BOOK CLUB: Some of our contributors tell you what to read

Emma Reeves, Derek Henderson, Sunil Gupta, Adam Bryce, Lindsey Wixson, Bridie Gilbert and Becky Hemus offer up reading recommends.

Emma Reeves (writer/creative director, LA) recommends Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock

On December 31st 2020, after over four months absence, I flew from London back to LA, the city I have called home since 2012. Were it not for the global pandemic, this would have been a pretty mundane thing for me to do. Wearing mask and visor, armed with a green card and a recently acquired Covid Negative Certificate, I boarded the huge empty plane. The flight was made more extraordinary by the book that I read cover to cover on the flight — Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence. The author is the renowned scientist, environmentalist and futurist James Lovelock who is now 100 years old.

It is a slim book but its size belies the scale and weight of its content. The ultimate focus of the book is that the Novacene, the next age that the world will move into, will usher in the total take over of Artificial Intelligence or AI.

I can’t pretend to share the jaunty optimism of Lovelock about this inevitable power shift but I am slightly reassured by his conviction that the cyborgs will still want to co-exist with us humans for a while. In order to reach this future prediction in the book, Lovelock also maps large swaths of the history of this extraordinary planet that we humans are doing our best to destroy, he also touches on his Gaia Theory and analyses the current age we are living in.

As I flew towards 2021, Novacene was the perfect mind-expanding book for the journey back in time to the future.

emma reeves

Derek Henderson (photographer, Sydney) recommends Inside Story by Martin Amis

Inside Story is listed as a novel but reads more like an autobiography — you can never quite tell if what he’s writing is fiction or non-fiction and one of the reasons it’s such a good book. I fell in love with Amis’ writing a few years after I’d moved to London.

The book was London Fields and, up until then, I didn’t really understand what was going on in the UK. It seemed alien to me and the people were so complicated compared to New Zealanders. His novels helped me to understand the human condition with all its faux pas and beauty.

inside story

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martin amis in paris, 1980 by Angela Gorgas.

Sunil Gupta (photographer, London) recommends The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro

The author I have been very interested in and remain interested in today is Alice Munro. She is a Canadian short story writer and there are numerous collections of her stories, many of which originated in the New Yorker magazine. If I were to pick one it would be The View from Castle Rock as, in this volume, they connect to tell a largely autobiographical family history that starts in late-18th century Scotland. I’m drawn to its sense of family histories and fictions and also to the way in which minute details can become so important and how life-changing decisions are sometimes based on an impulse, a curiosity.

Of course, I’m also interested because it is about a Canadian settler history that I arrived into myself as a migrant in the late 1960s and about which I had been completely unaware. I like the descriptive economy and the melodrama of the everyday that fills her stories. They’ve inspired me to make my own visual art works with that kind of narrative treatment in mind. They’re short and compelling and you never want the series to end.

Lindsey Wixson (model, New York): recommends The Kinfolk Garden: How to Live with Nature by John Burns

It was a gift from a friend. I’m planning a garden. This book shows different gardens from all over the world and the people who interact with nature as self-care. I have only read a quarter of the book in one sitting.

Bridie Gilbert (fashion director and stylist, Sydney) recommends The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir

I wanted to read this book after recently finishing Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, which I loved. The way de Beauvoir writes is so detailed and immersive, she draws you in from the first page. I also loved The Mandarins. Although fictional whereas Memoirs is autobiographical, it’s based on de Beauvoir’s own experiences in Paris post WWII and her social circle (including Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus), so I found that connection and lesson in history interesting.

The book centres around differing political parties and what they were doing in the mid-50s to shape the country, post-war. De Beauvoir writes the book from three character’s perspectives which I found added to being able to get a greater sense and insight into the differing concerns and priorities of intellectuals of that time.

Becky Hemus (editor of INDEX’s about-to-launch ART magazine) recommends Sisters by Daisy Johnson

I discovered this book after having read Johnson’s Everything Under, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Sisters peels apart the gothic genre with an incestuous clamminess that is at once tender and tumultuous. It is poetic and scary and sad, and shifts in register throughout to maintain suspense.

The book trails a pair of teenage sisters, born only ten months apart, and their move to a remote family home near the beach. Plagued by insecurity and doubt, the pair’s lives intertwine in a way that hyperbolises the fragility of teenage adolescence and sometimes heartache of co-existence. I adored the experience of reading the novel from start to (almost) finish. 

the fourth sex

Adam Bryce (editor-in-chief of INDEX, Auckland) recommends The Fourth Sex by Raf Simons

One of my all-time favourite books, The Fourth Sex examines the way in which adolescents behave. Inside? Critical thinking from a series of authors including J.G. Ballard, Brett Easton Ellis, Larry Clark, Rineke Dijkstra, Paul McCarthy, Richard Prince and many others. Multiple voices but an interestingly succinct agreement in the tribe-type behaviour of adolescents.

I’ve recently become fascinated with the attitude and values that the next generation hold and to come across this book again would be an interesting read. Are adolescents’ values different but the nature of the way they act the same?

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Timeless Vessels

Julie Cromwell sculpts timeless vessels that explore the materiality of clay through forms inspired by antiquity. We sat down with Julie to discuss her practice, alongside her exhibition with Sanderson at the Auckland Art Fair.