Welcome to the second edition of the lockdown charts. Well, this round of them anyway.
No books were sold at Unity Books until Wednesday morning, and then only in Wellington, so once again we’re filling the void with a very made-up list.
The Spinoff picks the theme and Unity picks the books. It’s all entirely divorced from sales and publishing and launches, etcetera. To be clear: the rankings mean nothing at all! We just like them. Also some of the staff picks are wildly off-theme, but that’s fine. Appropriate, even.
This week’s theme is Endless Love, because why not.
1 Pony by R.J. Palacio (2021)
A young boy embarks on a treacherous quest across the Midwest to find his dearly beloved Pa who has been taken by three horsemen in the dead of night. Silas Bird is accompanied by his loyal companion, a ghost boy named Mittenwool, and the most extraordinary pony.
No plot spoilers from me but as the author explains, “Ultimately, this is a book about love, which never dies, and the invisible connections that exist between people, both the living and the dead.” It is also a damn fine little western! / Jo McColl
2 My Life in France by Alex Prud’homme and Julia Child (2006)
“This is a book about some of the things I have loved most in my life: my husband, Paul Child; la belle France; and the many pleasures of cooking and eating.” So begins the joyous Julia Child’s My Life in France. Then there’s finding a short letter circa 2017 inside from Grandma in Suffolk saying that she can’t wait to see you at Christmas, and she’s off to give Grandad his tablets. If that’s not endless love in a book, I don’t know what is. / Chloe Blades
3 She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs by Sarah Smarsh (2020)
Sarah Smarsh does an amazing job of examining our “endless love” for this larger-than-life icon. Coming from a somewhat similar background in rural Kansas, she draws on her own experiences and those of the women around her to create an honest and heartfelt portrait of this legendary woman. Like Dolly herself, it’s insightful, intelligent, and wildly entertaining. / Daniel Devaney
4 The Sad Book by Michael Rosen (2004)
Endless love sounds more like a women’s deodorant from the 80s than an aspirational category of literature. The very best books about love acknowledge its failures, limitations and inevitable finitude, so I’ve chosen The Sad Book by Michael Rosen, a picture book based on the death of Rosen’s 18-year-old son to meningitis. This book is infinitely generous in its honesty and rage and love. Not endless, but enduring. If it doesn’t make you bawl your eyes out, what the hell is wrong with you? / Hera Lindsay Bird
5 Rangikura by Tayi Tibble (2021)
Love the world as Tayi Tibble does in Rangikura. Her Kuia, her skuzz, her heart aching romance, her wickedness, her race to slow the sun. / Susanna Andrew
6 The Pisces: A Novel by Melissa Broder (2018)
Dark mermaid romance. If finding love beyond the limits of the land doesn’t count as endless, then what does? / Briar Lawry
7 Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (2006)
A five-minute boyfriend turning into the possibility of so much more and an infinite playlist give this NYC teen romance the foundations of an endless love story. / Briar Lawry
8 The Women of Troy by Pat Barker (2021)
This most excellent sequel to The Silence of the Girls opens with the Trojan Horse rolling into Troy. The city burns, the women are raped and enslaved and the Trojan males, including the children, are slaughtered. (All because Menelaus loves Helen heaps and wants her back at his house.) Now the victorious Greeks await the winds to set sail for home. But those petty, vindictive gods aren’t finished messing with the mortals. The paranoid, traumatised soldiers must wait, trapped on the beach while the captive women do what they must to survive. / Jo McColl
9 I Love Dick by Chris Kraus (1997)
If a ménage à trois were a game, failing artist Kraus and her husband Sylvère would be at the start line begging new acquaintance Dick to put his piece on the board. Thankfully he never replies to their letters – if he had we’d be without this artful, one-sided extramarital infatuation. A masterpiece of memoir, essay and fiction, this is essential reading for every romantic, feminist and voyeur. / Chloe Blades
10 The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara (2017)
Yes, it’s September but did you know August is “Women in Translation Month”? So why not celebrate by reading The Adventures of China Iron, which was shortlisted for the 2020 International Man Booker Prize and rudely didn’t win. Think of Carol by Patricia Highsmith but instead of a road trip (or escape) across America 1950s, imagine Carol and Therese on a wagon pulled by oxen across the Pampas 1800s. Deeply queer and sapphic. Probably the sexiest book I’ve ever read. / Demi Cox
1 Patience by Daniel Clowes (2016)
