A couple of years ago I bought the beautiful photography book "Life in photos" by Linda McCartney. Truly a stunning book, every time I open it I find something new, a treasure to own.
Also of course read "Dirty Politics" made me so mad I couldn't finish it on holiday might try again this holiday.
Hang in there, and I’ll see if I can find out more.
No problem I'll try a bookstore, just prefer kindle these days, no paper, easy to carry and store, bookshelves are full and groaning.. :-)
Sorry for forgetting to say this before, but could you take me out of the draw -- already have Russell's book, and four copies of yours (one for keeps and the rest for Christmas giving to the unworthy and ungrateful).
Sorry for forgetting to say this before, but could you take me out of the draw
Same, happy owner of both books...
"Life in Photographs" - oops.
Not new, but handily the best I've read this year is Robert Hughes' The Fatal Shore. Fascinating, incisive work of history, beautifully written as only a famed art critic can do, and with so many intersections between Australia's convict settlement and the allegedly more enlightened process in New Zealand. And gosh, it's rough and funny where warranted as only an Aussie could do it
By far my favourite nonfiction book ever, though, is David Halberstam's Korean War magnum opus The Coldest Winter. Less about war than about how a country can sleepwalk into disaster over years or decades, and the way that human decisions within institutional frameworks have unexpected consequences. It's massive and sad and terrifying and in many ways, a testament to how our world still works. I'd recommend it to anyone.
And one more tremendous local read from a few years back – No Fretful Sleeper, Paul Millar’s amazing biography of Bill Pearson (another intersection with Great New Zealand Argument).
My non-fiction highlight of the year has been Simon Garfield's To The Letter, which aside from stitching together a compelling narrative of the influence of the now-waning art of personal correspondence on world culture, also contains vignettes of actual correspondence between a WW2 British Army soldier in North Africa and his sweetheart interspersed throughout the chapters. Those letters in particular are utterly gripping and I approached their conclusion with both keen anticipation and a growing sense of dread that some military mishap might stand in the way of true love.
I should have added David Cohen's book Greatest Hits, which is a collection of the best of 25 years or so of his journalism, although it doesn't include his infamous Crowded House review. But a hilarious one about Bono is in there.
A rather depressing list now that I look at it:
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi
Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber
Also some autobiographies:
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson
Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
My favourite non-fiction read this year was "Return of a King" by William Dalrymple. It details the British invasion of Afghanistan from 1839 to 1842 and what is most striking are the similarities between that invasion and the recent boondoggle. There are some marvelous events in the story including the British trying to get a listen to the French and Russian talks on a raft in the middle of a river by getting someone under the raft. But the overall impression is of history repeating itself, badly, for all concerned.
Can we have films of the year too ? I went to 92 films this year (at the cinema) and there some right crackers amongst them,
I'd like to hear film choices too. I did mine at Werewolf. A top ten and a runner-up ten:
The year’s top 10:
1. Under the Skin
2. Blue is the Warmest Colour
3. Winter Sleep
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
7. Maps to the Stars
9. What We Do in the Shadows
A second ten:
Dallas Buyers Club, The Dead Lands, Gloria, It Follows, The Lego Movie, Leviathan, Locke, Nymphomaniac, The Selfish Giant, The Trip to Italy.
Pride. Stand out. In its 3rd month at Wellington's Penthouse. True story and heart-warming for old lefties. Bonus of lovely Welsh scenery, accents and singing.
My favourite non-fiction read this year was “Return of a King” by William Dalrymple.
It’s a phenomenal book. One thing that surprised me was Dalrymple’s apparently reactionary take on the Scottish independence referendum. He appeared to assume that the class privilege he’d enjoyed applied to all Scots, while ignoring the colonial heavy lifting carried out on Britain’s behalf by generations of his less fortunate countrymen.
As much of this is depicted in his remarkable works on South Asian history, it’s all the more surprising that his outsider’s objectivity seems to fail when his subject is closer to home.
Like, look at this thoughtful analysis of Xmas number one hits by Popbitch. They really are the best.
In anticipation of next year's flood tide of nationalism and semi-festive World War One 'commemorations', I re-read Paul Fussell's heartbreaking 'The Great War and Modern Memory'.
John Barry's 1964 biography of psychotic 19th century Norfolk Island prison governor John Giles Price was also fascinating. Clive James was referring to Price when he compared the prison to pre-Holocaust Dachau and observed that its purpose was,
not so much to kill people as to see how much they could suffer and still want to stay alive.
Niki Harre's excellent "Psychology for a Better World - Strategies to Inspire Sustainability" (available from nzclimatechangecentre.org, amongst others).
You can't describe accepting the realities of human-induced climate change, unsustainable industry, rampant pollution, etc as a "no-brainer" - you really gotta have a brain. The problem is influencing others to get their heads out of the sand and think about cause and effect. Harre's book gives you the tools.
I didn't know he had done that Joe. That is surprising.
Fussell's book is very interesting and shows the depth of the effect The Great Slaughter had.
Thanks, Matthew. I don't have my film diary with me (currently in London), but let me recall ... not in any order. A good year for film
Two Days, One Night
Under the Skin
Finding Vivian Maier
What We Do In The Shadows
The Lego Movie
20,000 Hours on Earth
So much to read...so little time...but managed amongst many others Madmen by Steve Braunias; How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art by Serge Guilbaut; The Wollemi Pine by James Woodford; What A Wonderful World by Marcus Chown; and lastly Dirty Politics by Nicky Hager, which I reckon qualifies as non-fiction. I even managed to attend the book launch at Unity Books in Wellington. Big event.
The Woman Who Changed Her Brain by Barbara Arrowsmith Young, founder of the Canadian based Arowsmith Programme for people with learning 'disabilities'.
Bursts by Albert Laszlo-Barabasi about the un/predicatabilty of human behaviour.
Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon. A college English teacher whose job has just disappeared gives up his normal life for a road trip along America's less travelled highways.
Son of Dad:
John Barry’s 1964 biography of psychotic 19th century Norfolk Island prison governor John Giles Price was also fascinating.
A character I recall from the late Roberts Hughes' marvelous The Fatal Shore. Appreciate the heads up, will definitely follow through on that.
I didn’t know he had done that Joe. That is surprising.
According to someone who's called on him in India Dalrymple's highly approachable and generous with his time. I've been very taken with his work since discovering him via From the Holy Mountain. His grand historical works such as The Last Mughal and Return of a King remind me of Hughes' The Fatal Shore in their enormous sweep and wealth of human insight.
One I enjoyed beyond my expectations - Robert Gordon's Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion.
Food: always the cookbooks, ever since I was a child, I have read cookbooks. I like writerly cookbooks, like Nigel Slater, Elizabeth David for their love and knowledge of food and ability to spin yarn. My best cookbooks have pictures, roughly one for each recipe but not always (because I'm never going to cook most of it you understand).
I hope each book will open up new ways of cooking, more method then prescriptive; a new way to eat. This year The Green Kitchen (aka Vegetarian Everyday in the US) by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl changed our family meals for the better and inspired me to move past the older Moosewood-style of meat-free. The book was lovely: the right size (not too big not too small), tactile paper, photography that looked great without being overly clever.