Staff recommendations 2022
Here are our favourite books that we read during 2022. (Some of these were published in earlier years.)
We love a good list. They’re good for inspiration, cogitation, and maybe even argumentation!
What was your favourite book of 2022? Drop us a line and we might put it in our next newsletter!
Legends & Lattes – Travis Baldree
‘Cosy fantasy’ in which an orc warrior gives up that lifestyle to open a café. Along the way she makes new friends. There’s some mild conflict, but the author deliberately wrote it to be ‘high fantasy, low stakes’ so it’s a comforting read in these troubled times.
Pretty shocking how many inventions were abandoned or delayed because they were deemed too feminine. “When genders are defined by their opposites, no one gains access to the full spectrum of what it means to be human”
The Forgotten Coast by Richard Shaw.
Written following the realisation that his great-grandfather was in the Armed Constabulary when they invaded Parihaka.
The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk.
A librarian gets promoted to the post her recently deceased mentor has just left vacant, and she finds out that rare books are going missing. So many cool library details!
The Birth of Loud by Ian S. Port.
The people who brought the solid-body electric guitar into existence, including both the inventors and the players who helped shape their work.
Of Dice and Men: The story of Dungeons & Dragons and the people who play it by David M. Ewalt.
A much more convoluted tale than I’d expected.
Cuteness award: Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega.
Great cover, cool story about three tweens who have to learn to work together to become fully-fledged witches.
The Stranger Times by C. K. McDonnell.
Yes, this is the author with the cool prologue about z’s and s’s that’s doing the rounds on social media (it’s not from this book though).
Somewhat similar to Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series but instead of police, it’s people working at a quirky newspaper, which covers all the weird stuff, some of which turns out to be true.
The Dawnhounds by Sascha Stronach.
NZ authors seem to excel at the weird type of fantasy. Some great lines (“he didn’t so much walk into a room as launch an invasion of it”) and a hugely inventive mycelial world.
The Day the World Stops Shopping by J. B. MacKinnon.
Really good investigation of reducing consumption globally, and what that would actually mean. From this book I learned that the person who invented the concept of the GDP subtracted military spending from it. The money could otherwise be used to improve citizens’ standard of living.
Too Much Money by Max Rashbrooke.
Eye-opening. I learned a lot about NZ’s economy, and the fact that there exist ways to remedy inequity in NZ right now, but we aren’t using them.
Learning to Love Blue by Saradha Koirala.
(Won the YA section of NZ C & YA Book Awards this year). Young woman moves to Melbourne to break into the music scene. A very accurate portrayal of how that all works!
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St John Mandel.
Rumination on the meaning of humanity. “A life lived in a simulation is still a life”, one of the characters posits. I called it ‘gorgeous and poignant’ in my little book of books I’ve read.
Poor People with Money by Dominic Hoey.
Hard-living young woman decides to fleece some gangsters of their drug money, with no real plan for after. Tough to read such a slow-motion car-crash of a plot, but such great writing! Cool lines like “His face looked like a drawing someone had started and then given up on”
A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers.
I’m a big fan of Becky Chambers. This is another lovely, gentle novella about how we live our lives. It takes a robot to make you fully understand humanity.
The Guitar by Chris Gibson.
Two Australian geography professors track down where each piece of wood on a guitar comes from. Fascinating! Environmental and cultural impacts of sawmilling are scrutinised.
Nora’s Top 5
Here is my list of the most interesting, enjoyable, surprising and exciting books I have read and listened to in 2022:
The language of food by Annabel Abbs
Dead man’s axe by Bing Turkby
Daughter of the moon goddess by Sue L. Tan
Bloomsbury girls by N. Jenner
The girl who wrote in silk (eaudiobook) by Kelli Estes
The Other Side of Beautiful, Kim Lock
A funny, absorbing and far-fetched read with just a little bit of romance. Mercy’s husband leaves her, an accident at work leaves her crippled by anxiety, and then her house burns down. With not much more than her ex-husband’s partner’s spare clothes on her back, she impulse buys an old campervan and sets off across Australia with no plan. Mercy’s eventual triumph is a comforting reminder that growth is always possible.
