What we (and our friends) are read­ing this sum­mer.


What we (and our friends) are read­ing this sum­mer.

Thissum­mer, I’m read­ing Olive, Again by El­iz­a­beth Strout, again. I’ve read it about 50 times al­ready and plan to read it as many more times as it takes be­fore I get either a repet­i­tive strain in­jury of the imag­i­na­tion or Stock­holm syn­drome and am forced to move to the coast of Maine to be a bur­den to my­self and oth­ers.

There is noth­ing I love bet­ter than a good linked short-story col­lec­tion, un­less that linked short-story col­lec­tion is about an idio­syn­cratic New Eng­land nar­cis­sist with all sorts of re­lat­able per­son­al­ity dis­or­ders, and side­ways com­pas­sions, and big, wrong feel­ings. It’s funny and ex­cru­ci­at­ing and bril­liant and hurts my feel­ings enor­mously ev­ery time I read it. I’m to­tally ob­sessed. If you don’t trust me, you can take Oprah’s word for it.

I’m also read­ing Sweet Home, the first book of short sto­ries by Ir­ish writer Wendy Ersk­ine. Like El­iz­a­beth Strout, her sto­ries are both mun­dane and com­pul­sive at the same time — they have that same depth of emo­tional in­ten­sity but some­how feel ef­fort­less. The sto­ries are all set in Belfast, and in the grand tra­di­tion of short fic­tion, fea­ture a lot of un­happy peo­ple go­ing about their lives, un­hap­pily.

I’m very ex­cited that New Di­rec­tions are reis­su­ing Sweet Days of Dis­ci­pline by Fleur Jaeggy, a novel about ob­ses­sion and con­trol in a girls’ board­ing school in post-war Switzer­land. If you know me, you know I’ll read al­most any­thing about ob­ses­sion and con­trol set in an all-girls’ board­ing school in post-war Switzer­land. I also have a copy of Bae Suah’s Un­told Night and Day, which is com­ing out in early 2020. I don’t know much about Bae Suah, only that Pip Adam adores her, which as far as I’m con­cerned is a good enough rea­son to read any­thing.

For non-fic­tion, I’ll be read­ing Ly­dia Davis’s book of es­says. Ly­dia Davis wrote it. The cover is green. What else is there to say?

My crime read is the new Fred Var­gas, This Poi­son Will

Re­main, about a bunch of guys who grew up in the same or­phan­age, and then even­tu­ally get mur­dered by spi­der poi­son. To be hon­est, I don’t care who the killer is. I just love Fred Var­gas. Not only is she the best liv­ing crime writer, she’s also a French me­dieval his­to­rian and ar­chae­ol­o­gist. Save some brains for the rest of us, Fred.

The chil­dren’s se­ries I’m most ex­cited to start read­ing is The Mir­ror Vis­i­tor Quar­tet by Chris­telle Da­bos, re­cently trans­lated from the French, about par­al­lel worlds, writ­ten in the tra­di­tion of Diana Wynne Jones and Philip Pull­man.

My nos­tal­gia read is Small Gods by Terry Pratch­ett. My bath read is The Sarah Book by Scott McClana­han and my au­dio­book is Trea­sure Is­land. Yo ho ho, baby. If I can get an ad­vance copy of Ea­monn Marra’s new short-story col­lec­tion com­ing out with VUP in 2020, then I will be very ex­cited to read that this sum­mer. Oth­er­wise I will read it in win­ter, with a sarong and the heater on full blast. A sum­mer book is a state of mind. Hera Lind­say Bird

My­part­ner and I are go­ing up to Auck­land for the hol­i­days. It’s my fam­ily’s first sum­mer in their new res­i­dence on the North Shore and I plan to fully em­brace the Shore Girl life­style: I will be pass­ing my days pre­tend­ing I went to a pri­vate girls’ school and read­ing books on the beach. Here are the three books I’ve picked out.

The first is A Mis­take by Carl Shuker. I bought this novel to give to my younger brother, so I need to read it be­fore he re­turns to Dunedin in early Jan­uary. He’s de­cided to dou­ble

down on try­ing to get into med school, which is the rea­son for his short sum­mer break and my choice of lit­er­a­ture for him. A Mis­take is about a woman work­ing as a sur­geon at Welling­ton Hospi­tal, and I’m hop­ing that it will be il­lu­mi­nat­ing for my brother in terms of what the day-to-day work of a doctor feels like.

The next is In the Dream House by Car­men Maria Machado. I loved her short-story col­lec­tion Her

Body and Other Par­ties and am ex­cited to see what she does with the genre and form of mem­oir. Her ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with struc­ture was very in­spi­ra­tional for my es­say col­lec­tion; I had many “I didn’t know you were al­lowed to do that” mo­ments while read­ing her work. This new book is about her ex­pe­ri­ence within an abu­sive queer re­la­tion­ship, and how the lack of ex­ist­ing vo­cab­u­lary and nar­ra­tives with­held her abil­ity to ex­press and re­solve what hap­pened.

