1 Pet by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

These are surely days of wine and roses for the student-farming, job-for-life dual enterprise of the dear old IIML engine and its publishing axle Te Herenga Waka University Press, formerly Victoria University Press: two IIML star graduates and now star THWUP writers are authors of the top three bestselling novels, with Pet now on sale in the UK and earning a rave review in the Observer (“chilling”).

As well, a third star grad and star writer, Tayi Tibble, recently became the fifth New Zealand author since Maurice Shadbolt in 1959 to be published in the New Yorker. Last week I sought comment from Bill Manhire – one of the elite New Yorker five –  but an IT issue meant his reply only arrived on Thursday. But it’s never too late in the day to hear from the most revered figure in the IIML-THWUP axis. Take it away, Bill!

He emailed, “Rightly or wrongly, people pay real attention to the New Yorker. Several people I’d never heard of got in touch specifically to tell me my poem was obscene. They’d had to look up the final word and were upset about discovering its meaning. I hope Tayi gets braver and better readers than them.”

Naturally this only made me curious about the “final word” in his New Yorker poem. “My Childhood in Ireland” later appeared in his poetry collection, The Victims of Lightning; it first appeared in the magazine in December 2009.

I never climbed the hill
or strolled to the end of the pier
to see what the walkers in rain
might be finding out there.

Nor did the book fall open
where Maeve had secretly signed it.
In fact, it never fell open.
Not that I minded: the world

streamed away
wherever the great ships
were going. Far away
there were ways beyond knowing.

I walked back to the house.
My sister’s new child was chained
to her breast. She drifted
inside a dark forest.

My father opined while the dog whined.
The television did its best.
While my father opined
the dog licked itself.

Well, you manage to find
what might make you happy.
I went on the Net. I wandered.
Asian bukkake.

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

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

4 Rings on Water (The Matakana Series 2) by Madeleine Eskedahl (Matheson Bay Press, $36.99)

This week’s free book giveaway is both the latest crime novel in the Matakana Series – AND the first novel, featuring at number seven in this week’s chart.

The author wrote about her enchanted childhood on the strange island of Gotland in ReadingRoom on Tuesday. To enter the draw for these two fine novels, tell us the strangest, most unearthly place that you have ever been to, ever. It might be in Europe, Asia, the Americas, wherever. It might be in New Zealand! It might be underwater. It might be underground. It might be a building! Anywhere, really; please, share an escape, and email it to with the subject line in screaming caps I WANT TO READ THOSE TWO BOOKS BY AN AUTHOR FROM GOTLAND in screaming caps. Entries close on Sunday, July 17, at midnight.

5 The Witching Tide by Margaret Meyer (Hachette, $37.99)

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

7 Blood on Vines (The Matakana Series 1) by Madeleine Eskedahl (Squabbling Sparrows Press, $34.95)

8 Tangi by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House, $30)

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

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


1 Head On by Carl Hayman & Dylan Cleaver (HarperCollins, $39.99)

The great former AB wrote about drinking a lot in an excerpt on Monday in ReadingRoom.

2 This is ADHD by Chanelle Moriah (Allen & Unwin, $32.99)

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

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

5 Matariki: The Star of the Year by Rangi Mātāmua (Huia Publishers, $35)

Dr Murray Gadd, an independent literacy facilitator, teacher and researcher, wrote about Matariki in schools on his site last year. It’s a really nice story.

He wrote, “In September last year, I described and illustrated 3 creative and highly motivating writing lessons that Nicola Blight from Newton Central School had undertaken with her New Entrant and Year 1 students. I was in Nicola’s class again last term and I saw something else that bowled me over.

“Like many teachers across Aotearoa, Nicola was using the occasion of Matariki as a springboard for creativity and cultural studies. Following lots of oral language and modelling by Nicola around what might be regarded as great wishes for Matariki, her students produced some stunning wishes.

“One that particularly appealed to me was Marvin’s, which you can see hanging down as a Matariki star with his wish written on one side (obviously typed up by Nicola) and his photo on the other. Note that the star is beautifully decorated by both Marvin and Nicola.”

Gadd then pointed out that good old Marvin had only been at school for a few days when he wrote it. Aw! He concluded, “Every time I walk into Nicola’s room, I am enchanted by the colour and creativity that flows through it and also by a group of little people eager to share their writing with me.”

Below is Marvin’s Matariki wish.

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

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

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

9 Under the Weather by James Renwick (HarperCollins, $39.99)

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

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.

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