Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff
This iconic 1990 novel, later made into an award-winning film of the same name, remains New Zealand’s most-read novel and created quite a stir upon publication. Its brutal portrayal of aspects of the Maori society and the tensions with the Pakeha (white) people proved to be very controversial, even though its author is, in fact, part-Maori. The book (and movie) are now seen as essential chronicles of Kiwi life that had previously been mostly ignored and glossed over – and both are definitely worth a look to truly understand some of the racial divide that still plagues New Zealand.
As The Earth Turns Silver by Alison Wong
The first novel from poet Alison Wong, this book was the winner in the fiction category of the NZ Post Book Awards in 2010. The book is part historical novel/part fiction and is told across several generations using different narrative voices. The book is set in Wellington in the early 20th Century when violent anti-Chinese racism was rife. This is an unlikely love story between a European widow and a young Chinese man against a background of changing attitudes and a hostile environment.
Under the Mountain by Maurice Gee
The wonderful childrens’ book has been converted into both a TV series and a major motion picture starring Sam Neill as Mr Jones. A great read for children and adults. Two red-haired children stay with their Aunt and Uncle during the school holidays and end up in a supernatural battle with some very strange neighbours, featuring a cast of volcanoes, underwater lava tubes, giant monsters and a very organic house. The movie is well worth watching just for the scenery as it is mostly filmed around Takapuna on Auckland’s North Shore, with some filming on Rangitoto Island.
Living and Working in New Zealand: A Survival Guide by David Hampshire
This is a comprehensive best-selling guide for anyone relocating to New Zealand. The author walks the reader through virtually every facet of Kiwi life, large and small, including employment, cultural customs, postal service, the medical system, shopping and sports. Continually updated since its first 1999 printing, the book contains color photos and tons of essential information and advice for how to best adapt to a New Zealand lifestyle. “Living and Working in New Zealand” is a great reference guide to have on hand before and after your arrival in the country.
The Penguin History of New Zealand by Michael King
This detailed history of the last country in the world to be discovered and settled by humans covers New Zealand’s beginnings, the arrival of the Maori people and the later culture clash that ensued when the British came to claim the islands as their own. You’ll get a sense of the ongoing uneasy relationship between the Maori and the Pakeha (the British settlers) and follow New Zealand’s evolution from an isolated, dependent colony to an independent country now in tune with international culture and technological advances.
New Zealand English (Dialects of English) by Anthony Carty
If you’re not familiar with the New Zealand accent – or certain local expressions – this book will bring you up to speed in a hurry. New Zealand English is one of the most recent varieties of English – and, fortunately for the author of this book, it’s the only one with recorded evidence of its entire history. While it resembles both British and Australian speech, New Zealand has an accent all its own – and this book provides you with history and development of the dialect, the current social and regional variations and a look at where the speech is still changing. The book also helpfully contains internet links to audio files that illustrate the author’s points.
Let’s Learn Maori by Bruce Biggs
As Maori language is a major part of New Zealand – with many names and common phrases reflecting the native tongue of NZ’s indigenous people – this is a great book to help you understand the basic structure of the language and the overall concepts behind it. “Let’s Learn Maori” provides a self-help guide, a complete grammar guide as well as how to construct simple sentences. It’s not at all necessary to master the entire language, but you will find it helpful to have an understanding of what it’s all about while living in New Zealand.
An Extraordinary Life: Sir Edmund Hillary by Alexa Johnston
Sir Edmund Hillary, who led the first expedition to the top of Mount Everest as well as to the South Pole, is a towering figure in Kiwi culture. Hillary, who passed away in 2008, was an unpretentious man who had his name listed in the phone book and was incredibly accessible. This best-selling biography, written by Alexa Johnston, an associate of Hillary’s and curator of his museum exhibit, illuminates the man behind the adventures and helps the reader understand the Kiwi thirst for outdoor adventures.
One Good Run: The Legend of Burt Munro by Tim Hanna
Burt Munro was a New Zealander who became an international legend by breaking several land speed records with his famously-modified Indian motorcycle. Portrayed by Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins in the film, “The World’s Fastest Indian,” Munro was another prototypical Kiwi “little guy against the odds” success story and an innovative backyard inventor – one of his speed records will stand for all time as the category was frozen after his incredible run.
New Zealand (Eyewitness Travel Guides) by DK Publishing
This best-selling tourist guide provides breathtaking photos and spectacular aerial views of New Zealand’s main natural attractions, allowing the reader to “choose” tourist destinations based on what scenery appeals to them the most. While the book does provide some NZ history as well as sections on hotels, restaurants, shopping and tourist attractions, it mostly serves as a virtual tour of both the North and South Islands with brief descriptions that get you quickly acquainted with the geography and the beauty of the country. While other tour books may provide more details, this is the best “starter” tour book for those new to NZ and is great at giving you a scenic overview.
Frommer’s New Zealand by Adrienne Riwi
A more in-depth guide book than the Eyewitness Travel Guide, Frommer’s New Zealand book will guide you through conventional New Zealand tourist treks, with detailed outdoor adventures and opinions on which are the best restaurants and hotels to give your business to. The guide also gives you exact prices so you can budget accordingly. This book is written by a native of NZ, so the information is reliable, and it is designed for the middle-class tourist who wants to travel comfortably.
Where to Live in Auckland by Sharon Newey
An absolute must-read for anyone planning to or even thinking about moving to Auckland. Complete profiles of every neighborhood (there are 56 of them) including house prices and rents, population profiles, commute times, amenities and descriptions of each area. The best way to compare regions and neighborhoods and decide which area best fits your needs and personality – the book is strictly informational, but still manages to give a real sense of the experience of being in each area.