What We're Reading

Neil's picture
Neil

Did I Ever Tell You This?, by Sam Neill (Text 2023)

A hilariously entertaining and beautifully told memoir, episodic and anecdotal, this is a triumph os storytelling. Sam Neill turns out to be a charming companion, by turns gossipy, self-effacing, amusingly grumpy, and very moving - he's undergoing treatment for cancer, which appears to be working. The book includes quite a number of charming family photographs as well as pictures from his long and prolific film career. This is a terrific memoir, worth reading even if you're not familiar with many of his movies.

Neil's picture
Neil

The Story of Russia, by Orlando Figes (Bloomsbury 2022)

Orlando Figes has written many books on Russian history, and in this book he presents the distillation of his years of research and knowledge into a 300-pages introductory history of that troubled country. It's authoritative, comprehensive, readable and convincing, tragic and non-judgemental. It opens in the 9th Century and ends with a rumination on its future, Putin and the Ukraine war. He says that no other country has been so divided over its own past, non has changed its story so often. If you want to understand Russia, and we all should, this book will certainly help.

Neil's picture
Neil

Shy, by Max Porter (Faber, 2023)

Shy is a strange, lovely and unsettling little book. Only 120 pages, a one-sitting read, telling of only a few hours of a teenage boy's life, it's a true epic in miniature. It's written as a stream-of-consciousness, a multitude of voices, an oblique narrative and an insight into a disturbed mind. It's both uplifting and rather depressing, but an extraordinary achievement nonetheless.

Neil's picture
Neil

Larrimah, by Caroline Graham & Kylie Stevenson (Allen & Unwin 2021)

This book is drawn from a 2018 podcast called Lost in Larrimah, and it concerns a man who went missing in mysterious circumstances from a town called Larrimah, in Australia's Northern Territory. At the time Larrimah's population was 12, and they all appeared to dislike everyone else in the town. It's a wildly amusing and intriguing book, as the authors travel around some of the world's most remote regions, attempting to piece together Paddy Moriarty's life and find out what might have happened.

Neil's picture
Neil

Audition, by Pip Adam (Te Herenga Waka University Press July 2023)

This must be one of the strangest books I've ever read. Audition is a gigantic space ship, travelling through space. There are three giants inside; if they talk they stop growing and the spaceship keeps moving, if they are silent, they grow again, and are in danger of being crushed or the spaceship breaking apart. Much of the book is dialogue, and the giants are vague in their memory of how this all came about, and are not all that bright. They repeat themselves, and this gives the book an incantatory feel, which propels the reader through some very strange events.

Neil's picture
Neil

Ithaca, by Alice Benge (Te Herenga Waka University Press 2023)

Ithaca is a collection of personal essays, mostly about belonging and home. She has had an interesting life - a childhood in Ethiopia with missionary parents, a spell in the Australian army, Bible school, an attempt at the pilgrimage trail the Camino in Spain, among other adventures. It's a remarkably honest and engaged collection, thought provoking, emotional and confronting, as well as being brilliantly written and an effortless, frictionless read.