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05 June 2024

Winter Reading Guide: Recommended by You

We asked what books you’re loving this winter and you delivered! Check out this stellar line-up of titles from Aotearoa and beyond.

Amma by Saraid de Silva

In Saraid de Silva’s stunning debut novel, we meet three generations of a family grappling with the search for belonging and the need to forge their own paths. Set in Sri Lanka, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and London, three plotlines braid together as the protagonist Annie journeys across the world to discover what happened to her fractured family.

Brought to life with lush and vivid prose, de Silva's characters navigate myriad societal issues – from sectarian violence and homophobia, to Aotearoa’s struggle to acknowledge domestic abuse. 

First Things by Harry Ricketts

In First Things, Harry Ricketts chronicles his early life through the lens of ‘firsts’: those moments that can hold their detail and potency across a lifetime. Set mostly in Hong Kong and Oxford, these bright fragments include the places, people, writers, encounters, and obsessions that have shaped Ricketts’ world, from his first friends and rivals to his first time being caned by a teacher and his first time dropping acid.

Who really were we, back then? Which parts of ourselves get to be remembered and carried along with us, and which parts are gone forever? In First Things, the gaps in between shine as brightly as the memories themselves.

Return to Blood by Michael Bennett

Bennett’s Ockham-nominated page-turner Better the Blood appeared in our Summer Reading Guide. Now we return to the world of Hanna Westerman, who has turned in her badge and turned on her life as a detective in Tāmaki Makaurau, but she can’t outrun the ghosts who follow her to the peaceful shores of her hometown, Tāta Bay. Bennett continues to explore themes of indigenous rights, social justice, and bearing responsibility for the past.

kitten by Olive Nuttall

Rosemary, a trans girl, has many conflicting qualities. She’s super smart but flawed, polyamorous but timid, promiscuous but inexperienced. When Rosemary gets the call that her grandmother is dying, she leaves Te Whanganui-a-Tara for her hometown Kirikiriroa, where she’s confronted with the damage of her past. Then Thorn – Rosemary's long-distance daddy – shows up, and her world cracks open. Nuttall writes about difficult topics with exceptional grace, humour, and command of her craft.

Lioness by Emily Perkins

A searing and urgent novel crackling with tension and intelligence, Lioness starts with a hiss and ends with a roar as protagonist Therese’s dawning awareness and growing rage reveals itself. At first glance this is a psychological thriller about a privileged wealthy family and its unravelling. Look closer and it is an incisive exploration of wealth, power, class, female rage, and the search for authenticity.

The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

In the near future, a disaffected civil servant is offered a lucrative job in a mysterious new government ministry gathering ‘expats’ from across history to test the limits of time-travel. Her role is to work as a ‘bridge’: living with, assisting, and monitoring the expat known as ‘1847’ – Commander Graham Gore. As far as history is concerned, Gore died on a sailing expedition to the Arctic. As the true shape of the project that brought them together begins to emerge, Gore and the bridge are forced to confront their past choices and imagined futures.

These Two Hands by Renée

In 2017, the beloved New Zealand novelist, playwright, and feminist writer Renée (1929–2023) wrote her memoir. These Two Hands tells her story in a series of ‘patches’, like a quilt, which blends moments of her life, unpublished poems, stories, extracts from her plays and novels, essays, and reflections. Renée released a new edition of These Two Hands in 2020 that includes three new ‘patches’ about key elements of her extraordinary life.

Woman Running in the Mountains by Yūko Tsushima

Alone at dawn, in the heat of midsummer, a young woman named Takiko Odaka departs on foot for the hospital to give birth to a baby boy. Her pregnancy, the result of a brief affair with a married man, is a source of sorrow and shame to her abusive parents. For Takiko, however, it is a cause for reverie. Her baby, she imagines, will be hers and hers alone, a challenge that she also hopes will free her. Takiko’s first year as a mother is filled with the intense bodily pleasures and pains that come from caring for a newborn. At first she seeks refuge in the company of other women—in the hospital, in her son’s nursery—but as the baby grows, her life becomes less circumscribed as she explores Tokyo, then ventures beyond the city into the countryside, toward a mountain that captures her imagination and desire for a wilder freedom.

