Tuesday, 5 December 2017
List #7: HISTORY
Scroll through and select some of these books about the past.
Come in or click through to browse our full selection, or ask us for our recommendations for your specific needs.
Africa: A modern history, 1945-2015 by Guy Arnold $80
From decolonisation through independence to disappointment and new hope.
"Vast and brilliant. Orderly but still managing to nip down a fascinating byway when necessary. A groundbreaking book." - Giles Foden, Guardian
1947: When now begins by Elisabeth Åsbrink $38
The world had to reboot itself after the Second World War, but what was to be saved, what could be rebuilt, and what was to be made entirely new? In the first few years of relocations, reinventions and redirections set in place many of the tropes that have defined the world since. In 1947, production began of the Kalashnikov, Christian Dior created the New Look, Simone de Beauvoir wrote The Second Sex, the first computer bug is discovered, the CIA is set up, Hassan Al-Banna drew up the plan that remains the goal of jihadists to this day, and a UN committee was given four months to find a solution to the problem of Palestine.
The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich $38
"Why, having stood up for and held their own place in a once absolutely male world, have women not stood up for their history? Their words and feelings? A whole world is hidden from us. Their war remains unknown. I want to write the history of that war. A women's history." An important oral history of Russian women's experiences in World War Two, in English for the first time.
Fantasyland: How America went haywire, A 500-year history by Kurt Andersen $40
If you are free to create your own reality in the Land of the Free, what happens when this reality is contradicted by actuality? Trump's post-factual universe has deep and long precedents in American history.
"This is the indispensable book for understanding America in the age of Trump." - Walter Isaacson
Red Famine: Stalin's war on Ukraine by Anne Applebaum $65
The Holodomor (man-made famine) of 1932-33 killed millions of Ukrainians by starvation, and amounts to genocide. To prevent an uprising, Stalin ensured food shortages, restricted movement, confiscated foodstuffs and prevented foreign aid. Applebaum's careful account makes for horrific reading.
The Water Kingdom: A secret history of China by Philip Ball $30
A grand history of China's deep and recent history told through its relationship and management of water.
Dancing With the King: The rise and fall of the King Country, 1864-1885 by Michael Belgrave $65
When Maori were defeated at Orakau in 1864 and the Waikato War ended, Tawhiao, the second Maori King, and his supporters were forced into an armed exile in the Rohe Potae, the King Country. For the next twenty years, the King Country operated as an independent state - a land governed by the Maori King where settlers and the Crown entered at risk of their lives. For twenty years, representatives of the King and of the British Queen engaged in a dance of diplomacy involving gamesmanship, conspiracy, pageantry and hard headed politics, with the occasional act of violence or threat of it.
Nowherelands: An atlas of vanished countries, 1840-1975 by Bjorn Berge $40
Where do countries go when they cease to exist? What are the histories of Biafra, New Brunswick, Labuan, Tannu Tuva, Inini and Eastern Karelia? Each of these defunct states issued their own stamps. Berge takes us to each and shows us some of the lesser-known dead ends of history.
Old Nelson: A history in postcards, 1900-1940, Selected from the Rob Packer collection by Barney Brewster $50
A huge amount of documentary detail, arranged by location and by theme.
Sun, Sea and Sustenance: The story of the Otaki Children's Health Camp by Di Buchan $40
An excellent collection of oral history and context giving insight into the experience of children in one of New Zealand's health camps (to which children from the Nelson area were referred). From the late 1940s, health camps were established to provide health care and education for sickly, disadvantaged and 'at risk' children.
Love of Country: A Hebridean journey by Madeleine Bunting $28
The far-flung Hebrides lie on the outer edge not just of Britain, but of Europe. Bunting's finely written insular psychogeography explores the relationship of the land not only to the people who have lived on it or visited it, but to those for whom it forms an island for the mind.
"Bunting's crisp and luminous prose is the ideal medium to capture the ambiguities and dichotomies of the landscape; between ever-shifting sea and unfathomably old rock; between tradition and modernity; between wilderness and depopulation; between feudal subsistence and aristocratic profligacy." - The Scotsman
The Epic City: The world on the streets of Calcutta by Kushanava Choudhury $37
Everything that could possibly be wrong with a city was wrong with Calcutta. When Choudhury returned to the city as an adult he found it much unchanged from his childhood, a city of intense localism, very different from the new age of consumption that was revolutionising other Indian cities. Why?
"Beautifully observed and even more beautifully written, The Epic City marks the arrival of a major new talent." - William Dalrymple
Koh-i-Noor: The history of the world's most infamous diamond by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand $26
Greed, murder, torture, colonialism and appropriation - a distillate of British colonial history.
Death: A graveside companion by Joanna Ebenstein $66
Death is common to all people but there is huge cultural variation in our relationship to the inevitable. This splendidly illustrated volume surveys the attitudes and practices and art relating to dying and the dead, both in memory and concerning the remains, through the world and throughout history. Compelling. Forward by Will Self.
