What We're Reading

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Neil

Bunker, by Bardley Garrett (Allen Lane 2020)

Bradley Garrett is a social geographer, whose previous book was Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City, an account of his time with urban explorers, trespassing into ruins, tunnels and high-rise buildings and construction sites. Bunker is a similarly entertaining account of the world of Doomsday preppers and their plans. It's an unsettling look at a growing movement, and an insight into our age of disquiet and dread.

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Neil

The House of Islam: A Global History, by Ed Husain (Bloomsbury 2018)

Ed Husain is a former Islamic extremist who has since rejected radicalism, and now advises governments on managing anti-extremist programmes. He knows Islam intimately, and this book is an essential read in these times of extremism, and the rise of ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban etc. He explains the origin of Islam, the structure of sharia, and defines and explains the confusing different strains of Islam - Sufism, Salafism, Wahhabism, the Sunni-Shi'a schism etc. It's an elegant overview of the Islamic world, and deserves to be widely read.

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Neil

Greek To Me, by Mary Norris (Text 2019)

Mary Norris is known as The Comma Queen for her years in the copy department at The New Yorker magazine. This book is an engaging account of her love affair with all things Greek, from the language, both ancient and modern, the wine and food of Greece, Greek gods and mythology, and even Greek men. She writes amusingly of the origins of her obsession with Greek, and of her struggles with the language, and with great joy about her numbers trips to Greece. It's a fabulously intelligent, brilliantly written, and gently amusing book, a fresh take on the conventional travel book.

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Neil

Fridays With Jim, by David Cohen (Massey 2020)

Jim Bolger entered politics in New Zealand in the 1970s as King Country MP, and served as Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997. Now in his 80s, he spent a year reflecting on his life in regular meetings with David Cohen, and this book is presented in the first person as a narrative of Bolger's life in chronological order. Although very National in his politics, he was always somewhat unorthodox in his thinking, and in fact has largely rejected the neoliberalism that was a feature of his premiership.

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Neil

Mana Whakatipu, by Mark Solomon (Massey August 2021)

Mark Solomon was head of his iwi, Ngāi Tahu, for 18 years through their Treaty settlement that has made them a major economic player. His boldness, energy and common sense have allowed him to guide and be guided through a critical period in Aotearoa's cultural history. It reads very directly, as though he's speaking aloud, and it's made up of 30-odd short pieces on different aspects of his life, influences and experiences. It's a very inspirational book from a man who came from humble beginnings to become a major leader of one of the largest and wealthiest iwi in New Zealand.

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Neil

Love and War in the Apennines, by Eric Newby (HarperPress 2010, first published 1971)

One of Eric Newby's classic works, this tells the story of his experiences in an Italian prison camp in 1943, and his escape and evasion of the advancing German army. He was sheltered by an informal network of Italian peasants in the Apennines, and the book is a tribute to those idiosyncratic characters whose courage allowed him to evade capture. During this time he meets and falls in love with Wanda, who would later become his wife. It's an evocative book, beautifully written, and provides an insight into a way of life little known by the outside world. A deserved classic.