Bookcase Books to Ease Back With

A Short History of Nearly Everything
By: Bill Bryson
Publisher: Doubleday
Price: $59.95

If only my science teachers had the way with words Bill Bryson has, how different those periods of secondary school boredom might have been. The man brings even the mundane to life.
A Short History of Nearly Everything is an ideal holiday read. It skips along, all 423 pages – minus notes, bibliography and index. And things stick. I remember so much that my 13-year-old daughter is amazed at my newfound knowledge – though at times bored with my insistence on sharing it.
I know about building universe, the size of the earth and how to measure it, Einstein’s theories simplified, the big bang and the richness of being – “life itself”.
Most readers know Bryson as delightfully irreverent but exceedingly perceptive travel writer who dissects communities with scalpel-like precision and reveals our collective idiosyncrasies and nationally treasured fallacies. In Short History of Nearly Everything Bryson recounts journey of different kind, explaining in descriptive but selective detail little of everything from the beginning of time – as he understands it.
The author’s challenge was to take subjects that “normally bore the pants off most of us” and see if there isn’t some way to render them more comprehensible. He succeeds admirably.
Don’t be dissuaded by the poundage. This text is worth its weight in gold. great read. An absorbing trip through time, space and the innermost workings of the minds of some of the world’s most unfathomably brilliant people. All told in delightfully readable prose.

The Penguin History of New Zealand
By: Michael King
Publisher: Penguin
Price: $29.99

Michael King’s The Penguin History Of New Zealand will fit more easily into something rather larger than Christmas stocking. His 500 and something pages of finely researched, intelligently interpreted and eloquently delivered historical text are, it seems, already in hidden places ready for delivery to delighted recipients on December 25.
New Zealand is lucky that Michael King chose to become historian. He is gifted writer and might have chosen, no doubt with equal success, to write in any number of fields. Instead we now have 30 years of his collected and increasingly perceptive views, facts and findings on our, as he calls it, seemingly “close at hand” history.
The difficulty about writing relatively recent history is, I think, that the misdeed-induced sores of social conflict are still raw and hand-ling them requires both sensitivity and skill if both the reality and the recuperation are to be at once both honest and long lasting.
Anyhow, King has added an important building block of fact and perspective to the slowly growing but increasingly robust edifice of New Zealand history. The stories that make up this fascinating account of an emerging nation, are compellingly and colourfully woven to make the whole case. Read it and you will see and feel your country’s past in new and, I think, more sympathetically understandable and illuminating light.

Avenger
By: Frederick Forsyth
Published by: Bantam Press
Price: $34.95

I have read several Frederick Forsyth novels with, I confess, varying levels of satisfaction. This is cruel, crafty and complicated Forsyth and, although spattered with liberal dose of descriptive cliches, will make relaxing holiday reading.
Forsyth is craftsman and tells usually nasty but compelling tales.
Avenger is book that can best be described as his stock in trade. Cruel and seemingly senseless murders of young children and the subsequent relentless search for revenge by parents – one rich enough to buy personal justice, the other with murderous skills honed in the stinking tunnels beneath war-ridden Vietnam – coincide. yarn set first in Vietnam moves to embrace events in an equally cruel and more contemporary Yugoslavia where young aid worker meets an inexcusable but entirely plausible death, and then on to the jungles of Central America. Personal tragedy and the need for revenge fuels pursuit that eventually finally delivers the reader to suspenseful action at the centre-stage of world terrorism.
An enthralling read for war-weary executives out to escape the cruel realities of everyday life in the treacherous corridors of the corporate world.

The Temptations of Frederick Weld
By: Michael Wall
Publisher: Black Swan
Price: $26.95

I have soft spot for political novels. And political settings, New Zealand’s in particular, are Michael Wall’s familiar territory. His nice blend of fact and fiction has now delivered five compelling novels and The Temptations of Frederick Weld is up with his best.
Our writers are discovering and recounting New Zealand’s past in new and interesting ways. In this easy-to-read tale with twist, Wall wanders through the streets of Auckland 150 years ago and weaves delightfully absorbing yarn around the life and times of Frederick Weld, premier of the nation in 1864-65.
Murder, mystery and beautifully deceptive woman combine to provide compelling vehicle for what is also an interesting and insightful glimpse of the realities of political life in New Zealand as this country struggled and thrashed its way toward new notion of nationhood.
Weld’s reign at the top was brief, but that was the way of the tempestuous world of politics in this formative era. In the 10 years from 1856 New Zealand had no less than eight changes of premier though some, like William Fox, were in and out of office twice and, before his final demise, occupied the job four times in less than 20 years.
Add this one to the Christmas stocking.

Books for these reviews supplied by Dymocks Newmarket.
Available from [email protected]
Ph: 0-9-522 3343, Fax: 0-9-520 8808

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