what I'm currently reading

Dr Lisa Mosconi - The XX BrainThe XX Brain

Dr Lisa Mosconi

A fascinating look at the female brain and how it ages. Filling a gap in research specific to the female body, Dr Lisa Mosconi’s work explores the impact of female hormones on the brain, and offers evidence-based recommendations to women regarding how to maximise brain health in ageing.

Chanel Miller - Know My NameKnow My Name

Chanel Miller

This articulate and devastating account of sexual-assault-survivor Chanel Miller’s journey through a flawed legal system, towards recovery and reclamation of herself, is a hugely important read. Her words have challenged, inspired and provoked change.

Jeanine Cummins - American DirtAmerican Dirt

Jeanine Cummins

The story of a mother and son’s gruelling flight from Mexico to the USA, to escape cartel violence directed at their family. The book has courted significant controversy around whether Cummins, who is not of Mexican descent, authentically and acurately represents the plight of Mexican migrants. It is worth reading the discussions around this.

Caroline Barron - Ripiro BeachRipiro Beach

Caroline Barron

After confronting her own mortality in a near-death experience as a young mother, Caroline Barron embarks on a challenging emotional and physical journey to recovery – a journey which also embraces a search for identity and a fuller understanding of her heritage. This is a beautifully written, extremely honest, and heartfelt memoir. While a very personal story, it also one of universal relevance, as Barron ponders the impact of ancestry on an individual’s trajectory.

Roger Robinson - A Portable ParadiseA Portable Paradise

Roger Robinson

A profound and important collection of poetry imbued with such humanity. Rogers addresses a wide breadth of topics, including the Grenfell Tower fire, systemic racism, the Windrush generation, and the premature birth of his son. I will carry many of the words in this beautiful book with me always, most especially the poem after which the collection is named.

Becky Manawatu - Where the Crawdads SingAuē

Becky Manawatu

This debut novel by Becky Manawatu is a story of two Māori brothers trying to shake off a legacy of violence and sorrow that has impacted so many in their extended whanau. A powerful, confronting, and often moving tale.

Delia Owens - Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens

This refreshingly original story set in the 1950s has a murder mystery at its core. However, it also the tale a young girl’s bid to survive as she grows up alone in the swamps of Northern Carolina, nature both her teacher and refuge from a harsh and prejudiced world.

Bernadine Evaristo - Girl, Woman,OtherGirl, Woman, Other

Bernadine Evaristo

Twelve different women navigate different lives in different eras. The one common denominator in this Booker-Prize-winning compilation of interconnected stories is the experience of being a black woman in Britain. Thought-provoking, humorous, poignant, and important.

Markus Zusak - Bridge of ClayBridge of Clay

Markus Zusak

The first few chapters of this vast and beautiful novel were a little hard to get into, and I struggled to orient myself, but then the story opened up into a narrative of such incredible emotional depth. 'Bridge of Clay' is the story of five brothers, and one in particular, who grapple as best they know how with the vicissitudes of life. As I turned the pages, this book quietly found a place on my shelf of all-time favourite reads .

Steve Braunias - The Scene of the CrimeThe Scene of the Crime

Steve Braunias

Award-winning journalist Steve Braunias digs beneath the headlines to offer substantive and fascinating insights into twelve notable crimes of recent New Zealand history.

Rose Lu - All Who Live On IslandsAll Who Live On Islands

Rose Lu

I can highly recommend this affecting compilation of personal essays by writer Rose Lu. An important read exploring in memoir-style, aspects of the migrant experience in New Zealand.

Helen Brown - CleoCleo

Helen Brown

Cleo is the uplifting true story of how a small black kitten helps Helen Brown and her family (self-described dog people) heal after the tragic loss of nine-year-old son and brother, Sam. Beautifully written, heartfelt, humorous, and so very sad.

Charles Graeber - The Good NurseThe Good Nurse

Charles Graeber

A superbly researched story about American nurse Charlie Cullen who over a 16 year period is thought to have murdered hundreds of patients. A gripping and revelatory account of what it took to bring one man to justice.

