Books editor Claire Mabey has scoured the local publishing landscape to find what’s coming in the first half of next year.
If you thought 2023 was a ripper of a year for books (it was) then get a load of what 2024 has tucked up its futuristic sounding sleeve. Here’s a selection of books (for both adults and children) coming out in the first half of next year, featuring exciting new voices and the return of some beloved favourites. A note that this is by no means all that is coming. More books will be announced in the new year, including a list from our incredible indie publishers such as The Cuba Press, Dead Bird Books, Quentin Wilson Publishing, One Tree House, Upstart Press and more.
Bird Child and Other Stories by Patricia Grace (Penguin NZ)
This one is a publishing event in and of itself. This is legendary Patricia Grace’s first collection of short stories in 17 years (Small Holes in the Silence was published in 2006). Bird Child and Other Stories promises to “plunge you deep into Te Kore, an ancient time before time. In another, the formidable goddess Mahuika, Keeper of Fire, becomes a doting mother and friend. Later, Grace’s own childhood vividly shapes the world of the young character Mereana; and a widower’s hilariously human struggle to parent his seven daughters is told with trademark wit and crackling dialogue.”
The Dream Factory | Te Wheketere Moemoeā by Steph Matuku and illustrated by Zac Komene (HUIA)
Steph Matuku is the writer behind the brilliant The Eight Gifts of Te Wheke, Flight of the Fantail, and the two Whetū Toa books so far. This picture book sounds beautifully fantastical (refreshing) and the early imagery I’ve seen is utterly gorgeous. Here’s the blurb: “An amazing building rises on the edge of town – it’s the dream factory. Every night, it sends out magical mist. Flying cars, flower cakes and talking tigers fill people’s dreams. And the next day, the people make those dreams come true. But when a kererū flies into the dream factory, and a feather floats into a cog, everything goes terribly wrong.”
Do You Still Have Time for Chaos? by Lynn Davidson (Te Herenga Waka University Press)
I’ve been lucky enough to have already read this magnificent memoir. It sings with a poetic sensibility, and flies between the past and present, between Aotearoa and Scotland. There is an uncanny sense of living between worlds in this memoir: Davidson’s thinking traverses the wonders of art, history and magic as well as the realities of solo parenting, ex-partners, and dealing with the family welfare system.
Feijoa: A story of obsession and belonging by Kate Evans (Moa Press)
The book that every feijoa lover has been waiting for. I have a sneaky reading copy and can say that this book delivers so much more than a quaint tale of one country’s random obsession with an oval green fruit. It’s an expansive journey of discovery that takes us all over the world. Evans is a lovely writer and this book shows off her skill in long-form.
Killer Rack by Sylvan Spring (Te Herenga Waka University Press)
Of this debut poetry collection, Pip Adam says: “Exploding in Queer joy, this beautiful, visceral experience of a book is precise and magnificent in its craft, expansive and affecting in its content, somehow intimate and communal in the same breath, wild and compassionate. I fucking love this book and weep with gratitude and excitement every time I remember it’s in the world.” Sign me up.
Kitten by Olive Nuttall (Te Herenga Waka University Press)
I’ve been hearing rumours of this debut novel’s greatness all year. I suspect it is going to go off. Here’s a slice of the publisher’s blurb: “Rosemary, a trans girl, has many conflicting qualities. She’s super smart but flawed, polyamorous but timid, promiscuous but inexperienced. She’s surprising, and surprised by herself. A call that Rosemary’s grandmother is dying puts her on the bus from Te Whanganui-a-Tara back to Kirikiriroa. There, with her mother, half-sister, and other family and friends, she remembers the damage of her past. And then Thorn – Rosemary’s long-distance daddy – shows up.”
The Grimmelings by Rachael King (Allen & Unwin NZ)
A gripping, gorgeous new middle grade novel from one of our best writers. Here’s the blurb: “Thirteen-year-old Ella knows that words are powerful. So she should have known better than to utter a wish and a curse on the same day, even in jest. When the boy she has cursed goes missing, in the same sudden, unexplained way as her father several years earlier, Ella discovers that her family is living in the shadow of a vengeful kelpie, a black horse-like creature. With the help of her beloved pony Magpie, can Ella break the curse of the kelpie and save not just her family but the whole community?”
AMMA by Saraid de Silva (Moa Press)
I picked up my advance copy of this book intending just to poke a curious nose in but save the fulsome experience for later. Except I couldn’t put it down. The novel moves between Singapore in 1951, New Zealand in 1984, and London in 2018 in a moving, heartbreaking (and repairing) family drama. The writing is gorgeous, transporting, powerful: this will be one of the big adult novels of the year.
