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Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

BooksMay 3, 2024

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending May 3

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

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.


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

The masterful Irish writer completes, at minimum, 40 drafts of each of her stories. Which may explain why they are so perfect.

4 The Last Secret Agent: My Untold Story of Life as a Spy Behind Nazi Enemy Lines by Pippa Latour with Jude Dobson (Allen & Unwin, $38)

An unputdownable memoir of Latour’s life as a spy during World War II, featuring stomach-churning bravery and chapter headings such as: “Caught and questioned by the Gestapo” and “Catch me if you can”. 

3 James by Percival Everett (Mantle, $38)

The latest from a giant of US fiction. Blurb: “The Mississippi River, 1861. When the enslaved Jim overhears that he is about to be sold to a new owner in New Orleans and separated from his wife and daughter forever, he decides to hide on nearby Jackson’s Island until he can formulate a plan. Meanwhile, Huck Finn has faked his own death to escape his violent father who recently returned to town.

Thus begins a dangerous and transcendent journey by raft along the Mississippi River, toward the elusive promise of free states and beyond. As James and Huck begin to navigate the treacherous waters, each bend in the river holds the promise of both salvation and demise.

With rumours of a brewing war, James must face the burden he carries: the family he is desperate to protect and the constant lie he must live. And together, the unlikely pair must face the most dangerous odyssey of them all . . .”

4 Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Vintage, $26)

Gaming-based heart-warming fiction.

5 What You Are Looking for is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama (Doubleday, $37)

Library-based heart-warming fiction.

6 Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa (Bonnier Publishing, $28)

Bookshop-based heart-warming fiction.

7 Until August by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Viking Penguin, $40)

It always seems so improbable when long-lost manuscripts of Nobel Prize winning authors are discovered. And yet, Until August is the lost novel from the Nobel-Prize winning author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Love in the Time of Cholera.

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

If you haven’t read this one yet then let Pedro from Goodreads entice you: “After that ending, I’m really not sure about what to say about this… I mean, the writing was very effective, and the author is clearly very comfortable with different writing styles. Characterisation was insane, and so was dialogue (well done, Paul Murray, because that’s how kids and teens talk. Bravo!)”

You wanna know what happens at the end now, right?

9 AMMA by Saraid De Silva (Hachette, $38)

The assured first novel from our own Saraid De Silva, described by Brannavan Gnanalingam as “brilliance” right here on The Spinoff.

10 American Mother by Colum McCann & Diane Foley (Bloomsbury, $39)

A profound, but troubling, book for such times as these: Diane Foley’s son, a photojournalist, was murdered, brutally, by the Islamic State in Syria and this is his mother’s story of understanding how he lived, died, the failures of the US government to rescue him, and her extraordinary forgiveness in unimaginable circumstances.


1 Here Today Gone Tomorrow: Wellington Street Art by Jaimie Baird (Jaimie Baird, $70)

The very definition of passion project: Baird has spent years and years documenting Wellington’s street art and this book is a marvellous record of the shifting faces of our built environment. A treasure for anyone who loves the best little wildest absolutely positively coolest capital on a good, bad and decidedly average day. 

2 Hine Toa: A Story of Bravery by Ngahuia Te Awekotuku (HarperCollins, $40)

The story of how one of our brightest scholars and activists came to be her luminous self. Review coming soon.

3 Ash by Louise Wallace (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $30)

A small but perfectly formed novel about how love, humour and grit drives a woman to weather the pressure of shitty systems, unexpected disasters, and the drudgery of the daily grind. Books editor Claire Mabey describes it as a “page-turning rural gothic” in this ecstatic review, here.

4 The Last Secret Agent: My Untold Story of Life as a Spy Behind Nazi Enemy Lines by Pippa Latour with Jude Dobson (Allen & Unwin, $38)

5 Foraging New Zealand: Over 250 Plants to Forage in Aotearoa by Peter Langlands (Random House, $50)

A magnificent new tome from a truly passionate author, this book has been a lifetime in the making. Delightful (and slightly terrifying once you get to the “Russian roulette” of foraging part) interview and report over on RNZ, here.

6 Strong Female Character by Fern Brady (Brazen, $28)

For those who love memoirs by funny Scots.

7 Beautiful Afternoon by Airini Beautrais (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

Beautrais stands out for me […] because she has something new to say, which is not the case with everyone in the field, even some of the current stars. Beautrais has an original take on every topic she tackles. She is difficult, imaginative, daring,” writes Anne Kennedy about this collection of essays from one of our most excellent writers, previously known for award-winning short stories and poetry.

8 Unsettled: Small Stories of Decolonisation by Richard Shaw (Massey University Press, $40)

Beautifully written and balanced book about Pākeha who are getting to grips with their settler stories in the context of what those journeys meant for te ao Māori and this whenua An incredibly useful tool; and one that works well alongside Imagining Decolonisation. Read an excerpt on The Spinoff here

9 Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life by Anna Funder (Hamish Hamilton, $40)

An acutely smart book that uncovers the hidden work of Orwell’s wife. From The Guardian review: “Funder reads the six major biographies of Orwell, all written by men and all fictions of omission, which minimise the roles of women, use the passive voice to disguise Eileen’s agency, and blur Orwell’s infidelity and neglect. She goes back to the primary source material, crucially the ‘revelation’ of six letters from Eileen to her friend Norah Myles, which came to light in 2005 – after the biographies were published – and give her a frank, humorous voice. The first, written six months after their marriage in 1936, reports that Orwell was annoyed the wedding interrupted his work, and that she had planned to ‘write one letter to everyone when the murder or separation had been accomplished’.”

Anna Funder will be appearing at Auckland Writers Festival in a couple of weeks, on 17 May. 

10 James by Percival Everett (Mantle, $38)

Keep going!