Who are you?
Olivia Newman, Assistant Principal and unashamed book nerd!
Claim to fame?
In 2022, I read 100 books—a personal best! Sadly I’m not quite on track for a repeat this year.
What do you love about our library?
Our Library is my favourite place in the college because it sustains my addiction to fiction, but also because they have an amazing range of non-fiction history books! A book will often give you more accurate and specific information than you can find on the internet.
Finally, there’s something for everyone in the Library, and I love seeing the librarians’ smiling faces when I walk through the doors.
What was on the family bookshelf growing up?
I read a lot of Enid Blyton novels growing up, and particular favourites were The Famous Five and The Secret Seven series. These are great adventure novels, but I especially loved them for the more-ish descriptions of food and for Timmy the dog.
Do you remember loving any books at school? Tell us about them.
I remember finding Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations hideously hard in Year 11, but once I finally grasped what was going on, I loved it. Understanding a complex novel is like finishing a puzzle—so satisfying.
As a History and English teacher, stories set in the past are really in the centre of my Venn diagram of interests!
What’s your favourite book?
I don’t think I could pick a favourite, but recently I read Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and found it absolutely unputdownable. The story follows four generations of a Korean family during the Japanese colonisation of Korea through to post-WWII. The family suffers enormously: they’re besieged by poverty and war and persecuted by the Japanese for their race, but they carry their traumas uncomplainingly. It’s dark, but also hopeful. Across the generations, the family members trudge on, and despite seemingly impossible odds, they accumulate wealth, educate themselves, and cling to one another. This was a really informative and heartfelt look at a history I had always wanted to know more of.
What are some mottos you live by?
He tao rākau e taea te karo
He tao kī, e kore e taea
The thrust of a spear can be avoided, but not the thrust of words.
This is a whakataukī I first heard recently at the Auckland Writer’s Festival, and it really resonated with me. An author was speaking about online hate she had received, and how it affected her really deeply. I was struck by the author’s observation that this whakataukī is exactly the opposite, and much more true, than the old English saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Te Ao Māori has put words around an idea that we know to be true, words have power.
What advice do you have for teenagers today?
Try to get off your phone and get outside (or pick up a book!). Did you know the average teenager spends seven hours and 22 minutes on their phone a day? I think we would all agree that time spent on our phones, especially if it’s time spent scrolling on social media, doesn’t make us feel fulfilled. Putting some boundaries around your own phone use can be really helpful. I have a handy app which I can open to block my phone use when I want to complete a task.