Good Kiwi books for Christmas reading

Last updated 05:00 11/12/2012

With Christmas coming up I'm going to surprise you - since you all know I suffer from dyslexia and find reading difficult - by tipping some books that would make excellent gifts.

Even though I have always struggled with reading, I keep at it because there are few joys in life like a good book.

I've picked four sporting books and two great coffee table titles and at No 1 is the Richie McCaw book The Open Side. I couldn't admire this bloke more if he played league. He's a true champion.

Written with Greg McGee, the book's the story of our All Black captain since 2006, the face of rugby in New Zealand and one of our most admired figures. He has been International Player of the Year three times and is considered the greatest player of his generation. So if you want to know a bit more about Richie, this is for you.

At No 2 is Sir Graham Henry's Final Word, written by Bob Howitt. After the All Blacks crashed out of the 2007 World Cup many called for a hanging and pretty much everyone thought the bloke was a dead man walking.

But we know what happened and this book details the remarkable story of a man who refused to quit and who went on to win the ultimate prize.

I've had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with Sir Graham and he's a great bloke. He made the All Blacks the most successful team in the world, bringing joy to us all, but the book's also very frank about his near depression after the Lions tour flop and a 50-point loss by Wales - and of course the horror loss to France in Cardiff at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

But rugby can move over and make way for Valerie Adams, another of our sporting greats I have had the pleasure of spending time with. I remember her speaking at a Mad Butcher and Suburban Newspapers Community Trust event for hospice, a cause dear to her after her mother's untimely death. The place was full of some pretty tough nuts but there wasn't a dry eye in the place when Valerie was speaking.

Penned by my mate Phil Gifford, Valerie keeps no secrets as it tells how a Tongan kid from Mangere, throwing the shot in bare feet, transformed herself into a double Olympic champion.

Sir Murray Halberg reckons Valerie Adams may be on track to be our greatest Olympian ever and that would not surprise me, because she is a sensational women who deserves every success.

At No 4 is the New Zealand Boxing Scrapbook by Dave Cameron, with Paul Lewis. I'm a boxing nut so perhaps this appeals to me more than it might others, since boxing's not everyone's cup of tea, but it covers everything from the first recorded pro bout in 1862 to Sonny Bill Williams.

Cameron has been collecting boxing memorabilia for many years and he shares much of his collection in a beautifully produced book.

Of course it would be rude not to include something other than sport, so at No 5 is Quake: The Big Canterbury Earthquake of 2010. You will all know that's a subject dear to me and I continue to be involved in doing a little bit here and there for Canterbury. It's easy to lose sight of what they went through but this book is a wonderful record of a very difficult time.

The photos were taken by a bloke named David Wethey, who was among the first on the scene after the quake, and the text is by Ian Stuart.

My final pick, is Made In NZ, by Chris Mirams with pictures by Ross Land. It covers the experiences of some of big names, providing insights into the values they were raised with, the role they played in their lives and how New Zealand has changed.

I'm proud to be a Kiwi so I love our stories and the ones these people tell, of who we are, how we got where we are, and the challenges they see ahead, are really interesting. There are people like Dame Malvina Major, Oscar Kightley, Scott Dixon and even Alison Holst.

If I can do it, and read, anyone can. Remember, you are never alone with a good book.

Next year after the Vodafone Warriors win the grand final I might even take the step up from reading and write a book myself.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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