what I'm currently reading

Desmond & Mpho Tutu - The Book of ForgivingThe Book of Forgiving

Desmond & Mpho Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Rev. Mpho Tutu have joined forces to write this practical guide to forgiveness. Drawing from lessons learnt during The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and from personal tragedy, they have devised a fourfold pathway to forgiveness applicable in many scenarios. Underpinning the book is the enormous value both requesting and granting forgiveness can have for an individual and the wider community.

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David Galler - Things That MatterThings That Matter

David Galler

Intensive Care specialist David Galler shares stories from a life spent caring for those who have walked a tightrope between life and death. Grounded in anatomical specifics, but reflecting on the spiritual and metaphysical, 'Things That Matter' addresses the meaning of modern medicine in its broadest sense.

Ashleigh Young - Can You Tolerate This?Insomniac City

Bill Hayes

This is a beautiful book – beautiful in its tenderness, humanity, observations, and writing. It offers Bill Hayes' reflections on his relationship with the inimitable Oliver Sacks and his relationship with New York City. If you read one book this year, read this seminal work of non-fiction.

Ashleigh Young - Can You Tolerate This?The Girl With Seven Names

Hyeonseo Lee

The true story of the author's defection from North Korea. A shocking insight into the tyranny of Kim Jong-un's dictatorship, and the near insurmountable hurdles for those who attempt to escape it.

Ashleigh Young - Can You Tolerate This?Can You Tolerate This?

Ashleigh Young

It is no surprise that Ashleigh Young won the Wyndham-Campbell Literature Prize for this collection of personal essays. The essays – bold and surprising in their honesty – are crafted with such skill and astuteness, the reader is left reeling from their power. A must read!

Oliver Sacks - GratitudeGratitude

Oliver Sacks

Four essays written by Oliver Sacks in his final months with terminal cancer. Sacks reflects on his life and attempts to come to terms with his impending death. These essays were published in The New York Times, and  it is not hard to undertsand why the paper referred to him as 'the poet laureate of medicine'. The writings and refections of this physician and prolific author reveal a man with such a huge heart, such humanity, such eloquence.

 

Elizabeth Strout - My Name is Lucy bartonMy Name is Lucy Barton

Elizabeth Strout

For five days an estranged mother sits by her ill daughter's hospital bedside. Their often detached pieces of conversation, and the memories these unleash, afford a deeply moving exploration of a complex mother daughter relationship. Beautifully observed, with the weight of what is not articulated, as powerful as what is shared.

Abraham Verghese - My Own CountryMy Own Country

Abraham Verghese

Infectious disease specialist Dr Abraham Verghese's encounter with HIV as the disease began to manifest in small town America. An exploration of prejudice and compassion in the face of a medical crisis.

Charity Norman - The Secret Life of Luke LivingstoneThe Secret Life of Luke Livingstone

Charity Norman

Luke Livingstone is a successful barrister who, after thirty years of marriage, finally confronts something he has kept hidden for almost all of his life – gender dysphoria. Author Charity Norman does a superb job of exploring Luke’s reality and its impact on those he loves. This is fiction at its best, enhancing the reader’s empathy for those who navigate life on the periphery of a norm.

Emma Donoghue - The WonderThe Wonder

Emma Donoghue

Set in mid-nineteenth century Ireland, this is the story of a young eleven year old lass who has supposedly survived on nothing but 'manna from heaven' for four months. An English nurse and a local nun are sent to observe the child for a fortnight to either confirm or refute the claims. Is the child a saint, the victim of  fervent Catholicism characteristic of the era, or the victim of something more sinister?

Nadine Gordimer - The ConservationistThe Conservationist

Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer’s 1974 novel was a joint winner of the Booker-McConnell Prize. Through exploring the complex relationship that a wealthy white businessman has with his rural ‘weekend’ farm, the story proffers a much wider commentary on the more subtle evils of the apartheid era.

Marianne Thamm - Hitler, Verwoerd,Mandela and meHitler, Verwoerd, Mandela and Me

Marianne Thamm

Journalist Marianne Thamm grew up in a world where the philosophies of Hitler, Verwoerd and Mandela would directly impact her. This is a moving, affecting, and at times humorous memoir about one woman’s search for her place, and that of her children, in a bigoted world. A recommended read.

David Guterson - Snow Falling on CedarsSnow Falling on Cedars

David Guterson

A Japanese man is accused of murder in a small, tightly-knit American community. Is he guilty, or is his trial more a reflection of racial prejudice and anti-Japanese sentiment in the wake of the Second World War? An excellent read!

