Home entertainment

Christmas books gift guide

Give the gift of summer reading – with this great selection of new releases, we’ve found the perfect title for almost everyone.

Carole’s Flower Truck: Flowers Every Day for New Zealand Homes By Carole Bowden, Bateman, $50.

Carole Bowden’s flower truck has become a regular fixture in Auckland. This is her guide to using local and seasonal blooms at home and for special occasions. A book for those who can’t be without the look and smell of fresh flowers and want to make the most of what’s in season.

New Zealand’s Working Dogs By Andrew Fladeboe, Potton & Burton, $40.

This delightful look at New Zealand’s hardest working pooches was the project of photographer Andrew Fladeboe, who came to New Zealand from the United States to document the traditional Kiwi working dog. Soon he realised his subject was not confined to the farm or station – and branched out to observe dogs at work in airports, on search and rescue missions and in supporting the blind and immobile.

High Country Stations of the Mackenzie By Mary Hobbs, Potton & Burton, $60.

This is the story of 11 stations in the heartland area of the Mackenzie Country, with its vast expanses of land, lakes, alps and sky. Long-term resident and author Mary Hobbs talked to current owners to unravel the past and present stories of their properties. Illustrated with both contemporary and historical imagery, the result is a stunning book full of captivating tales.

Brewed, A Guide to the Craft Beer of New Zealand By Jules van Crusen, Potton & Burton, $40.

The New Zealand craft beer industry has grown dramatically in recent years. This book is the response from food, wine and beer writer Jules van Cruysen, giving ale aficiandos a detailed look at breweries around the country and a breakdown of the variety of beers they make.

The Movie Doctors By Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode, Allen & Unwin, $50.

Feeling stressed? The Big Lebowski will calm your nerves. Can’t sleep? Watching The Piano will help. Here, film critics Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode, whose BBC radio segment has been downloaded more than 50 million times, perform a twofold operation. First they prescribe the movies for all the ailments, and then they carefully dissect the films they believe require medical attention. A must for film lovers.

The Royals In Australia By Juliet Rieden, Macmillan, $50.

Royal lovers will adore this fully illustrated, meticulously researched book covering more than 100 years of royal visits to Australia. Written by The Australian Women’s Weekly journalist and royal correspondent Juliet Rieden, it is a lavish addition to any royalist’s collection.

According to Yes By Dawn French, Penguin/Random House, $37.

A jubilant novel from much-loved comedian and chart-topping author Dawn French. The Wilder-Bingham family live in Upper Manhattan, the ‘Foreign Land of the Very Wealthy’, where there is a strict code of behaviour. When Rosie Kitto, a quirky 38-year-old teacher, bounces into their lives, that code begins to unravel with hilarious consequences.

Rogue Lawyer By John Grisham, Hachette, $38.

From the master of the legal thriller comes the story of Sebastian Rudd, a renegade lawyer who believes everyone deserves a fair trial. Carl is the prime suspect in the murder of Jillian Kemp, daughter of the assistant chief of police. Things get complicated when Carl asks Sebastian to represent him and reveals a secret that rocks the lawyer’s world.

From the Cutting Room of Barney Kettle By Kate De Goldi, Penguin/Random House, $30.

This is the story of Barney, a 12-year-old film-maker, and his 11-year-old sister Ren, told twice, from both their perspectives. It is also the story of Christchurch’s High Street, pre-earthquake, and a mysterious envelope labelled ‘You’. Kate De Goldi is at her genre-bending best here – her two tween protagonists will easily engage an adult audience too, as will the many twists and turns.

Stars of Fortune By Nora Roberts, Hachette, $38.

On paper it reads like some peculiar J.K. Rowling and Charlaine Harris mash-up: a reclusive artist and prophetess, a wizard (complete with Harry Potter lightning-bolt scar), an archaeologist who is also a lycanthrope, a man who can shift space and time, a quirky mermaid and an immortal warrior. But as you’d expect from a master romance novelist, somehow it works. Prolific writer Nora Roberts sells 34 books every minute and this will only add to her tally. The first instalment in her Guardians trilogy, it follows six disparate people on a quest to find three enchanted stars on which the fate of the world rests, and is a magical blend of paranormal romance and sweet escapism.

A Few of the Girls By Maeve Binchy, Hachette, $35.

A collection of some of the best short stories from top-selling Irish author Maeve Binchy. Both nostalgic and topical, each tale has people and relationships at its core. A tribute to the recently deceased author.

Fear of Dying By Erica Jong, Allen & Unwin, $33.

Erica Jong first tackled love, sex and marriage in her bestseller Fear of Flying. Four decades on, she delivers her poignant prose again – this time about a woman who refuses to become irrelevant or give in to fear. A fascinating observation on being female in the 21st century.

Trust By Mike Bullen, Hachette, $35.

At the centre of Trust are two couples – one blissfully happy, the other going through the motions for the sake of their child. One bad decision turns the tables on both. This is the first novel by Mike Bullen, the creator/writer of award-winning television series Cold Feet.

City on fire By Garth Risk Hallberg, Penguin/Random House, $37.

This 900-page cracker is set in New York, 1976. A detective is trying to solve the mystery of a shooting in Central Park. Key to the story is a reporter, the estranged heirs to one of the city’s great fortunes, and teenagers in a downtown punk scene. A gripping novel about forgiveness, betrayal and rock ’n roll.

The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island By Bill Bryson, Penguin/Random House, $50 (hardback).

Twenty years ago American-born Bill Bryson travelled around his adoptive country Britain and detailed his account in the hilarious and perceptive Notes from a Small Island. The book became the best-selling travel book of all time. To celebrate the anniversary, Bryson has hit the roads of Britain once more. The poignant, witty result will delight Bryson’s many fans, who rued the day he stopped writing travel books.

