Clutch of Kiwi books makes for interesting reading

Shelter from the Storm: The Story of NZ's Backcountry Huts
By Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown and Geoff Spearpoint (Craig Potton, RRP $80)

New Zealanders are rather fond of their huts and this books shows why.

Our backcountry huts are very much a part of the Kiwi outdoors life, with a network of huts scattered throughout the country offering varying levels of comfort in some incredibly spectacular settings.

These humble structures may not feature the latest in interior design or architectural features but they do offer an anchor for those who venture into our wild outdoors.

This book looks at the huts we have and how they got there, with the first wide-ranging history of our hut network and an overview of who built the huts - tramping and mountaineering clubs, the Department of Internal Affairs, Lands and Survey, New Zealand Forest Service, Park Boards and DOC - as well as why they were built, which includes farming, mining, tourism, tramping and climbing, hunting and deer culling, science and as monuments.

My own experience of huts does not extend much beyond the little huts attached to our whitebait stands so I'm no expert on what is on offer in the way of backcountry huts. However, this books gives a pretty good idea, with a wide range of huts and their fascinating stories covered.

This will appeal to anyone with an interest in our country's scenery but also those interested in our history.

The authors have done a great job in producing this wonderful book.

Great Kiwi Firsts
By Astral Sligo (Allen & Unwin, RRP $25)

We Kiwis like claiming firsts, and let us be honest, there are plenty we can claim: first to scale Mt Everest, first to have to have the good sense to give women the vote, even first country to take home the Rugby Word Cup.

There was the atom-splitting efforts of Ernest Rutherford and Invercargill's own Burt Munro, who was the first 68-year-old to set a land speed record.

We all know Aotearoa is the home of the cheese roll - more specifically the south of the country - and our own Glenn Martin came up with the world's first practical jetpack but did you know our first European woman settler was a felon, a pirate and a solo mum?

This little book is packed with Kiwi firsts to give you plenty of conversation fillers and trivia to trundle out around the dinner table.

There are sure to be some little surprises in there as well. I picked it up to flick through for highlights and ended up reading from cover-to-cover.

Ken Ring's New Zealand Weather Almanac 2013
By Ken Ring (Random House NZ, RRP $50)

The weather is one of those things we all talk about: we care if it's good, we are even more interested if it's bad.

Anglers, gardeners, sportspeople and parents, no matter who we are, we are interested in what the weather is doing now and even more interested in what it will be doing in the future.

Ken Ring predicts the weather by the cycles of the moon and claims a pretty good strike rate when it comes to accurately predicting weather patterns.

This 2013 version of his almanac has all the same popular features as earlier volumes, with day-per-page forecasts including gardening advice and moon position information, as well as things such as the potential for rain, and and frost/snow maps.

Gardeners will appreciate the biodynamic planting guides, while the non-gardenerswill look past them for the minimum temperature graphs and fishing-mad people like my husband will be taking note of the daily best bite times and bite-chance ratings.

From experience, I can predict that one of these books that will end up tatty and well used by the end of the year, just in time to buy the 2014 model.

Night Visions: Reflections for the Moonlight Hours
By Barney Brewster (, RRP $45)

There are plenty of books out there with photographs of our beautiful country but photographer Barney Brewster wants to highlight the often overlooked beauty of moonlight rather than sunlight.

Night Visions offers a fresh and rarely seen perspective on the New Zealand landscape, with its gorgeous collection of night photos.

I have seen many images of New Zealand sunrises and sunny days but this is amazing, with photos capturing those amazingly moody early evening skies that make our scenery spectacular.


Awesome Forces: The Natural Hazards that Threaten New Zealand
Edited by Geoff Hicks and Hamish Campbell (Te Papa, RRP $30)

First published in 1998, Awesome Forces has been one of Te Papa Press's bestselling titles.

The books has now been re-released with significant updates taking into account the developments in science and events from around the world that have occurred in the past 14 years.

Geologist and palaeontologist Hamish Campbell sets the scene in the book by considering New Zealand's place on the globe. Then follow chapters by Graham Leonard and Bruce Houghton on volcanism; Kate Clark, Alan Hull and Russ van Dissen on earthquakes; Eileen and Mauri McSaveney on landslides; Willem de Lange on tsunami; and Jim Salinger on weather and climate change.

A section on the human side of hazards by Emma Doyle, David Johnston and Sarb Johal. brings the book to a close.