Books to Read Before Visiting New Zealand

Book Pages
Book Pages | © Pexels/Pixabay
Thalita Alves

New Zealand is a popular travel destination that has inspired many tales through the years. The country’s literature perfectly captures all facets of its landscapes, from the social to the natural and everything in between. Take look at 10 reading essentials, fiction and non-fiction alike, everyone should get their hands on before visiting.

Loved by over 40s

The Luminaries (2013) by Eleanor Catton

Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize winning novel showcases a piece of Victorian-era New Zealand. The Luminaries tells the story of Walter Moody, a young man trying his luck in the country’s burgeoning minefields. On arrival, he finds himself in the midst of a series of unexplained events, from the vanishing of a wealthy man to the discovery of a large fortune in drunkard’s home.

The Luminaries published by Granta Publications

The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922)by Katherine Mansfield

This classic piece of New Zealand literature was written during the final stages of Katherine Mansfield’s tragically short life. The book is composed of 15 different stories, most of which are set in Mansfield’s native land – though there are a few which take place in England and the French Riviera. Each tale offers a sensitive portrayal of the human condition, from the issues that surround family life to a loss in personal identity.

First edition cover of The Garden Party and Other Stories published by Constable & Robinson

A Good Keen Man (1960) by Barry Crump

Barry Crump’s A Good Keen Man offers a humorous take on rural New Zealand life. This is one of the most read books in the country’s history, and is renowned for its depiction of the typical Kiwi bloke. The story is set in the rugged back country and tells the tale of a young man’s journey towards mastering the art of deer culling and becoming and good bushman.

To the Is-land (1982) by Janet Frame

This is the first volume of New Zealand author Janet Frame’s autobiography. To the Is-land weaves in strong evocations of the country’s landscapes as Frame details her life’s battles: from her impoverished upbringing to her sister’s death and her brother’s struggles with epilepsy.

Pounamu Pounamu (1972) by Witi Ihimaera

Witi Ihimaera is one of New Zealand‘s most famous Maori authors, renowned on the international stage for his novel the Whale Rider. Pounamu Pounamu is a literary classic, and consists of a series of short stories that capture the intersection between Maori culture, tradition and contemporary family life in 1960s New Zealand.

The Penguin History of New Zealand (2003) by Michael King

New Zealand may have been the last place to be settled by humankind, but it is filled with interesting historic gems. Michael King’s The Penguin History of New Zealand offers one of the most comprehensive narratives of the country’s journey from colonization to independence and all the cultural, social phenomena that came with it.

Oracles and Miracles (1982) by Stevan Eldred-Grigg

This bestseller is a must-read for those travelling to Christchurch. Oracles and Miracles was Eldred-Grigg’s debut novel and tells the story of twin sisters Ginnie and Fag, alternating the narrative between the two as they offer their take on what it’s like to live and grow up in 1940s Christchurch – a city that was then a place of ‘peeling paint, flaking iron, cracked linoleum, dusty yards, lean-tos, and asphalts, dunnies and textile mills’.

A Kiwi Year: Twelve Months in the Life of New Zealand’s Kids (2017) by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

A children’s book that aptly captures the New Zealand identity. The main characters, Charlie, Ruby, Oliver, Mason and Kaia, are Kiwi kids of various cultural backgrounds who take readers on an illustrated, year-long journey across the country’s celebrations, traditions and events. The book combines modern day culture, heritage and everyday family life for kids around the nation.

Do they Speak English Down There? (2016)by Susan C Tunney

A fun and informative autobiography that openly talks about the trials and tribulations of packing up your life and moving to an entirely new country. Tunney’s tale offers plenty of insight on New Zealand society, culture and customs as well as painting a vivid picture about her family’s journey from California to their new homeland.

Squashed Possums: Off the Beaten Track in New Zealand (2015)by Jonathan Tindale

This one for a bit of travel inspiration. Tindale shares his adventures and mishaps during a year spent in the outskirts of New Zealand. As he made himself at home in a lone caravan, dubbed the Squashed Possums, Tindale got a taste of life in wilderness across through four seasons – including the coldest winter the country had experienced in decades.

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