Supplementary Reading Viewing List

Suggested Pre-Departure Materials:
New Zealand 

Non-fiction Books

An Illustrated History of the Treaty of Waitangi by Claudia Orange (2002)

The Treaty of Waitangi established a British governor in New Zealand, recognized Māori ownership of their lands and other properties and gave Māori the rights of British subjects. However, the drafting was done hastily and confusion and disagreement continues to surround the translation to this day. This book not only outlines the events of 1840 but also the impacts, protests, and negotiations that followed for the next century and a half.

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

This book, originally published in 2003, continues to be the #1 best seller in New Zealand. Inhabited by East Polynesians (who evolved culturally Māori) approximately 1,000 years ago, New Zealand was the last major landmass to be inhabited by people. It was also the first country to introduce a full democracy and to give women the right to vote. Between those events, and in the century that followed, the movements and the conflicts of human history have been played out more intensively and more rapidly in New Zealand than anywhere else on Earth.

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A Traveller’s History of New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands by John Chambers (2004)

This book looks at the early settling of the South Pacific – an area which covers about a fifth of the surface of the earth – with particularly focus on New Zealand. The story of colonizing the South Pacific Islands and New Zealand is arguably one of the world's great sagas.

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Ghosts of Gondwana by George Gibbs (2006)

The fauna (animals) and flora (plants) of New Zealand are some of the strangest in the world. This book presents some fascinating research explaining how and why New Zealand’s fauna and flora evolved so uniquely.

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Fiction Books

A Good Keen Man by Barry Crump (1960)

Written in a gruff, "blokey" style, this book epitomizes the life and times of the government deer cullers who were employed in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s to reduce the deer populations in the New Zealand bush, which had reached epidemic proportions with serious damage to the forest. It was a hard life for the men who undertook this work, and only some of those who started out as hunters kept it up for long or made much of a success of it. The book captured New Zealand's imagination, summing up many cherished national stereotypes, and it remains one of the NZ's highest selling books, with numerous reprints. The phrase "a good keen man" has since been embedded into the New Zealand vernacular. 

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Strangers and Journeys by Maurice Shadbolt (1972) 

On publication, this became a defining novel in New Zealand's literary ascendancy and its sense of nationhood, putting Shadbolt in the same league as Australia's Patrick White. This is a tale of two families of finely wrought characters, whose lives interweave through three generations. 

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The Bone People by Keri Hulme (1984)

The Bone People weaves its story together with dreams, myths and legends, the world of the dead, and the ways of ancient cultures. The result is an unconventional and powerful novel which, after being rejected by major New Zealand publishers, was published by a women's collective and won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1985. The Bone People explores the potential within families for both destruction and healing, as well as the great personal costs of the disintegration of individual connections to traditional communities and cultures - in this case, the indigenous Maori culture of New Zealand. 

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Potiki by Patricia Grace (1986) 

Roimata Kararaina, her husband and their four children live peacefully in a tribal community along the unspoiled coast of New Zealand. But developers have big plans for the area - tourist facilities, roads and modernization - and they offer Roimata's Maori people huge sums of money for its lands. When the community refuses to sell, fearing the destruction of its environment and sacred traditions, the developers employ sinister means to change its mind, and the Maori find themselves united as never before as they battle for survival. This is a poignant and poetic tale of a Maori community redefining itself through a blend of traditional and modern values. Exquisite writing by an outstanding author who ranks among the finest in New Zealand today. 

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The Stories of Frank Sargeson by Frank Sargeson (1986) 

Though not well-known outside New Zealand, Sargeson is a giant of Kiwi literature. His writing, from the 1930s to the 1980s, is incisive and sharply observed. This work brings together some of his finest short stories. Once is Enough, More than Enough and Never Enough! make up the complete autobiography of a man sometimes even more colorful than his characters. Michael King has written a fine biography of him called Frank Sargeson: A Life (1995).

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The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (1987)

The first great-grandchild of the Maori chief Koro Apirana is Kahu, a girl not the hoped-for boy, and Koro is upset, since only a male can carry on the line. He hopes for a destined chosen one to restore the Maori people, but his hopes are growing more and more futile. He starts teaching young boys about the old traditions, looking for the one who can "pull the sword from the stone." Meanwhile, Kahu grows up into an inquisitive and sweet-natured eight-year-old. One day, whales are found beaching themselves near the town where Kahu lives, and she hears their song. Searching for his old friend, master and rider, the oldest whale will find Kahu.

