Farewell to the legendary Kevin Ireland, who died last week, aged 89. He was one of the very best poets in New Zealand literary history and a great guy. Steve Braunias will host a posthumous book launch for Kevin's recent memoir A Month at the Back of My Brain on Tuesday, May 30, at the Devonport Public Library, alongside a launch for CK Stead's latest poetry collection Say I Do This. Portrait by Jane Ussher.


1 The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

Wow! Eleanor Catton’s four-month hold at the top of the bestseller chart has finally been broken, thanks to the publicity generated by Catherine Chidgey winning last week’s Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the Ockham book awards for The Axeman’s Carnival, that book of wonder narrated by a quardling, babbling magpie, who tells a story of domestic abuse and rural isolation.

2 Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

The great Catton has been on a speaking tour of New Zealand; she was chaired by Joan Fleming at The Embassy Theatre in Wellignton, and Tara Black was there to draw it up.

3 Kāwai by Monty Soutar (David Bateman, $39.99)

I met the author at the Ockham book awards last week. Very nice person.

4 The Deck by Fiona Farrell (Penguin Random House, $37)

Strong contender for next year’s fiction prize; Paddy Richardson’s review will appear in ReadingRoom next week.

5 Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts by Josie Shapiro (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

“The raging shame of my own lifetime of body dysmorphia and disordered eating fuels the emotional truth of my novel, wrote the author this week, of her debut novel about a runner called Mickey. Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts was the inaugural winner of the 2022 Allen & Unwin Commercial Fiction Prize

6 Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant by Cristina Sanders (The Cuba Press, $37)

I met the author at the Ockham book awards last week. Very nice person.

7 The Last Days of Joy by Anne Tiernan (Hachette, $36.99)

I met the author at the Ockham book awards last week. Very nice person – and very determined, very stubborn. She said she was a fan of my writing, and I said thanks, and then she said she particularly liked a piece I wrote about walking along Cameron Road, in Tauranga, and I said I had never, in fact, written anything about walking along Cameron Road, in Tauranga, but she insisted I had, absolutely insisted.

8 Always Italicise by Alice Te Punga Somerville (Auckland University Press, $24.99)

Winner of the poetry prize at last week’s Ockham book awards.

9 P.S. Come to Italy by Nicky Pellegrino (Hachette, $36.99)’

Among the very best commercial novels of the year.

10 One of Those Mothers by Megan Nicol Reed (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

Also among the very best commercial novels of the year.


1 Fungi of Aotearoa by Liv Sisson (Penguin Random House, $45)

Fungal growths, etc.

2 Whakawhetai: Gratitude by Hira Nathan (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

Last week’s book giveaway was a free copy of Whakawhetai, the author’s  gratitude journal with te ao Māori at its core. Readers were asked to share something in their life that they are truly grateful for. A number of entries were deeply moving.

An unnamed woman wrote, “Liam, my grandson is the one thing I’m grateful for everyday. I have had three lots of breast cancer of 22 years & he is worth every scan, every procedure, every operation & even 31/2 years of a medication that made me question  the quality of my life. Now when he smiles at me, I realise how little I have paid to have him in my life. He tells me I am his fav; I think he might be my life.”

Gillian wrote, “I struggle to have gratitude. I’m a generally melancholic person, I think. I’m in my 50th year, so I figure I should cheer the fuck up. I am grateful for my warm duvet and my tumble dryer (the first I’ve ever owned) and for random punk gigs in unlikely venues.”

Anna wrote, “Truly grateful that I chose to have both my 2 unplanned children. There is 22 years between them. I have been a hands on mother for nearly 40 years now, most of it as a single parent. I am not particularly fond of children and would never have planned to have them. There’s a lot of monotony and boredom in raising children doing endless repetitive tasks that days can feel like Groundhog Day over and over. But within the repetition I found love and meaning and purpose and in the end that’s really what everyone is searching for.”

Karen wrote, “I am grateful for my ability to live without the burden of addiction. My ex-husband died at the end of April after nearly twenty years of alcoholism. I am very grateful that he became sober in October and started to rebuild relationships with the people who knew him before his addiction. I am most grateful for our two daughters who are both studying psychology and hence on a pathway to support others who struggle with mental health and addiction. Through tough times we have each learnt the power of gratitude.”

Linda wrote, “I am grateful for a remaining piece of pencil given to me by Sally my wife of 30 years. She presented it to me when I was writing my MA thesis, her drawing and words scribed on it to sustain me. My ex partner (who was living under the same roof as me at the time) had a hissy fit with me one day and snapped this pencil love token.  Sally repaired the pencil and made such a good job that it’s never needed any maintenance, only regular use and sharpening. It’s the simple things that provide richness eh?”

Thank you so much to Nigel, Gillian, Anna, Karen and Linda for these beautiful stories. But the winner is Stephen Olsen, who wrote, “I’m grateful to have known a sweet man by the name of Liam Hockings, for his persistent humanity.” Liam lived at Loafers Lodge.

3 There’s a Cure for This by Emma Espiner (Penguin Random House, $35)

A free copy of the good doctor’s new essay collection is this week’s book giveaway. “Espiner tells of debauched student life at Otago, her anxieties as a mother, and the trials of student doctor life are springboards into deeper conversations around intergenerational trauma, its ramifications for Māori, the importance of empathy, and how ingrained biases and the systems we’ve set up do not always serve our most vulnerable,” wrote Amy McDaid at the New Zealand Review of Books site.

To enter the draw, email stephen11@xtra.co.nz with the subject line in screaming caps I WANT A CURE FOR THIS, and share a story about either a) your debauched student life b) your anxieties as a parent, or c) a deep conversation around intergenerational trauma and its ramifications for Māori. Entries close at midnight, Sunday May 28.

4 From There to Here by Joe Bennett (HarperCollins, $35)

5 Straight Up by Ruby Tui (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

6 Second Chances by Hayley Holt (HarperCollins, $39.99)

7 Winter Warmers by Philippa Cameron (Allen & Unwin, $49.99)

8 Aroha by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

9 Wawata by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

10 Together by Cherie Metcalfe (Allen & Unwin, $45)

Cookbook, featuring over 70 recipes such as savoury pancake tacos with avocado, egg and salsa; chickpea, spinach and feta sausage rolls; Za’atar lamb with smashed olive and caper dressing; and a raspberry cheesecake blondie.

Steve Braunias is the literary editor of Newsroom's books section ReadingRoom, a noted writer at the NZ Herald, and the author of 10 books.

Leave a comment