Maggie Smith: A Biography By Michael Coveney, Hachette, $40.

For an actress who has reigned supreme in West End comedy, British theatre, Hollywood blockbusters and prime-time television, Dame Maggie Smith has managed to remain notably enigmatic. Famed biographer Michael Coveney gets as near as he can to the real Maggie Smith, drawing on personal archives and interviews with the star’s immediate family as well as
close friends.

M Train By Patti Smith, Allen & Unwin, $37.From the award-winning author of Just Kids, comes a book the legendary Patti Smith has described as the “roadmap to my life”. Beginning in a Greenwich Village café where Smith gets her black coffee each morning, her observations move fluidly through her existence as she ruminates on travel, loss, literature, detective shows and coffee. An intimate insight into a remarkable artist.

The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue By Frederick Forsyth, Penguin/Random House, $37.

The author of The Odessa File, The Day of the Jackal and The Fourth Protocol shows where he got the fodder for his colourful fiction in this incredible story of his own life. A man who trained as a pilot and then as a journalist, Forsyth describes being attacked by a MiG (Russian aircraft) during the Nigerian civil war, arrested by the East German Stasi and seduced by an attractive Czech secret police agent, among many more fascinating tales.

Becoming Beyoncé By J. Randy Taraborrelli, Macmillan, $35.

Beyoncé Knowles is a pop sensation, adored by millions but known by few – her personal life with Jay Z and daughter Blue Ivy kept well under wraps. Biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli goes in search of the woman behind the star, with extensive research and interviews with people who have played a part in ‘Queen Bey’s’ life. A collector’s item for fans of the performer.

Thing Explainer, Complicated Stuff in Simple Words By Randall Munroe, Hachette, $40.

This new release from the creator of popular web comic xkcd and the author of What If, explains complex things in a simple form. Using diagrams and minimal words to show how things function, Thing Explainer tackles the inner workings of such inventions as microwaves, bridges and the nuclear bomb. Great for curious minds both young and old.

Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction 2016, Edited by Susanna Andrew and Jolisa Gracewood, Auckland University Press, $30.

After the popularity of last year’s release comes another collection of musings from some of New Zealand’s best writers, covering subjects like bullies, Barbies, girl bands and grandads. Taken from blogs, books and published articles, features include Steve Braunias on the threat of fire, Nicky Hager on dirty politics, and Elizabeth Knox on death and disputation.

Picture books

Ten Little Dinosaurs By Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty, Hachette, $20.Kids will love this colourful, noisy, rhyming romp with prehistoric pals, including a bad-tempered triceratops, a clumping diplodocus and of course a ravenous T-Rex! A counting adventure that will capture dinosaur lovers’ hearts.

The Day the Crayons Came Home By Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, HarperCollins, $30.

In the hilarious sequel to the international bestseller The Day the Crayons Quit, the crayons are back and even more determined to show they have feelings too. Duncan receives individual postcards from the crayons, detailing their woes. Some have been lost, others forgotten, one melted in a drier and another – God forbid – stuck to a pair of underpants! A fabulous follow-up that will have both children and parents laughing out loud.

In the Bush By Ned Barraud and Gillian Candler, Potton & Burton, $20.

The latest outing by the duo behind Under the Ocean, At the Beach and In the Garden is a colourful, informative look at the flora and fauna of New Zealand’s forest. Aimed at preschoolers up, this beautifully illustrated book will teach Kiwi kids about the amazing natural wonderland in their own backyards.

Imaginary Fred By Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers, HarperCollins, $30.

A collaboration between award-winning author of the Artemis Fowl series Eoin Colfer and renowned illustrator Oliver Jeffers, this touching and visually innovative book tells the tale of an imaginary friend who wants a mate who will stick around for ever.

How Many Legs? By Jim Field and Kes Gray, Hachette, $20.

This is an entertaining counting book from the creators of the award-winning Oi Frog! Kids will love engaging with these zany rhymes and colourful pictures to discover such things as how many legs there would be if “a dog walked in with a chimpanzee”.

For older children

Grandpa’s Great Escape By David Walliams, HarperCollins, $25.

In this new story by comedian and author David Walliams, we meet Jack, a boy determined to break his grandfather out of a maximum-security old folk’s home. Grandpa, who has become muddled in his old age, believes it is WWII and he is a prisoner of war, so he and Jack hatch a plan for his great escape. A story sure to delight Walliams’ fans.

Nonstop Nonsense By Margaret Mahy and Quentin Blake, Hachette, $15.


In this re-released collection of stories and poems by the late Kiwi queen of children’s literature, we meet a colourful array of characters. There’s the word wizard who casts a spell on the Delmonico family, the Man from Fandango who visits every 500 years, and Mr Salt, whose hobby is sleeping. With fabulous illustrations from Quentin Blake, this is a lively frolic through quintessential Mahy madness. First published in 1977.

How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury By Cressida Cowell, Hachette, $25.

The 12th adventure of the series that inspired the How to Train Your Dragon films sees Doomsday approaching on the Island of Tomorrow. Alvin the Treacherous is about to be crowned king and his reign will begin with the destruction of dragons everywhere. The fate of the dragon world lies in the hands of one young boy – Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third. Can he stop the rebellion or is this the end for the dragons?

Hairy MaClary Treasury, The Complete Adventures of Hairy Maclary By Lynley Dodd, Penguin/Random House, $50.

For the first time, all 10 classic stories starring the wonderful rogue Hairy Maclary are presented together. Children will adore having all the tales of their favourite mischevious crew and their rollicking adventures in one beautiful hardback book. The treasury also comes with a CD of the stories, each one introduced by Lynley Dodd herself.

Words by Nicola Russell

read more from