In a fickle world of digital distractions and zero attention span, there is a rare tribe that has traversed genres, eras and explored realms of boundless imagination. FARIDA MASTER asked avid book lovers about their favourite read that left a lasting impression on them. Avid readers share stories of thought-provoking novels that shaped their beliefs and provided an escape from the ordinary.
Jodie Shelley is a local author. Her debut novel The Tui Has Landed is in bookshops now. Jodie believes that books are the perfect entertainment.
What are you reading right now?
I am reading a book one of my brothers gave me for Christmas. It’s a book about writing by successful writer, Stephen King, called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
Over the years I have read a lot of Stephen King’s books. I’m not so much a ‘horror-buff’ but rather, I admired the way King created richly interesting and complex characters.
I also have two others on the go, one is called Think, Plan, Live by Gill McLaren, which is all about defining and creating your best life.
The other is called Managing Screentime by Edmond Schoorel, because I have a ten-year-old who loves his time on devices!
The book that stayed with you for the longest time?
I read A Wolf at My Table by Augusten Burroughs many, many years ago. It is a memoir and describes his early and traumatic childhood. It stayed with me for a long time because
it is both compulsively readable and inexplicably sad. Burrough’s writing is compelling and frank.
What’s your preference, e-books or hard copy?
Definitely hard copy! I love the feeling of holding a book. I look at a screen for most of the day for work, so having a different medium through which to enjoy a good read is a nice contrast. Stephen King says: “Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours lost in other worlds.”
Is there an author you follow and would recommend?
I admire the Irish author, Marian Keyes. I was compelled to write my first novel after following an Instagram live series Keyes offered, which was called ‘So you want to write a novel?’ Her books are always fun and witty, with relatable characters. She often mixes humour with an exploration of an underlying theme such as alcoholism, depression, or eating disorders. My book, The Tui Has Landed, follows a similar pattern; humour and adventure combined with an insight into problem gambling.
Prolific reader and history buff, the former chairperson of Howick Historical Village Society Marin Burgess on treasured narratives and novels that have left an inedible mark on her.
A book that has impacted or stayed with you for the longest time?
When I was a school pupil one of my teachers stood up in front of the class, held up a book and declared “This book is a bridge”. It took me years to work out what she meant.
But the puzzling over such a statement gave rise to a love of words, language, stories – and thus reading.
I can also relate to the saying, “I read because I want more than one life”. It’s so hard to select just one book.
My choice: Donkeys by Adelheid Dahimene, Gecko Press. A charming ‘life lessons’ read about Jenny and Jack, two donkeys planning their silver wedding anniversary. Wise beyond belief. And hilarious.
What are you currently reading?
The book I’m currently reading is about a bridge! A thriller, Bruny by Heather Rose: Allen and Unwin 2019 is set on the Island of Bruny close to the coast of Tasmania. This contemporary novel is topical, gripping and very relatable. When a bridge is bombed, the story that unravels is complex and intriguing.
Heather Rose uses short, sharp sentences giving an urgency and tension to her book.
Kindle or hard copy?
Need you ask? Hard copy all the way – unless I’m on a long flight somewhere when I can grudgingly concede perhaps a Kindle has some merit.
Top two picks?
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, 2008. A favourite author, any of hers would qualify however this story about a small scuffed 15c manuscript which captured the imagination of a rare book expert in turn captured me. The story delves into parchment supply, pigment creation of colours for illustrations (Egg yolk yellow?), procuring animal hairs for the brushes – and weaves in a bit of romance for good measure. Loved it.
Prague Sonata by Bradford Morrow, 2017. How could one not fall into a book that begins:
“All wars begin with music.”
Set in modern Prague when a couple of pages rumoured to be a lost sonata by Beethoven surface and then disappear, the story flashbacks to WW2 and earlier, as the search for the remaining pages takes on a real urgency: Is it genuine and where is it? It’s also a bonus to track the musical clues throughout.
Director of Poppies Group Limited, Tony Moores says he’s never had a real job and has been a bookseller for over 45 years. The much loved and frequented Poppies Bookshop is now five years in Howick.
Book you are reading now?
I’m always reading more than one book to try and keep up, so at present it’s: All Sorts of Lives by Katherine Mansfield and The Art of Risking Everything authored by author Claire Harman. The Seven Lives of Maadi Almeida by author Shehan Karunatilaka (this year’s Booker Prize Winner). I’m also reading The Trackers by Charles Frazier.
Has there been a book that impacted you deeply?
Most recently The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy – made me do something I rarely do…got to the end and immediately read it again. There was so much that I still needed to know about the characters and the events which I hadn’t picked up the first time through.
Kindle or hard copy?
Has to be a book…I’m a bookseller after all.
Top two picks?
For books read so far this year: The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey. And a gripping psychological thriller Birnam Wood from the Booker Prize winning author Eleanor Catton.
Whether it’s promoting the concept of Living Books, or a Reading Revolution, Suneeta Narula a community engagement Librarian with Auckland Libraries, even set up a free Buzzword Book Stop outside her home for book lovers to exchange books.
What are you reading now?
Everything changes by Stephanie Johnson.
I’ve just started on what seems to be a fun, fast read with an unusual cast of characters. Its all-out Kiwi flavour set in Auckland and Northland, by the author who started the Auckland Writer’s Festival, promises to be a page-turner.
Your all-time favourites?
One of the hardest questions ever to answer…because there is so much that one reads, loves, and remembers for different reasons! Two books I would choose, because I read them when I was growing up, have re-read them as an adult and have never forgotten them are Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I learnt at a young age about friendship, loyalty, and justice from these stories. Both are classics today for good reason.
Two novels you would recommend?
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. Observant, quirky and laugh-out-loud funny, a much-loved read at book club discussions.
All the broken places by John Boyne who is a master storyteller and anyone familiar with The Boy in Striped Pyjamas will love its sequel. Brilliant from page one to the end, truly unputdownable!
Also, for those who enjoy inspiring true-life stories I would urge you to read When Breath Becomes Air by neurosurgeon and writer Paul Kalanithi. A heart-breaking reflection on the challenge of facing life and mortality— difficult, moving and in the end, a life-affirming memoir by a most remarkable person.