Agnes Grey — Anne Brontë

agnes-greyThis short novel is neat and satisfying. It’s the story of a girl who decides to become a governess; Agnes is positively saintly, but with a quite amusing wryness in her descriptions of the people she meets. She certainly doesn’t make governessing sound like much fun; doubly so since Brontë based the story partly on her own experiences.

Inevitably, there is a romantic interest. He seems quite unpromising when first introduced, though I identified him immediately as The One; it’s that kind of story. Later, when she describes his appearance, the words are an exact — exact! — description of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy.

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance — Robert Pirsig

zen

A man is on a motorcycle road trip with his son and a couple of friends. As they travel through roads and towns across the USA, he pontificates about life, philosophy, and yes, motorcycle maintenance. He doesn’t say a lot … Continue reading

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The News — Alain de Botton

the-news

A thoughtful analysis of what is wrong with the mass media and how to put it right. It goes far beyond obvious ideas like reducing the bias towards bad news. I could see some of his ideas gaining traction, in … Continue reading

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Low voter turnout favours the Right

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Does low voter turnout favour right-wing political parties? Common wisdom says it does: for example, non-voters tend to be poorer people who would have favoured left-wing parties. In the recent New Zealand general election, the centre-right National Party won an … Continue reading

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The House of Mirth — Edith Wharton

The House of Mirth

This is a wonderful book. It immerses you into New York society a hundred or so years ago, a world where every social interaction is governed by intricate codes and strict, yet unwritten, rules. Lily Bart, the protagonist, is a … Continue reading

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The Last Days of the National Costume — Anne Kennedy

national-costume

Anne Kennedy’s book starts out as a fussy woman’s internal monologue, before expanding to take in a pivotal series of events in her otherwise quiet life. It also will make me think twice before taking clothing in to be repaired. … Continue reading

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Essays in Love — Alain de Botton

Essays-In-Love

This is a love affair narrated in almost excruciating detail by a man who thinks too much, or at least a lot more than most. As he tells the story of going about his life, meeting a woman and becoming … Continue reading

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Smart Moves — Carla Hannaford

Smart Moves

This is an eye-opening discussion of the varieties of people’s learning styles and the inadequacies of the traditional three-R’s style of education. Ideas like this have gained a lot of currency since this book was published, which I think is … Continue reading

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The Ant and the Ferrari — Kerry Spackman

The Ant and the Ferrari

This is a readable, impassioned book about the big questions in life. Spackman explains the big bang and evolution in a very accessible way, probably the best such explanations I have ever seen. He explains how science conflicts with religion … Continue reading

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Test Cricket’s greatest all-rounders

Billy Bates, the best test cricket all-rounder EVAR.

Back in the 1980s four all-rounders dominated the world test cricket scene: Ian Botham from England, Kapil Dev from India, Imran Khan (now a very prominent politician) from Pakistan, and Richard Hadlee from New Zealand. Much ink was spilled in … Continue reading

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