The Other Bennet Sister, Janice Hadlow
As the introverted, ugly duckling sister in Pride and Prejudice’s central family, this thoughtful story colours in Mary as an intelligent, sensitive and lost soul who blossoms into her own kind of heroine. Starting with and following the events in Pride and Prejudice, The Other Bennet Sister continues past Lizzie and Jane’s triumphant marriages and into the future. The writing is modern but respectful of Jane Austen’s style, and a heart-warming story of self-realisation.
The dictionary of Lost Words, Pip Williams
Set during the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, the great compilation of the English language, Esme grows up in a world of words. One day, a slip flutters under the table, that she secretly keeps. Esme begins to collect the scraps that are discarded, which evolves into a personal mission: collecting women’s words and experiences that others may not deem important or genteel enough to be recorded and preserved. This fictional tale is based around real characters and a real incident: the loss and exclusion of the slip for the word ‘bondmaid’ in the first edition of the OED.
Presented by my heroine Lucy Worsley, dive into the historic bedrooms and wardrobes of royalty to examine their lives and the impacts that they had on fashion, culture and modern culture.
Bugs, Whiti Hereaka
Sarcastic, smart and stuck: Bugs is the quintessential kiwi teenager. It gave me whiplash in the first 45 pages, and was so relatable I could have been mates with Bugs, Jez and the troublesome new girl who insists on being called ‘Stone Cold’. This is a great coming-of-age story, filled with teenage drama, bitchy girls and well-meaning parents that you just want to get out of your room.
‘When the dust settles’ by Lucy Easthope
“When I see a disaster unfold, my first thought is of needs of dead, of the grieving and of those who care for both”, Lucy Easthope.
Have you ever wondered how in the aftermath of big disasters ‘things’ are organised? Its Lucy’s job to plan out and advise Companies, Governments and countries about disaster relief, temporary mortuaries and the like. Lucy discusses well known disasters such as 9/11, Grenfell Tower, Bali Bombings, COVID and lesser known incidents such as an aeroplane crashing on the motorway and human trafficking.
I absolutely taken with this book as I had no idea of the background work done by disaster advisors and the hidden pitfalls. Its deliciously fascinating.
Ora Nui 4 Maori Literary journal. New Zealand and Taiwan special Edition.
I found this fascinating book when I was shelving books in the Fiction living room. I picked it up and started looking at the articles before I realised what I was doing I had read the article on page 194 about “How plant DNA tells story of Austronesian Expansion and Migration”….cool stuff for a person who is interested in Pacific Navigation and Archaeology. I discovered poetry, short stories, Austronesian archaeological articles and some creative non-fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed dipping in and out of this book over the week or two I had it issued to me.
- The Art of Losing (Alice Zeniter) – first published in French 2017, English 2021; winner Dublin Literary Award 2022
The title unfortunately does not do justice to the book, and I am glad I picked it up despite that…
This often heart rending story of Algerian immigrants to France is told by tracing the story of three generations, starting with the family that was forced to seek refuge in France after the French/Algerian war of independence. Eventually, ‘third generation’ Naima is the first one to travel back to Algeria and to experience a country that seems to have nothing much to do with her and her life anymore, but which still defines much of her and her family’s history and relationships, and her status in French society. The book does depict the situation and treatment of Algerian immigrants to France, and goes some way to explain the clashes and riots that happened a few years ago in parts of France. While a specific example – in time and space – of an immigrant family, the book will ring a bell in many ways with any immigrant, refugee, asylum seeker and other in a similar situation, and gives them all a voice. I am not someone given to emotional outburst but this book made me cry a couple of times, and nod with recognition of common feelings and thoughts often.
For a visual Tour de Force of the dark chapter of the Algerian war, KANOPY features the 1966 Italian/Algerian, black and white, documentary style movie “The Battle For Algiers” which is well worth watching.
- Being You: a New Science of Consciousness (Anil K. Seth) – published 2021
Reality might not be what you think it is… or what it is for your fellow humans…. It might just be a ‘controlled hallucination’….. A really good review of this book here:
Well worth deviating for to the non-fiction area of the library….
- Remember : the science of memory and the art of forgetting (Lisa Genova) – published 2021
..and some more stuff about the brain. How come two witnesses recount very different memories of an event. Where the heck did you just put the newspaper? What’s his name again – it’s on the tip of my tongue! Is this a ‘normal’ senior moment or the start of Alzheimers? Lisa Genova answers all these questions and explains how memory actually works according to the latest brain research, and it’s highly readable.
