We asked some of our resident literary lovers what was on their bookshelves to offer you some ideas about what to read next.

Nina Whittaker

Cataloguing Librarian

Nina Whittaker

I work in the Documentary Heritage team to catalogue all incoming books. I love reading about books, particularly rare books and the history of books - I'm a book-lover through and through. I also enjoy a bit of history and philosophy, as well as books that connect me to my Japanese heritage. And who can resist a good Gary Larson comic book for some super surreal humour!


What's on Nina's bookshelf

1. Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader's Quarterly

2. How Contagion Works: Science, Awareness and Community in Times of Global Crises by Paolo Giordano

3. How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy by Julian Baggini

4. Why You Should Read Children's Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise by Katherine Rundell

5. In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell

6. The Izu Dancer by Yasunari Kawabata

7. Valley of the Far Side by Gary Larson

8. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

9. Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone

10. Natives by Akala



Victoria Passau

Collection Manager, Online Cenotaph

Victoria Passau

I traditionally listen to audiobooks and podcasts so my bookshelf is found on my iPod (yes I still have one). I feel it is on brand as I manage a digital-only collection. However, I am currently spending time with my parents for lockdown so you get to see their diverse collection of books. Mum loves words and flowers and Dad just loves dogs. I have thrown in the picture book about WWI because who doesn’t like a tortoise?


What's on Victoria's bookshelf

1. Hinemihi: Te Hokinga (The Return) by Hamish Coney and Dr Keri-Anne Wikitera

2. North & South: A Tale of Two Hemispheres by Sandra Morris

3. Red Herring by Jonothan Cullinane

4. The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

5. Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

6. Footnotes: A Journey Round Britain in the Company of Great Writers by Peter Fiennes

7. The Fruits of Our Labours: Chinese Fruit Shops in New Zealand by Ruth Lam, Beverly Lowe et al.

8. Petal Power by Julia Atkinson-Dunn

9. Torty and the Soldier: A Story of a True WWI Survivor by Jennifer Beck

10. The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron 



David Gaimster

Chief Executive

David Gaimster

I have been in the role of Tumu Whakarae Chief Executive of Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland Museum for the past four years. Starting at the British Museum, my career has been spent in museums, the heritage and universities in the UK and Europe. Books are a passion of my wife Amy and I. You can see our bookshelves in this photo (and that’s just one wall..). I read a fair amount of arts, heritage and science non-fiction, together with (mainly) historical fiction (of course). I usually have several books on the go at any time, either for business or pleasure; and lockdown is perfect for indulging in both. Here is my current reading list on my ‘book trug’.

I love big art books and the monograph by Johannes Grave on the German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich is a perfect combination of biographical interest and great reproductions of the artist’s mighty works. I’m taking my time to enjoy learning about the life and times of the great Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. This is a great big biog - warts and all – richly informed by the insight of contemporary architect, John Stewart. Haare Williams’s Words of A Kaumatua is a wonderful introduction for me into te ao Māori, and I dip in and out as I need, which is often. Another volume I return to at the moment is Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Sapiens, a madly ambitious but compelling survey of our species over 70,000 years and why it has come to dominate the planet. I’ve just started reading British-Nigerian historian David Olusoga’s Cult of Progress, which explores the civilising mission of Europe from the perspective of the peoples who were ‘civilised’. Olusoga’s articles in the Guardian on the UK Culture Wars are the best on the subject.

On the fiction front, I have been struck recently by Paul M.M. Cooper’s All Our Broken Idols, which switches between ancient Nineveh and the ISIL destruction of modern Mosul overlying the ancient city. The violent iconoclasm of this World Heritage site takes me back to my time as the lead for cultural property at the UK Ministry for Culture, Media and Sport in the early 2000s, as I worked on measures to combat the resulting illicit trade in ancient art. I’m always intrigued by writing about homeland and its emotional power, I have been familiarising myself with the work of Walter Kempowski, whose autobiographically-informed All for Nothing is a bracing reminder of the horrors and absurdities of leaving and the reality of never returning. I’m currently reading the follow-up Homeland, which reveals what happens when the next generation returns and all is not what you might expect. Hardly fiction, more documentary.


