For her first Loose Reads book review for 2019, Kiran reviewed One Hundred Lyrics and a Poem by Neil Tennant, one half of the iconic British electronic pop duo Pet Shop Boys. Tennant’s lyrics observe and celebrate modern life, and on the page they read like poetry! Each lyric is annotated by Tennant, which makes for fascinating insight and backstory.
It’s a powerful thing to be able to tell your own story in your own words and Lily Allen does it well in My Thoughts Exactly. This autobiography is straight up honest, gossy and super compelling. Listen to Jenna’s review from this morning with Mikey & Tess.
Our top 10 bestselling books of the year.
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It’s been a cracking year of terrific books! This is what we enjoyed reading the most in 2018.
Jenna Todd - Manager
My Year of Rest and Relaxation
A narrator who decides to take the year off by balancing a recipe of prescription medication to keep her asleep for as long as possible. The trouble is, she keeps waking up to find she's been out and about! Bleakly hilarious - My Year is The Bell Jar for the 21st century. My favourite book of 2018.
The Ice Shelf
The Ice Shelf is hilarious, self-aware and clever - following the brilliant anti-hero Janice, as she looks for a temporary home for her fridge before she goes to Antarctica on an artist residency.
This Mortal Boy
Dame Fiona Kidman’s latest book is the fictionalised story of Albert Black, who was the second last person to be hanged in New Zealand in 1955. This Mortal Boy is engaging, very sad and it captures a strong sense of the time. The facts are there, but they are incredibly human. An excellent portrayal of NZ history.
Surinam Reddy - Assistant Manager
A sassy, sultry collection of poetry by the Adam Foundation 2018 Prize winner Tayi Tibble. Weaving together pop culture, Maori history, millennial insights and an irreverent brand of feminism, Poukahangatus is an intelligent and punchy debut by a huge New Zealand talent. For fans of Hera Lindsay Bird and Ashleigh Young.
Winner of the 2018 Man Booker International Prize, Flights by Olga Tokarczuk is a novel of infinite fragments and porous borders. A beautifully written meditation on travel, history and humanity, Flights is the perfect novel for fans of Kapka Kassabova and Svetlana Alexievich.
On Michael Jackson
A slim, moving book exploring the life and legacy of The King of Pop by Pulitzer Prize winning critic Margo Jefferson. Filled with little-known insights into his personal and professional life, On Michael Jackson treats the pop icon's personal life with deep empathy and the references in his body of work with an intellectual rigour.
Kiran Dass - Book Buyer
A startlingly eloquent study of the murky intricacies of emotional and sexual relationships. Normal People charts the intense intellectual and emotional relationship between Marianne and Connell, a young Galway couple from strikingly different backgrounds. It’s a book that you need to read. Right now.
The Cost of Living
This may be a short and swift memoir but it’s generous with its wisdom and insight. Riffing on Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Levy writes beautifully about the dualities of being a writer and a woman and the mother-daughter relationship.
A blazingly raw and sharp work, Laing’s first novel (but fourth book) attempts to capture the atmosphere of anxiety, confusion and shock felt in the UK at the time of the Brexit vote and its aftermath.
In the City of Love’s Sleep
An elegant and exquisitely pitched story about love, recovery and repair, which examines how the tissue of feeling can be prised apart into layers. Lavinia Greenlaw is a poet and it shows in this beautifully crafted, lyrical novel.
Katie Swanson - Children’s Book Buyer
A brilliantly original, yet strikingly simple look at privilege through the very tiny eyes of Warner, a Little Poor, whose rat sized stature makes everything in life a challenge. The perfect read for anyone who wants to see the world from a very different point of view.
Words; In Ark they are the source of all that’s wrong in the world, the lies, the spin and the way we deny what’s really going on, Speaking List, 500 simple, practical words, is the only way to save us. It’s also how you stop people asking questions.
Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow
Mog is learning more about what it means to be a Wundersmith, and how little the people of Nevermoor like and trust them.
The Lost Magician
The Lost Magician is a lovingly crafted homage to C.S.Lewis, with a literary twist and a lot more robots!
An open, painfully, hilariously truthful insight into the life of a teacher in Australia. The PERFECT buy for anyone in your life who is part of the profession, or has been.
Kingdom of Ash
Sarah J Maas
This epic conclusion to the Throne of Glass series is everything readers hoped it would be. Maas neatly ties the ribbon on this saga, but with a little wriggle room... hopefully for more stories in this world!
Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, Milkman follows an anonymous eighteen-year-old woman as she battles the unwanted attention of a much older man and the damage his reputation does to hers. Milkman's ominous and atmospheric prose results in a brilliant recreation of Ireland's worst political tensions.
