THE SHIPWRECK HUNTER
by David L. Mearns
(Allen & Unwin, $37)

This book is a cracker. It's not about diving on to wrecks to salvage pieces of eight. Instead, shipwreck sleuth David L. Mearns tells of his painstaking work digging through archives, analysing witness statements and studying ocean currents to work out where long-lost ships have foundered. Finally, he uses sophisticated sonar equipment and photos from remotely operated underwater vehicles to confirm the location. All this is seasoned with the stories of the ships themselves and the emotional tales of families who have waited decades to establish a loved one's final resting place. (JE)

EVERYBODY LIES
by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
(Bloomsbury A$25)

Every time you search Google, you reveal a little of yourself. Combine millions of those searches, and they reveal a lot about a lot of us. It's not a pretty picture: our internet searches suggest we're often sadder than we appear; more racist than we'd admit; getting less sex than we claim; obsessed with our genitalia; and have odd tastes in pornography (be warned, the porn section is fairly explicit). But if the findings can be depressing, the power of this information is fascinating. (MF)

ISLANDS OF THE GULF
by Shirley Maddock and Don Whyte
(HarperCollins, $45)

Sliding into the pages of this classic 1960s account of the wonderful Hauraki Gulf is like taking a step back in time, to a place where writing is warm, relaxed and insightful, the waters are clean and full of fish, there are far fewer boats or baches, and in every bay there are engaging characters with delightful anecdotes. This new edition of Maddock's groundbreaking work still stands out for its insight into what makes the place so special and a reminder of how it used to be. (JE)

Advertisement

TOTARA
by Philip Simpson
(Auckland University Press, $75)

This weighty volume - in both size and content - is an appropriate tribute to the forest giants Maori called "rakau rangatira" or "chiefly trees". It is the third in Simpson's books on our glorious trees - following the cabbage tree, and the rata and pohutukawa - and uses the same technique, telling the totara's story through pictures, science and anecdotes. It traces the tree's evolution and biology, role in Maori life, its key role in assisting colonisation, how it was almost wiped out, the mighty trees that remain and the youngsters struggling to emulate them. (JE)

Short takes is a weekly round-up of books from specific genres and appears on Saturdays in the NZ Herald's books section.