Books are a source of multiple emotional experiences: they can depress, uplift, provoke snorts of laughter and induce tears. Sarah Winman’s Still Life inspired me to source a bottle of Grappa, Nicky Pellegrino makes me eat delicious pasta and say prego a lot, Christopher McDougal’s Born to Run gave my inner game of running a huge boost.

You do not have to be inspired to save the world, just nudged into thinking a different thought or seeing the world through another lens.

Here are some recent titles that have helped me to do that.

Better, Bolder, Different

Kate Hall (Allen & Unwin, $39.99)

With a title like that, are we not already inspired? Kate Hall, a.k.a. Ethically Kate, has made it her business to question things: What are our values? Who makes our clothes? If I sleep upside down once a week, will I see the world differently? (Kate does this last thing and in short, yes, she does.)

This is a book about living as sustainably as you are able to. Kate acknowledges that we all have different demands on our time and resources; before she talks to people about how to go about making change, she will ascertain how able they are to achieve change from a social, cultural, and financial position.

Why is this inspiring? Kate does not preach, and you do not have to spend a fortune to attain saintly ‘wellness’ and ‘mindfulness’. Chapters deal with such things as the three S’s (sleep, stuff, and self), connection, food and clothes, lending practical advice that enables the reader to do something without becoming guilt ridden, or a martyr.

The Stranger

Kathryn Hore (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

A hero named Chelsea in a post-apocalyptic feminist Western? Yes please. 

Darkwater is a dusty, walled town in the middle of nowhere, entry restricted by a guarded gate. You must test negative for the virus in order to enter. Shudder.

Chelsea is courtesan to the town’s boss, Granger. She’s barely sixteen, pretty much enslaved, but within this kid lurks a sharp brain and a spine of steel. When a stranger comes through the gate (on a horse, into the tumble weeded streets, in a completely fabulous manner), Chelsea finds her own truth telling hero, and the town’s flimsy façade of safety begins to crumble. 

Why is this inspiring? Chelsea may be young, but she knows what’s going on. The Stranger fascinates Chelsea, enabling the scales to fall from her eyes and action to be taken. A female, street fighting, gun toting Stranger – basically Ruby Tui on a horse here to save the day. You will burst with empowerment 

Born to Run 2: The Ultimate Training Guide

Christopher McDougall & Eric Orton (Allen & Unwin, $39.99)

Many, many people have read the original Born to Run, in which huge, lanky American, Christopher McDougall, goes on a quest to see if he can improve his constantly injured runner’s body. He hangs out with Tarahumara people in Chihuahua, Mexico, fabled for their ability to run ultra-distances wearing nothing but shorts with a handful of chia seeds in the pocket and sandals made from tiny pieces of rubber.

That story looked at why humans should and can run, and why some people are so amazing at it, even though they may never have heard of Adidas or energy gels. 

Born to Run 2 is more of a handbook covering nutrition, what to wear, training plans and, delightfully, how to get more joy from your running (because if you don’t have that, well, what’s the point?).

Why is it inspiring? I once went on a run around Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush with Christopher McDougall (not just me sadly, a whole bunch of people) and everything that comes out of the man’s mouth is one of these things: fascinating, bizarre, delightful. He’s a wonderful teller of tales and a passionate runner. No matter your interest in running, read him, because he’ll say something that’ll change your life.

Late Life Adventures in London and Beyond

Annemarie Rawson (Independently published, price TBC)

Annemarie lives (currently) in Havelock North and her previous memoirs My French Platter and My French Platter Replenished have been wildly popular. This duology charts Annemarie and her husband Steve’s adventures in (you guessed it) France, working as managers at beautiful French homes and oh, the food, the sunshine, the wine, the beautiful landscapes, and the terrible bosses. 

After returning to New Zealand for a while, in their sixties and sick of working for ‘the man’, Annemarie badgered Steve into upping sticks and moving again, this time to London, for adventure, for change, for more of life!

They rock up to a friend’s flat in Teddington in the middle of a freezing English winter and, Annemarie being Annemarie, she loves every single thing about it: Marks and Spencer meal deals, the gorgeous grandeur of local National Trust homes and gardens, finding her way to Brixton to hang out with her son. Things go wrong, things go right and the whole thing is a lovely adventure. 

Why is it inspiring? Annemarie writes just as she speaks – with wit, warmth, and good humour. Her books are funny and engaging because she is so interested (she might say nosy) in everything about her. She makes friends very easily, and it’s this curiosity and lust for life that immerses us in her stories. 

Louise Ward Photo Florence Charvin

Life is strange, and short, and lived once as far as we know. You don’t have to be inspired to be thinner, fitter, smarter or anything else that ends in ‘er’. Be inspired by something that speaks to you and enriches your life. Have a fabulous 2023, in lots of lovely little ways. 


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *