One of my earliest childhood memories is of my older sister Laura sitting reading, with a tall stack of books next to her. She’s never lost her love for books and you can always trust that when she recommends a book, it’s going to be good.
So I couldn’t think of anyone more fitting to share eight must-read books to enjoy this year.
“For as long as I can remember, books have been one of my favourite things. However, since my kids arrived, gone are the long stretches of time to voraciously devour them – whole summer afternoons curled up on a beach towel on the front lawn or at the beach, reading a novel cover to cover in one hit. I still love a good read, even if now in the adult world it’s snatched in small chunks for 10 minutes late each night in bed, once the day’s done, the house its silent, and my three little kids are sleeping.
Here’s a few of my top picks for your summer reading pleasure – many of which are by New Zealand authors.
I love the textured cover design and sumptuous photographs in this stunning coffee table book, which will have you longing to book your next holiday escape! Cute husband and wife team Sam Stuchbury (photographers) and Hilary Ngan Kee (text) researched, visited, then photographed and interviewed the owners of each unique Kiwi spot. From glamping to luxurious and secluded spots, there’s plenty of inspiration whatever your taste or budget.
The third in this excellent annual anthology of short non-fiction (the 2018 edition should be out soon), Tell You What 2017 includes writing by well known Kiwi writers and journalists as well as some fresh new voices. TYW2017 tackles themes of home, history, and hard truths. I love the short-length format for summer reading, as you can read this from cover to cover, or dip in at random as you lie on the beach, and have the satisfaction of reading an entire piece in full, in one go.
Possibly my favourite novel last year, Two Steps Forward is by Melbourne based husband and wife team Graeme Simsion (IT consultant and author of the incredibly popular dramedies The Rose Project and The Rosie Effect) and Anne Buist (a perinatal psychiatrist and Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne). Their respective careers and impressive hiking experience together bring interesting perspectives to the main characters in this book, who travel the ancient pilgrims’ walking track, the Camino. Zoe and Martin hike through France and Spain, battling blisters, cultural differences and misunderstandings, as they get to know themselves and each other. A satisfying ending to a great love story with stacks of culture and humour thrown in to boot!
4. Ten x Ten: Art at Te Papa by Athol McCredie
One for art lovers, or anyone interested in delving into our nation’s art collection’s plethora of art treasures at Te Papa, this book is more of a personal ‘top hits’ take by 10 of Te Papa’s art curators, who each choose 10 favourite works, rather than a general highlights tome. It’s great to see their personal selections, as their unique voices shine through. The introduction charts the fascinating and sometimes rocky history of our national art collection, from the nineteenth century to the present.
I fell in love with the beautiful botanical cover design of this book! Like her other novels including Reach and Edwin and Matilda, Laurence Fearnley’s characters are richly nuanced, and seem so real you feel you know them. You’ll be drawn into the mystery of the hut in this gripping novel, and compelled to keep reading through this showcase of female experience which unfolds through the lives of three very different women: a school librarian, a teenager, and an eco warrior.
Part biography, part memoir, the tongue in cheek title of this book certainly grabbed my attention. Joan Withers will be a familiar name to many as the ex-CEO of Fairfax NZ. Highlighting her journey from school drop-out, to young mum, to influential boardroom doyenne, this is a fascinating read for women (and men!), whether you’re a small business owner or a senior executive.
One for the kids (or those enlisted to read them bedtime stories), this sumptuous anthology of Kiwi poems and stories for children is written and illustrated by both well known and emerging talent, and will become firm favourite in your house as quickly as it has in mine. Beautifully illustrated, there’s a strong focus on the beach throughout. I love the polished design details like the sunny yellow colour chosen for the page edging, and the embossed front cover.
Parents beware: the subtitle of this book may well draw you in while simultaneously inducing guilt over your phone habit. Billed as “the digital society’s answer to finding balance in a media-saturated, perfection-obsessed world”, Hands Free Mama is not interested in a pity party, rather offering up practical advice on living in the moment and being truly present with your children (plus at work, with your partner…), and finding joy in this. It’s realistic and encouraging as self help books come, liberally sprinkled with humorous personal anecdotes.”