As programme director of Word Christchurch, Rachael King is a champion of the power of literature, and a passionate supporter of local independent bookstores. The Christchurch-based author has written and published books Magpie Hall, The Sound of Butterflies and Red Rocks for children.
The biennial event Word Christchurch kicks off on Wednesday, with an exciting array of literary minded events and authors including Pip Adam, Becky Manawatu, Witi Ihimaera, Elizabeth Knox, Vincent O’Sullivan and more. Rachael reflects on some recent purchases, with a literary bent.
• Word Christchurch, October 28 - November 1.
Pretty much, I just buy books. Someone once said that buying books and reading them are two completely separate hobbies and it gave me such a sense of relief when I heard it. If you don’t look at it this way, you’d ask yourself: why buy a book when you haven’t read all the other books in your house? Also: why not just get it out of the library? The answer: because I would like to own this book thank you very much. I would like to have it sit by my bed, or on a shelf, full of promise for the day when I will read it, when I will have time to read it. If I get it out of the library, I will have to read it to someone else’s schedule i.e. in the next four weeks. But this way, it will be waiting for me the minute I feel like picking it up.
Schopenhauer said: ‘Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents.’
Guilty as charged. So: two completely different hobbies. I love to read books. I love to buy books. Only sometimes do the twain meet, and that’s okay.
So here are my latest purchases. I like to support independent New Zealand bookshops*.
Summerwater by Sarah Moss, bought from Scorpio Books and Charlie Tangaroa and the Creature of the Sea by Tania Roxborogh, at her launch in Lincoln but sold by Scorpio
Sarah Moss’ last book Ghost Wall was so sublime I nearly started it again as soon as I finished it, so I’m looking forward to tucking into her new one once WORD is over. Tania Roxborogh has written a rollicking adventure for kids, grounded in Māori mythology, and I bought this as much for myself as for my kids! She’s appearing at WORD, which I’m thrilled about.
Scorpio Books is always buzzing and it’s such a pleasure to drop in there on my lunch hour and browse – but it’s also dangerous for all the reasons I explained above. They are well stocked, with the new release tables so carefully curated it seems to extract my money from me.
Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan and Here We Are by Graham Swift, bought from Colombo Bookstore
Speaking of well-curated displays… On the day I visited the new Colombo Bookstore, the owner Charlotte was rearranging things, but the overall impression I got was of a lovingly and carefully stocked small bookshop. Often there is more to find in a small shop than a big one because of the fascinating choices the book buyer has made. I couldn’t resist buying two books with great covers (I am a sucker for beautiful small hardbacks like the Swift) as I dropped off festival programmes.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, bought from University Bookshop
The University Bookshop, led by Pene Whitty, run our festival bookshops and they do a spectacular job in often not very easy circumstances – weird hours, spread over several venues, often with odd spaces to fit into.
I love visiting their shop at Canterbury University, which has recently downsized to something a bit more intimate, and I just about always buy something. Such a Fun Age was long-listed for the Booker and I enjoyed it immensely.
Grimoire by Robin Robertson, ordered from overseas because I couldn’t wait for it to reach New Zealand by boat. I promise I do not make a habit if this (support local, people!)
Robin Robertson writes sublime, often ink-dark, poems, using crisp language and melancholy images. This book houses his collected “invented Scots folk narratives… everyday tales of murder, madness, congenital malformation and selkies”, which make liberal use of obscure and fascinating Scots words.