Cover art from The Art of Escapism: A Survival Story, with Intensely Good Flavors, by Mandy Lee (HarperCollins US)
Cover art from The Art of Escapism: A Survival Story, with Intensely Good Flavors, by Mandy Lee (HarperCollins US)

BooksMay 1, 2020

The Unity chart for the strange week ending May 1: Abstinence and craving

Cover art from The Art of Escapism: A Survival Story, with Intensely Good Flavors, by Mandy Lee (HarperCollins US)
Cover art from The Art of Escapism: A Survival Story, with Intensely Good Flavors, by Mandy Lee (HarperCollins US)

The team at Unity Books is busy scaling a marvellous mountain of orders – yesterday they gave us a short take on what you’re all buying, but no one has time to deal with actual data this week.

So here we are with a sixth lockdown top 10. Hopefully our last. We hope that whatever you’re craving or gritting your teeth and going without, you get hold of it safely and soon.


1  Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett (2019)

Somewhat macabre, deeply humane and unjustly funny, Mostly Dead Things is a beautiful novel about mourning, family, love and taxidermy. Jessa-Lynn practises a deep emotional abstinence to cope with the trauma of loss and her deeply weird family. Irreverent and unique. / Niki Ward

2  The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St Aubyn (2012)

The Patrick Melrose novels, in which Patrick Melrose barely abstains from anything at all. Each of the first four novels focuses on the events of a single day: you observe Patrick Melrose first as a five-year-old, then as a privileged junkie, then as a newly sober-ish distillation of the horrors of his life in the process of some kind of recovery, and finally as a father and husband faced with the failings in his role as both. Throughout the series, the class and conditions that made him are viciously torn open for the world to see. One is left wondering if a world like that can create anything other than despicable characters. / Bam

3  The Art of Escapism: A Survival Story, with Intensely Good Flavors by Mandy Lee (2019)

While in lockdown I’ve missed my local restaurant, Chinoiserie. Until this week, I’ve had to abstain from their gua bao and it’s been tough. In response to Mandy Lee’s own isolation, she escaped through cooking and inventing feel-good Asian-inspired recipes. There’s no place like home, there’s no place like food, but you can find it through cooking, which she openly shares with us in her one-of-a-kind cookbook. / Demi Cox

4  Spain: The Cookbook by Simone and Inés Ortega (2012)

Since we’ve all had to abstain from travel and eating out, I’ve acquired some new skills. Thanks to Spain, The Cookbook, I can now make a mean paella! This beauty by Simone and Inés Ortega is the world’s bestselling Spanish cookbook. We might not be able to go to Spain any time soon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring traditional and authentic Spanish cooking to New Zealand! / Daniel Devenney

5  Fleabag: The Scriptures by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (2019)

Fleabag: The Scriptures has as much sex in it as it does celibacy. Martin isn’t having sex with Claire because he has that “thing”, Claire can’t have sex with Klare because she’s married to Martin, Fleabag abstains for a while because, well, we all know why if we’ve seen it, the priest can’t have sex with Fleabag because Jesus says no, but then the tension, ah the tension, it’s palpable. The priest tells Fleabag to kneel and the rest is history and the message is clear – don’t abstain from sex. / Chloe Blades

6  The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader (2015)

1255 – Sarah is 17 and chooses to become an anchoress to devote her life to God, sealed inside a tiny stone cell within a sunless side of the church. Virginity guaranteed, prayer as entertainment, and anorexia for biochemical visions. Guess what – level four was a breeze! / Jo McColl

7  Agorafabulous! Dispatches From My Bedroom by Sara Benincasa (2012)

Going without the outside world is something we’re all adjusting to – or adjusting to having adjusted to, for those of us back at physical workplaces – but Sara Benincasa’s memoir Agorafabulous! takes being a kid indoors to another level. It’s outrageous, it’s cacklingly funny, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s all wrapped around the author’s debilitating mental illness as a younger woman. / Briar Lawry