Beyond Hope: From an Auckland prison to changing lives in Afghanistan by Bariz Shah (HarperCollins)
This looks like a fascinating, moving and hope-filled memoir. Here’s an excerpt from the blurb: “At age 18, Bariz Shah found himself in an Auckland prison. He’d defined his life by the way others treated him: as an Afghan migrant after 9/11 and as a boy who kept making mistakes … Bariz spiralled into crime and drugs — until prison made him rethink the story of his life. Inside, Bariz met men who helped him set his life on track. He rediscovered his faith, found purpose and learned how to silence the devil on his shoulder. Years later, in Christchurch, Bariz had turned his life around when a gunman walked into the local mosque and took 51 lives of people Bariz knew and loved. Grieving and thrust into a position of leadership, Bariz reflected on hate, hope and positive change.”
Plastic by Stacey Teague (Te Herenga Waka University Press)
I’ve been a fan of Stacey Teague’s (Ngāti Maniapoto/Ngāpuhi) poetry for years so am looking forward to this debut collection and its wholesome (very non-plastic) cover. The publisher’s blurb reads: “In Plastic, Stacey Teague reaches beyond the frame of her known world to find a way back to te ao Māori. Hers is a complicated, joyful route, full of conversations with ancestors, old places and herself. In form these poems range from plain-speaking prose and concrete poetry to odes and spells; in mood they are just as restless, taking in those times when life feels as big as a movie screen and times when it is more like ‘a loose stone to kick down the path’.”
When I open the shop by Romesh Dissanayake (Te Herenga Waka University Press)
Another novel that I’ve been hearing rumours of since Dissanayake won the Modern Letters Fiction Prize in 2022 (given to the best fiction folio of masters students at the International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington). The novel is set in three parts over three days from 2012 to 2021, and is being described as “darkly funny, lyrical, angry, and sometimes surreal”. Here’s the blurb: “In his small noodle shop in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, a young chef obsessively juliennes carrots. Nothing is going according to plan: the bills are piling up, his mother is dead, and there are strangers in his kitchen. The ancestors are watching closely. Told through a series of brilliant interludes and jump cuts, When I open the shop is sometimes blackly funny, sometimes angry and sometimes lyrical, and sometimes – as a car soars off the road on a horror road trip to the Wairarapa – it takes flight into surrealism. A glimpse into immigrant life in Aotearoa, this is a highly entertaining, surprising and poignant debut novel about grief, struggle and community.”
The Beautiful Afternoon by Airini Beautrais (Te Herenga Waka University Press)
Beautrais is best known for her short story collection, Bug Week, which won the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the 2021 Ockhams. The Beautiful Afternoon is a much-anticipated collection of essays. I’ve been lucky enough to read one essay from this collection so far and it soars. Like her short stories, it’s rich in vivid imagery and unapologetically political from a deeply personal space. Cannot wait to read more.
The Space Between by Lauren Keenan (Penguin NZ)
I love an historical novel and this sounds like a meaty one from Lauren Keenan (Te Āti Awa ki Taranaki, author of Amorangi and Millie’s Trip Through Time, and The 52-Week Project). Here’s an excerpt from the blurb: “Frances is an unmarried Londoner newly landed in New Zealand, 1860, at the dawn of the First Taranaki War … When Frances comes face-to-face with Henry White, the man who jilted her a decade earlier, he’s standing outside Thorpe’s General Store with a sack of flour in his arms. Henry is married now — to the proud and hardy Matāria, who is shunned by her whānau due to this controversial marriage. As conflict between settlers and iwi rises, both women must find the courage to fight for what is right, even if it costs them everything they know. As their lives intersect in surprising and catastrophic ways, the question remains — will they ever belong, or do their fates lie in the uncomfortable space between?”
Ash by Louise Wallace (Te Herenga Waka University Press)
I’ve heard a rumour that this novel is for fans of Max Porter, the inventive, brilliant author of Grief is the Thing With Feathers, Lanny, and Shy (my favourite international novel of 2023), so I cannot wait for this book. Wallace is known primarily as a poet but Ash is is being marketed as a “novel, with poetry” (which very much chimes with Porter’s style, too). I’m a huge fan of Wallace’s work so far: smart, funny, grounded in the domestic, so I am looking forward to seeing how Wallace works with a novel’s length and scope.
Brave Kāhu and The Pōrangi Magpie by Shelley Burne-Field (Allen & Unwin NZ)
Burne-Field’s (Sāmoa, Ngati Mutunga, Ngati Rārua, Pākehā) name has popped up in recent years in relation to startling short stories including Speaking in Tongues which was a finalist in the coveted 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. This middle-grade novel looks gorgeous. Here’s an excerpt from the blurb: “After their mother is killed by a flock of magpies, Poto and Whetū have to get an injured Ari to safety before a coming earthquake arrives which will unleash a flood and destroy their home. With the help of a rag tag bunch of birds, they journey through the valley, keeping an eye out for an evil flock of magpies who are on a mission to take back the land for their own. Can they stop Tū the makipai and her evil flock from ruining the harmony of the valley? Will aroha win out over hate? And will Poto realise that everyone has something special to offer, even if they can’t do everything quite like she does?”
