In Search of Ancient New Zealand
by Hamish Campbell and Gerard Hutching
Penguin, $50

Not a travel book in the normal sense, but a fantastic companion for a trip around New Zealand, offering fascinating insights as to why the passing countryside looks the way it does and how some of the more remarkable tourist attractions came into being.

It tells the exciting story of how the features of our dynamic landscape were formed, from ancient fossils and mysterious rock formations to newly risen mountains and still-active volcanoes, and how - as we've just seen, painfully, in Christchurch - it is still evolving.

This is a modestly updated version of the geological history of New Zealand the authors published in 2007, which has since sold 8000 copies. It's not always an easy read, because there is a certain amount of technical language, but the effort required is well rewarded by the value of the knowledge that results.