Gary Schmidt - Orbiting JupiterOrbiting Jupiter

Gary Schmidt

A Young Adult book about a troubled teen's temporary sanctuary with a foster family. A moving, beautifully crafted novel which derives its power as much from what is not said, as what is on the page.

Graeme Lay - The Secret Life of James CookThe Secret Life of James Cook

Graeme lay

The first book in a trilogy comprising the fictional biography of explorer James Cook. This first in the series offers a fascinating account of Cook's early life and first major voyage of exploration. The account is grounded in fact and skilfully expanded on by Lay.

Helen Garner - Everywhere I lookEverywhere I look

Helen Garner

A collection of essays and slice-of-life reflections by the award winning journalist and author Helen Garner. Her subject matter is varied, exquisitely observed, and often personal and deeply moving. This is writing at its best. A book I will keep on my shelves.

Greg Mcgee - The AntipodeansThe Antipodeans

Greg Mcgee

This big novel spans three timeframes. At the core is World war II and its impact on three generations of Italian and New Zealand families. The riddle of present day characters' lives is interpreted and understood against the backdrop of what went on in Northern Italy between 1942-44.

Paul Kalanithi - When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

As a neurosurgical resident, Paul Kalanithi dealt with death on a daily basis. But when, at the age of thirty-six, he was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, he had to face his own mortality. A moving and thought-provoking account of his journey from a doctor at the top of his field to a terminally-ill patient and new father.

M.L Stedman - The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans

M.L.Stedman

A boat with a dead man and a baby washes up on a remote Australian island. The childless couple who discover it make a decision which will come to haunt all the characters. A powerful and emotional read.

 

Donna Tartt - The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch

Donna Tartt

13-year-old Theo Decker survives a bomb blast at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which kills mother. In the chaotic aftermath, he steals her favourite painting from the museum – Carel Fabritius's The Goldfinch. The painting comes to assume greater and greater significance for Theo as he navigates a troubled teenagehood and becomes embroiled in an underworld of drugs, art theft and murder. Around the periphery though, are good people. Which world ultimately wins out is the impetus behind this Bildungsroman.

 

Hillary Jordan - MudboundMudbound

Hilary Jordan

A harrowing story of ordinary lives tethered to a country's history and the land. 1946; the Mississippi Delta; the end of the Second World War . . . Each  player is as authentic and keenly evoked as the next. A recommended read.

Robert Glancy - Do Not DisturbDo Not Disturb

Robert Glancy

A satirical tale told by a cast of characters whose lives become embroiled in the machinations of 'Bwalo' - a fictitious African autocracy. Humorous, poignant and sadly, very pertinent.

Helen Garner - This House of GriefThis House of Grief

Helen Garner

Helen Garner follows the court case of Robert Farquharson, charged with driving his car into a dam with the intent of killing his three small sons in an act of revenge against his ex-wife . Garner documents this emotive case with great clarity and skill, and gives a fascinating account of the law at work. The subject matter, however, is incredibly sad.

J K Rowling - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's StoneHarry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

J K Rowling

My children told me I couldn't call myself an author is I hadn't read Harry Potter. I'm not one for fantasy, I cried, as I began the read reluctantly. Then something magical happened . . .   I was completely swept up in the wonderful world of child wizards, Hogwarts, the Dark Arts and dreadful Dursleys. J K Rowling is a storyteller extraordinaire, and I find myself deserting the pile of books at my bedside to reach for the next in the series.

Patricia Grace - ChappyChappy

Patricia Grace

A young man's quest to 'find himself' leads him to travel to New Zealand to unravel his heritage. He learns of the beautiful, but beleaguered love-affair between his Māori grandmother, Oriwia, and his deceased Japanese grandfather, Chappy - a story that will ground him in his past and take him forward into the future. A lovely, gentle tale exploring man's need to belong.

Dr Jared Noel with David W.Williams - Message To My GirlMessage To My Girl

Dr Jared Noel with David W.Williams

A young doctor with terminal bowel cancer shares his very personal journey, reflecting on mortality, faith, thwarted aspirations and impending death. A moving and tender account.

Hannah Kent - Burial RitesBurial Rites

Hannah Kent

This story is based on true events. Set in Iceland in 1829, it centres around a young woman sentenced to death for her role in the murder of two men. With no prisons in Iceland, she is sent to stay with a family on their farm for the winter leading up to her execution.The relationship she develops with these strangers forms the crux of this fascinating and moving historical novel.

Nancy Horan - Under the Wide and Starry SkyUnder the Wide and Starry Sky

Nancy Horan

A novel exploring the fascinating and often fraught relationship between Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne and Robert Louis Stevenson. A mostly engaging, interesting read that sets Stevenson's works against a complex, personal backdrop.

