10 Favourite Things: The page turner

Lover of literature Anne O'Brien tells tales of books, bags and Boris the bear

Festival Director of Auckland Writers and Readers Festival Anne O'Brien shares her favourite things. Photo / Babiche Martens

Anne O'Brien sits on one of her retro armchairs in her home which is full of treasures and, of course, books.

A festival of literature begins in Auckland next week, a stimulating celebration of the written word with Anne O'Brien at the helm. The Writers & Readers Festival director has worked on other cultural happenings, including the New Zealand International Arts Festival, and was formerly the executive director of Women in Film and Television (WIFT) NZ. Here she shares with us a few of her favourite things - books, of course, being among them.


1. Elliot Collins artwork

Titled The Spirit of the Letter in Painting, this work by up-and-coming New Zealand artist Elliot Collins deftly references writing, writers, books and painting in a fresh and playful way.

2. Orange "rubbish" bag

People always remark on this vibrant bag, made completely of recycled materials, which was a gift from my partner, a man with a stylish and strong aesthetic eye.

3. David Thomas lightbox

The first artwork my partner and I bought together. He had emigrated from England and we were both working in the screen industry, so this seemed perfect, with its intriguing woven panel pattern created from old kapa haka film footage.4 Karlsson clock

I love this simple, big, bold Karlsson clock, which hangs in the kitchen and keeps two madly busy lives on track.

5. Retro armchairs

Bought for a song, these four red armchairs need new covers and re-springing, but retain their charm, conjuring up images of great times at the bach reading the day away.

6. John Edgar sculpture

A gorgeous grey and glacial blue marbled glass cube, catching light and shade, playing with depth and perception.

7. A life of books

Books are everywhere in our house: on shelves, in piles, in boxes, poked into corners. One of hundreds of treasured books is Leonard Cohen's Book of Mercy, complete with personal dedication and sent in reply to an invitation from me to visit New Zealand and appear at a writers' festival. This year's guest, Sylvie Simmons, is the next best thing.

8. Boris

The keeper of the house, Boris is more than 100 years old and is a carved, wooden Bavarian bear who has travelled the world several times. He welcomes visitors, holds keys and cards, and keeps a watchful eye on residents and visitors alike.

9. Blackberry

Not really de rigueur these days, but I still, stubbornly, love my Blackberry. Small and efficient, it allows me to communicate, read, work and plan, and even delivers me my morning newspaper on waking, as well as my daily festival sales reports.

10. Italian necklace and greenstone earrings

I'm not really a shopper, but intriguing jewellery is my one indulgence. These are two pieces from my eclectic collection: a wonderfully unusual Italian necklace made of suede and silver mesh, and beautifully crafted greenstone and sterling silver earrings, given to me by an old flatmate.

• Auckland Writers & Readers Festival, May 15-19. Tickets from the-edge.co.nz, ph (09) 357 3355 or in person at The Edge box office.

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