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A wide range of topics in New Zealand books reviewed in 2009

Dorothy - 17/11/09

Books on the New Zealand landscape, wine, chamois, penguins, ballads, biography, history, forest issues add up to varied and absorbing reading. With Christmas 2009 fast approaching book lovers' thoughts turn to books to read in the vacation and books for Christmas gifts. Apart from the old favourites there are some recent New Zealand publications worthy of consideration.

Shaun Barnett Natural New Zealand
The landscapes, animals and plants of Aoteaeroa

Shaun Barnett Natural New Zealand - The landscapes, animals and plants of Aoteaeroa
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This is described by the publisher as "a new and comprehensively revised edition of Natural New Zealand", and is the work of writer and photographer Shaun Barnett whose earlier works include the Montana Award winning Classic Tramping in New Zealand and the Bird's Eye Guides Tramping in New Zealand, Day Walks in New Zealand, and North Island Weekend Tramps.

The text is clear and concise and provides useful and interesting information. The superb photographs are a source of interest and enjoyment both to those who are exploring new areas and those who are revisiting familiar places. Such is the cameraman's skill that known landscape is presented in new lights or from different angles or from vantage points which are too elevated for the average photographer.

I spent a long time lingering over photos of New Zealand - a wide range such as the upper Fox Glacier, rainforest in the Clinton Valley on the Milford Track, Lake Mackenzie on the Routeburn Track, Aoraki/Mt Cook in a dusky view over Lake Pukaki, Mt Ngauruhoe, Mt Tongariro, the Champagne Pool at Wai-o-tapu in Rotorua, Mt Taranaki, the North Island zebra moth, the Fletcher Bay sunrise on the Coromandel Peninsula, Dusky dolphins at Kaikoura and kauri in Trounson Park in Northland.

The bird photos are remarkable – tui, kea, a banded dotterel on a nest at Stewart Island, a rock wren, a wrybill, a South Island robin, Australasian gannets, a kiwi, a wood pigeon and others.

When poring over photos I like to be able to share them with other people, but the absence of any list of contents and any index makes returning to an impressive photo a frustrating experience. Regrettably even a list of chapter headings would not make the search much easier as the photos do not always relate to the subject of the text.

Despite the organisational drawbacks the quality of the impressive photography makes this book well worth purchasing for the visual experience it offers.

Published by Craig Potton Publishing
ISBN 978 1 877517 03 7
Price $NZ29.99

Karl du Fresne The New Zealand Wine-Lover's Companion
An A-to-Z Guide

Karl du Fresne The New Zealand Wine-Lover's Companion - An A-to-Z Guide
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When I was sent this book I hesitated about my competence to review it as I am not a wine buff. However on reading the introduction I found that it is intended as "not a book for wine geeks… but aimed at people who enjoy wine, are intrigued by its diversity and would like to learn more about it."

Opening this book at random and browsing through it I became very interested in the contents. Information includes the pronunciation of unfamiliar words and names of wines, comment on songs about wine, on localities where it is grown, like the Wairau Valley, on the history of different types of wine such as Riesling and on personalities in the industry like Sam Neill.

Published by Craig Potton Publishing
ISBN 978 1 877517 12 9
Price $NZ29.99

Steuart Laing Chamois: A NZ Hunters Handbook

Steuart Laing Chamois: A NZ Hunters Handbook
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The author is a keen hunter who over 35 years covered much of New Zealand on hunting trips.

He described the experiences which fitted him to write this book.

In the 1960s, while at High School, he began his hunting career using an ex army Lee Enfield .303 rifle, identical to the rifles that were used in compulsory military training.

During university vacations he worked for a number of New Zealand National Parks (Fiordland, Aspiring and Arthurs Pass) undertaking a wide variety of duties often with hunting as the ultimate objective.

He completed a degree in botany and a post graduate diploma in horticulture. For two years he was employed by the New Zealand Forest Service on plant and wild animal surveys. He thus became knowledgeable about New Zealand flora, birds, animals and the introduced game species.

This book would be useful to experienced hunters and those new to the sport, and the remarkable photos would be appreciated by anyone interested in mountain views.

Published by Halcyon Press
ISBN 978-1-877256-93-6
Price $NZ35.00

Lloyd Spencer Davis and Rod Morris Penguins of New Zealand

Lloyd Spencer Davis and Rod Morris Penguins of New Zealand
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This 62-page book contains a wealth of material about these fascinating birds presented in a clear and interesting style. I wished I had read it and become better informed before travelling to places in New Zealand where we viewed penguins – Oamaru, Akaroa Harbour, Otago Harbour and Fiordland. I also wished we had been able to share this book with our family before we went on holiday to these places. The text is written so that it would appeal to young readers as well as adults.

The magnificent photographs of the different species and their habitats are well placed to highlight the text.

Subjects covered in the book include the birds' evolution, their feeding and their breeding behaviour. There is also discussion on conservation issues – threats to the species and measures to protect them.

Published by New Holland Publishers (NZ) Ltd
ISBN 978-1-86966-261-5
RRP: $NZ24.99

Roger Keey's Forest Affairs
A novel set in New Zealand and presenting contemporary New Zealand issues

Jason Barrell and Elaine Weber McGough Try, Try Again
A motivating account of triumph over serious setbacks

Ron Palenski How we saw the War: 1939-45 through New Zealand eyes
A history which aims to give to those who have never known war 'some idea of how it would have been to live through the war and read day by day of fighting in hitherto unheard of places, of fighting by people known to them, people they may or may not see again.'

Colin Patterson From Patterson's Heart
Country ballads on serious and entertaining themes

Joan Woodward and Glenys Mitchell A Nurse at War – Emily Peter 1858-1927
Diary extracts linked by accounts of the historical background give a vivid picture of nursing in the period in peace and war.

Dave Chowdbury, Simon Henshaw A Driving Guide to Scenic New Zealand
Aerial maps with useful commentary for people driving to scenic areas in New Zealand

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