What's on David's bookshelf

1. Caspar David Friedrich by Johannes Grave

2. Alvar Aalto, Architect by John Stewart 

3. Words of a Kaumatua by Haare Williams 

4. Ancestors: The Prehistory of Britain in Seven Burials by Alice Roberts 

5. Cult of Progress by David Olusoga

6. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

7. All our Broken Idols by Paul M.M. Cooper

8. Olga by Bernhard Schlink

9. The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore

10. Homeland by Walter Kempowski 


Gail Romano

Associate Curator, History

Gail Romano

Probably the loudest things my home bookshelves say about me are that I have a poorly disciplined book-buying habit and that I’m interested in pretty much everything and anything.

In my Museum role, I am Associate Curator, History, where I work with, research and talk about collection objects that are associated with our social and/or war history. My bookshelves (of which I have nine of various sizes scattered around the house) definitely reflect my history interests. But they’re also chock full of my other reading pleasures: literature & poetry, the natural world, cooking, and things economic, classical and geographic, and … well, lots of things.

I find it very difficult to leave a bookshop without something new, either something I want to read or something I think I should. The latter aren’t always successful purchases.

I have loads of favourites, and that would be a whole different story. But this selection may give a bit of the flavour of my book collection.


What's on Gail's bookshelf

1. Mythos by Stephen Fry — Who better to elucidate Greek mythology?

2. A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa — An old poem and a modern life.

3. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins — Perhaps the most affecting book I’ve read this year.

4. The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean — A perennial favourite & eye-opening: a whole other world.

5. Milkman by Anna Burns — I enjoy Irish writing. This is a story that is predictable … and not. Above all, unsettling.

6. The Dark Lord of Savaiki: Collected Poems by Alistair Te Ariki Campbell — Who, along with RAK Mason & Hone Tuwhare, has spoken to me since high school.

7. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer — Not the best written but a reminder of the importance of saving heritage.

8. Economists at War by Alan Bollard — Because Generals do not win wars on their own.

9. The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt — Ideas, a manuscript, and the Renaissance.

10. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink — The disconnect between persistent business practice and human nature.


Andrea Low

Associate Curator, Pacific & Associate Curator, World

Andrea Low

Aloha mai kākou. I am a curator in the Pacific and World collection teams. I love books and have them in categories even though it may not look like it at first! Some of my favourites are books on gardening and native plants, artist monographs, music biographies and Pacific history, particularly Hawaiian music history. Cookbooks have their own bookshelf in the kitchen and a current fave is Pen by Yasuji and Fumi Hisai with beautiful illustrations by Fumi. Thrillers also have a special place, especially during lockdown.

Andrea's bookshelf includes artworks by:
Liliʻuokalani Cantlay
Judy Darragh
Ahilapalapa Rands
Melanie Rands
Ben Tankard


What's on Andrea's bookshelf

1. From a Native Daughter by Haunani Kay Trask

2. Aloha Betrayed by Noenoe K. Silva

3. Hawaiian Music and Musicians by George Kanahele

4. East West Street by Philippe Sands

5. Listen But Don't Ask Question by Kevin Fellezs

6. Kīkā Kila: How the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Changed the Sound of Modern Music by John Troutman

7. Beach Crossings by Greg Dening

8. Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole

9. The Best of e-Tangata ed. by Tapu Misa and Gary Wilson

10. Pen by Yasuji and Fumi Hisai


Catherine Hammond

Head, Documentary Heritage

Catherine Hammond

I’m head of the Documentary Heritage team which develops and cares for the Museum’s published collections, among many other things, so naturally I’m a book lover.

I’ve never been much of a reader of fiction preferring real life as a general rule, although maybe now I’ll be looking for a bit more of an escape as this next lockdown takes hold.

I have a lot of art books in my collection as well as books on Italy. Many in my team will attest to my constant pining for Venice which I have visited many times. I intend to spend my last years there before toppling into the Grand Canal.


What's on Catherine's bookshelf

1. Venice by Jan Morris

2. Emissaries - NZ at Venice 2017 by Lisa Reihana

3. The Food of Italy by Claudia Roden

4. Archives of Emotion by Nina Finigan

5. Peggy Guggenheim: The Life of an Art Addict by Anton Gill

6. Aldo Manuzio: Renaissance in Venice by Guido Beltramini

7. The Back of the Painting: Secrets & Stories from Art Conservation by Linda Waters, Sarah Hillary and Jenny Sherman

8. The Artist’s House by Kirsty Bell

9. Venice and its Lagoon by Giulio Lorenzetti

10. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf


Sarndra Lees

Collection Manager, History

Sarndra Lees

I care for the social history and war objects that are in our History collection. I liaise with donors and prepare and oversee all the necessary paperwork for their gifting. I then process those objects into our collections ensuring they are catalogued completely and stored. I also arrange access to the public for object viewings when required.

