Christmas Recommendations

In my last post I shared a Christmas card sent by a New Zealand artillery gunner from the Battle of El Alamein and by comparison made light of our own silly season stresses.  I apologize.  I know that it can be a onedamnedthingcrazy time of year so I thought perhaps I should give you all a hand with your Christmas shopping.  If you are looking for something special for the History Geek in your life, or even for something to enjoy yourself in among the festive madness then here are my personal recommendations:


Moa – The life and death of New Zealand’s legendary bird – This is hot off the press and is a must read for anyone with an interest in New Zealand natural history.  It is a History Geek recommendation for three reasons.  First of all author Quinn Berentson tells the story not just of the science behind the Moa but also the history of the science.  He brings to life some of the eccentric characters that made up the early scientific community both here in New Zealand and internationally.  Influential sorts such as Haast, Mantell, Hector and of course the unfortunately evil-looking Sir Richard Owen.  Secondly, the book is packed with fantastic imagery including historical ephemera and contemporary illustrations.  Last but not least, Quinn is a great mate of mine and I was witness to how much effort went into this project, he really has left no feather unturned.

Convicts: New Zealand’s Hidden Criminal Past by experienced New Zealand historian, author and blogger Matthew Wright.  Any book that features convicts, piracy, tall-ships AND cannibalism will automatically get my seal of approval but to have someone with the experience and ability of Matthew Wright tackle the subject makes this an absolute must have on any reading list.  In Convicts he takes the reader on a journey into New Zealand’s lawless days (no not THAT kind of lawless) and introduces some of the more colourful characters that visited our shores.  It is packed with well researched stories from one of the more exciting episodes of New Zealand history and is a bloody good read to boot.


Mud by Dunedin artist Bill Morris.  Bill has a healthy grounding in the real, the raw and the rugged – and that earthy presence comes through in his music.  He is also an experienced storyteller and a number of his works are inspired by New Zealand’s past.  Of particular interest to History Geeks is ‘Mud’, the story of the labourers that forged the world we know today.  Check out his video and buy the album here.


‘Wings’ BBC 1977 – I bought this box set for both myself and my father a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Admittedly we are both suckers for old-school costume dramas but I suspect a few of you might fall into that category as well.  Wings follows a squadron in the Royal Flying Corps during the early years of aerial warfare over the Western Front.  It is a fascinating period and surprisingly Wings is all but unrivaled when it comes to television dramas on the topic.  I’d love for a modern take on the subject (I’m talking to you HBO) but in the meantime this series is well worth the watch.  Just make note of the DVD Zone and make sure that your intended recipient is able to play it.


Everyone loves something with a personal touch so consider this as an alternative to your usual Christmas card.  DigitalNZ has a set building application that allows you to search through over 25 million items from New Zealand’s past and collate a group together into a set that you can then share either privately or publicly.  I reckon it could make a fantastic E-Gift for that someone special – for instance you could find historical images showing a place that you know is dear to them or perhaps find some Xmas related imagery.

I hope that helps with some of your Christmas shopping and wish you all the best for the silly season!

© Lemuel Lyes

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