Janet Frame: An Autobiography by Janet Frame (1991) 

Though undoubtedly one of New Zealand's most accomplished novelists, Frame is perhaps best known for this three-volume autobiography, dramatized in Jane Campion's film which, with wit and a self-effacing honesty, gives a wonderful insight into both the author and her environment. This autobiography traces Janet Frame's childhood in a poor but intellectually intense family, life as a student, years of incarceration in mental hospitals and eventual entry into the saving world of writers.

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Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All: A New Zealand Story by Christina Thompson (2009)

Boston native Christina Thompson's engaging book is a mix of geography, sociology, history, and autobiography. Skillfully blending a memoir of her marriage to a Maori man with a history of the European-Maori relationship, she reflects on how cultural differences and misunderstandings have been reflected in both.

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Goodbye Pork Pie (1981)

A classic New Zealand film starring local goon, Gerry, who hires a yellow mini in Kaitaia using a stolen license. John's wife has just left him and moved to Invercargill. He is devastated and needs to talk to her. He has no transport and needs a ride. Together with the little mini that Gerry names "Pork Pie", they hit the road to travel the length of the country.

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An Angel at My Table (1990)

Janet Frame grows up in a poor family with lots of brothers and sisters. Already at an early age she is different from the other kids. She gets an education as a teacher but since she is considered abnormal she is locked up in a mental institution for eight years. Success comes when she starts to write books.

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The Piano (1993)

Ada, a mute woman along with her young daughter, and her prized piano, are sent to 1850s New Zealand for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner. Of all her possessions, her husband refuses to transport the piano and it is left behind on the beach. Unable to bear its certain destruction, Ada strikes a deal with a neighbor to try and earn her piano back.

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Once Were Warriors (1994)

A dark, powerful look at Māori life on the North Island of New Zealand. A family descended from warriors has great difficulties adjusting to urban normalcy.

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The Price of Mile (2000)

New Zealand milk farmer Rob gives his lover Lucinda a ring. Trying to spark up her relationship with Rob, she takes her friend Drosophila's advice and starts to try and make Rob angry. But she tends to go too far. Admiring her ring while driving a lonely road, she has a run-in with an older woman that sets off a chain of events that begins with her quilt being stolen.

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Whale Rider (2002)

A powerful and charming Māori-based coming-of-age story. There is a legend that Paikea rode on the back of a whale and led his people to New Zealand. Since that time tradition has decreed that the first-born male descendant will become chief of the tribe. Then Pai is born...and she is a girl. Although loved by all, Pai faces rejection from her grandfather, Koro, who is brokenhearted that there is no grandson to carry on the line.

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The World’s Fastest Indian (2005)

Based on a true story and starring Sir Anthony Hopkins. The life story of New Zealander Burt Munro (Hopkins), who spent years building a 1920 Indian motorcycle  - a bike which helped him set the land-speed world record at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967.

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Eagle vs. Shark (2007)

A wry comedy that chronicles the quirky romance of two awkward misfits, Lily and Jarrod (Jermaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords fame). This film showcases that uniquely New Zealand sense of humor.

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River Queen (2005)

Set in the 1860s and starring Keither Sutherland, an intimate tale about the turbulent wars between British and Māori during the British Colonization of New Zealand. Sarah O’Brien, a young English woman, has a dangerous liaison with a young native. Sarah gives birth to a boy who is subsequently kidnapped by his Māori grandfather. Upon reuniting with her child, following a seven-year odyssey to find him, Sarah discovers that her son is torn between his two heritages.

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Boy (2010)

A witty and comedic Māori-based coming-of-age movie.  Set in 1984, Boy is an 11-year-old living on a farm with his grandmother, a goat, and his younger brother, Rocky. Shortly after Gran leaves for a week, Boy's father appears out of the blue. Having imagined a heroic version of his father during his absence, Boy comes face to face with the real version - an incompetent hoodlum who has returned to find a bag of money he buried years before.

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© Hank Edmondson 2012