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Summer reading

3 February 2022
Woman sitting on lounge chair

Style readers Tara Gardner-Snoad, Brian Phillips and staff have your TBR pile sorted with these recommendations.

pink jumpsuit 4

The Pink Jumpsuit: Short Fictions, Tall Truths
Emma Neale
(Quentin Wilson Publishing, $35)

The Piano Girls
Elizabeth Smither
(Quentin Wilson Publishing, $35)

New Zealand has a rich history of short story writers, dating back before Katherine Mansfield. Short stories are such a pleasure – the ability to dip in and out at will is something to be enjoyed. While searching for a collection to recommend, I found two and couldn’t separate them. Elizabeth Smither is an outstanding short story writer with a dozen previously published collections. Emma Neale, poet, novelist and former editor of the literary magazine Landfall, has published her first collection. Both are wonderfully crafted examples of the genre with some of the best stories you will read this year. Don’t be surprised to see one (or both) of these on the shortlist for the next Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. – Brian Phillips

the dark remains

The Dark Remains
William McIlvanney, Ian Rankin
(Canongate, $32.99)

For many years Ian Rankin has been thrilling crime fiction aficionados with his superbly crafted Inspector Rebus series. He has become, without doubt, the ‘King of Scottish Crime Fiction’. A close-run second to this crown was William McIlvanney, whose DC Laidlaw novels were a brilliant evocation of criminal life in Glasgow. When McIlvanney died he left behind notes for a prequel to the Laidlaw novels and now Rankin has brought this to life in a dazzling pageturning novel. Loved it.

– Brian Phillips

top secret

Top Secret Twenty-One
Janet Evanovich
(Headline Publishing Group, $24.99)

Stephanie Plum is a bond enforcement agent – AKA bounty hunter – who works for her bail bond cousin Vinnie in New Jersey. The only problem is that she’s not very good at it. Her hight ticket FTA (Failed to Appear) is Jimmy Poletti, a well-known car-dealer who has been caught selling more than just cars off his yard, and he has disappeared.

Throw in her complicated love life, quirky co-workers, crazy family, 10 killer chihuahuas, an unexpected 4-foot roommate and zany bail-bond skippers, and this colourful cast will have you laughing out loud.

– Tara Gardner-Snoad

better off dead

Better off Dead
Lee Child and Andrew Child
(Penguin Random House, $29.99)

Once again our hero Jack Reacher is on the road – this time on a deserted Arizona road, where he discovers a jeep crashed into the only tree for miles. Michaela Fenton, the driver, is a former Afghan vet badly injured by an IED. Now she’s an FBI agent seeking her missing twin brother Michael. Of course, being Reacher, he agrees to help with her search. The usual contingent of violent characters emerge – cue Reacher-style fist fights. Great holiday reading.

– Brian Phillips

subtle art

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Mark Manson
(First published HarperCollins; Re-published Pan Macmillan, $34.99)

If you are a ‘glass-half-empty’ person or feel like a ‘have not’ in a world of haves, then this is the self-help book for you.

Written by blogger Mark Manson, whose philosophy is that, instead of turning lemons into lemonade, sometimes you just have to suck the lemon and forgo the sugar. Life is messy, he says, with humorous insights into the human psyche. Find out “why we simply can’t all be extraordinary” and why that’s okay.

– Tara Gardner-Snoad

a man called ove

A Man Called Ove
Fredrik Backman
(Hodder & Stoughton, $24.99)

While not recent, this was my favourite book of 2021. I recommend it as a great holiday read as you’ll find yourself drawn into the grumpy world of the ageing Ove – a recently retired Swede with a passion for Saabs. It is peopled with wonderful characters and entertaining storylines. And a cat to remember. You will find yourself cheering for Ove as the story unfolds, and bereft when the story comes to an end. Unmissable.

– Brian Phillips

bones are forever

Bones are Forever
Kathy Reichs
(Cornerstone, $26)

Kathy Reichs is an actual forensic anthropologist (FA) whose books inspired the TV series Bones.

FA Dr Temperance Brennan is called to a run-down apartment where the mummified remains of a new-born baby have been discovered. Using her medical training to try and solve the mystery and locate the baby’s missing mother is a dangerous job indeed.

Gritty and gripping from the first page, this is a book that’s hard to put down.

– Tara Gardner-Snoad

grown ups

Grown Ups
Marian Keyes
(Penguin Books, $24)

Jessie Casey is a successful businesswoman who’s happily married to Johnny and loves her children. She includes Johnny’s two brothers and their partners in constant get-togethers. However, as with any large group they bring their own insecurities, and things are not always as they seem. Near the end of the story, secrets are accidentally revealed and the reader will go back to the start where it all began, slowly unpeeling the many layers. Funny and sad, this is an insightful look at family dynamics and why it can be difficult to finally have to Grow Up.

– Tara Gardner-Snoad

guarded by dragons

Guarded by Dragons
Rick Gekoski
(Little, Brown Book Group, $37.99)

Rick Gekoski was a student in London when he discovered that he could sell his first-edition DH Lawrence books for more than he paid for them. This led to a career as an internationally renowned dealer in rare books. In this, his third exploration of the arcane world of rare books and their collectors, he reveals his transition from dealing in books to handling literary estates. Gekoski is a wonderful storyteller and he has some amazing stories to tell, involving a slew of famous literary names.

– Brian Phillips

READ A GOOD BOOK LATELY? Send your 25–50 words on why you recommend it, with the title and your first and last name for publication, to and you could win a $25 voucher to spend at Piccadilly Bookshop.

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