Book reviews: January 2016


Just in time for the summer touring season, Peta Stavelli receives a batch of books, each of which will inspire a New Zealand journey of a different kind.

The Scene of the Crime Jan 2016books1

Steve Braunias
Harper Collins NZ, $37

Love him or loathe him, Steve Braunias is one of the most celebrated New Zealand writers. I formerly placed him in the latter category, despite having been a fan of an earlier Braunias book, Fool's Paradise.

After that book, I thought he’d gone off track a bit. But he won my grudging respect for a recent newspaper interview with the Mark Lundy, who had just lost his appeal to have his conviction for the murder of his wife and daughter overthrown. It was an elegantly written and thoughtful piece of journalism. I should not therefore have been surprised to see this collection of essays on 11 other notorious criminal trials. And very good it is, too.

Easy Week Night Meals Jan 2016books2

My Food Bag and Nadia Lim
Allen and Unwin NZ, $40

So who do you reckon started My Food Bag? If you guessed Nadia Lim, you’d be wrong. As I was. While former Masterchef winner, Nadia, is the company’s head chef and dietitian, she and her husband Carlos were co-opted to the team by the company’s founder and CEO, Cecilia Robinson, together with her husband, James. With help from business leader, Theresa Gattung, My Food Bag was formed in 2013. Two years later, it is providing simple, healthy food to thousands of families across Australasia.

Now you can also enjoy meals inspired and tested by Nadia Lim, who has built a reputation from creating fast, nutritious and accessible family food. I’m a great fan of her food. I am sure you will grow to be after reading this book for inspiration.

Great Walks of New Zealand Jan 2016books3

Craig Potton
Potton and Burton, $50

This book from acclaimed wildlife photographer, conservationist, publisher and documentarian, Craig Potton, needs little introduction. Potton was already well-known for his many books when he began a new career, establishing himself as a popular TV presenter in two documentary series on wild rivers and wild coasts.

If you didn’t see these, it is well worth finding them to watch the lengths that Potton has gone to record for ordinary New Zealanders wild places, which deserve to be celebrated and protected. Meanwhile, this handsome coffee table book will bring you a delightful taste of accessible places you may wish to put on your bucket list.

Small House Living Jan 2016books4

Catherine Foster
Penguin Books NZ, $50

How much space do you really need to live well? I am sure this perplexing question can best be answered by members of this community who have learnt that they can live extremely well in an RV. But what of those times when you are not on the road? How much space do you need then?

Catherine Foster subscribes to the 'less is more' theory and in this compact book offers some striking examples of New Zealand homes, each less than 90m2. If, having fallen for life on the road, but not yet ready to sacrifice a home base, you might find inspiration among the many creative small homes featured.

Boundaries Jan 2016books5

Brian Turner
Random House NZ, $45

Poet laureate, sportsman, conservationist and author, Brian Turner, has assembled a new collection of stories, poems and musings by, and about, the people who inhabit his favourite place: Central Otago.

He writes for the person who longs to leave the big smoke for the rewarding country life as much as he does for those who drive or cycle through this landscape, awestruck by its beauty. This book is a companion to his best-selling collection Into the Wider World, but it will also stand alone as inspiration to us all to seek a quieter life in harmony with the land.

The Complete Home Baking Collection Jan 2016books6

Simon and Alison Holst
Hyndman Publishing, $45

An Alison Holst cookery book is as welcome (if not more so) as a batch of home baking. In fact more so, because there is no guilt attached to mulling over pages of recipes for the likes of that nostalgic sugar hit, Louise cake. This and numerous other delectable cakes and slices that remind me of my childhood and Aunty Yvonne, my godmother, can be found in this delightful cookbook.

No matter whether you have a penchant for panforte or pizza, or a craving for a custard square, I am certain Alison and Simon Holst’s tried-and-true recipes will satisfy your desires. There are also welcome sections on festive and gluten free baking. Yum. I could read it all day.

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