From our reviewers: NZ books

Last updated 05:00 11/01/2013

From The Southland Times book reviewers.

A Writer's Life
By Tessa Duder (HarperCollins, RRP $40)

Reviewed by Maree Field

With the death of Margaret Mahy in July, this is a timely reissue. Margaret Mahy: A Writer's Life by Tessa Duder focuses on just that: Mahy's writing.

It's not a biography as such, and for much of the book Duder lets Mahy tell her own stories in her own way - collated from speeches given, or essays written, so the reader gets an insight into how Mahy's brain worked, and how her creative processes ticked over.

It touches briefly on her private life.

But this book is nearly all about the writing, and it's a fascinating read.

It almost feels like Duder is Mahy's editor, with the amount of direct quoting from the source, but this is in no way a complaint.

Who better to describe her own processes than Mahy herself?

Margaret Mahy may be gone, but her novels, poems and stories will live on to inspire young Kiwis' imaginations for a long time to come.

A Writer's Life reminds us of what we truly lost this year - the possibility of new stories from one of the truly great Kiwi imaginations.

Double Happiness: How Bullshit Works
By Joe Bennett (HarperCollins, RRP $29.99)

Reviewed Michelle Lee

This is literally a book on bullshit and no-one is safe.

There's religion, complete with a splash of holy water; Walt Disney with a special variety of bullshit - Disneyfication where nature consists of nice animals, but no mention of vultures.

Of course, it wouldn't be a book about bullshit without mentioning politics . . . need I say more?

All of what Joe Bennett is saying in Double Happiness has a nasty ring to it, but it is all true. We are brought up in a world surrounded with stories and toys which pose no threat.

But as Bennett claims, quite controversially, this is a form of child abuse.

However, as he says: The life of pure reason is unappealing.

I enjoyed Bennett's rant - it's an intelligent piece of thought with plenty of wit - an almost must-read for anyone who has had bullshit foisted on them, which is probably most of us. English-born Bennett makes his living as an author and newspaper columnist.

He lives in Lyttelton, just . . .


Southern Lakes Tracks & Trails
By Pat Barrett (Otago University Press, RRP $40)

Reviewed by F Mulligan

This is a well thought out and nicely presented walks book with good location maps, colour photographs and background notes as well as sensible ideas and tips for safe and enjoyable trips.

The Southern Lakes region covered extends from the Remarkables northwards to Mt Cook-Lake Tekapo and is split up into sensible sections.

If you live or holiday in these areas, then this may be a handy book to have as it covers a whole variety of walks from short strolls to longer three day plus tramps so there is something for everyone.

A guide only, it lists and gives details of the walks and tramps and also includes a grading system for fitness levels.

On longer more serious tramps, of course, a more detailed track guide or map should be used.

The author is Christchurch based, is a keen walker and has written a series of guide books based in the South Island.

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