Elizabeth Kirby-McLeod - Family Instructions Upon ReleaseFamily Instructions upon Release

Elizabeth Kirby-McLeod

This deeply moving and artfully constructed story is composed of poems which, read in narrative sequence, explore the author’s grief as she tries to make sense of her father’s suicide.

Jhumpa Lahiri - Interpreter of MaladiesInterpreter of Maladies

Jumpa Lahiri

This short story collection places its Indian-born protagonists on a new continent, grappling with the challenges of living and loving in a foreign world. Lahiri explores the reality of exile through a cast of deftly drawn, endearing characters.

Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood

I was long overdue reading Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel; however, thirty-plus years on from publication it could not be more pertinent. A radiation-toxic atmosphere, dying planet, fear of ‘the other’, intolerance of dissenters, dehumanisation of women, abuse of power . . . A grim, but stellar read. Looking forward to reading The Testaments – the Booker-Prize winning sequel.

Dr Richard Shepherd - Unnatural CausesUnnatural Causes

Dr Richard Shepherd

I was fortunate to hear Dr Richard Shepherd, one of Britain's leading forensic pathologists, speak at Bloody Scotland last year. His autobiography – 'Unnatural Causes' – offers a fascinating insight into his pursuit of truth when dealing with the dead. An honest, humane, and arresting read .

Behrouz Boochani - No Friend but the MountainsNo Friend but the Mountains

Behrouz Boochani

Winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature and the Prize for Non-fiction, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2019, this hugely important book has been compiled from hundreds of Farsi texts sent by Kurdish poet and journalist from Manus Island, where he has been illegally detained since 2013. Translated by Omid Tofighian, Boochani's account bears witness to the horrors and inhumanity of the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers.

Liz Nugent - Unravelling OliverUnravelling Oliver

Liz Nugent

The reason why a seemingly respectable and successful author beats his wife into a coma is unfathomable. Oliver Ryan takes us back to the beginning and tries to make sense of his monstrous transformation. A gripping pyschological thriller.

Stephanie Johnson - The Writing ClassThe Writing Class

Stephanie Johnson

The Writing Class is cleverly both a novel about the lives of a cast of characters attending a NZ university writing class, and a tutorial on how to write a novel. Interleaving through the story about Merle and her students, are excerpts from Merle’s classes, affording the reader/would-be writer pointers on how to craft a narrative.

Anna Burns - MilkmanMilkman

Anna Burns

Set in 1970s during the Northern Ireland conflict, this humorous and disturbing story is narrated in a stream-of-consciousness style by eighteen-year-old ‘middle sister’ – a young woman who, while not interested in the troubles, is inevitably caught up in them. Political intimidation, sexual harassment, and the power of the faction are just some of the themes explored in this unique Booker-Prize-winning novel.

Sisonke Msimang - Always Another CountryAlways Another Country

Sisonke Msimang

Sisonke Msimang’s extraordinary memoir traces her life in exile and subsequent return to post-apartheid South Africa. Beautifully written, fiercely honest, with fascinating reflections on what constitutes home.

Jane Harper - Force of NatureForce of Nature

Jane Harper

‘Force of Nature’ is Jane Harper’s second police procedural, about five women who head out into the Australia’s Giralang Ranges for a corporate-bonding weekend, but only four return.

Sally Rooney - Normal PeopleNormal People

Sally Rooney

Award-winning Rooney demonstrates astute observation of human behaviour in this profound and deeply moving book about the power of relationships to change lives. In 'Normal People', two youngsters afford each other a much-needed anchor, as both try to find their place in an often cruel and conformist world.

Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett - A House in the SkyA House in the Sky

Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

The true story of a young Canadian woman’s fifteen months in captivity after she was kidnapped and held for ransom soon after her arrival in Somalia. A harrowing tale of her physical and spiritual survival in the face of unimaginable hardship.

Andrew Sean Greer - LessLess

Andrew Sean Greer

50-year-old Arthur Less is a gay, has-been novelist, whose publisher has just rejected his latest novel,and whose ex-lover has just announced his impending marriage. In a desperate bid to avoid having to attend the wedding, Arthur cobbles together a journey to a variety of ‘literary’ events. The journey, intended as an escape, in facts lends Arthur’s life and career the perspective it very much needed.

