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Debbie Ngarewa-Packer’s life in books (Image: Tina Tiller)
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer’s life in books (Image: Tina Tiller)

BooksFebruary 15, 2024

‘Read anywhere and everywhere’: Debbie Ngarewa-Packer on the books she loves

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer’s life in books (Image: Tina Tiller)
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer’s life in books (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: MP for Te Tai Hauāuru and co-leader of Te Pāti Māori, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. 

The book I wish I’d written

A Fire in Your Belly: Māori Leaders Speak, edited by Paul Diamond. I would’ve loved to have interviewed and listened to all of those leaders.

Everyone should read

The Bone Tree by Airana Ngarewa. Not just because he’s my nephew and the book was number one for 11 weeks, but because it’s a grassroots Aotearoa story and I love it.

The book I want to be buried with

None. A book should never be buried, they should be passed on for others to read.

The first book I remember reading by myself

The Diary of Anne Frank was the first that really stuck with me. It gave me a sense of no matter how bad things are, you have to stay positive and full of hope. I also developed real appreciation of crises through the eyes of young people which I think stays with me today.

Fiction or Nonficton

I really love nonfiction and in particular biographies. I read a lot about history/historical events, as that has always been a passion of mine.

From left to right: The book Debbie Ngarewa-Packer wishes she’d written; the book she thinks everyone should read; and the book that made her cry.

The book that made me cry

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware. People got to the end of their lives and realised they had probably gotten the balance wrong and worried about their vulnerabilities. I think this is something that many worry about or can relate to.

If I could only read three books for the rest of my life they would be…

Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty, A Natural Year by Wendyl Nissen and Ora: Healing Ourselves by Leonie Pihama and Linda Tuhiwai Smith.

Favourite encounter with an author

My nephew Airana Ngarewa recently wrote/released his first novel The Bone Tree, so I am fortunate to have had many encounters with him. Highly recommend reading it, he is very talented!

Best think about reading

You can escape to another world, your imagination has no limits and you can have conversations with people you’d never meet in real life. The story stays with you once you’ve finished reading it.

From left to right: One of the three books Debbie Ngarewa-Packer would choose if she had to pick only three for the rest of her life; and another of those; and one of the books she’s reading right now.

Best place to read

Anywhere and everywhere. Being on the go a lot, I really have to be able to read anywhere and everywhere if I want to be able to fit a good book in. 

What are you reading right now?

I have been reading a few: Aroha by Dr Hinemoa Elder, Huia Come Home by J. Ruka and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.

Keep going!