Writer Elizabeth Knox on a couch, wrapped up in a beanie and slippers, reading through a stack of books
Sustained silent reading with Elizabeth Knox (Photo: Fergus Barrowman)

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending July 2

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  Labour Saving: A Memoir by Michael Cullen (Allen & Unwin, $50)

A new entrant hits number one in both Auckland and Wellington! One of Labour’s best-known politicians, Michael Cullen led major economic policies including the Superannuation Fund, KiwiSaver and the Working for Families package, and helped to steer New Zealand through the GFC. Now he’s written a tell-all memoir, airing decades of Beehive dirty laundry and uncouth affairs. 

Kidding! It’s about the important political and economic stuff. 

2  Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber, $37)

The main Klara and the Sun question that people ask Google is, “What is the sun in Klara and the Sun?” Instead of responding facetiously with “it’s … still the sun,” Wikipedia kindly replies, “From the window of the store in which she is for sale, Klara learns about the world outside and watches the sun, which she always refers to as ‘he’ and treats as a living entity. As a solar-powered AF [artificial friend], the sun’s nourishment is of great importance to her.” To add to Wikipedia’s spiel – Klara also believes the sun can save Josie, the unwell girl who takes her home.  

3  The Bomber Mafia: A Story Set in War by Malcolm Gladwell (Allen Lane, $40)

The mega-bestselling author of Blink, Outliers and David and Goliath has released a new book about the failure of precision bombing in World War II. 

4  Real Estate by Deborah Levy (Hamish Hamilton, $26)

The Guardian says, “The desire for the security of real estate, long ago embodied in Virginia Woolf’s idea of a room of one’s own, is, for Levy, not merely a matter of property but of staking out territory artistically. At a party in London, she is confronted by a male writer of a similar age who seems determined to diminish her recent success. ‘The truth was that he viewed every female writer as a sitting tenant on his land.’”

5  The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Canongate, $33)

Also in The Guardian (promise we’re not clipping their ticket), Matt Haig spoke about his forthcoming self-help book, The Comfort Book, and standing up to “mental health snobbery”. He said, “When you’re feeling a bit rough and ropey, and your mind is distracted, you can’t absorb the most highbrow text. You’re not there reading Freud and Jung and Lacan. A pop song can save your life. An episode of Friends can change your life. But when it’s in the world of books, it becomes this snobfest. I’m resistant to that.”

6  Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press, $35)

Surely everyone in the country has read Auē already, and these copies are being posted to overseas relations. 

7  Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Victoria University Press, $35)

“Greta & Valdin, by debut author Rebecca K Reilly, reminded me of watching Seinfeld in the 1990s. Smart, weird, hilarious single people navigating living and loving in the big city. In the case of siblings Greta Vladisavljevic​ and her brother, Valdin, the big city is modern-day Auckland” – Stuff review. 

8  Letters to Camondo by Edmund de Waal (Chatto & Windus, $37)

Another new nonfiction goodie! For those of you scratching your heads thinking, “Edmund de Waal … I know that name … ”, he’s the author of The Hare with the Amber Eyes, which was the non fiction book of 2010, and probably 2011 and 2012, too. This new book is a series of fictionalised letters to the Count de Camondo, who owned a palace of beautiful objects in Paris a few doors from de Waal’s family home. 

9  Loop Tracks by Sue Orr (Victoria University Press, $35)

A new local novel about family, abortion rights, euthanasia, aging, and Covid-19 that people are rightly frothing over.

10  Aroha: Māori Wisdom for a Contented Life Lived in Harmony with our Planet by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

In NZ Book Lovers, Elder said, “I have found the power of whakataukī and whakatauākī, Māori proverbial sayings, many of them ancient, have helped me with the ups and downs of life. This book is my attempt to share that with others.”

Oprah’s into it.

WELLINGTON

1  Labour Saving: A Memoir by Michael Cullen (Allen & Unwin, $50)

2  Imagining Decolonisation by Rebecca Kiddle, Bianca Elkington, Moana Jackson, Ocean Ripeka Mercier, Mike Ross, Jennie Smeaton and Amanda Thomas (Bridget Williams Books, $15)

It doesn’t matter how much great new nonfiction is published –Imagining Decolonisation will always be the winner in our hearts, and in Unity’s bestseller lists. 

3  The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Dialogue Books, $25)

A novel about identical twins, and how the decision of one sister to move away from home and pass for white divides them and shapes their lives. 

4  Aroha: Māori Wisdom for a Contented Life Lived in Harmony with our Planet by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

5  Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber, $37)

6  Rangikura by Tayi Tibble (Victoria University Press, $25)

New poetry by Aotearoa’s literary it girl. Reviewed here.

7  The Mirror Book by Charlotte Grimshaw (Vintage, $38)

This week, Polly Lang, the pseudonymous author of ‘My Lockdown Story’ published a second essay on The Spinoff thanking Charlotte Grimshaw for freeing her to tell her story. Thanks, Charlotte!

8  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury, $25)

A fun, sexy romp through Ancient Greece that seems to pop up in the bestsellers list whenever there’s a whiff of lockdown, because that’s when people really need a romp.

9  Loop Tracks by Sue Orr (Victoria University Press, $35)

10  Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City by Edmund Richardson (Bloomsbury, $33)

The story of how Alexandria was rediscovered in 1833 by archaeologist and working-class Londoner Charles Masson. Along the way Masson met with kings, travelled with holy men, spied for the East India Company and was offered his own kingdom. The author’s terrific interview with Kim Hill is here




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