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Books day and night
Late nights 1/7. We are open every Thursday until 7:30. Drop in for some relaxed browsing and conversations about books! This Thursday is also the monthly Late Night on Hardy, so there'll be a string of shops on Hardy Street for you to visit, too.

VOLUME SUBSCRIPTIONS. Give the gift of reading (or keep it for yourself)! Click through to learn more about our monthly book subscription programme. 


BOOKLIST! Click through to find out about some interesting recent books on Soviet Russian history

We will be starting two AFTER SCHOOL BOOK GROUPS in February, one for 9-12-year-olds and one for 13-plus. Let us know if you are interested!

(Just let us know and we'll put copies aside for you)


Shaun Tan produces wonderful books, The Arrival and Tales from Outer Suburbia are two of my favourites. Tales from Outer Suburbia has recently been re-published with an accompanying jigsaw puzzle in a slipcase edition. This book is for slightly older reading age than his well-known picture books, The Red Tree and The Lost Thing. Each chapter is a story set in the world of Outer Suburbia: they are intriguing magical tales about what you may notice if you observe your surroundings carefully. A water buffalo that lives at the end of the street, a journey to the edge of the world at the edge of suburbia, a beautiful garden discovered beyond the walls of a mundane suburban home, and the colourful worlds you find beyond the drabness of everyday existence. Tan’s drawings and stories are exquisite, sometimes unsettling, but always a glimmer of something beautiful just around the corner if you’re adventurous enough to step out on a journey of discovery.


From jigsaws to masks! Masks in the Forest by Laurent Moreau is a story told with masks.  The hunter is entering the forest, feeling confident and sure of his ability to ensnare an animal or two. Little known to him, the animals and forest creatures are well aware of his intentions and ready to counter him. The reader of the story can help too! Pop out the face masks and join in with the story. This is a simple story which children can engage with, becoming the characters in the book by donning a mask or two. Plenty of fun and a happy ending too! The illustrations are attractive and the combination of animals - tiger, monkey, deer - and mythical forest creatures - giant, elf - give an added dimension to the story-telling. With nine masks in total this could make a lovely gift for a family, or group of children where new stories can be told as well as the author’s own.


Cloth Lullaby is a beautifully illustrated children’s book about the artist Louise Bourgeois, outlining her early connection with textiles via her family’s work as tapestry restorers for generations in France, her early connection with nature, and her path to becoming an artist. While studying mathematics in Paris, Louise’s mother dies and Louise abandons her studies and begins her work as a painter and sculptor -  a homage to her mother. The giant spiders she produced are the weavers of webs, and constant repairers. Louise marries and moves to New York, continuing her work in the moments between family and scratching out a living, and builds a dossier of work, fairly much in obscurity. It was not until she was in her 70's that a retrospective exhibition acknowledged her importance as an accomplished and influential artist. Another current publication is Intimate Geometries: The life and work of Louise Bourgeios by critic and curator Robert Storr. This is  a comprehensive, insightful and generously illustrated book. 


This is the Place to Be by Lara Pawson
What do you report when you become uncertain of the facts, of the notion of truth and of the purpose of writing? What can you understand of yourself when you are uncertain how or if your memories can be correlated with known 'facts'? Is your idea of yourself anything other than the sum of your memories? Lara Pawson was for some years a journalist for the BBC and other media during the civil wars in Angola, and on the Ivory Coast. In this book, her experiences of societies in trauma, and her idealism for making the 'truth' known, are fragmented (as memory is always fragmented) and mixed with memory fragments of her childhood and of her relationships with the various people she encountered before, during and after the period of heightened awareness provided by war. It is this intermeshing of shared and personal perspectives, sometimes reinforcing and sometimes contradicting each other, always crossing over and back over the rift that separates the individual and her world, that makes this book such a fascinating description of a life. By constantly looking outwards, Pawson has conjured a portrait of the person who looks outwards, and a remarkable depiction of the act of looking outwards. Every word contributes to this pointillist self-portrait, and the reader hangs therefore on every word.


