Sam Elworthy’s favourite winter reads and your chance to win

Auckland University Press Director Sam Elworthy divulges his top reads to enjoy while wintry weather is still upon us.

Running Auckland University Press, I get to read non-fiction and poetry every day for my job and then roll into the New Yorker and some fiction in the evening. Or some days I’ve read enough and get to turn on the Tour de France on TV!

This month I’ve been lucky enough to have had 10 days off in Bali, where a bout of gout stuck me to the deck chair with Kindle in hand and a few good books on the go. Out of all that, a few recommendations for winter reads:

Anna Jackson, I, Clodia and Other Portraits.
I studied Latin at Christ’s College and even won the Latin prize in 7th form (there were only two students left by that point, so I had half a chance). That year we studied Catullus’s love poems with the Latin girls at Rangi Ruru. Catullus’s poems are rather raunchy and the experience was quite exciting for a young boy from a single-sex school. In I, Clodia, Anna Jackson writes love (and hate) poems back to Catullus in the voice of his lover, Clodia. They ring true to the originals, they are fun, moving and great poetry.

Niki Harré, The Infinite Game: How to Live Well Together.
Around the same time I was reading Catullus, I somehow escaped my conservative farming background and got deep into Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values and E. F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered. Those two books remain classics because they suggest that, by looking at the world differently, we can make a difference to the world around us. Niki Harré is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Auckland and - remarkably - she does something as ambitious in The Infinite Game. It’s a deep and inspirational effort to make sense anew of how the world works. I don’t get to publish many books that change my life: this one did.

Tīmoti Kāretu and Wharehuia Milroy, He Kupu Tuku Iho: Ko te Reo Māori te Tatau ki te Ao.
It will seem perverse to recommend a book that I can’t read, but I’ll do it anyway. There is a surge of interest in learning the Māori language right now but the te reo publishing landscape is a desert. This is only the third nonfiction book published in Māori in the last decade. Timoti and Wharehuia are two of the great leaders of the revival of te reo and the response to this book since we published a month ago has been stunning - the first print run sold out in a week and we are struggling to keep up with demand. We have a bold plan to publish 100 books in te reo, Kotahi Rau Pukapuka, and this book has been an inspiration.

Paul Beatty, The Sellout.
Just to prove that not every great book is published by Auckland University Press, I loved this 2016 Booker Prize winner. We lived in the US for 15 years, including Los Angeles for nine months, and Beatty captures the craziness of that society. The book is like a combination of the African American idiom captured in Theodore Rosengarten’s All God’s Dangers with the surreal re-creation of American life in John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces. Those two books are close to my all-time favourites, so The Sellout joins this list.

Sharon Mazer, I have Loved Me a Man: The Life and Times of Mika (forthcoming, October).
This one is to give you a preview of what we’re working on now. Mika (like me) grew up in Timaru. Unlike me, Mika was Māori and queer; he got into Jazzercise and drag; he worked with Carmen and Dalvanius; and he starred in The Piano. This book takes you deep inside the social revolutions we’ve been through in this country over the last 50 years through the life and times of one brave, outrageous, fabulous New Zealander.

Book giveaway

To coincide with National Poetry Day on August 24, we have three fantastic Auckland University Press poetry books to give away: He’s so MASC, by Chris Tse, Pasture and Flock, by Anna Jackson, and Nowhere Nearer, by Anna Miller.

To enter the draw, tell us the name of your favourite poet using the link below.