miscellanea. Very good !

All The Weyrs of Pern by Anne McAffrey.
The latest in the incredibly long running series. Shallow scifi trash but I HAD to know what happened to F'lar and the rest.

Te Puea by Michael King.
A biography of Te Puea Herangi. A famous Maori leader of the Waikato tribe and specifically the King movement. Very interesting if you're into NZ history.

Whina by Michael King.
A biography of another great Maori woman. Whina Cooper of the Te Aupouri tribe in Northland. Whina died last year at the age of ninety-something. Some cool tie-ins with the "Te Puea" book.


.

BOOKS I WAS READING IN 1994


Six Australian Battlefields by Al Grassby and Marji Hill.
Has some general stuff about the Aboriginal resistance in the 1800's as well as in depth study of 6 battles: The Eora tribe at Parammatta near Sydney, The Dharuk at Hawkesbury river north of Sydney, the Irish rebellion at Vinegar Hill near Sydney, the Wiranjeri at Bathurst inland NSW, the Kamilaroi just north of there, and the Kalkadoon at Mt Isa.

Hawke A biography of Bob Hawke. Written before he became PM. Pretty dull stuff.

Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff.
Yes, the one the movie was based on. I reckon the movie was better. Not as preachy and more realistic, but I've got to admit that's partly my bias against the esteemed Mr Duff. It's still worth a read. (Duff is tragically, and ironically, ill-informed about history.)