From our reviewers: Non-fiction

07:10, Dec 10 2013

Our reviewers check out a selection of non-fiction books.

A Fort of Nine Towers
By Qais Akbar Omar (Macmillan, RRP $38)

Reviewed by Michelle Lee

Allah-hu-Akbar (God is great) is a calling which will forever remind author Qais Akbar Omar of many different emotions on the night he heard his entire town chant it together.

Most of all it being the end of an idyllic life for him and his family in Kabul.

Qais, born in 1982, is surrounded by a huge loving family and a life that couldn't be any richer for the young Afghan. Qais has opened the door to his past and invites us on a journey through the pages of this memoir. We witness a happy childhood which quickly turns to a life of terror and heartbreak as the Taliban rise from the mountains.


In happier times, Qais remembers a breath-taking Kabul. Hi mum in short skirts working in a bank and his dad dressing like a movie star - no beard in sight. But one night all that changes and Qais and his family are forced into exile. And so begins our terrifying journey with Qais . . .

A Fort of Nine Towers - the name of the place his family sought shelter - is beautifully written and and a highly recommended read.

Free the Bears
By Mary Hutton with Julie Miller (Macmillan, RRP $40)

Reviewed by Naida Mulligan

This book is heart-rending, inspiring and awe inspiring.

It was a television news item in 1993 that turned unassuming Perth mother Mary Hutton into a fierce advocate for bears worldwide.

A simple petition at her local shopping mall was the beginning and soon Mary was the CEO of fully registered charity, Free the Bears.

It is amazing what Mary and her dedicated team of helpers have achieved over the past 20 years.

I'm sure that Mary's purpose in writing this book is not to sing her own praises but to provide more publicity for her very worthwhile charity.

A great read and thoroughly recommended.

Mad Men of the Mountains
By "Big Al" Lester (Raupo, RRP $38)

Reviewed by Naida Mulligan

I've had the pleasure of reviewing two other of Mr Lester's collections and enjoyed them immensely. No reason this offering should be any different.

There have got to be innumerable stories, "lies and half truths" still to come out of the New Zealand bush. This Cantabrian policeman is doing his best to record as many as he can and this is his seventh volume.

The 13 stories are mostly South Island based and many are set in Fiordland.

One of my favourites is that told by a nephew of Murray Gunn about going to visit his uncle as a young lad of 14.

Another, entitled A Far from Ordinary Man is a tribute to Archie Anderson, who spent 25 years living and working in the Kaipo River area, a valley north of Milford Sound. He died in 2011 aged 83.

The chapter is an excellent snapshot of what the early deer hunters went through and how they had to adapt with the times - for instance switching from meat hunting to live capture and from using horses to using motorbikes.

So, meet some hard-case Kiwi blokes and have a laugh.

A great read if you love our great outdoors.

Discovering New Zealand Birds
By Sandra Morris (New Holland, RRP $18)

Reviewed by Fintan Mulligan, age 6

The male kea brings food to the female.

The kea eats bugs and stuff. They are private birds . Some of them go around in kea gangs. That happens when they are two or three years old.

This book has been republished from 20 years ago and looks at 14 different birds from throughout New Zealand. The pictures are really good. I give it 10 out of 10.