How to Loiter in a Turf War by Coco Solid

This genre-bending work of autofiction is a day in the life of three friends – Te Hoia, Q, and Rosina – beefing with their city, Tāmaki Makaurau. The city itself is a character – opening for some, contracting for others. With gentrification closing in and racial tensions sweltering, the girls must cling to their friendship like a life raft.

‘Sharp, funny and dope as hell, How to Loiter in a Turf War is another Coco Solid work of genius. With her piercing prose and expansive worlds, Coco has long been a life-raft for brown kids swimming against the whirlpools of urban realities, and this work is no different. Painfully perceptive, familiar and hopeful.’ — Lana Lopesi

Kōhine by Colleen Maria Lenihan

Tokyo is a humming backdrop for Kōhine’s array of outsiders: a young woman arrives to work as a stripper, the manager of a love hotel hatches a sleazy plan, a spirit wanders Harajuku, and a mother embarks on a sad journey. Linked through recurring characters and themes, these haunting stories hurtle us into the streets of Tokyo and small-town New Zealand. The secular city of salarymen, sex workers, and schoolgirls is juxtaposed with rongoā healers, lone men, and rural matriarchs of Aotearoa.

Big Fat Brown Bitch by Tusiata Avia

Admire my big fat brown body, bitches!
Admire it!

The Big Fat Brown Bitch runs, sleeps, cries, laughs, splits open. She is sitting in a garage in South Auckland with her two brothers and discussing the majestic architecture of atoms. She is playing an audio book of The Power of Positive Thinking at herself. She is jumping over the lazy dog. She is lying face down in the mud and doing an apology on behalf of us all. She is receiving an election-year visit and a death threat. She is strapped to the cross. She is turning into a werewolf. The Big Fat Brown Bitch is coming for you.

People Person by Joanna Cho

Cho’s adventurous, funny and dissonant poems are about the endless work of fitting in when the goalposts are constantly changing. They ask: how can we nail the perfect routine? How can we be a people person in the world? What parts of ourselves must we leave behind? Moving between South Korea and New Zealand, Joanna Cho’s poems range excitingly in form, drawing upon and cleverly subverting the folktale, the phone conversation, and the basketball game.

The Ornithologist’s Field Guide to Love by India Holton

Coming 30 July 2024

Holton’s Dangerous Damsels series came highly recommended, and readers are excited about this historical-fantasy rom-com reminiscent of Indiana Jones but with manners, tea, and helicopter parasols. When a competition to become Birder of the Year is announced, rival professors Beth Pickering and Devon Lockley are forced to team up to have any chance of winning. They simply can’t trust anyone, including each other – for while all may be fair in love and war, this is ornithology!

Untouchable Girls by Lynda and Jools Topp

This is the incredible story of how a couple of country kids from Huntly became much-loved Kiwi icons and TV stars, with their own unique brand of original country music and comedy that has captivated audiences in New Zealand and overseas for more than 40 years. Jools and Lynda Topp – comedians, country music stars, yodellers, lesbians – tell this story in their own words, describing their adventurous lives through laugh-out-loud anecdotes and heartwarming tales.

What You Are Looking For Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama

‘What are you looking for?’ This is the famous question routinely asked by Tokyo’s most enigmatic librarian, Sayuri Komachi. Like most librarians, Komachi has read every book lining her shelves – but she also has the unique ability to read the souls of her library guests. For anyone who walks through her door, Komachi can sense exactly what they’re looking for in life and provide just the book recommendation they never knew they needed to help them find it.

More great titles to enjoy this winter:

Saltblood by Francesca De Tores

Hagstone by Sinéad Gleeson

The End of Drum-Time by Hanna Plyväinen

A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter

The Mark by Fríða Ísberg

The Coconut Children by Vivian Pham

Checkout 19 by Claire-Louise Bennett

The Well-lived Life by Gladys McGarey

Our Strangers by Lydia Davis

Days by Michael Cunningham

The Membranes by Chi Ta-wei

Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt

Pageboy by Elliot Page

Kokomo by Victoria Hannan

 Check out BookHub to see which independent bookstores near you are stocking these titles.