The last book I’m pack­ing is The Bone Peo­ple by Keri Hulme. I’ve been try­ing to read more books that were pub­lished be­fore I was born. It’s hard. There are so many great books be­ing pub­lished now and so many great books that were pub­lished in the past. To be com­pletely hon­est, I have no idea what this book is about. I just know that it won the Booker Prize and that it’s set in a small town on the West Coast of the South Is­land, so it seems le­git. I found this book on my friend’s book­shelf and asked to bor­row it. This copy was printed in 1985 so it doesn’t have macrons (or dou­ble vow­els) for te reo, which makes it feel rather anachro­nis­tic.

I sus­pect all three of these books are go­ing to be rather bleak, so it’s for­tu­nate that I’ll be re­lax­ing on golden sand. I don’t know what Shore Girls stereo­typ­i­cally read. Rose Lu

The­beach chair is firm, the sky is blue, and the sea is shin­ing in the dis­tance. I’ve been sav­ing Your Duck Is My Duck, the new col­lec­tion of short sto­ries by Deb­o­rah Eisen­berg for ex­actly this mo­ment in par­adise. I know each of her pre­cisely shaped stud­ies of hu­man­ity will an­chor me to the sand in per­fect swim­timed stretches. I will also reread my favourite book from 2019 — Sing to It by Amy Hem­pel, a col­lec­tion of sto­ries, woe­ful and tight, that de­mands you sit in the sun and con­tem­plate the world. I was ham­mered by her bril­liance.

The sec­ond part of Yiyun Li’s mem­oir, Where Rea­sons End, came out this year. Her mem­oir is like Janet Frame’s To The Is-Land, a mix of two forces — her fam­ily and up­bring­ing in China and the other life that her mind pro­vides, fu­elled by lit­er­a­ture and ge­nius. A cou­ple of sum­mers back, I read the first part, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life, which sent me straight to the Auck­land Li­brary and the stack room, or­der­ing up the foun­da­tional nov­els she writes about — Tol­stoy, Tur­genev, Woolf, Ge­orge Eliot.

The Spinoff Book is an offthe-grid treat to re­place the usual an­nual es­say col­lec­tion that I take on hol­i­day

— I won’t leave town with­out it. Af­ter it’s given me a re­fresher course on ev­ery­thing that was worth talk­ing about in New Zealand pol­i­tics, so­ci­ety, and cul­ture over the past five years, I may share it around the camp­site.

There are not enough ba­bies in my life, but thank­fully lo­cal poet Amy Brown has writ­ten a verse jour­nal, Neon Daze, of the first four months of moth­er­hood and I can have a deep wal­low with­out the mid­night feeds. Her snap­shot sen­tences ca­ress the baby like a fine wool cov­er­let. This is a book to give to any new par­ent, or any old one, for that mat­ter. Fon­tanelles, booties and an oxy­tocin high.

New Zealand writer, poet and artist Greg O’Brien is the David At­ten­bor­ough of the lit­er­ary world. Cu­ri­ous, in­formed, ar­tic­u­late and happy. Al­ways Song in the Wa­ter is a moody drift­ing col­lec­tion of es­say­ist ob­ser­va­tions from a road trip he took in North­land with his sons and the artist Noel McKenna. It prom­ises to fill you with the most pleas­ant and life-af­firm­ing knowl­edge about stuff that re­ally mat­ters — art, lit­er­a­ture, fam­ily — and O’Brien’s Cha­gall-like draw­ings will en­ter the slip­stream of your sum­mer dreams.

For a new-writ­ers fix, I can’t wait to read Sport 47, guest-edited by the bril­liant Tayi Tib­ble. Her ed­i­to­rial, “Diary of a (L)it Girl or, Franken­stein’s Ghost Pig”, is worth the cover price alone. In her words, Sport 47 is “gang, hot and flossy”. Pack­ing a swag of writ­ing by new and re­spected writ­ers, it is kind of like Granta, only bet­ter. Ka mau te wehi! Su­sanna An­drew

Iwouldn’t mind find­ing my­self on an Auck­land beach with Rose Lu’s book of es­says All Who Live on Is­lands, or Essa May Ranapiri’s po­etry col­lec­tion Ran­sack. Like­wise, although you might think I’m jok­ing, Em­brac­ing Mul­ti­lin­gual­ism Across Ed­u­ca­tional Con­texts (edited by Corinne A. Seals and Vin­cent Ieni Olsen-Reeder) re­ally is my idea of a hol­i­day page-turner.

In an­tic­i­pa­tion of the 2020 re­lease of Pa­trick Roth­fuss’s long-awaited The Doors of Stone, I’ll be reread­ing the first two books of his tril­ogy, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear (two

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