ALEXANDER BISLEY and AMY BROWN don’t have the hubris to suggest they read anywhere near enough of the contenders for best books of 2008 released in New Zealand. They can happily recommend ten crackers though.

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Alexander Bisley
Associate Editor, The Lumière Reader (

1. The Open Road: the Global Journey of the
Fourteenth Dalai Lama
, by Pico Iyer
Warm, intimate and charming. You could say Iyer’s beautifully scribed biography, 33 years in the making, was the book he was born to write. Can’t wait to read Iyer on the similarly titanic Graham Greene.

2. The Conscience of a Liberal,
by Paul Krugman (W. W. Norton & Company)

In striking contrast to the disgraceful media establishment that enabled the Bush regime, Paul Krugman was sharply on to this scandal from the start. The Conscience of a Liberal intelligently kicks off the debate for a therapeutic New New Deal.

3. Fighting For My Life: the Confession of a
Violent Offender
, by JJ Joseph
(Exisle Publishing)
Reformed bad man JJ Joseph unforgettably puts you in his tough, tragic shoes. Raw and gutsy, vivid and gripping; charged with frail hope.

4. The Rolling Stone Interviews,
edited by Jann Wenner, Joe Levy
(Back Bay Books)
The good people at Rolling Stone have turned out a fine, compelling interview since ’68. Highlights include Francis Coppola talking apocalyptic, Spike Lee on racism and charismatic chameleon Bill Clinton tearing Charlton Heston a new one.

5. The Catastrophe Continues, by John Clarke (Text Publishing)
New Zealand’s funniest man is back with 21 years of his satirical current affairs interviews. John Clarke’s razor-sharp writing includes his fiendishly funny “The Front Fell Off”, based on that oil tanker off the West Australian coast.

Amy Brown
Creative Writing Editor, The Lumière Reader

1. How the Dead Dream, by Lydia Millet (Counterpoint)
Exploring the nature of endangered species, human ambition and love with satire but not cynicism, with scientific awareness and humour, Lydia Millet’s sixth novel is an exciting find. If you’re familiar with her last novel, Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, you’ll know that comparisons with Murakami, Pynchon, DeLillo and Flannery O’Connor are well earned.

2. The Fallen: Searching for the Missing
Members of The Fall
, by Dave Simpson
(Text Publishing)
For fans of The Fall and its infamous creator Mark E. Smith, this book is compulsory. For everyone else, the sadness and hilarity of Dave Simpson’s quest to track down and interview every ex-member of one of the most interesting bands in existence will still be absorbing. Described as “a Canterbury Tales for the Mp3 generation”, this is a satisfying summer read.

3. Getting There: An Autobiography, by Barbara Anderson (VUP)
I bought this book for someone else, but ended up reading it myself after attending probably the most entertaining launch of 2008. Barbara Anderson’s comic timing, sharp wit and generosity with her memories make what could be a dauntingly comprehensive autobiography accessible and hard to put down.

4. The Rocky Shore, by Jenny Bornholdt (VUP)
With its exquisite Sarah Maxey cover and six bravely rangy poems, written over the last six years, Jenny Bornholdt’s latest book is a treasure. Her ability to level the domestic and the literary without sacrificing the importance of either is abundantly evident here.

5. Going as far as I can, by Duncan Fallowell (Profile Books)
This is travel writing at its acerbic and subjective best. The reason that Duncan Fallowell’s account of his trip to the ends of the earth – New Zealand – caused such a furore wasn’t his disappointment with our country but the truth in his observations.