Crime and Thriller books reviewer
Ian Wedde: His talents are many - novelist, art critic, curator, editor - but first and foremost he's a poet; one of our best. The release of his Selected Poems is a significant event in NZ poetry, updating and expanding the earlier Driving Into the Storm and includes the out-of-print The Commonplace Odes from 2001. A Wedde poem has a way of making even the most familiar streets new again and now at 70, he remains at the top of his game. In the last poem of this new Selected, Shadow Stands Up, he describes a trip on Auckland's Link bus and turns in a stunning poem on place, memory, art, family and perception. And - unlike the Link Bus - this event is free. AUP showcase and Ian Wedde launches his Selected Poems; Air NZ Foyer, Aotea Centre; Friday, May 19 3.30pm-5pm - free event.
Ian Rankin: I had the pleasure of interviewing Ian Rankin recently and despite the late hour in Edinburgh, found him fascinating company - funny, humble and disarmingly honest.
Mark Sainsbury hosts the Scottish crime writer for this event and odds on it'll be a lively discussion. This year Rebus, Rankin's Edinburgh detective, celebrates 30 years on the page and if there's anything you wanted to know about Rebus, Rankin or crime fiction here's your chance. An Evening with Ian Rankin; ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre; Friday, May 19, 7pm-8.15pm.
Food books reviewer
Lawrence Krauss: My typical writers' festival agenda tends to the gloomy and obscure. Scientists talking in plain English are my favourites, as I just can't read that stuff on my own. This year my "gloomy scientist" is Lawrence Krauss, the theoretical physicist and cosmologist who chairs the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. His cheery gang has just moved the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight and the professor has 50 minutes to tell us about climate change, the threat of nuclear weapons and how to avoid an apocalypse. Tick tock: Lawrence Krauss, ASB Theatre; Thursday, May 18, 5pm-6pm.
Jay Rayner: Sadly, I was not fast enough to eat lunch at Masu with Guardian food critic Jay Rayner, so I'll be lining up to watch him help Chris [Parker] and Tom [Sainsbury] write a book on Wednesday and sprinting back on Friday night to hear The Ten (Food) Commandments. I have been told he will not be repeating the late AA Gill's excruciating dinner out in Auckland, but I'd love to share icecream after the show. Chris and Tom Write a Book; Heartland Festival Room, Aotea Square; Wednesday, May 17 and Thursday, May 18 9pm-10pm (different guests each night). Jay Rayner, The Ten (Food) Commandments, ASB Theatre; May 19, 8.45pm-10pm.
Paul Beatty: Because I've been engrossed in the slave stories and essays on America's troubled heartland these past months (note to organisers: Colson Whitehead, Arlie Russell Hochschild and George Packer next year?), Paul Beatty's The Sellout satire of what racism has done to black Americans may help me understand a little more - or at least give me a reading list for the rest of the year. Paul Beatty, The Sellout; ASB Theatre; Friday, May 19, 2.30pm-3.30pm.
Editor-in-chief of the Pantograph Punch and The Woman Who Read Auckland
The Writers Festival Session is a peculiar entertainment format, like displaying the goose who laid all the golden eggs. So my picks are a little different from "ye olde" one-on-one conversations. All three of these sessions, and numerous others, are free. The Aotea precinct always has a great atmosphere during the festival, and it's open to all, as it should be.
Stella and guests: For night owls, the matching of Stephanie Johnson, Renee Liang and John Lanchester, with the "irrepressible" Stella Duffy in the Graham Norton role, is inspired. Each of the very different guests is wonderfully outspoken in their own field. In writing, Lanchester is my second favourite economics explainer after Shamubeel Eaqub and, judging by past performances of Johnson and Liang, it should be a witty and charismatic fun Saturday night. Stella and Guests, Heartland Festival Room; Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20 (different guests each evening); 9.30pm-10.30pm.
1001 Nights in Auckland: Scheherazade's stories reset in contemporary Tamaki Makaurau by students from Edmund Hillary, Manurewa and Otahuhu Colleges assisted by Paula Morris. I love a good retelling - pouring new meaning into an old wineskin - and Middle Eastern and South Asian classics make an astute change from Shakespeare. Also: who doesn't love to see their city onstage, through the eyes of younger denizens? 1001 Nights in Auckland; Upper NZI Room, Aotea Centre; Saturday, May 20, 4.30pm-5.30pm.
Tina Makereti: In her Poutokomanawa - the Heartpost lecture, Makereti will dare to address the white elephant in the room: the lack of non-Pakeha literature published here. It's an important and, as can be seen from the Ockham's shortlist, overdue discussion. Tina Makereti, Poutokomanawa - the Heartpost; Heartland Festival Room; Wednesday, May 17, 5pm-5.45pm
Poetry books reviewer
Carol Ann Duffy: My first choice is the powerful, provocative British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy who'll be doing several sessions intersecting words and music with musician John Sampson, and judging the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize. My friend Broom was an amazing poet. The prize, a legacy established after her death, has become one of our foremost poetry awards. I'm looking forward to seeing Duffy deliver her selection. Carol Ann Duffy with John Sampson, Limelight Room, Aotea Centre, Friday, May 19, 6pm-7pm and Saturday, May 20, 7pm-9.30pm; Sarah Broom Poetry Prize, Upper NZI, Aotea Centre, Sunday, May 21, 4.30-5.30pm. Carol Ann Duffy and John Sampson also appear at the AWF Family Day, Sunday May 21, 2pm-3pm
George Saunders: His brilliant first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, is next on my reading list; the festival will be a great opportunity to hear him read from and discuss the development of this important new book. In the Bardo, George Saunders, ASB Theatre, Saturday, May 20, noon-1pm. See profile, pages 6-7.
Teju Cole: I've long been captivated by Nigerian-US author Teju Cole's emotive, impactful prose. Winner of multiple awards, his novel, Open City and recent essay collection, Known and Strange Things are outstanding, so getting the opportunity to see him reflecting on crafting the latter book is unmissable. Known and Strange Things: Teju Cole, ASB Theatre, Friday, May 19, 1-2pm; 12 Photography Favourites, Lower NZI Room, Aotea Centre Sunday, May 21, noon-1pm.