I'm a lover of family history and hunting stories and so my main bookcase shelves scream GENEALOGY amongst other things.  This is an addiction I've been absorbed in since I was 14 and it has evolved into forming my own little business this year (Magna Quies Tracing).

I purchase rarely but when I do it's generally an out-of-print book connected to geographical areas I have a connection with or something topical that pulls me in such as mourning jewellery.

My shelves are home to some family heirlooms, photos of dead ancestors and alive descendants and relations, boxes of original documents, a flower press, an ephemera collection and the first miniature 1:12 scale diorama that I created over a decade ago - a tiny, grimy kitchen bench scene.

I don't spend a lot of time reading - I used to, but now it's mainly reference. I do a lot of research online especially in relation to the cemetery photographs I've taken. 


What's on Sarndra's bookshelf

1. The Art of Death by Nigel Llewellyn

2. The Summer Ships by Colin Amodeo

3. Guilty on the Gallows: Famous Capital Crimes of New Zealand by Sherwood Young — Signed copy. He was a neighbour for many years at one stage.

4. New Zealand Family History — Purchased blank and completed by Me.

5. Dismembering the Male by Joanna Bourke

6. Castles of Gold by Lyndon Fraser — I helped with the research.

7. Mourning Art and Jewelry by Maureen DeLorme

8. The Dardanelles by Norman Wilkinson — Printed 1915. Inscribed 1 Jan 1916 by a Henry Hanna. A special gift from a Turkish friend living in London.

9. Beyond the Waimakariri by D. N. Hawkins

10. From the Banks of the Avon: The Story of a River by Robert C. Lamb


Bev Moon

Senior Collection Manager, Documentary Heritage

Bev Moon

I'm Bev Moon, and as Senior Collection Manager, Documentary Heritage, I look after a passionate team who care for Auckland Museum's published and unpublished collections: that's books, maps, plans and serials as well as a trove of manuscripts, photography, moving image, prints, paintings, drawings, ephemera, museum archives and oral histories.

When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, the first book I was ever able to choose for myself was The Lorax by Dr Seuss. As a book it has everything - truth, drama, conflict, sadness, a strong message, with a dash of humour and some hope at the end all tied together in a rhyming, beautifully illustrated package and its message is as relevant and more urgent today than it was when it was written. It's still one of my favourites.

Nowadays books compete for space at my house on tiny shelves and nooks with art and craft hobbies, Scrooge McDuck comics and Tintin adventures. Newer acquisitions sit alongside the tried and true. There’s not really a specific filing system, which I'll admit goes against the principles of collection management...

I have a strong interest particularly in art but working alongside scientists at the museum has piqued my interest in the beauty of nature. Two classic and inspiring scientific illustration books feature on my list for providing endless inspiration and wonder.

This little selection includes a book about my ancestors - early Chinese settlers in Aotearoa who toiled away in laundries (that's my grandfather on the cover) and another classic childhood favourite from when I dreamed of a life of espionage (I still do).


What's on Bev's bookshelf

1. Junk: User's Guide from the National Folk Museum of Korea

2. The Life and Death of Andy Warhol by Victor Bockris

3. Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing by Marina Warner and Roger Malbert

4. Mobitecture: Architecture on the Move by Rebecca Roke

5. The Usborne Spy’s Guidebook illustrated by Colin King

6. Botanicum by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis

7. Starch Work by Experts by Joanna Boilieau (Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust)

8. Art Forms in Nature by Ernst Haeckel

9. The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

10. 30,000 Years of Art: The Story of Human Creativity Across Time and Space (Phaidon)


Paula Legel

Associate Curator, Heritage Publications

Paula Legel

My role is part of the Documentary Heritage Team and focuses on all things published; books and pamphlets, maps, charts and plans, newspapers and serials. The subject range is wide and eclectic, ranging across history, natural sciences, ethnography, voyaging and discovery. 

