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25 October 2023

The Reading Doctor: In A Slump

Kia ora and welcome to the Reading Doctor! Each week, literary critic and devoted reader Dr Louise recommends books to us on a particular theme, or responds to reader questions. Submit your questions for her here:

Help, I'm an avid reader in a reading slump. What are some easy reads that might help me reconnect with my love of books again? I am usually riding the wave of recent NZ fiction and poetry releases, with some international fiction thrown in for good measure. The last book I really devoured was R.F. Kuang's Yellowface and I'm dying to feel that feeling again.

These (mostly) recently published books are the kind with prose so deftly crafted that it acts like a window onto the action and characters, sweeping the reader along in page-turning delight! It’s only after satisfying the desire to find out what happens that you marvel at the novel’s cleverness, and start again at the first page in order to pay attention to the writing. Enjoy.

  • Emily Perkins is a subtle writer and an acute social observer; her latest novel, Lioness, dissects a certain type of woman who suppresses her righteous anger in consumerism. You’ll never look at a scented candle the same way again.
  • A woman talks to her three daughters about the life and loves of her past, about the woman she was before they were born, in Ann Patchett’s new novel Tom Lake, leading them to re-examine not only their relationship with their mother, but to reconsider the world they thought they knew.
  • Based on a real court case, The Fraud by Zadie Smith is a light novel with epic themes, about a Victorian novelist and two 19th-century societies – England and Jamaica – in flux and connected by slavery.
  • Part essay, part memoir, End Times by Rebecca Priestley is a story about a friendship and a road trip, climate change and conspiracy theories, earthquakes, hot pies and growing up.
  • Amy Head’s latest collection of short stories, Signs of Life, is set in post-quake Christchurch, following a range of multi-generational characters teetering between disaster and recovery, in its many forms.
  • Set in 80’s New Zealand and so evocative of that time, Catherine Chidgey’s Pet is told from the perspective of a young girl who has recently lost her mother, who transfers her affections to her new and glamorous teacher, a woman in full command of the complex politics of the classroom.
  • Haven by Emma Donoghue is a strange and surprising novel about three monks in ancient Ireland who embark on a dangerous journey in search of solitude and sanctity.
  • Ithaca is the first in a trilogy by Claire North about the house of Odysseus and it’s fabulous women: Penelope is the guardian of an empty throne, fending off odious suitors while maintaining a precarious balance of power in the kingdom with wit and cunning.
  • In the guise of a predictable genre novel, The Trees by Percival Everett is a dark and satirical murder mystery set in the American south which draws on the context of a national history of racial violence; it’s funny and thoughtful and difficult to put down.

Got a question for the Reading Doctor? Submit it anonymously here: