Book reviews: November 2014

By: Peta Stavelli


If you're heading off for some well-deserved R&R, there's no better time to grab a great book. Peta Stavelli reviews some of the latest offerings from New Zealand publishing houses.

The Lebanese Cookbook 

Books _Nov _4

Hussien Dekmak
New Holland Publishers, $40 

I love Lebanese food and, for me, this book delivers all the great classical dishes which define the cuisine – from the great soups and starters, to the delectable mains. Lebanese food makes heroes from simple ingredients; like chard, cabbage and potatoes.

And when it comes to making all of these wonderful dishes, the reader will find the secret to their success resides in the seasoning. If you want to make authentic Lebanese cuisine, this cookbook is a wonderful place to begin.

Frank Worsley – Shackleton's fearless captain

John Thomson
Craig Potton Publishing, $50 Books _Nov _1

Frank Worsley was born in Akaroa in 1872, into a wealthy farming family with considerable property interests back in England. But wealth is no protection from tragedy; and Frank was a small child when his mother Georgina died, leaving his father to raise three children alone. From their father, the Worsley children received an excellent classical education, before they were eventually left almost to their own devices to roam the hills above Akaroa. Here, their wild adventures sowed a seed in young Frank Worsley.

Frank joined The New Zealand Shipping Company as an apprentice at the age of 16 and early on displayed exceptional skill and a fearlessness which was to be the mark of his seamanship throughout his legendary life. The pinnacle of his career was a 1300-kilometre rescue mission in a 6.7-metre dinghy across the hostile Southern Ocean. This is a gripping biography. Highly recommended.

Historic Places of New Zealand 

Books _Nov _5

Rob Suisted with Dr. Sven Schroeder
New Holland Publishers, $20 

In another of the series of compact format books, photographer, Rob Suisted is this time joined by archeologist, Dr Sven Schroeder, to bring to life many of the country's iconic, and also surprising historic places from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island.

This gorgeous wee book will encourage you to plan a road trip taking detours to mark each and every one off your bucket list.

Weather Almanac 2015

Ken Ring
Penguin Random House, $50 Books _Nov _2

Love him or loathe him, Ken Ring's almanac is hotly anticipated by New Zealand farmers, who have relied on his long-range forecasts to plan sowing, harvesting and family weddings for 16 years.

For the skeptics, here are some facts he got right in 2014: no widespread drought in summer; continuing dryness in pockets of Northland; April downpours for remaining areas; an intense tropical depression in June, followed by polar blasts; no skiing at Ruapehu until the third week of July; flooding in Christchurch…

So there you go – over to you, reader.

The Naturalist

Thom Conroy
Penguin Random House Books, $38 Books _Nov _3

This fascinating story is based on the life of Dr Ernst Dieffenbach, the officially appointed naturalist on board The Tory – a small ship bound for New Zealand in 1839. The mission of the majority on board was to buy land from the Maori and to establish a colony.

But Dieffenbach was a free thinker who believed that all men, of all nations, were equal. During the journey he formed a close relationship with Nahiti, a New Zealand native returning home from England where he had been feted and treated as much more than a curiosity; yet he still remained an outsider.

The duality of Nahiti's position is highlighted by philosophical discussions about race, which are held to amuse the voyagers during long evenings at sea. Nahiti and Dieffenbach find themselves bound by their beliefs – also by their secrets – and their relationship changes history. Thom Conroy has crafted a remarkable historic novel of great importance.

High Country in New Zealand

Alison Dench and Rob Suisted
New Holland Publishers, $20 Books _Nov _6

Rob Suisted's brilliant photographs pay a fitting tribute to the dramatic scenery of New Zealand's high country. The unique countryside which stretches across the Volcanic Plateau in the North, and from Marlborough to Southland, is home to an immense diversity of flora and fauna.

Suisted's lens captures the inhabitants and their pursuits from high-country farming to trekking, cycling, and fishing. Dench's support text brings context to the images with captions and background. The compact format of this book makes it ideal as a companion for the traveller, or as a gift to send overseas.

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