This strange love story, full of violence, tenderness and time travel, is one of the best comic books you will read. Tired tropes of the genre are avoided as the characters hurtle through each other’s lives, leaving memories like shrapnel. I read it in one sitting and it haunts me. / Dylan Sherwood
2 Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (2017)
A brilliant portrayal of a mother’s never-ending love for their child. Based in a neighbourhood known for structure and order, multiple families find themselves intertwined in a tornado of secrets, love, and desperation. When a lawsuit breaks out over the rights to an innocent child, cracks begin to show in each family, and secrets spill out. This is an easy yet engaging read that you won’t be able to put down. A great example of looking at multiple perspectives, and how people’s actions, when done for love, are not so easy to pass judgement on. / Neave Ellis
3 Possession by AS Byatt (1990)
A slow-burn love affair develops over a series of letters between two literary scholars, who uncover connections romantically linking the objects of their studies. When does mutual inspiration mutate from collaboration to plagiarism? Who has the right to speculate about the works of previous generations? And is it better to be the possessor or the possessed? With lush language and a deliberately relaxed pace, this is a detailed, intellectually and emotionally stimulating novel. / Karen McLeod
4 The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011)
The Song of Achilles tells the story of the Greek lovers Achilles and Patroclus as they grow from boys to men, developing a tender and passionate bond. With Patroclus as our guide, we bear witness to the growth of their love through times of war. Miller reveals her characters in a manner that is gentle and profound. Her words tug on readers’ heartstrings and make tangible feelings sing from the page. From beginning to end, Miller celebrates dimensions of humanity we tend to neglect. / Dee
5 Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard (1980)
Two sisters, Grace and Caro Bell, emigrate to England from Australia in the 1950s in search of new lives. For Caro, whose destiny is to love and be loved, the price includes betrayal. For Grace, who risks less, knowledge tempered with anguish comes too late. A brilliant exploration of love and its power to transform and transcend. / Marion Castree
6 Stardust by Neil Gaiman (1999)
Classic boy-meets-girl scenario – surely this can’t end well? A dying king, brothers vying for dominion, a lost sister/mother, witches (evil), land of The Faerie (always dodgy), a self-serving girl, a boy … and a star, all contained within this fable of derring-do and misadventure. Gaiman has written this fantasy in a pre-Tolkien style (think H Rider Haggard’s serial She), adding, for his readership, an element of unexpected pleasure. / Jacqui Brokenshaw
7 The Passion by Jeanette Winterson (1987)
“Wherever love is, I want to be. I will follow it as surely as the land-locked salmon finds the sea.” This book tells of the picaresque adventures of Henri, a naive, hero-worshipping follower in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army, and the melodramas of Villanelle, a cross-dressing Venetian boatman’s daughter who cannot swim. Masks and disguises, bridges and canals, smells, sounds and images rendered in absolutely magical language turn this story into an enchantment from which you won’t want to escape. When the protagonists finally meet, romance and tragedy merge and we are left to acknowledge that things don’t always run smoothly, but that love, even when unrequited, can be transformational. / Karen McLeod
8 Cousins by Patricia Grace (1992)
Moving from the 1940s to the 1970s, from the country to the protests of the cities, Cousins is the story of three cousins – Makareta, Missy and Mata. Thrown together as children, they have subsequently grown apart, yet they share a connection that can never be broken. A novel of the enduring, intrinsic love of whānau during these turbulent times. / Marion Castree
9 The Stationery Shop of Tehran by Marjan Kamali (2019)
Sundered love does not fade away, shrivel or die; it lies, quietly dormant, in that one small part of the heart that resolutely keeps it alive. During the events of 1953 in Tehran, young lovers are separated by time and distance until, 60 years later, there comes the chance to meet. Kamali’s prose is elegant and evocative, the story such a joy to read, and the characters of Iran, Roya, Bahman, Walter deftly drawn. / Jacqui Brokenshaw
10 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
With a sharp, stalwart heroine; a madwoman in the attic; a mysterious traveller found injured, Jane Eyre has lived on in the collective imagination for good reason. Yes, there’s romance, but the real endless love is mine, for this novel. / Ash Miles
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