Bennett, Joe

Bennett, Joe


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Harper Collins NZ

In Brief

Joe Bennett is a columnist and travel writer. The first of his travel books, A Land of Two Halves was published in 2004, followed by Mustn’t Grumble in 2006. Numerous collections of his columns have been released since his first, Just Walking the Dogs, in 1998. Where Underpants Come From: From Checkout to Cotton Field - Travels Through the New China (2008) was an international hit, and the book sheds light on some of the mysteries of global commerce. Bennett's first novel, King Rich was published in 2015.


Bennett, Joe (1957 – ) is a columnist and travel writer. Born in Eastbourne, England, Bennett was educated at the University of Cambridge and worked for many years teaching English. He has been a full-time freelance writer since 1998 and his columns are syndicated in newspapers throughout New Zealand. Bennett has lived in New Zealand since 1987. He has also been Quantas Media Awards Columnist of the Year three times.

Eleven collections of Bennett’s columns have been published. The first, Just Walking the Dogs (1998), sets the tone for the eight subsequent collections – all have dog references in the titles. The first of his travel books, A Land of Two Halves (2004), finds Bennett hitchhiking around New Zealand looking for what it is that keeps him living here. His second travel book, Mustn’t Grumble (2006), finds Bennett back in his country of origin, following the trail that writer HV Morton took 80 years ago in search of the ‘real England’.

Reviewing Mustn’t Grumble in the Listener, Harry Ricketts writes that ‘Bennett is enjoyably severe on “Tesco’s England” with its aisles of vacuum-packed Englishness, each shelf shiny with mass-produced heritage – a huge variety of all the same. Bennett’s view, to travesty Yeats, might be summed up as “Romantic England’s dead and gone,/It’s with H V Morton in the grave” – with the brusque rider that romantic England never really existed anyway.’

Where Underpants Come From: From Checkout to Cotton Field - Travels Through the New China (HarperCollins, 2008) sheds light on the mystery of global commerce as Bennett takes the reader on a humourous and informative journey through the economics and exchanges of the one of the worlds fastest growing countries.

In 2008, a best-of hardback was published by HarperCollins NZ, called, Laugh? I could have cried.

In his twelfth collection of columns, The World's Your Lobster (HarperCollins, 2009), Bennett has written the inaugural speech for Barack Obama, given the world a crash course in high finance, watched Christianity play Islam at football, been at court twice, and eavesdropped on the Pope in Africa.

Described as a 'love story - of sorts,' King Rich (HarperCollins, 2015) is a novel set in Christchurch just days after the February 2011 earthquake. Reviewer Felicity Murray wrote: "It’s a simple story of love and hope, the kindness of others, the simple pleasures in life, set against a background of such devastation, loss and despair. Could it only be written by someone who has lived through all this themselves? Well, in this case, I think yes. Because the book absolutely sparkles with what Christchurch is all about."

Bennett has starred in segments on the New Zealand comedy show Moon TV hosted by "That Guy" Leigh Hart in a segment called "Bookzone: A Show About Books."

In early 2021, Bennett's play The Die ran at the Lyttelton Arts Factory. Described as "love and tragedy meet fast-food reality in a deep-fried psychological thriller," reviewer Ruth Agnew wrote "Joe Bennett’s tale of fried fish, fate and fatality is a localised kitchen sink drama that suits its Lyttleton setting beautifully."

Bennett lives in Lyttelton, Christchurch.


  • Joe Bennett’s website
  • A collection of Joe's columns for Stuff are available on Muck Rack

Updated April 2022.