8  Acetylene by Geoff Cochrane (2001)

Everything you might say about Jenny Offil you can say about Geoff Cochrane. Frugal, restrained, abstemious. A master of the small form, his 2002 book Acetylene can be read like a narrative or like a series of suggestions for a tattoo on your wrist. Parings. / Susanna Andrews

9  Henry and June by Anaïs Nin (1986)

Happily married Anaïs falls hard and experiments polyamorously with two beautiful strangers, Henry Miller and his wife June. Her sapphic awakening only brings doldrums or cuckoldum to her loving husband, proving that bad things happen when you don’t practise abstinence. “There are lot of instincts that should not be lived out.” / Anastasia

10 Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (1947)

Geoffrey Firman vows each day to abstain from tequila but by the time the sun is halfway across the sky he is to be found ferreting around down the back of his garden for his carefully hidden stash of half-drunk bottles. Published way back in 1947 and set in a small town in Mexico as the characters bar hop on the Day of the Dead, Under the Volcano is a textbook example of aspiring to abstinence and failing spectacularly, and our anti-hero is often referred to as one of the best studies of addiction. Rightly so. / Melanie O’Loughlin


1  How to Live Like Your Cat by Stéphane Garnier (2017)

While we isolate in our homes, our feline friends scoff that they’ve been doing this for years. This lovely book takes us all a step closer to our dreams of lazing in the sun all day. Sounds purrfect. / Alex Hickford

2  The Abundance of Less: Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan by Andy Couturier (2017)

Originally published under the title A Different Kind of Luxury, Couturier’s profiles of 10 Japanese individuals reveal the spiritual riches gained by people who have abandoned the trappings of modern society in favour of a simple life of self-sufficiency. / John Duke

3  How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life by Catherine Prince (2018)

This little book is the perfect technology detox guide. With a mix of ACTUAL SCIENCE and incremental steps, How to Break up with Your Phone will have you waving “Ta ta 4 now” to your tech in no time! / Annie Keig

4  House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas (2020)

After the brutal, unexplained murder of her friends, Bryce Quinlan gives up everything. Drinking, drugs, partying; even hope. But when the case is reopened, she is forced to face her guilt and her past head-on. Detailed, contemporary fantasy that really delivers in the final act. / Clara van Wel

5  East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing by Meera Sodha (2019)

Despite its placement on this list, every recipe in this book is packed with flavour and substance. If you struggle with cooking without meat or dairy, East is a wealth of inspiration, and you’ll never feel like you’ve gone without. / Ash Miles

6  Everyday Adventures: 50 Imaginative Ways to Travel Without Leaving Your City by The Lonely Planet Team (2018)

Everyday Adventures is just the ticket required for today’s voyages. This ingenious wee book is a perfect how-to-abstain-from-travel handbook. Five very creatively themed chapters provide quests, activities and anecdotes. It is a complete rejigging of the guided group tour. / Jacqui Brokenshaw

7  The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers (2013)

Duncan’s crayons have had enough. They’re either overworked, under-worked, used incorrectly, or they are just sick of being defined and contained within their generic parameters. It’s time for them to revolt! Viva la Crayolution! / Becky Popham

8  Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris & Elliot Aronson (2007)

Social psychologists probe our abstinence from insight, digging beneath our blaming of others. An enduring backlist title, it examines cases from all walks of life including the workplace, war, politics, and… adults as recovering children. Hey, you started it. / Tilly Lloyd

9  Small House Living by Catherine Foster (2015)

Why buy big when you can build small? This book showcases some beautifully designed Kiwi homes that save on space without losing aesthetic or practicality. Ingenious architecture making the most of small spaces. / Rachel Pilois

10 The Heart is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (1940)

Depicting the American South’s harsh realities and flawed, deeply human characters, it’s incredible to know that McCullers penned this novel when she was 22. A must read for fans of Harper Lee, John Steinbeck or tales of heart-breaking loneliness. / Dani Henke

Keep going!