Books for Christmas

Some of our 2006 reviewers divulge what books they’d most like to find under the tree these holidays. 


Elizabeth Smither wants Dead Europe by Christos Tsiolkas, this year’s Melbourne Age novel of the year, in which a gay Australian photographer travels through Greece and Europe and has his illusions about European sophistication, culture and tolerance shattered.

Raymond Huber would love the new reprint of Catastrophe by Dino Buzzati: “I read an old library stack copy and was mesmerised by his surreal short stories of natural and supernatural disasters: imaginative, earthy, mystical little parables.”

Nicholas Reid wants the 20 Georges Simenon Maigret mysteries and the four historical novels by Alfred Duggan that he doesn’t already have on his shelves: “I used to have the hobby of hunting them out in second-hand bookshops, but unfortunately I no longer have the time to hunt.”

Roger Robinson would like David Hill’s new Hill Sides “because anyone who writes that well about Titus Andronicus (NZB, August 2006) has to be worth reading more of.”

Guy Somerset would prefer not to be given a book, so he can catch up with the mounting pile he has – top of the heap, Methuen’s many Richard Yates reissues. If you really must give him something, make it Carmen Callil’s Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family and Fatherland, which can sit unread for 10 years alongside that copy of Gitta Sereny’s Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth.

Anne Else puts Penelope Lively’s anti-memoir Making It Up at the top of her list – “I want to see how she follows up on her spare, unsparing and almost unbearably poignant novels and memoirs, Oleander, Jacaranda and A House Unlocked, by imagining ‘alternative outcomes to her life’.”

John McCrystal is desperate for DIY Rescue: The DIY Way: “I don’t think it’s been written yet, but it needs to be, and fast. How else can people like me, who are too tight to pay an expert to finish projects around the house, ever get them done?”

David Larsen knows nothing about Argentinian author Angélica Gorodischer, except that Ursula Le Guin chose to translate her quasi-novel Kalpa Imperial, in which “Multiple storytellers relate the innumerable rises and falls of a great empire” – and that’s all he needs to know.

Stephanie de Montalk looks forward to long summer evenings reading The Joy of a Ming Vase by Ruth Dallas: “I admire Dallas’s essential imagery, graceful clarity and unwavering sense of place; also the quietude with which, to use her own words, she reveals ‘In a few strokes of a brush/The movement of unmoving reeds’.”

Jenny Robin Jones has her fingers crossed that Redmer Yska’s Wellington: Biography of a City is the good and sufficient history she’s looking for: “We’re rich in boosterism and useful lists but poor in the animated, comprehensive analysis that would impart true understanding.”

Paul Thomas wants Martin Amis’ House of Meetings. Why? “Because it’s Amis.”

Nelson Wattie’s English and German copies of Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities are coffee-stained, and he’d like them replaced: “Nothing else gives me laughter, shock, despair, intellectual stimulation, astonishment at bold ideas, metaphysical thought and awareness that life is both utterly ridiculous and eminently worth living.”

Gavin McLean wants My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme, celebrating the woman who introduced French cooking to the land of French fries: “The queen of the blowtorch! This is a beautiful, tender account of poverty, discovery, commitment, and a condemnation of McCarthyism. Bon appétit!”


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