(Image: Tina Tiller)
(Image: Tina Tiller)

BooksFebruary 7, 2024

‘An age-old form of self care’: Maggie Tweedie’s reading rituals

(Image: Tina Tiller)
(Image: Tina Tiller)

Welcome to The Spinoff Books Confessional, in which we get to know the reading habits and quirks of New Zealanders at large. This week: broadcaster Maggie Tweedie.

The book I wish I’d written

We Can Make A Life by Chessie Henry. Broadly it explores themes of family, adventure, rebuilding life after tragedy and connection. Writing a memoir is a challenging feat for any person but Chessie writes so perceptively and captures those she writes about with compassion. This book is a great summer companion which explores Tokelau, Kaikōura, Christchurch and the UK. My dear friend lent me her copy and I have brought this for people who generally don’t like to read because it’s a tale that can truly grip anyone.

Everyone should read

Auē by New Zealand author Becky Manawatu because it almost never got published! The story behind this story is one of perseverance. Becky had submitted this pukapuka to many publishers who had turned it away before Mary and Paul from Mākaro Press saw its potential. Along with the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize and the Best First Book of fiction award at the Ockhams, Auē went on to win the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. It seems remarkable now that it sat in a drawer for months and she processed rejection letters from several publishers. Auē is not only one of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read but the life it continues to live post release is something extraordinary in itself. Paul from Mākaro just posted that Auē has had another new print run: “just under 30,000 copies of the NZ edition have now been printed” for 2024. I’d also like to see this book adapted for TV!

The book I want to be buried with

The Tao Of Wu by The RZA (the founder of Wu Tang Clan). It’s a deeply spiritual read that I return to every few years. Written by a man and musician who has lived many lives, RZA’s reflections are wise and compelling.

From left to right: The book Maggie Tweedie wishes she’d written; the book she thinks everyone should read; and the book she wants to be buried with.

The first book I remember reading by myself

I wasn’t much into reading as a child and took some encouragement. I started out reading Aussie Bites books which were appealing because of the bite marks in the right hand corner. I liked the idea of chomping into the pages. Alone on a Wide Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo was the first children’s book that really hooked my attention. The way he wrote appealed to my senses and I felt a part of the stories. I read a lot of his books after that. 

The book that made me cry

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb, is a favourite book of my friend Lily’s. I was hesitant to read her battered and badly torn copy, nervous I would rip its blue front cover that she had to lovingly taped as an act of preservation. Lending it to me was a risk in itself but also a sign of how important it was that I read it. I’d recommend this book for young people struggling with body issues or disordered eating. I’m still unsure how Wally wrote so convincingly from a female perspective.

The book that made me laugh

The Topp Twins Book by Jools and Lynda Topp. Its magenta cover caught my eye a few weeks ago at an op shop in Featherston. It’s full of photos of their iconic characters Prue and Dilly Ramsbottom, Raelene and Brenda and outlandish stories of the twins’ career in entertainment. My personal favourite is Camp Mother’s recipe for a jelly sandal. I’ve been cracking up before hitting the pillow each night. It’s become an evening ritual. 

Greatest New Zealand writer

Patricia Grace is an Aotearoa writer that I treasure. Her style and restraint with words is enviable. She has been so prolific that I feel her writing is etched into the fabric of our country and how we see ourselves.

From left to right: The book that made Maggie Tweedie cry; the one that made her laugh; and her favourite Aotearoa author.

Best thing about reading

The focus it requires to do it. Initially when I decided to take up a reading habit I always fell asleep but after some perseverance I found It was meditative, relaxing and completely engrossing. Reading is an activity for you and yourself alone, it’s an underrated and age-old form of self care. 

Best food memory from a book

Alexandra Tylee’s Pipi cookbook is a classic. Brian Culy’s brilliant photography captured the food and the essence of that restaurant in Hawkes Bay so beautifully. I’ve often thought about how I would love to have the photos from that cookbook as prints around the house. My mum Rose would make the Pipi lamb shank pie on a special occasion. A true culinary feat which took hours of rolling, braising and shredding and quickly became a kind of family obsession. 

Best place to read

Anywhere you need to be invisible.

What are you reading right now?

Milkman by Anna Burns – I found it again when we were moving house and it’s now by my bedside. The Irishness of it has really drawn me into another world. I was given The Dead Are Always Laughing At Us, a collaboration between Dominic Hoey and Designer Trudi Hewitt for Christmas. I’m really enjoying the unconventional way it’s been printed which changes the reading experience completely. In a good way… 

Keep going!