For a part-time bush worker, a Whakatāne men's book club provides much needed social interaction.

Semi-retiree Peter Fergusson, who works for Manawahe Eco Trust helping to eradicate pest animals from bushland, is part of a nine-man book discussion group who meet monthly to talk about a selected title.

"Some men don't get lots of opportunities to sit down and talk with other men about things other than the immediate sports event or news events or their work," Fergusson said.

"To have an opportunity to sit down and discuss whatever is really good."


His book group has been going for three years and meets in each other's homes. Most of the men are aged in their 60s. Two are semi-retired but the others work in a range of professions including medicine, engineering and teaching.

"I think men can sometimes be quite isolated and lonely, because for some who are working 50 or 60 hours a week their world becomes narrowed. I'm sure that's true for some women as well, but in my opinion women are better at making contact and organising their social networks."

Even though Fergusson works part-time, his job is a solitary one. He can spend all day in the bush, patrolling for possums, rats and stoats. The charitable trust he works for maintains bush on hilly farmland that forms a corridor between Rotorua lakes and the sea.

"I can spend two or three days without seeing anybody apart from my immediate family," he said.

At their meetings, the men enjoy a good wine and cheese and crackers or the occasional dessert. Discussion of the book itself may only take up a quarter of the evening but often stimulates chat on other topics such as music, politics or world events. The discussion often doesn't wind up until late evening.

The men's reading taste gravitates slightly in favour of non-fiction. The group is part of Book Discussion Scheme, which enables them to borrow sets of books and discussion notes from a catalogue of more than 900 titles. The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind was a recent stand-out for the group.

"Everybody looks through the scheme's list of books and chooses some. It's quite good to be forced to read things that you probably wouldn't select by choice.

"I quite like history ones because you can imagine yourself as just an ordinary person in that a different era, how you would be and behave."

Book Discussion Scheme currently has 14 men-only groups around the country but estimates about 10 per cent of its 13,000 book-club readers are men.

A report by the Book Council of New Zealand indicated a slight drop in the number of Kiwi men reading.

The council's 2018 research indicated a drop of 3 per cent in the past year in the number of adult males starting to read at least one book.