Women & Their Books: Kiran Dass

It's back! Back again ('gain 'gain). Women & Their Books is back for another year and I have some rather wondrous people lined up for the first three months of 2018. You are in for a treat, let's put it that way. January's guest will require no introduction to Aucklanders but to the rest of you, today we have Kiran Dass answering my questions about books. Kiran works at Unity Books on High St here in Auckland, which is how I came to know of her. Her recommendations are standout and while I perhaps am guilty of not reading enough of them, she has such good taste. She also regularly reviews books on National Radio as well as on 95bFM and often contributes to the NZ Herald, The Spinoff and many other places. Oh and she DJs! She is one busy lady. One well read, busy lady...

-What are you currently reading?
I just finished reading Tinderbox by Wellington writer Megan Dunn. It's quite a slim and unique novel, an odd little book which I really liked. It's quite meta-a book about a writer (Dunn) who sets out to rewrite Ray Bradbury's classic dystopian novel Farenheit 451-where books are banned-from the perspective of the female character. But the book turns into something completely different-almost a rumination on the frustrations attached to the creative process and difficulties of writing. Dunn also weaves in her experiences of working as a bookseller at Borders on the verge of its eventual collapse. It's punchy, snappy and funny.

-What is your most read book?
Lost in Music by Giles Smith. I have read it 13 times! I usually try and reread it once a year as I find it such a reassuringly grounding, comforting and reliable read. It's basically a pop music memoir from journalist Giles Smith. It's his "pop odyssey"-growing up and discovering a love of music. He writes about music and his relationship to specific records he's loved throughout his life and his experiences as a music journalist. It's warm, insightful and endlessly laugh-out-loud funny. 

-As well as working as a bookseller, you also DJ and contribute writing elsewhere. Are there any books about music or artists that you've found mesmerising?
Lost in Music as mentioned above, for sure. It's my favourite music book. Similarly I also loved Cider with Roadies by Stuart Maconie. More recently I loved Art, Sex, Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti which was my book of the year for 2017. Read Kiran's review of it here. It's a truly inspirational and immersive insight into the life of an innovative, challenging and independent female artist. I don't think you need to be familiar with Tutti's art and music to get something out of this book.

-You've recently been traveling to Rarotonga. What did you read while you were there?
I read Baby by Annaleese Jochems while I was on holiday in Rarotonga. I didn't love it but it was fine.

-What's your favourite book by a New Zealand writer?
That's an impossible question to answer because there is consistently so much brilliant publishing in New Zealand and we have such a long, rich and strong history of literature here. I'd say Robin Hyde's Passport to Hell is a critical book to mention. I love everything Emily Perkins has written. I love the social and cultural history from Redmer Yska, John Mulgan's Man Alone is a landmark classic. Also Archibald Baxter's We Will Not Cease is an important work. I think New Zealand's strongest area in publishing is NZ history and nonfiction. More recently, Ashleigh Young's collection of personal essays Can You Tolerate This? resonated hugely with me and Pip Adam's The New Animals is an exciting novel which pushes the possibilities of what forms a novel can take. 

-Which women writer's words have left a lasting impression on you?
Joan Didion, A.M. Homes, Rebecca Solnit, Anne Enright, Hanya Yanagihara, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Viv Albertine, Susan Sontag, Edna O'Brien. 

-Finally, if there was one book you'd recommend every woman have on their bookshelf, what would it be?
We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction by Joan Didion. Particularly the essay 'On Self-Respect' which was originally published in Vogue, 1961.

// Thanks Kiran for answering my questions! I have a much longer list of books and authors I need to investigate. All images from Kiran's Instagram, @steelydass. You can also follow her on Twitter. //

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