Fiona Kidman - This Mortal BoyThis Mortal Boy

Fiona Kidman

Eighteen-year-old Irishman Albert Black arrived in New Zealand as a ‘ten pound Pom’ in search of a better life. Two years later (1955) he was sentenced to death for the knifing of another young man in a milk-bar brawl. Black would be the second-to-last person hanged here before capital punishment was repealed. This is his story – superbly crafted, poignant, and offering a fascinating insight into 1950s New Zealand. I highly recommend.

Paula Hawkins - The Girl on the Train Girl on the Train

Paula Hawkins

A young woman battling alcohol and a recent divorce witnesses something from a train window which sets in motion this fast-paced thriller. Nothing is what it seems, especially with alcohol and cheating partners thrown into the mix. 

Barbara Kingsolver - Unsheltered Unsheltered

Barbara Kingsolver

Two stories interleave – one set in 1871, the other 2016. The common denominator and trajectory for both tales – a poorly build house which is slowly collapsing. ‘Unsheltered’ is a social novel, which through its convincing cast of characters, explores and reflects the tumult of the times – both America in the late nineteenth century and America under Trump. This book resonates long after the last page.

Francisco Cantú - The Line Becomes a River The Line Becomes a River

Francisco Cantú

In The Line Becomes a River, Francisoc Cantú reflects on his time working as a US field agent on the Mexican/American border. A moving and very human story about an arbitrary line drawn in the sand, and the human cost of defending it.

Elizabeth Strout - The Burgess Boys The Burgess Boys

Elizabeth Strout

An apparently racially motivated hate crime sees the disparate members of a dysfunctional family drawn together, their new proximity placing already tenuous relationships under greater tension. Events from the past rise to surface and the truth is revisited. An immensely satisfying, thought-provoking story, with acutely observed characters.

Paul and Pierce Torday - Death of an OwlThe Death of an Owl

Paul and Piers Torday

This was Paul Torday’s last book, completed posthumously by his son Piers, also an author. A tale of thwarted political ambition, fractured relationships, and hidden truths, the book revolves around one key event, which sees the lives of all involved (either directly or vicariously) unravel. .


Graeme Macrae Burnet - His Bloody ProjectHis Bloody Project

Graeme Macrae Burnet

It is 19th-Century Scotland. Three bloody murders are committed in a small crofting community. A 17-year-old lad confesses. Is he guilty, or was he insane at the time? Based on a true crime, this Booker-nominated novel offers up a cast of convincing characters and dialogue infused with incisive wit. The novel poses interesting questions about culpability, explored in the light of the law and criminology of the era, while never once detracting from the relentless pace of the story.

Tara Westover - Educated Educated

Tara Westover

Tara Westover grew up in Idaho in the shadow of religious fundamentalism. She was deprived of a formal schooling, exclusively exposed to extreme dogmas, and vulnerable to the vicissitudes of her father's mental illness and a sibling's violence . . . This is a harrowing memoir which celebrates the power of education to liberate, while also acknowledging the long reach of a traumatic childhood.

Hope Jahren - Lab Girl Lab Girl

Hope Jahren

This memoir by scientist Hope Jahren makes for a fascinating and affecting read. With a fierce intellect and disarming honesty, Jahren seamlessly marries the story of her scientific research with her own very human story.

George Saunders - Tenth of December Tenth of December

George Saunders

Winner of the Folio Prize, this book of short stories defies easy description. Hugely ingenious, bizarre, confronting, deeply moving . . . A testament to the humanity, imagination and skill of author George Saunders. You will find yourself pondering these stories long after reading them.

Jon Gnarr - The IndianThe Indian

Jon Gnarr

The first in a trilogy of memoirs by the much-loved Icelandic writer, comedian, and former Mayor of Reykjavik. Humour and heartache sit side-by side in this tragicomic account of Gnarr growing up with learning and emotional disorders – disorders which at that time were not yet fully understood and largely treated in the psychiatric hospitals.