Ta-Nehisi Coates - Between the World and MeBetween the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates

A letter from the author to his fifteen-year-old son about what it means to be black in America. An unflinching look across America's history at the notion of race and racism. A moving, disturbing and very necessary read.

Anne Lamott - Bird by BirdBird by Bird

Anne Lamott

Sage advice for writers, leavened with a good dose of humour. Lamott steers well clear of didacticism, focusing instead on the experiences that make up a writing life. Real and relatable. A valuable resource for the writer at any stage of his/her career.

Phil Klay - RedeploymentRedeployment

Phil Klay

The war in Iraq told through a series of short stories, each with its own distinct voice. Without any frills, euphemisms or platitudes, this National Book Award winner by Marine veteran Phil Klay, makes for a harrowing, real and devastating read.

Kate Grenville - One LifeOne Life: My Mother's Story

Kate Grenville

A sensitive and insightful portrayal of Kate Grenville's mother's life, highlighting the challenges faced by this remarkable woman, and indeed all independent women living in early twentieth century Australia. This book confirmed for me just what a superb writer Kate Grenville is.

Anthony Doerr - All The Light We Cannot SeeAll The Light We Cannot See

Anthony Doerr

Two children – one French and one German – navigating the vicissitudes of life during World War II. Heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure. My favourite read of the year!

Helen Macdonald: H is for HawkH is for Hawk

Helen Macdonald

The fascinating account of Helen Macdonald's training of a goshawk in the wake of her father's death. The taming of Macdonald's grief in many ways parallels her taming of this wild bird. A beautiful book for its prose, its difference, its honesty. I highly recommend it.

Janet Frame - OWLS DO CRYOWLS DO CRY

Janet Frame

First published in 1957, Janet Frames's debut novel is a powerful commentary on the New Zealand of her era. Through the story of the Withers family, she explores the grind of poverty, the horror of mental institutions, and the artifice and insincerity of so much of the adult world. She deftly juxtaposes this with the honesty and instinctive hope of childhood. Acutely observed, masterfully narrated and deeply human – a book which resonates with the reader even half a century after it was first written.

Geraldine Brooks: People of the BookPeople of the Book

Geraldine Brooks

A historical novel inspired by  a true story, 'People of the Book' traces the tenuous survival of an ancient Hebrew codex  from its creation in medieval Spain to modern day war-torn Sarajevo, where it is again is saved from destruction by a Muslim librarian. A fascinating read.

 

Ann Glamuzina - RICH MAN ROADRICH MAN ROAD

Ann Glamuzina

An engaging and moving tale of two immigrant women with different histories and from different generations, whose stories intersect in New Zealand.

Witi Ihimaera - Maori BoyMaori Boy

Witi Ihimeara

This first volume of Witi Ihimaera's memoirs navigates his childhood years in rural New Zealand. His Maori heritage and ancestral history are powerfully and often movingly evoked, and play a significant role in his personal story.

Michael King - The Penguin History of New ZealandThe Penguin History of New Zealand

Michael King

A fascinating, meticulously researched, and very accessible account of New Zealand's history. It is no wonder this book has been so highly acclaimed.

Gabrielle Levin - The Collected Works of A.J. FikryThe Collected Works of A.J. Fikry

Gabrielle Levin

A widowed bookstore owner finds himself raising a young child abandoned in his shop. This light and heartwarming tale is about a handful of people finding their way in the world, and is set against an all-important backdrop of books.

Bryce Courtenay - THE SILVER MOONTHE SILVER MOON

Bryce Courtenay

This is Bryce Courtenay's final work – a compilation of his reflections and musings about life, his approaching death (he died last year), about reading and the craft of writing. It is a inspirational gem of a book and will definitely find a permanent home on my bookshelf.

Richard Flanagan - The Narrow Road to the Deep NorthThe Narrow Road to the Deep North

Richard Flanagan

This overwhelming commentary on humanity is set against the backdrop of the Burma Death Railway. A masterpiece. Winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

Miranda Sherry - Black Dog SummerBlack Dog Summer

Miranda Sherry

A murdered mother lingers in the afterworld, following the different threads of story that belong to those left behind.

Sandy Geyer - My Long Flight From FreedomMy Long Flight From Freedom

Sandy Geyer

South African born Sandy Geyer's frank and heartfelt account of why she left her homeland and moved with her family to New Zealand

Will Schwalbe: The End of Your Life Book ClubThe End Of Your Life Book Club

Will Schwalbe

The journey of a mother's terminal illness facilitated and shared with her son through books. A memoir.

Lloyd Jones - A History of SilenceA History of Silence

Lloyd Jones

An arresting memoir that unearths hidden truths within a family with the same devastating impact as the 2011 Christchurch earthquake (where in fact, the story begins). Beautifully written. This book lingered with me long after the last page.

