Simon Bridges always had a book in him, it just took having a bit of breathing space following losing the National Party leadership and 12 years to finish it, he says.
"National Identity: Confessions of an outsider" is "an open, honest and at times intensely personal memoir about race, fatherhood, marriage, masculinity, fitting in, and the things that shape our national character," Google reviews reads.
But what's really behind the legal aficionado's mask? I spoke to him last week.
A career in law was always a reasonable prospect for the Tauranga local.
"I was never going to be an All Black, but I was in the debating team in high school and enjoyed history and speech writing. I've always liked making arguments, engaging in discussion and sharing ideas."
But it was his father's influence that steered him in the "right direction", he says. "My dad was a clergyman and he'd never met a poor lawyer and I suppose he focused on having a sense of financial security so if he hadn't strongly encouraged me to do law I would have probably spent a life in academia."
It took him two years to get the hang of law at Auckland University, but when he got it, he really got it. He chose a career in criminal law because the show-pony aspect of speaking in a public forum made him tick.
"I preferred public and administrative law, but it's sad as you don't get hands-on experience in court if you're working in a big commercial firm."
"I certainly don't regret it, it's definitely part of my identity and shapes how I think, sometimes I wish it didn't. As a politician you have to do more lateral thinking than comes with being a lawyer," Bridges said.
After working for Kensington Swan for a couple of years in Auckland, he saw an advertisement for a junior prosecutor role in Tauranga.
His lawyer flatmates thought he was mad, but he took the role, which led to a love affair with the Bay of Plenty. To this day it remains one of the best decisions he's ever made, he says.
He wasn't good at first, but seven years later, and having put 10,000 hours on the ground he became very experienced.
"I'm a sucker for punishment. It's in my Protestant DNA," Bridges said.
"I like working, and I simply stuck at it. It would be different if I had worked in 'the big smoke'. I would have been holding the suitcase of a more experienced lawyer for many more years. You're thrown into court on day one when you work in provincial New Zealand. I was doing jury trials every day."
Bridges always thought he would one day enter politics but it was when he had the opportunity to stand in Tauranga when Bob Clarkson announced he wouldn't stand for re-election.
"I knew in my heart that it was now or never. I had a punt, and thought if it didn't work out I'd go back to law. All of the stars aligned and I entered Parliament at 32," he said.
"If I'd lost I would have gone back to law forever. I'd be a podgy middle-aged lawyer now, rather than a podgy middle-aged politician."
He remembers getting mocked in his early days by some Labour Party members, who would call him Perry Mason.
"I was trained to be very rational and logical. I would speak too slowly so I had to train myself to speak faster," Bridges said.
"In a courtroom, you have the time to construct an argument. But politics isn't logical or rational, it requires more heart.
"People tend to think law and politics are easy bedfellows in a superficial sense but it's very different."
You know with confidence in the courtroom what the procedures will be, but in the debating chamber the rules are set by the Speaker and it can change at any time, Bridges said.
"It's much more fluid. If you get kicked out of Parliament, who gives two hoots? But if that happened in court you'd be worrying about the future of your career.
"I mean no disrespect to my legal friends but realistically you can do a lot more in politics. In a jury trial, you can change things for one whānau. In Parliament it's disturbingly easy to change the game for thousands."
He always dreamed of being Justice Minister so now that he's the National Party justice spokesperson, he's happy to be with his first love.
If he was magically to become Justice Minister tomorrow, he would want to tackle the poor cousin in the justice portfolio that's seldom talked about: civil justice.
"It's broken, you have to be a rich person to access justice in a civil context. It's law by attrition. An average civil case costs $100,000 if it goes to a full hearing. It's an area that benefits those who can afford it. My wife and I earn incomes that are far in excess of most New Zealanders, if we can't afford that, then the vast majority surely can't do so," he said.
Will Bridges ever be Justice Minister?
Crazier things have happened, he says.
• If you've got any tips, legal tidbits, or appointments that might be of interest, please email sasha. borissenko@ gmail.com.