Denise Mina - The Long DropThe Long Drop

Denise Mina

A semi-fictionalised account of Peter Manuel – one of Glasgow’s most notorious serial killers operating during the 1950’s. Mina, who won the Mcllvanney Award for Best Scottish Crime Novel for this book, focuses not so much on Manuel's trial, as the bizarre night of drinking shared by him and William Watts, husband and father respectively to two of the victims, and one-time suspect of the murders. A fascinating exploration into the minds of both the guilty and innocent, and the social fabric of 1950’s Glasgow.

Finn Bell - Dead LemonsDead Lemons

Finn Bell

From Finn Bell comes this award-winning book which will keep you on the edge of your seat all read. A man moves to a remote cottage in the South of New Zealand to escape his previously self-destructive life. However, he soon finds himself increasingly embroiled in a mystery with deadly connections to his new sanctuary.

Trevor Noah - Born a CrimeBorn a Crime

Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah’s memoir – an excellent mix of humour and heartache in Noah’s portrayal of his childhood as a person of mixed-race person growing up in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. .

Amor Towles - A Gentleman in MoscowA Gentleman in Moscow

Amor Towles

When the Bolsheviks sentence Russian aristocrat Alexander Rostov to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel, he must learn of the changes afoot in his country from the vantage point of his window, and via the connections he makes with the people who pass through the doors of the grand building. An elegantly written, character-driven novel.

Jeanette Winterson - Why Be Happy When You Could Be NormalWhy Be Happy When You Could Be Normal

Jeanette Winterson

From ‘The author of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ comes this heartbreaking, at times bluntly honest, and deeply moving memoir of Jeanette Winterson’s early life.

Jeanette Walls - The Glass CastleThe Glass Castle

Jeanette Walls

The moving memoir of a young girl and her siblings who defy all odds to carve out a future for themselves, despite growing up in a deeply dysfunctional family. One of my top reads for 2017.

Sandra Krasnostein - The Trauma CleanerThe Trauma Cleaner

Sandra Krasnostein

This work of non-fiction interleaves the biography of Sandra Pankhurst with stories of the dysfunctional people she assists through her work as a trauma cleaner. Fascinating, moving, tragic, uplifting – an extraordinary book about a remarkable woman.

John Boyne - The Heart's Invisible FuriesThe Heart's Invisible Furies

John Boyne

Cyril Avery is born in Ireland to a sixteen-year-old lass out of wedlock. As social mores of the time demand, he is adopted out to an unconventional couple, who offer little more than a roof over his head. Cyril’s life spans a post war Ireland regimented by the church, to the more liberal and open-minded country of today. It is this changing backdrop of societal pressures and prejudices which dictates Cyril’s story, as he come to terms with his sexuality and tries to find his place in the world as a gay man.

Jane Harper - The DryThe Dry

Jane Harper

A murder mystery set in the parched, unforgiving Australian Outback. Kiewarra, a small town suffering from unremitting drought, is the backdrop for a family murder which initially appears clearcut. That is until a policeman with historical ties to the town starts digging.

George Saunders - Lincoln in the BardoLincoln in the Bardo

George Saunders

American is on the brink of civil war, Abraham Lincoln's eleven year old son has just died, and a congress of ghosts inhabit the bardo – an intermediate state between death and the afterlife. This is a masterful novel that tips the conventional structure of the novel on its head, addressing universal themes of grief, love, good and evil, in a refreshingly new way. Not a wonder this book has been long-listed for the Booker Prize.

Lesley Nneka Arimah - Waht it Means When a Man Falls From the SkyWhat it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky

Lesley Nneka Arimah

Arresting and sophisticated storytelling in this debut collection of short stories, most of which are set against set against the backdrop of Nigeria or the USA. The opening of 'Light' is a example of Arimah's powerful prose."When Enebeli Okwara sent his girl out in the world, he did not know what the world did to daughters. He did not know how quickly it would wick the dew off her, how she would be returned to him hollowed out, relieved of her better parts."

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.


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


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

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

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

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

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.


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.