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Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

BooksDecember 1, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending December 1

Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

The only published and available best-selling indie book chart in New Zealand is the top 10 sales list recorded every week at Unity Books’ stores in High St, Auckland, and Willis St, Wellington.

AUCKLAND

1  Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Bloomsbury, $37)

The Irish novel that just won the 2023 Booker Prize! Esi Edugyan, chair of judges for the Booker, said: “From that first knock at the door, Prophet Song forces us out of our complacency as we follow the terrifying plight of a woman seeking to protect her family in an Ireland descending into totalitarianism. We felt unsettled from the start, submerged in – and haunted by – the sustained claustrophobia of Lynch’s powerfully constructed world. He flinches from nothing, depicting the reality of state violence and displacement and offering no easy consolations.

“Here the sentence is stretched to its limits – Lynch pulls off feats of language that are stunning to witness. He has the heart of a poet, using repetition and recurring motifs to create a visceral reading experience. This is a triumph of emotional storytelling, bracing and brave. With great vividness, Prophet Song captures the social and political anxieties of our current moment.”

2  The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

The Irish novel that was a runner up for the 2023 Booker Prize! Put it on your must-read list for summer.

3  Good Material by Dolly Alderton (Fig Tree, $37)

The new comedic-but-poignant breakup novel from the author of Everything I Know About Love and Ghosts. 

4  Rewi: Āta haere, kia tere by Jade Kake & Jeremy Hansen (Massey University, $75)

A beautiful coffee table book about the life and work of late architect Rewi Thompson. We recently published a review by Matariki Williams – here’s a taste: “Though some may lament that so few of his designs stand in built form, his impact and influence amongst colleagues and students is palpable. Multiple interviewees mention the way he opened their thinking, gently yet firmly. The intangibility of the gift he had to inspire creation has been made tangible with this book, mai i āna taonga, ka puta mai tēnei taonga. Rewi, thank you.”

5  The Observologist: A Handbook for Mounting Very Small Scientific Expeditions by Giselle Clarkson (Gecko Press, $40)

Know a small person interested in small creatures? This illustrated hardback is the perfect gift for any budding natural scientist. We recently spoke to Giselle Clarkson for The Spinoff Books Confessional, which you can check out here. 

6  Question 7 by Richard Flanagan (Knopf, $40)

Booker-winning novelist Richard Flanagan (The Narrow Road to the Deep North; Gould’s Book of Fish) has just released a memoir, and we’re hyped up and down the country. 

The Guardian writes: “Question 7 is Flanagan’s finest book. It is a treatise on the immeasurability of life, reminiscent of the Japanese tradition of mono no aware, the psychological and philosophical sweep of Tolstoy, and enmeshed in a personal essay that is tuned as finely as WG Sebald’s Rings of Saturn. In the meditative, circular story structure of memoir and history and auto-fiction, replete with nuance and sound thought, Flanagan doesn’t just present Chekhov’s Question 7 – appearing as a thread, he doesn’t just pull at it but unravels an entire tapestry. He travels to the metaphorical weaver, the shearer, the shepherd, and the hooved animal itself – and reaches into the deepest past where, he is so astute in writing, ‘there is no memory without shame’.”

7  The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donoghue (Knopf, $38)

A funny coming-of-age Irish novel. From NPR: “Who knew the financial crisis could be so … fun? Don’t get me wrong, The Rachel Incident gets into some heavy themes – class, sexual identity, abortion, to name a few – but this book navigates a young Irishwoman’s chaotic early 20s, during a specific economic moment, with a cozy warmth that had me laughing out loud throughout. This is one of those catch-yourself-smiling-without-realizing-it books – and one I think I’ll go back to, the next time I just want to feel like it’s all going to be OK.”

8  Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (Faber & Faber, $25)

The Irish again! That’s four of the ten bestsellers in Auckland, and all well-deserved. 

9  Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday, $26)

The big bestselling-novel-now-a-TV-series, following chemist Elizabeth Zott in the early 1960s. 

10  Unruly: The Ridiculous History of England’s Kings and Queens by David Mitchell (Crown, $42)

The title says it all, doesn’t it? Silliness, monarchs, and David Mitchell. 

WELLINGTON

1  Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Bloomsbury, $37)

2  The Narrow Road Between Desires by Patrick Rothfuss (Gollancz, $40)

A novella accompaniment to the Kingkiller fantasy series. 

3  The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

4  Question 7 by Richard Flanagan (Knopf, $40)

5  Clanlands in New Zealand: Kiwis, Kilts and an Adventure Down Under by Sam Heughan & Graham McTavish (Hachette, $40)

The Scottish stars of Outlander, who wrote the successful travel book Clanlands about voyaging through Scotland, have come all the way to Aotearoa for their follow up. From the publisher’s blurb: “Like the very best buddy movie sequel, this latest instalment is full of unforgettable experiences and loveable characters and promises to be an even more memorable ride with two of the most entertaining travel companions around.”

6  A Gent in Overseasia by Tony Simpson (Blythswood Press, $35)

Launched at Unity Wellington this week, A Gent in Overseasia is Tony Simpson’s first travel memoir, recounting 50 years’ worth of strange and humorous experiences across Europe, the US, and Asia. 

7  Titus Angus White & the Māori Captives on Waitematā Harbour 1863/4 by Barbara Francis (Atuanui Press, $45)

“In November 1863 at the battle of Rangiriri, over 180 Māori defenders were taken prisoner. They were marched up the Great South Road to Ōtāhuhu, from where they were transferred onto the Waitematā Harbour. There they were held captive on the prison ship Marion for nearly eight months, supervised by their bilingual Pākehā Superintendent Titus Angus White, who was also sent to retrieve them after their subsequent escape from Kawau Island.

“This book is the story of Titus Angus White and the men he ended up supervising as they were imprisoned only 600 metres off the Port of Auckland. It is also the wider story of the invasion of the Waikato and the circumstances that led to the establishment of New Zealand’s largest ever floating prison.”

8  The Year of the Locust by Terry Hayes (Bantam, $38)

The long-anticipated sequel to spy thriller I Am Pilgrim. 

9  A Waiter in Paris by Edward Chisholm (Pegasus, $28)

A fast-paced memoir about Edward Chisholm’s career as a waiter in Paris. 

10  The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917–2017 by Rashid Khalidi (Profile Books, $35)

A book from 2020 which has never been more relevant. The Financial Times calls The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine “one of the great books on the Israeli-Palestinian question.”

Keep going!