Summer Read/Watch/Listen tips

December 14, 2023

Summer Bookstack:

I’m a judge for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction for the 2024 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards so I’m currently pretty well immersed in 43 Aotearoa novels! But I’m also looking forward to diving into some non-required summer reading.

A Thread of Violence: A Story of Truth, Invention, and Murder by Mark O’Connell
The master of gripping narrative nonfiction, Mark O’Connell was a guest at WORD 2021’s Faraway Near and his latest book just won the Dubray Non-Fiction Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. You can read an interview I did with him about the end of the world for The Spinoff.

An Indigenous Ocean: Pacific Essays by Damon Salesa
From the first indigenous civilisations that flourished in Oceania to the colonial encounters of the ninteenth century, and to the complex contemporary relationships between New Zealand and the Pacific, these essays look at race and migration, with Pacific peoples at the centre of each narrative.

The Bee Sting by Paul Murray
This was shortlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize and I’m looking forward to reading this once I’ve finished the winning title Prophet Song by the other Booker Paul, Paul Lynch. I love to have a big chunky book to get stuck into over summer and this looks the ticket.

Outline & Transit by Rachel Cusk
Cusk, Cusk, Cusk!

I love what Jordan from Māori Literature Blog does and Puhia is issue one of his Māori art and literature journal. It platforms the writing and artwork of emerging and established Māori voices.

After the Party
This knockout six-part television drama is like an Anne Enright novel set in Wellington. Robyn Malcom is brilliant as Penny, a strong, flawed and complex character. I watched each high-tension-wire episode with my heart thumping in my chest.

Te Rauparaha: Kei Wareware podcast series
I’m looking forward to listening to this new Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage podcast which delves into the life and times of Ngāti Toa chief Te Rauparaha. It’s co-written and narrated by WORD alumni Ross Calman (Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāi Tahu) which is a marker of quality right there.

Unknown Country: Listening for the Sound of Aotearoa: 2023 Lilburn Lecture by Nick Bollinger
What a joy this is! Music writer Nick Bollinger’s recent Lilburn Lecture at National Library was recorded by RNZ Concert and is a beautifully structured, insightful, warm, and sometimes wryly funny address of personal storytelling, cultural and social history and music. I was lucky enough to attend this sold out session but am looking forward to going back and listening to the recording. As the writer Redmer Yska said in his speech at the end of the lecture, “Nick always makes you feel like you have a seat at his table.”

Summer Bookstack:

Big Fat Brown B*tch by Tusiata Avia
If you were at Tusiata’s session at WORD this year, then you’ll be reaching for this too. Poetry that knocks you around in the best way, and found on many a NZ best books of 2023 list. She is truly a poetic goddess.

Chlorine by Jade Song
I heard about this book via Teen Vogue AKA my Gen Z style manual. This debut novel is a coming-of-age meets body horror tale about teem swimaholic Ren Yu. I have a feeling this water baby isn’t as sweet as that sounds.

Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka
Summer is for cricket watching, so I’m finally getting to the debut novel of a Booker Prize winner we claim as our own. A dying old sportswriter spends his final months tracking down one of Sri Lanka’s greatest cricketers, his quest sometimes farcical and hilarious. Will likely be read in innings breaks of Black Caps matches.

Beyond Burnout by Suzi McAlpine
Recommended to me by someone who knows, and will likely form the basis of what are hopefully achievable resolutions.

Lioness by Emily Perkins
I hardly ever get to read works of all the great writers we have at WORD, so I’ve been saving Emily’s book to savour over the holidays since WORD 2023. From what I gather, it may be a great fictional accompaniment to my non-fiction pick above…

The Cleaner
Magda and I are big fans of this! Apparently an adaptation of a German show, this dark comedy series feels like it was made for Greg Davies (the UK Taskmaster), who stars as Wicky, a specialist crime scene cleaner. While he’s cleaning, he comes across the strangest of people, all played by British acting superstars. Another British comedy gem.

My Hipster Christmas playlist
I dabble in so many podcasts but never stay loyal to one, so instead here’s my Christmas gift to you. It’s something a bit different to the usual carols – enjoy.

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