Narrated both by 7-year-old Liv and various unsuspecting observers, Resin is a dark, captivating look at one man's crumbling mental state and his increasingly disturbing efforts to keep his dysfunctional family together.
Dictatorland: The Men Who Stole Africa
Chronicling the rise and fall of several African dictatorships—and the Western complicity that allowed them to take root—Dictatorland is a brilliantly researched and extremely compelling read.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Ottessa Moshfesgh This book blends dark and comedy together in THE best way. Moshfegh explores the harsh anxieties of ‘growing up’ with a precision that is almost unbearable.
The Mars Room
The Mars Room offers an emotionally tense critique of the criminal justice system that would move even the coldest right-wing person. You won’t be able to put this book down, or out of your mind.
Never Anyone But You
This is staggeringly beautiful. Rupert Thomson leads your heart into each scene, whether it’s brightly lit or stormy black.
Jessie Greengrass perfectly plaits together reminiscence of childhood and ruminations on parenthood. Sight makes you wish that your own folks had some insight into procreation.
A graphic novel that really uses the medium to enhance the narrative. Following the murder of Sabrina, paranoia and conspiracies start to impact the intertwined lives of each character.
Bold, raw and beautiful. Tibble knows how to capture the soul of a situation/experience in her poetry. My favourite description of her work is “classy anger”.
A sprawling novel of many characters, almost Tolstoyian in its breadth and depth of vision, all about the wise old wooden things we depend upon so much. This 400-pager has been described as the Moby Dick of trees, or The Secret Life of Trees in novel form, and it's essential reading for our short-term attention, short-term gain society. You'll never look at trees the same way again.
With intoxicatingly stylish prose, Olivia Laing takes us through the summer of 2017 in Europe and New York, as her protagonist prepares to get married amidst the political-digital turmoil. A novel about how anyone can be happy when there .are others suffering, about reading the news and feeling numb. Resonated with me and sure to resonate with others.
Convenience Store Woman
A slim but memorable novel about an oddball woman who works in a Japanese convenience store, a bit like a NZ dairy. Is it societal expectations that are disturbing here, or is the protagonist unbalanced? What's really alienating - the alienating job or how everyone expects her to quit it and "be normal"? Either way, Keiko's voice will haunt you long after you've closed the (eye-popping yellow!) covers.
The Mere Wife
A feminist, suburban retelling of Beowulf, this dark fable is both a beautifully written tribute and a haunting story in its own right. Rife with sly commentary and clever satire, this is a novel to savour. My favourite book this year.
Chronicling the adventures of George Washington Black, an escaped slave, as he travels across the globe. From the sugar plantations of Barbados to the Arctic tundra, this is an odyssey that explores colonialism, invention and the complicated meaning of the word “family”.
The Shepherd’s Hut
When a horrible accident leaves Jaxie Clackton with no other choice but to run away from his small town, he embarks on a lone journey across the Australian bush. Without cellphone signal but with plenty of determination, Jaxie is alone with his thoughts when he stumbles on a few secrets hidden in the bush.
This is a rare and strange thing - a novel that manages to perfectly blend terrible Tinder dates and first Brazilian waxes, a frightening and convincing love story between a PhD student and a merman, and the unsettling thoughts of a woman with depression. Smart, funny, sad, and bizarre, The Pisces is a moving story set on Venice Beach and filled with tragic and unforgettable characters.
A Ladder to the Sky
This tells the story of writer and psychopath, Maurice Swift. Told through multiple narrators, most of whom fall for Maurice's looks and charm, we learn what kind of man Maurice is, and what he is capable of doing in the name of success. A compelling and gripping psychological thriller that extends from Nazi Germany to present day.
Long-listed for the Man Booker prize and written by young Irish writer Sally Rooney, Normal People is a truly modern love story. Alternately told from the perspectives of Connell and Marianne, we learn about their lives, complex relationship, and struggles with mental health during their last year of high school and entrance to university in Ireland. Their story will ring true for anyone who has been in an intense and challenging relationship.
This image features a little secret from RNZ. As Kathryn is in Wellington, we record our book reviews from a little room at RNZ Auckland.
Sometimes, if another guest is recording a live interview with Kathryn and we don’t have time for a song, we have to creep in quietly beside them and hope we don’t give them a fright or break their flow.
Jenna crept in yesterday to review A Different Drummer. This is a new lost classic, originally published in 1962, set in 1957, in a fictional Southern USA conferate state.
An incident causes the entire black population to leave the state over a few days. William Melvin Kelley, is himself African American, tells this story from the point of view of the white characters.
With vibrant prose and rich characters, this lost classic couldn’t be more timely. Read the 2018 New Yorker article that sparked this book being republished here.