Dame Susan Devoy: My Story (Allen & Unwin NZ)
Devoy has been a lot of things: from world squash champion to Race Relations Commissioner, newspaper columnist to Celebrity Treasure Island contestant, and now, memoirist. The publisher’s blurb is certainly tantalising: “In her own words — and in her distinctive style — Dame Susan tells the story of her life, from reigning supreme in the world of sport, to having to start over after she and her husband John lost everything, to why she’ll try anything once — including picking kiwifruit to stave off lockdown-induced boredom.”
The Apprentice Witnesser by Bren Macdibble (Allen & Unwin NZ)
I absolutely adored The Raven’s Song by Macdibble and Zana Fraillon earlier this year (a middle-grade novel so good I recommended it to Jacinda Ardern) and I’m absolutely sold on this brief descriptor of Macdibble’s latest solo effort: “Young orphan, Bastienne, lives a simple life as an apprentice to the Witnesser of Miracles in a small village, and her little world is full of wonder and peril, intrigue and despair, persistence and triumph and family and hope. A beautifully written middle grade novel from the multi award-winning, bestselling author of How to Bee, The Dog Runner and The Raven’s Song.”
Brown Bird by Jane Arthur (Penguin NZ)
Arthur is known for her poetry: Calamities! released this year, and Craven which won the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize in 2018. Brown Bird is a turn to junior fiction and it sounds utterly delightful. Here’s the blurb: “Eleven-year-old Rebecca tries to make herself invisible so people won’t call her weird. Resigned to spending the holidays by herself in a new neighbourhood while her mum works long hours at the supermarket, she meets Chester, who has come to stay for the summer. He is loud and fun and full of crazy ideas. But will Rebecca be able to cope with being taken so far from her quiet comfort zone?”
A memoir from Mike Joy (BWB)
The title is still to come but this is all the information I need to sign myself up for a copy. Dr Mike Joy, freshwater ecologist, is a one-man environmental action machine whose uncompromising passion for conversation and water quality has inspired thousands across Aotearoa. BWB says that this memoir will be an inspirational story of personal discovery, challenge and resilience, and that it will offer expert insights on the critical environmental issues affecting Aotearoa. Yes, please.
The Invasion of Waikato: Te Riri ki Tainui by Vincent O’Malley (BWB)
One of our leading historians has another essential Aotearoa history coming, this time exploring the pivotal Waikato land wars. This is from the early blurb: “The crossing of the Mangatāwhiri River in 1863 marked the Crown’s declaration of war against the Waikato tribes, leading to a profound conflict that shaped the nation’s destiny. At the heart of this struggle were competing visions: one where Europeans dominated and another where Māori retained control over their own affairs, as promised by te Tiriti o Waitangi. The Waikato tribes, once the Crown’s allies, found themselves under siege following the rise in their midst of the Māori King movement. The aftermath of the war left deep scars, with devastating losses, looted treasures and massive land confiscations. Yet, against all odds, the Kīngitanga persisted and remains influential today. The Waikato Raupatu Claims Settlement Act of 1995 saw the Crown officially apologise for its unjust actions. O’Malley’s compelling narrative is not merely an account of the past but an invitation to remember and understand the essence of New Zealand’s identity. It’s a reminder of the stories and histories embedded in the nation’s very land, shaping its present and future.”
The Mires by Tina Makereti (Ultimo Press)
Literary Insta was buzzing when Ultimo Press announced that they’ll be releasing the new Tina Makereti novel, The Mires, in 2024. Fans have been waiting for a new Makereti since her novel The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke came out in 2018. On The Mires, Makereti says: “I wanted to write about people’s personal lives and relationships and the way the big things that happen in the world begin and end locally, in our homes and neighbourhoods. I wanted to write about what it’s like to be a single parent, and about the casual racism that I grew up with: I wanted to understand the relationship between normalised embedded so-called ‘casual’ racism and extremism. But in the end it became just as much about friendship and the lands and waters where we make our homes.”
Book one in the Raven’s Eye Bookbindery series by Claire Mabey (Allen & Unwin NZ)
Apparently I’ve finished a novel and I know that my mum is at least anticipating it. It’s a middle-grade quest set in a parallel Medieval world where only elite Scholars have permission to read and write, and where magical books are created in a strange ritual involving young women who write until their fingers bleed. It’s a book about what stories help you grow and what stories you have to pull apart. Here’s a bit from the blurb: “A bookbinder’s apprentice and her one-eyed raven meet a strange young scribe … together they unearth the secrets of their world and begin a fight against the oppressive regime that restricts the gift of reading to an elite few and aims to squash an ancient magic.”