Sagaland by Richard Fidler and Kari Gislason $45
Two friends travel to Iceland to experience the settings of (and to retell!) the Icelandic sagas they are both so fond of, and to find Gislason's roots. What is the relationship between land and stories, both ancient and modern, both culture-defining and personal? Where are the Vikings now?
>> "Tales of blood feuds and dangerous women, fugitives and warrior poets."
>> How they came to write the book.
You Do Not Travel in China at the Full Moon: Agnes Moncrieff's letters from China, 1930-1945 edited by Barbara Francis $50
New Zealander Agnes Moncrieff was the foreign secretary to the and the YWCA in China during the Sino-Japanese War. Her first-hand accounts of the horrors taking place around her are nuanced and
The Balkans, 1804-2012: Nationalism, war and the great powers by Misha Glenny $40
Glenny investigates the roots of the bloodshed, invasions and nationalist fervour that have come to define our understanding of the south-eastern edge of Europe, and presents portraits of its kings, guerrillas, bandits, generals, and politicians. Glenny shows that groups we think of as implacable enemies have, over the centuries, formed unlikely alliances, thereby disputing the idea that conflict in the Balkans is the ineluctable product of ancient grudges. He explores the often-catastrophic relationship between the Balkans and the rest of Europe, raising some disturbing questions about Western intervention.
A Revolution of Feeling: The decade that forged the modern mind by Rachel Hewitt $55
Led by revolutionary foment in Europe, British intellectual and radicals in the 1790s formulated new ways of thinking, feeling and acting that would have far-reaching consequences through literature, art and social dynamics, what Edmund Burke called "the most important of all revolutions, the revolution of the sentiments." The project involved the complete rethinking of the relationship between the individual and society, between the individual and nature, between an individual's inner and outer lives.
RisingTideFallingStar by Philip Hoare $33
Hoare wraps his remarkable prose for a third time around a watery subject, this time tracing poets', artists', utopians',and adventurers' all-consuming and sometimes fatal attraction to the sea.
Empires in the Sun: The struggle for the mastery of Africa by Lawrence James $40
Between 1830 and 1945, Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Italy and the United States exported their languages, laws, culture, religions, scientific and technical knowledge and economic systems to Africa. The colonial powers imposed administrations designed to bring stability and peace to a continent that seemed to lack both. The justification for occupation was emancipation from slavery - and the common assumption that late nineteenth-century Europe was the summit of civilisation - but the underlying motivations were about power and money and the legacies of these administrations have made the processes of independence fraught.
Futures of Black Radicalism edited by Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin $39
Surveys the black radical traditions since the nineteenth century to provide context for the new international wave of protests and awareness, tied to a critique of capitalism, privilege and power.
>> Angela Davis on TV.
Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann $39
A remarkable piece of scholarship, unearthing the long-overlooked lives of free Africans in Renaissance England.
The War is in the Mountains: Violence in the world's high places by Judith Matloff $43
Mountainous regions are home to only ten percent of the world's population yet host a strikingly disproportionate share of the world's conflicts. Mountains provide a natural refuge for those who want to elude authority, and their remoteness has allowed various practices to develop and persist in isolation, resulting in a combustible mix those in the lowlands cannot afford to ignore. A new way of looking at conflict.
October: The story of the Russian Revolution by China Mieville $33
How was a ravaged and backward country, swept up in a desperately unpopular war, rocked by not one but two revolutions? A fresh and incisive account by this idiosyncratic novelist.
St Petersburg: Three centuries of murderous desire by Jonathan Miles $38
"Of all cities St Petersburg is most like a novel. Conceived in the mind of a Tsar like a writer might give birth to a book,it has never ceased to be relentlessly dramatic, as if being like a novel is its destiny. Miles tells the tale magnificently." - Peter Pomerantsev
The Hidden Ways: Scotland's forgotten ways by Alistair Moffat $45
Centuries of people moving about have left tracks on the landscape, many of them almost erased by other land use and movement patterns. Moffat follows some Roman roads, pilgrims' ways, drove roads, turnpikes, ghost railroads and sea roads to evoke for us a different and often surprising view of landscape and history.
Rooms of One's Own: 50 places that made literary history by Adrian Mourby $28
How does the place where writing takes place affect what is written there? What can we learn about a book by visiting there? Mourby visits fifty rooms in which fifty writers wrote fifty books, and compares the locations with what ended up on the page.
Tangata Ngai Tahu / People of Ngai Tahu edited by Takerei Norton and Helen Brown $40
Fifty biographies of key figures in Ngai Tahu's history, up to the Deed of Settlement. Fully illustrated and fully interesting.
