In alphabetical order, Lumière Books Editor AMY BROWN lists ten books from 2007 that she continues to think about.

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84-484, by Geoff Cochrane (VUP)
This characteristically shrewd collection, from one of the most remarkable poets in the VUP stable, deserves respect. “My grandmother was a troubled woman. Troubled and troubling and troublesome. An ageing Ophelia determined to remain dismayed by sex. By sex in particular and life in general.” If you’re curious or impressed, seek out 84-484 and read on.

As Far As We Know,
by Paul Callaghan and Kim Hill
(Penguin)
Before reading this well edited series of interview transcripts I was woefully ignorant about the ways of the world. Colour, sound, temperature, why people are selfish, memes, thermodynamics and how televisions work were all fascinating mysteries to me. They still are to some extent, but Callaghan and Hill’s unpretentious, intelligent and highly readable book has gone a long way to remedying my bafflement. My non-fiction pick of 2007.

A Book of Luminous Things,
edited by Czeslaw Milosz
(Harcourt)
In this generous anthology, Nobel laureate poet, Milosz, has chosen 300 international poems from a variety of eras. He has ordered them not chronologically, or by author, or country, but under the following categories: “Epiphany,” “Nature,” “The Secret of a Thing,” “Travel,” “Places,” and “The Moment.” While the chosen poems – including work by Elizabeth Bishop, William Blake, Joseph Brodsky, Constantinos Cavafy, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, and Seamus Heaney, to name a few – are excellent, the pleasure I found in this book came from Milosz’s succinct and illuminating commentary. All anthologies of this sort have an introduction, but to see the editor devote so much attention to every individual poem is rare. Perhaps my best birthday present of 2007.

The Elements of Style (illustrated),
by Strunk, White and Kalman
(Penguin)
This gem was published in 2006, but I only discovered it late last year. Anyone remotely interested in writing, reading or editing the English language should track this book down immediately. The original slim volume that Will Strunk Jr. (E.B. White’s lecturer) wrote for his students was a useful and exact guide to writing well. The updated version is equally useful, but more decorative with its fittingly witty illustrations by Maira Kalman. If you’ve ever sincerely agonised over whether to use “that” or “which” in a sentence, this is certainly the book for you.

Jorge Luis Borges: collected fiction,
by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Andrew Hurley
(Penguin)
From the Argentine who valued books and solitude above all else (admirable for these qualities, let alone the writing) is a formidable, beautiful collection of all his fiction. I’ve barely scratched the surface so far, but nonetheless feel obliged to recommend it. There is a lifetime of careful reading between these covers, which I think is quite good value for $50 or so.

Kaupapa: New Zealand Poets, World Issues, edited by Hinemoa Baker and Maria McMillan, (Development Resource Centre, Wellington)
My boyfriend’s mother gave him this collection for Christmas. I read it over two days, sitting outside in the sun, without any distractions, and was profoundly satisfied when I’d finished. It showed not only the strength and diversity of New Zealand’s contemporary poetry (including many familiar favourites from James Brown, Karlo Mila, Kate Camp, Bill Manhire, etc.) but also that poetry can deal with heavy issues, while feeling light and fresh on the page.

No one belongs here more than you,
by Miranda July
(Text Publishing)
Since reviewing this collection, July’s idiosyncratic style has grown on me. Maybe it was something to do with her winning the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize. One way or another, I commend both her book and the website (noonebelongsheremorethanyou.com) that goes with it. July is not just an indie princess; she’s a writer whose work will probably age well.

Trendy But Casual, by Paula Morris (Penguin)
In an age when the Wellington Central library has a chick-lit section, which is organised not alphabetically but by colour coordination (crimson spines, top left, fading down to baby pink, bottom right), it’s easy to scorn the romantic comedy genre. In her latest novel, Morris works with and above the stereotypes to create a sharp, laugh-out-loud comedy of bad manners. With a heroine as charmingly flawed as Austen’s Emma and a series of calamities to rival any in Legally Blonde, Trendy But Casual helps romantic comedy win back its good name.

Vintage Sin: Inferno + Sabbath’s Theater,
by Dante Alighieri, and by Philip Roth
(Vintage)
Two spectacular classics for only $25! With “Classic Twins”, the gimmick of carefully pairing old classics with newer ones, Vintage gives Penguin a run for its money. While the quality of the paperbacks is fairly shoddy, the cover designs, and more to the point, the chosen books, are brilliant. I particularly like Vintage Sin because I’d read neither Dante nor Roth before and adored both. Steve Ellis’s contemporary translation of Inferno is highly recommended.

Visiting Hours, by Shane Koyczan (House of Parlance)
Seeing Shane Koyczan perform at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival was a highlight of 2007. I am glad to say that his book is just as impressive, energetic, surprising and memorable as his performance. Intensely personal, political, musical and humorous, Koyczan’s poetry is brave and accomplished. If you haven’t seen or heard him perform though, perhaps the words on the page wouldn’t hum in quite the same way. If his CD is available, listen to it.