THE CAT'S TABLE by Michael Ondaatje The Cat's Table

Michael Ondaatje

A sea voyage from Sri Lanka to Britain throws three young boys together. The friendships forged and their adventures on board the Oronsay will resonate long into their adult lives."

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd The Invention of Wings

Sue Monk Kidd

"The Invention of Wings" is another powerful and beautifully written novel by Sue Monk Kidd, based on the true story of Sarah Grimke – a woman who fought tirelessly for both the abolition of slavery and women’s rights at the start of the nineteenth century. A harsh and poignant reminder of this era in America's history.

Alan Paton - CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRYCRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY

Alan Paton

I first read ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ many years ago. On reading it again, I have been reminded what a moving work it is – and brave for its time (1948), written when apartheid was just taking shape in South Africa.

Toni Morrison - BelovedBeloved

Toni Morrison

This deeply affecting and heartbreaking story by American Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, will remain with me from herein out.

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK by Piper KermanORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK

Piper Kerman

A rare and enlightening account of life behind bars in a US federal women’s prison. 'Orange is the New Black' is a thought-provoking read, which raises many questions about modern society’s attitude towards crime and punishment.

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell.Instructions for a Heatwave.

Maggie O'Farrell

The Riordan family regroups following the mysterious disappearance of their loving father and husband. An insightful and entirely credible portrait of a family in crisis. I enjoyed thoroughly.

NoViolet Bulawayo - We Need New NamesWe Need New Names

NoViolet Bulawayo

Told in the unique and delightfully innocent voice of ten-year-old Darling, 'We Need New Names' is both a humorous and heartbreaking story about growing up in contemporary Zimbabwe (2005+) and the challenges of emigration.

Ann Patchett: This is the Story of a Happy MarriageThis is the Story of a Happy Marriage

Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett offers a memoir-like compilation of some of the most significant moments and experiences in her life. Candid and fascinating, the book affords a rare insight into her world.

Witi Ihimeara - THE PARIHAKA WOMANThe Parihaka Woman

Witi Ihimeara

Witi Ihimeara seamlessly blends fact with fiction to create an engaging and moving read about an important period in Maori history.

The Luminaries

Eleanor Catton

An immensely satisfying murder mystery set during the nineteenth century New Zealand gold rush. This intriguing yarn never once flagged; I kept turning the pages - all 832 of them! As a winner of the Man Booker Prize, The Luminaries is a great example of accessible literary fiction.

SNOWDROPS - A.D. MillerSNOWDROPS

A.D. Miller

This novel navigates the murky underworld of modern Moscow, where everything has a price and life is cheap. Miller draws the reader so completely into the bleak physical and moral landscape that it takes a while to reorientate after reading the last page. A recommended read.

The Street Sweeper by Elliot PerlmanThe Street Sweeper

Elliot Perlman

An ambitious work set against a vast backdrop encompassing both the horrors of the Holocaust and the American civil rights movement.

PERFECT by Rachel JoycePERFECT

Rachel Joyce

From the author of ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ comes a much darker tale about one mistake with unimaginable consequences.

Mukiwa. A White Boy in Africa by Peter GodwinMukiwa. A White Boy in Africa

Peter Godwin

Peter Godwin has written a compelling memoir of growing up in Rhodesia in the 1960’s during the last years of white rule. Beautifully written and powerfully evoked. I can highly recommend this.

Natasha Solomon - Mr Rosenblum's ListMr Rosenblum's List

Natasha Solomon

A delightful, humorous and poignant read. This book got a big ‘yes’ from me.

Kevin Powers - The Yellow BirdsThe Yellow Birds

Kevin Powers

A beautifully written and haunting account of two young soldiers' bid to stay alive during their tour of duty in Iraq. Deeply affecting.

Michael Lavigne - NOT MENot Me

Michael Lavigne

In this novel, ‘the truth’ for one man – Michael Rosenheim – is tipped on its head. A captivating tale, NOT ME challenges society’s traditional definitions of good and evil, and leaves the reader grappling with moral uncertainties.

Rachel Joyce - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Rachel Joyce

I found myself looking at the world with a different eye by the end of Harold's journey. A must read!

Gillian Flynn: Gone GirlGone Girl

Gillian Flynn

An unsettling thriller that had me hooked from the opening line.

Annie Barrows, Mary Ann Shaffer - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Annie Barrows, Mary Ann Shaffer

An epistolary novel set in 1946, following the end of the German occupation of Guernsey. A charming and uplifting read celebrating the power of the written word and the ability of the human spirit to rise above adversity.