And listen below for more:
For her final Loose Reads book review for 2018, Kiran reviewed her novel of the year Normal People by Sally Rooney. There are currently a whopping 797 reserves for this title at the Auckland City Library!
If you haven’t discovered Lucia Berlin yet, you’re in for a treat. For her final RNZ Nine to Noon book review for the year, Kiran reviewed Berlin’s Welcome Home, a beautiful memoir which compiles a series of remembraces of the places Berlin lived. A fascinating insight into the colourful life and mind of a unique and important voice in American literature.
Jenna popped into the studio for her last review for 2018, so talks over some of her favourites for the year. These are guaranteed great Christmas gifts.
Jenna also mentions the following music books:
Wowsers, this wonderful hefty tome is like no other rock biography. As soon as Kiran walked into the 95bFM studio to review The Beastie Boys Book, Mikey immediately handed her $55 so he could buy it. A huge magazine styled compendium which celebrates the iconic rappers the Beastie Boys, this snack plate styled book has an amazing and/or crack up story on every page you turn to. This is THE Christmas present for the music nut in your life.
Thanks so much to all of our Lit Reads members whose sharp insights, generosity and love for books has made this an especially memorable year of reading! What began as a small group of dedicated members tucked on couches, soon became a sprawling group of familiar and unfamiliar faces perched on benches and folding ladders (the new year will bring new chairs!). Lit Reads began as a way for us to connect readers who yearned for great literary conversation but struggled to find book clubs to call home. Time Out has had the pleasure of serving engaged book lovers for three decades and we are thrilled to be able to expand this community beyond the retail space.
Reader’s Pick Competition
One of my reading highlights from Lit Reads was Sing, Unburied, Sing - a harrowing Southern literary Gothic exploring the harsh environment of Mississippi and the legacies of trauma woven through DNA. Melancholic and beautiful, Sing, Unburied, Sing firmly cemented itself as one of my favourite books this year. We’d also love to hear about your Book Club favourites! If you have a favourite title from our Lit Reads list or a favourite book club moment that you’d like to share, send through your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Lit Reads Readers Pick’ in the subject line. We will pick one of these to be published in our Time Out Newsletter and our winner will also receive a $100 store voucher. We’ll also be giving out our Time Out Enamel Cat pins to the first ten entrants which can be collected in-store, and will keep all of your wonderful recommendations in a Google Doc which we will send to our mailing list.
Thank you everyone for your feedback from last book club! I’ve taken these all on board and am working away at some changes for next year. I can confirm that starting in January we will have a Google Document for every book club that lists all recommendations from the beginning of our discussion. We will also have a ‘Lit Reads Meets…’ author Q&A every few months, a ‘Dispatches from Lit Reads’ newsletter providing reportage from the night, an Instagram page and are diligently working away on a few other extras to keep our little community growing and dynamic.
These are all locked in now:
Killing Commendatore - Haruki Murakami
Our next book club pick is the new door-stopping epic by Haruki Murakami, Killing Commendatore. What better way to spend summer than with an immersive, surreal novel by one of our favourite authors at Time Out? I look forward to seeing you all again (and hearing your New Year Book Resolutions!) when we reconvene on January 21st. A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of our Lit Reads friends! Thank you for reading with us this year.
Warm bibliographical regards,
Our mission with Lit Reads is to connect communities of readers and hear new and varied perspectives on fresh, contemporary titles. If this sounds like you, sign up to the Lit Reads Newsletter below.
Jenna has started reading through a few customer favourites for 2018 and this is one of them. Everything I know about Love, is a great read for fans of Caitlin Moran, Lena Dunham, Bridget Jones & Sex and the City.
A smart and honest memoir, that is easy to dip into during this busy time of year. Also, check out Dolly’s podcast, The High Low.
On RNZ’s Nine to Noon, Kiran reviewed one of her favourite novels of 2018 In the City of Love’s Sleep by Lavinia Greenlaw. An elegant and eloquent story of love, recovery, repair and beautiful objects.
This week on RNZ’s Nine to Noon, Kiran reviewed Human Relations and Other Difficulties by Mary-Kay Wilmers. Wilmers co-founded the London Review of Books in 1979 and has been its editor since 1992. This collection brings together 23 polished, informative and entertaining self-contained pieces which are fine examples of her wonderfully dry and brittle wit.
On 95bFM’s Loose Reads, Kiran and Mikey talked about Mars By 1980: The Story of Electronic Music by David Stubbs. A thrilling deep dive into technology and invention, it propels us into sonic space and charts how developments in technology have shaped music over the years. One of the best music books of 2018!