The Ghost: A cultural history by Susan Owens $45
"Five thousand years have now elapsed since the creation of the world, and still it is undecided whether or not there has even been an instance of the spirit of any person appearing after death. All argument is against it; but all belief is for it." - Samuel Johnson
A fascinating look at the literature and art that have been engendered or shaped by the belief or otherwise in the phenomenon, or should that be pseudophenomenon, of ghosts.
"A work of profound scholarship and imaginative engagement, beautifully written and elegantly constructed. It's the finest study of its kind I've read." - The Literary Review
Istanbul: Memories and the city by Orhan Pamuk $55
A beautifully illustrated edition of Pamuk's memoir, with 450 historical photographs.
He Reo Wahine: Maori women's voices from the nineteenth century edited by Lachy Paterson and Angela Wanhalla $50
"This book presents a rich and ranging collection of Maori women speaking from the nineteenth-century archive. The hopes, the persistence, the effort to set down a cause are all apparent in the words of women presented in these pages. It is in various measures an inspiring, instructive and agonising read." - Charlotte Macdonald, Victoria University of Wellington
Farewell to the Horse: The final century of our relationship by Ulrich Raulff $65
"Any reader interested in horses, history, art, literature or language will love this book, and be stunned by its scope and stylish intellect. This is about the end of a relationship between man and horse that Raulff likens to the dissolution of an idiosyncratic workers’ union, and what is thrilling is that the horse becomes a subtext – a new way of considering history via the stable door. The book is beautifully and idiosyncratically illustrated, in keeping with the text." - Guardian
Sad Topographies: A disenchanted traveller's guide by Damien Rudd and Kateryna Didyk $52
What are the stories behind the most lugubrious places in the world? Beautifully drawn maps by Kateryna Didyk.
>> Sad online.
Tears of Rangi: Experiments across worlds by Anne Salmond $65
Polynesian and then European settlers arrived in New Zealand bringing with them world views and modes of practice that they then began to apply and adapt to the new land. This remarkable book calibrates the varying approaches of the differing peoples who came to Aotearoa, and suggests that a deeper understanding of these mind-sets can lead towards approaches that are more harmonious, not just between cultures but towards the natural world too.
Belonging: The story of the Jews, 1492-1900 by Simon Schama $40
"Simon Schama takes the reader through a grand sweep of Jewish history, but he makes it so personal you begin to feel you know the men and women whose lives shine out from the pages, and their foibles, and you get a sense of the fragility of their lives and their determination to survive. It's a brilliant piece of work" - Rabbi Julia Neuberger
"Profoundly illuminating." - Guardian
Short-listed for the 2017 Baillie-Gifford Prize.
>> An interview with Schama.
The Last London by Iain Sinclair $40
The outstanding psychogeographer strikes out on a series of solitary walks and collaborative expeditions to make a final reckoning with a capital stretched beyond recognition. Here is a mesmerising record of secret scholars and whispering ghosts. Of disturbing encounters. Night hospitals. Pits that become cameras. Mole Man labyrinths. And privileged swimming pools, up in clouds, patrolled by surveillance helicopters. Where now are the myths, the ultimate fictions of a many times revised city?
Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India by Shashi Tharoor $38
A wonderfully unrelenting indictment of colonialism and the damage it did to what had been a thriving country. Two centuries of British rule devastated the economy, violated human rights, and introduced institutions and infrastructure that enabled Britain to thrive at India's expense.
Make Her Praises Heard Afar: The untold history of New Zealand women in World War One by Jane Tolerton $60
Many New Zealand women have been left out of the histories of the First World War. As well as the 550 nurses who followed the troops and the women who 'kept the home fires burning', many other New Zealand women were involved in the war, as doctors and ambulance drivers, munitions workers and mathematicians, civil servants and servicewomen in British units, and in many other roles. Tolerton tells these stories for the first time.
Empire of Things: How we became a world f consumers, from the fifteenth century to the twenty-first by Frank Trentmann $38
Changes in our relationships with objects both manifest and underlie many of the other processes of history. This is a fascinating book.
Soviet Space Dogs by Olesya Turkina $50
In the lead-up to Yuri Gagarin's first space flight, small robust stray dogs were plucked from the streets of Moscow and trained to endure gravitational pressure, low oxygen levels, a constipating diet, ungainly outfits and celebrity status before being launched into orbits from which some actually returned alive. This interesting book traces their history and also records the vast array of paraphernalia, from postcards to nightlights, designed to celebrate these remarkable dogs.
>> Can you tolerate this?
>> Was Ivan Ivanovich the model master?
>> Chernushka today.
A Strange Beautiful Excitement: Katherine Mansfield's Wellington by Redmer Yska $40
"It's not enough to say I immensely enjoyed A Strange Beautiful Excitement; it's simply splendid." - Fiona Kidman
"The best account I have ever read of Wellington and Karori as they were in Mansfield's day. Vivid and vigorous, it is a pleasure to read." - K.M. biographer Kathleen Jones