I’ve always been interested in travel and history and as with many New Zealanders, have felt the loss caused by Covid to continue my historical and geographical meanderings. My most recent trip was to Java, following in the footsteps of my Father’s family who lived there for over 40 years in the earlier part of the 20th century; but I’ve been hankering for Europe, there’s still so much more to see.

In the spirit of armchair travelling and historical perambulations, I have extracted ten favourite titles on my bookshelves, set in faraway places, to take you out of your bubbles. As you can see, my bookshelves have far more than books and include a mix of family treasures and travelling memorabilia…


What's on Paula's bookshelf

1. Beyond the Blue Horizon: On the Track of Imperial Airways by Alexander Frater — For many years the Chief Travel Correspondent for the Observer, Alex follows the route of the first flights from London to Australia, stopping in what are now very remote places indeed.

2. Silenced Voices: Uncovering a Family's Colonial History in Indonesia by Inez Hollander — A powerful personal history intertwined with historical and literary accounts of the period of Dutch colonization.

3. Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks — Ex-foreign correspondent Brooks writes of a true historical plague event with emotional intelligence, examining the collision of faith, science and superstition in 17th century England.

4. The People Smuggler: The True Story of Ali Al Jenabi, the ‘Oskar Schindler of Asia’ by Robin de Crespigny — By the time I finished, I was completely invested in this portrait of a refugee from Hussein’s Iraq and how he managed to navigate the corrupt and shadowy world of fake passports, illegal border crossings and bureaucracy in his fight to get his family to Australia.

5. Secret Histories: Finding Orwell in a Burmese Teashop by Emma Larkin — Following in the footsteps of George Orwell during his posting to Burma as a policeman Emma Larkin investigates the Orwellian landscape created by Burma’s ruling generals.

6. Amsterdam: A Brief Life of the City by Geert Mak — Translated from the Dutch, an imaginative recreation of the lives of the early Amsterdammers, tracing the city’s progress from waterlogged settlement on the Amstel River to thriving modern conurbation.

7. Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart by Tim Butcher — Appointed Africa Correspondent for the Daily Telegraph in 2000, this is Tim Butcher’s intrepid recreation of Henry Morton Stanley’s expedition to the river Congo, a witty and passionate reflection on a place of mystery and a truly terrible colonial past.

8. From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium by William Dalrymple — A well-known travel commentator, in this title Dalrymple traces the AD578 journey of John Moschos, Byzantine monk, traveller and oral historian. I found this illuminating, going some way to explaining the deep historical context to the complexities of the modern Middle East.

9. A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East by Tiziano Terzani — Translated from the Italian, this follows the progress of a modern, sceptical and emotional pilgrim. Terziani spends a year travelling by foot, boat, bus, car and train throughout Asia, from Burma to Indonesia and many points between, consulting soothsayers and shamans along the way, immersing himself in traditional ways of life and beliefs.

10. One Foot in Laos by Dervla Murphy — Inveterate traveller with a keen eye and strong views on the impact of the West on indigenous culture, here Murphy treks through the high mountains in the north of Laos at a time when the country was beginning to emerge from the isolation of a closed communist state.


Albie Apaitia

Son of Jess Ogg, Digital Marketing Manager

Albie Apaitia

In normal times, we’re regulars at our local Auckland Library branch, borrowing books to add variety to our one-year-old’s bedtime story sessions. We’re glad this lockdown to have the entertainment of the good selection of books we’ve been gathering for Albie’s own bookshelf, including many beautiful ones gifted to him for his birthday and some classics which I also enjoyed as a child.

Although he’s still young, we love books that will help to teach Albie about his place in the world, his culture and the environment around him. Of course, beautiful illustrations, a fun rhythm or interactive features like cut-outs and lift-up flaps are hugely engaging for his age and stage.


What's on Albie's bookshelf

1. Little Hector and the Big Idea by Ruth Paul

2. Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers

3. Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer

4. B is for Baby by Atinuke

5. Kindness, from Pat a Cake

6. Kuwi’s Rowdy Crowd by Kat Merewether

7. Kaiana and Teiti by Diane Percy

8. My First 100 Nature Words by Chris Ferrie

9. Schnitzel von Krumm’s Basketwork by Lynley Dodd

10. Dua Means One: Learn to Count to 10 in Fijian by Penelope Casey