The Commercial Hotel

By John Summers
Victoria University Press / RRP: $30

The Commercial Hotel By John Summers

When John Summers moved from Wellington to Wairarapa, he found a new respect for the more mundane aspects of small-town life. The result of this change of perspective is The Commercial Hotel, a jumble of essays that hold to light the less glamorous aspects of regional Aotearoa.

He tours our country through its freezing works, night trains, hotel pubs and state houses, dusting off tales from his own family history and re-examining icons of Kiwi culture. This book feels like a lovely late-summer road trip with plenty of stops in op shops and tearooms.

The Passenger

By Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz
Allen and Unwin / RRP: $33

The Passenger by By Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

Originally published in 1938 and revised and republished in 2021, The Passenger is a taut, tense novel that follows Otto von Silbermann, a Jewish businessman in the days following Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass), the outbreak of mass violence against Jews in Germany and Austria in November 1938. Otto manages to escape the storm troopers knocking down his Berlin apartment door and begins criss-crossing Germany by train seeking refuge as his entire life unravels and, eventually, his fate is sealed.

The book’s author is a Jewish man who fled Germany in the 1930s, eventually landing in England before being deported to Australia. He died aged 27 when the passenger ship he was on was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1942. Reading The Passenger in the present day, this book feels deeply resonant and prescient, particularly when considering the plight of refugees and the unwillingness of some countries to help.

I Laugh Me Broken

By Bridget van der Zijpp
Victoria University Press / RRP: $30

I Laugh Me Broken by By Bridget van der Zijpp

After learning that she may have inherited a devastating genetic condition, Ginny throws in the towel on her comfortable life in Auckland and bolts to Berlin, leaving behind her confused fiancé. While she claims to be there to do research for a book on a controversial sea captain, Ginny spends her time in Berlin becoming entangled in new relationships while trying to untangle her own feelings about her potentially life-limiting health news.

Taking its title from a German phrase that roughly translates to ‘laughing my head off’, this witty and slightly chaotic book is a great reminder of the more bizarre parts of international travel and of its power to help us discover where we fit in to the world.

Tell Me About It Podcast

Tell Me About It

This intimate podcast uses real women’s stories, told in their own words, to highlight the complex gender issues that still exist in this country.

Tell Me About It was created by a trio of renowned journalists - Stuff’s Kirsty Johnston and Michelle Duff and their friend, broadcaster and writer Noelle McCarthy – who have all reported on women’s issues long enough to notice recurring themes among the stories. In frank and fascinating interviews, we hear from women who have lived experience of sexism, racism, cancer and crime and have a chance to find out more about the humans behind the headlines.

The Dropout

The saga of blood-testing startup Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes is a fascinating one that’s understandably inspired books and podcasts. Praised as a precocious visionary who would revolutionise the healthcare industry with pinprick blood-testing devices, Elizabeth turned out to simply be a skilled scammer. The Dropout podcast followed the company’s rise and fall, as well as her fraud trial where she was found guilty on a number of charges, and is now being adapted into a series starring Amanda Seyfreid as Elizabeth.

Amanda Seyfreid in The Dropout

Plan-My-Walk-App-ScreenshotsPlan My Walk

Planning a tramping, climbing or paddling journey in Aotearoa’s great outdoors can be fraught, especially with winter approaching.

The Mountain Safety Council has released a new app, Plan My Walk, which brings together all the different elements of outdoors safety in one place to make sure Kiwi adventurers stay safe. It includes Department of Conservation track maps, alerts for specific tracks, MetService weather forecasts and warnings, interactive gear lists, and planning and safety advice. The best feature is the trip planning section, where you can craft your plan, add users and emergency contacts, and share the plan to make sure others know your intentions.