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Book reviews: October 2021

4 min read


Armchair Explorer

Lonely Planet


Reviewed by Esha Chanda

Experiencing local culture is a great way to get in tune with a new place. Nothing grounds a traveller more quickly than being immersed in the country’s books, movies, and music – all a window into other worlds. But with international travel restrictions still firmly in place, Lonely Planet set out on a journey to explore and bring together the different cultures.

In its latest book, the published provides a list of books to read, films to watch, and songs to listen for more than 120 countries: tour Russia with Dostoevsky as a guide, tune into chilled-out Ethiopian, jazz or bop along to Icelandic pop with Björk, sit down to sample effortlessly stylish French New Wave cinema, be spirited away by Japanese anime, or hunt for the wilderpeople in New Zealand.

Compiled by Lonely Planet writers, the book is a perfect way to research a country before we’re able to pack our bags and head out again, or to simply enjoy one of the finest qualities of travel – gain an understanding of faraway places and its people – from home.

More good reads

Southern Wanderer

Peter Garden

Life Stories Publishing


Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

We follow the interesting life of Peter Garden, the local Waikaia, Southland mechanic who traded his spanners for a helicopter cockpit, eventually specialising in aerial pest eradication across the world. Like a lot of self-published books, much of the (very) detailed story will only be of interest to those close to the author, although there is an occasional gem of information.

Unfortunately, there are numerous errors that made me question everything written. For example, who has heard of a Leland Sherpa or a Unimog that can carry a 20,000-litre chemical tank? A half-decent editor with Google search could have easily spotted the errors, halved the book size, and turned out a top product at half the price. Only recommended for the hardy aviation buffs.

Transit of Fiordland

Frank Yardley

Austin Macauley Publisher (London)

$43 (approx.)

Reviewed by Tony Orman

First impressions might deter you, for flicking the pages will reveal a lack of photographs and the cover is black and white. But if you like a good true yarn, Frank Yardley’s book is an excellent read.

The author recounts his experience in the summer of 1973–74, as “a hippie-like greenhorn” trekking the length of Fiordland National Park, with a highly experienced bushman and friend ‘Shorty’ Biddle.  This intriguing modest-looking book branches beyond the journey itself and often delves into the history and myths of Fiordland.

In the introduction, the author explains he has “recounted the walk in a manner of a braided stream meandering, digressing, wandering and diverting, including historical events of interest, personal and family sides, rumination on the flora, fauna and ecology, the impact and footprint of man pre and post-European arrival.” Consequently, there are intriguing insights into early Māori raids, the mythical lost tribe of Fiordland, early European explorers, and more of the mysteries of the rugged and remote region.

Yardley generally writes well in an engaging style. He explains photos had been lost but judicious black and white sketches of birdlife, deer, and landscape would have compensated? The book lacks good editing with paragraphs unnecessarily long, but don’t let that stop you from reading it. It’s an absorbing read and can be highly recommended.

The Edible Backyard

Kath Irvine



Reviewed by Tony Orman

You can’t always believe the blurb on the dust jacket of books but in the case of Levin permaculture expert Kath Irvine’s new book, you can. It is indeed an excellent guide to growing great produce at home.

I’ve never quite worked out why more outdoor chaps don’t get into vegetable gardening at home. It’s sort of back to nature, it’s organic like your game or fish you bag, and it’s an absorbing, satisfying challenge. Whether you’re already into growing your own veggies or would like to, this is the book for you.

Author Irvine grew vegetables for health reasons, i.e. to avoid chemicals. On a 0.4-hectare plot near Levin (Horowhenua), she set out to grow vegetables for a family of six.

Irvine learned from trial and error, and she’s not afraid to admit it.  The net result is she now has years of experience and subsequent qualification to give sound, practical advice. The book is liberally illustrated with excellent photos and diagrams throughout its 350 pages.

The Edible Backyard is a superb book and highly recommended.

Backyard Bees

Doug Purdie

Murdoch Books


Reviewed by Esha Chanda

If growing veggies in your backyard is not your thing, then maybe give a go at this. Doug Purdie’s revised edition of his bestselling beginner’s bee book comes with info on the Flow Hive and bee-friendly planting.

Purdie offers expert advice on keeping happy, healthy bees and harvesting the liquid gold, including tips on choosing a hive and equipment, and an all-new chapter on the innovative beehive design that has been taking beekeeping by storm.

But if you’re not just ready yet to install a hive in your garden or rooftop, there are also tips on how to add more bee-friendly plants to your patch and how you can support the local bee population by creating habitats and homes for solitary bees.

Purdie’s book is an insightful guide for the beginner or even an enthusiast.

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