Book Self: The Reader as Writer and the Writer as Critic

C. K. Stead


‘. . . in Book Self,Stead approaches the matter of self head-on and defies his critics with sharp, clear, rational argument, putting their vague murmurs to shame. It is the story of – love it or hate it – a remarkably interesting New Zealand mind.’ – Nelson Wattie, NZ Listener


For more than 40 years, C. K. Stead has been New Zealand’s leading literary and cultural critic. Whether writing about Christianity or a trip to Croatia, he always brings a clear personal point of view, a strong analytical bent, and a witty pen to his work.

In this latest collection of critical writing Book Self, a sequel to his successful books Kin of Place, Answering to the Language and The Writer at Work, Stead takes the reader on a personal journey, from his earliest discovery of poetry as a young man to his experiences on the literary trail over the last few years. And he takes us on a trip through literary history, from Katherine Mansfield and T. S. Eliot to Michael King and Elizabeth Knox.

For the first time, Stead includes in this book a series of journal extracts that allow readers closer to the mind of the writer. ‘Here the ego is exposed-not quite naked, but now and then with its shirt off,’ he writes.

In Book Self we see a great New Zealand critic at work – a writer with strong personal views about other writers and a deep commitment to the role of role of criticism in literary life.



C. K. Stead was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1932. From the late 1950s, he began to earn an international reputation as a poet and literary critic – his book The New Poetic (1964) has sold over 100,000 copies – and, later, as a novelist. He has published over 40 books and received numerous honours recognising his contribution to literature, including a CBE (1974), an Honorary DLitt from the University of Bristol (2001), the CNZ Michael King Fellowship (2005), the Order of New Zealand (2007) and, in 2009, the $60,000 Prime Minister’s Award for Fiction and the Montana New Zealand Book Award (Reference and Anthology) for his Collected Poems. In 2010 he won the world’s richest short story award, the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award worth £25,000, and his poem ‘Ischaemia’ won the Hippocrates Prize (open section), worth £5000.


January 2008, 210 x 140 mm, 329 pages
Paperback, ISBN 9781869404123, $45