- State of Wonder (Ann Patchett) – published 2011
A woman scientist has dropped off the radar while researching a secretive Amazonian tribe to find out why their women can conceive and give birth well into old age. But would developing a drug for Western World’s child-desperate women be a good result from this research? Meanwhile, the scientist’s Pharma Corporation’s boss is desperate to progress such a drug and sends his employee/lover to find the scientist and solve the mystery of a colleague who has disappeared, presumed dead. Heart of Darkness infused, but less dark.
- The Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson) – published 2020
Hefty tome that is very timely, about how climate change could pan out. Though not much of a science fiction reader, this was deservedly highly recommended to me and is timely, given another Climate Summit has come and gone, with a ‘BLAH’ as was just about expected. Very believable scenarios, although towards the end I was not convinced by the novel’s optimism regarding humankind’s fate…
- The post-birthday world (Lionel Shriver) – published 2007
Irina kisses or doesn’t kiss another man than her husband. These two scenarios develop into two different versions of her future life, each version having good and bad times and outcomes, regrets, affirmations of choice etc. As a reader I tended to oscillate between her choices, as did Irina herself “I should have – I shouldn’t have”. The lesson to learn here, in a very entertaining way, is that whatever choice you make in life, it will come with pros and cons, good and bad results. Make a choice and run with it, and that’s your life 😊
- Book: Axiom’s End (Lindsey Ellis)
I was recommended this Sci-fi novel about first contact by a D&D friend, because of course I was. It ended up being a fantastic exploration of how humanity would interact with a species foreign enough to our perception to be basically incomprehensible, led by a very likable protagonist and a healthy amount of humour.
A girl and her interplanetary cyborg, on a trek across the Continental United States – If you like your aliens with a dose of philosophical, existential dread and for that to be way more fun than it sounds, look no further.
A coherent multiverse plot, Michelle Yeoh kicking ass, a touching emotional core of familial love and Chinese representation – any other movie would be great if it achieved any one of these things, but this one has it all, and does it excellently.
As a martial artist since my preteens who also happens to be a massive nerd, Everything, Everywhere, All At Once ticked every box for me. No longer must I keep my loves of sci-fi and Bruce Lee separate.
- TV Show: Midnight Mass
A seven-episode horror miniseries with a fully-realised ensemble cast, great soundtrack and poignant themes that manages to be unsettling without descending into jumpscare territory gets an A in my book. Horror doesn’t always satisfy me with its characters or storytelling; it’s often more about the tension and the atmosphere while the narrative suffers. Midnight Mass was special in that it was able to tell not just an evocative horror story, but an evocative story. Probably the best show I’ve seen in a long time.
- Album: ERROR (The Warning)
Firstly, I am exceedingly jealous of The Warning. They’re an all-female hard rock band from Mexico who have performed with Halestorm, The Pretty Reckless and the Foo Fighters, all within the space of a few years… while all being younger than me. Seriously. I may be 23 and one of the youngest staff members here at the library, but their oldest member is 22.
Segueing from blistering envy to blistering admiration, The Warning have a wholly unique style that ranges from hauntingly beautiful to thrashingly epic and captures everything I love about the music of the 70s-80s. ERROR is their first full-length album, and is special to me due to a series of freaky coincidences:
First, it was released on my birthday. My 23rd birthday. One of the tracks is titled ’23’. Another is titled ‘Z’ – like, what my name starts with. And my favourite track on the album, ‘REVENANT’, Is so eerily similar to parts of my own life that I’ve been checking my house for bugs ever since.
Look, I get it – I’m projecting. The whole point of The Warning is to make hard rock accessible to a predominantly Gen Z audience. But given my existing love for the genre, the band and the crazy conveniences surrounding their new album, this is an entry I can’t do anything but recommend.
- Metaphysical Concept: Paracausality
Paracausality is the idea of something that will have happened in the past as a result of something in the present, at which point the present retroactively changes to accommodate the discrepancy. Is it confusing? Yes. Irrelevant? Also yes. But I couldn’t think of a fifth thing.