Is That Kafka? 99 Finds by Reiner Stach
Franz Kafka was an exceptional writer, not just in quality but in his qualities. He was also an exception to much of what has been thought of him since, or, rather, both as a writer and a person, he is compounded from exceptions, both to his literary and social milieu and to his own psychology. Not only that, he was an exception to those exceptions. Reiner Stach has written an exhaustive three-volume biography of Kafka, and, while doing so, he has collected these 99 snippets which, published together, display the broader Kafka behind the cliché and are a corrective to conceptions of ‘the Kafkaesque’ which often distort approaches to his works. Kafka never lied but he did cheat in an exam, he liked to drink beer, he followed a fitness regime, he made presents for children, he devised, with his friend Max Brod, a series of on-the-cheap travel guides, he loved slapstick and he liked to be called Frank. Stach also provides a couple of plausible Kafka sightings in contemporary crowd photographs. Is that Kafka? Quite possibly, yes.


The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee
A man arrives, with a new name, Simón, and with no memories of his previous life, in a country whose residents have all, like him, arrived there at some time, shedding their histories and learning a new language, a flat ‘Spanish’, which they use without irony or ambiguity. Existence in Novilla, like Coetzee’s writing, is spare, and abraded of connotation; things have no significance beyond their purpose. The society is founded on good will, respect and the meeting of everyone’s needs; there is enough but no more: no excess, no passion, no longing, no dissatisfaction. Is this the best of all possible worlds? Perhaps Simón has not been washed sufficiently ‘clean’ in his passage to the new life: he feels that human nature requires more intensity than Novilla provides. He brings with him a young boy, ‘David’, who has lost his papers, and who Simon has promised to reunite with his mother. Simon ‘recognises’ David’s mother as the implausible Inès, and hands both the boy and his apartment over to her. Inès infantilises David, and, when he is to be sent to an institution because he cannot/will not accept the basic assumptions of commonality, such as the symbolic assumptions of language and numbers, Simón and Ines flee with him into the hinterland, where reality is even ‘thinner’ than in Novilla and David exhibits disturbingly messianic qualities as they head towards a ‘new life’. Philosophical and ethical questions are raised throughout the book, which turns its back on the possibility of answers, making the whole thing a sort of opaque allegory without any stable referent. In its refusal to satisfy the reader or to be ‘about’ anything (other than itself), whilst engaging our faculties of thinking and feeling, the book, with all its unsettlingly arbitrary developments, inconsistencies and uncertainties, its ambivalences of clutching and relinquishment, resembles ‘real life’ more than most fiction (which is predicated upon the largely unexamined abstractions we construct to ‘pre-package’ and mediate our experiences). At it core, though, this book explores the problematics of fiction-making: characters are suddenly brought into existence by an author in a world which contains only that which the author has created by naming. The characters are entirely subject to the author's will yet struggle, through exerting themselves upon the author, to effect some sort of autonomy. Coetzee is a writer of great weight and precision, and here he continues to push at the edges of his territory. This book has just been followed by The Schooldays of Jesus, which continues the themes explored in this book.



The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
[Long review:] “Bottomless wonders spring from simple rules repeated without end,” said the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot. This very enjoyable comic novel reveals that, when irreverently applied to science and metaphysics, this observation could just as easily read “bottomless absurdities” or “bottomless horrors” (mind you, Mandelbrot’s fractal theory ‘proves’ that the coastline of any island is infinitely long, which is at once absurd, horrible and true). Falling somewhere in the triangle between Alice in Wonderland, Waiting for Godot and The Exploits and Opinions of Dr Faustroll, ‘Pataphysician, The Third Policeman tells of a chain of events triggered by a murder committed by the narrator (a scholar of the eccentric philosopher de Selby), his visit to a rural police station in a strangely altered bucolic Ireland, and his encounter with two singular policemen who introduce him to such wonders as a spear so sharp it draws blood some distance beyond its visible point, the base substance omnium that is manifest in any form, and an atomic theory that explains the slow transformation of humans into bicycles (and vice-versa) due to rough roads insufficiently maintained by the County Council. All of this (not to mention the crazed inventiveness of Sergeant Pluck’s diction) is a lot of fun if having the rug whipped out from under your feet only to discover that there is no floor beneath is your idea of fun. I have been haunted for years by the scene in which Policeman MacCruiskeen pulls out smaller and smaller boxes from inside each other far into the infravisible, and works on crafting a yet smaller box only to lose it on the floor and have it found by chance by a character named Gilhaney who was only pretending to find it.

[Short review:] It's about a bicycle.


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VOLUME · 15 Church Street (Radio House) · PO Box 364 · Nelson, 7010 · New Zealand

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