The Auckland Writers & Readers Festival opens today, with a three-day programme featuring some of the best writers from around the world, and a first-rate lineup of New Zealand authors. Books editor Linda Herrick picks five not-to-missed sessions.

Caroline Moorehead
ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre,
Today at 10am

British journalist and biographer Moorehead's book A Train in Winter is a gruelling account of 230 French female Resistance fighters who were betrayed, arrested, tortured and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only 49 survived. The story of how they were saved by luck, mutual support and commitment to their values makes a saga horrifying, moving and timeless.

Roddy Doyle
ASB Theatre
Tonight at 7

Dr Brian Edwards hosts what should be an entertaining chat with Booker Prize winner and fellow Irishman Doyle about his life and times, especially focusing on his latest collection, Bullfighting, about the lives of malcontent middle-aged male Dubliners. Doyle is a brilliant raconteur and the rapport between the two will be a delight, to be sure.


Michael King Memorial Lecture
ASB Theatre
Tomorrow at 1pm

Investment adviser and think tank founder Chandran Nair advocates a new model of capitalism for Asian economies, saying Governments should tightly regulate the use of natural resources, and therefore consumption, arguing that the Western model has long outrun its relevance. Nair is a good choice for the Michael King lecture, which is always thought-provoking; perhaps some members of our own Government could attend?

Kathy Lette
ASB Theatre
Tomorrow at 7.30pm

London-based Lette's latest novel The Boy Who Fell to Earth, about a single mother with a son with Asperger's, is loosely based on her experiences with her own son. Lette's firecracker wit and brash personality (well, she is an Aussie) will make this session popular, possibly a sellout. The programme hints she will reveal that she hid Julian Assange in her attic. Clue: her husband, Geoffrey Robertson, is a famous human rights lawyer.

Maurice Gee
ASB Theatre
Sunday at 5.30pm

A new annual initiative, the Honoured New Zealand Writer, tips a hat to one of our greatest fiction writers, who has created an outstanding range of children's books and complex adult classics. Gee is rarely seen at public events so this session, which wraps up the festival, with the writer talking to Geoff Walker, is a fine way to pay tribute and enjoy the conversation.

Note that the festival has expanded to other venues, including special sessions at the Auckland Art Gallery Auditorium (Dick Frizzell, Sunday at 10.15am; Doris De Pont, Sunday at 11.45am; Chris Bourke, Sunday at 1.15pm) and the Writers on Campus series, at the Fisher & Paykel Auditorium at the University of Auckland. And, as well as the more populist mainstream events at the ASB Theatre, simultaneous sessions occupy the niches in the Lower and Upper NZI Rooms, and the Air NZ Foyer at the Aotea Centre; see