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Palm fronds at night form a backdrop for a book cover featuring a portrait of a young man.
To Paradise, the new novel by the author of A Little Life (Background image: Jasmina007 via Getty; Design: Tina Tiller)

BooksFebruary 4, 2022

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending February 4

Palm fronds at night form a backdrop for a book cover featuring a portrait of a young man.
To Paradise, the new novel by the author of A Little Life (Background image: Jasmina007 via Getty; Design: 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  To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador, $38)

The expansive new novel by the author of A Little Life. Here’s an interesting tidbit from an interview with the Guardian: “After three novels, her project is becoming clear: as Edmund White puts it, she is chronicling her country just as panoramically as Tolstoy did his, with a similar confidence that the story is interesting. ‘I’ve really thought about how young America is as a nation,’ says Yanagihara. ‘Despite the frustration and despair – even in countries like France, which pretend they don’t care about it – there is such an admiration for America. It’s our vitality, our childlike qualities, you know – our optimism and generosity, but also our spoiltness, our tantrum-throwing, our inwardness, our myopia. I really do think of it as a precocious and quite bratty child, heading into adolescence: every quality that you would admire in that child and every quality that will frustrate you exists within America as well.’”

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

Our most constant companion, reviewed for The Spinoff last week by Anahera Gildea. We received this forewarning from the lovely humans of Unity Wellington yesterday: “Imagining Decolonisation is currently reprinting, expected soon, so if it falls off the list … that’s probably why.”

3  Salad: 70 Delicious Recipes For Every Occasion by the Two Raw Sisters: Margo and Rosa Flanagan (Allen & Unwin $45)

Salads galore! Goodbye and good riddance iceberg leaf with tomato slice – 70-plus new kids are in town. Recipes include garlic zucchini with mint pine nut salsa; pumpkin, lentil and avocado with roasted lemon oil; and spiced eggplant, butter beans and pomegranate tahini. There are even dessert salads, like walnut and date baked pears with dulce de leche.

4  The Promise by Damon Galgut (Chatto & Windus, $37)

The most recent winner of the Booker, set in South Africa during the deterioration of apartheid. 

5  Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury, $23)

A beautiful, slim, chills-giving novel. 

“Since the World began it is certain that there have existed 15 people. Possibly there have been more; but I am a scientist and must proceed according to the evidence. Of the 15 people whose existence is verifiable, only Myself and the Other are now living.”

6  Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury (Michael Joseph, $35)

The sweetest illustrated hardback (about friendship, natch) that you could ever dream of.

7  Shifting Grounds: Deep Histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland by Lucy Mackintosh (Bridget Williams Books, $60)

Anna Rawhiti-Connell has just written a sparkling new review of this history of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. A sizeable excerpt, for sampling:

“Shifting Grounds reveals a meaning in the land; it finally allows Tāmaki Makaurau to be less of a place forged through the eyes of Pākehā historians, or merely as we see it now. Instead, Mackintosh’s writing and the book’s educative and exciting use of photography creates a place ‘where long histories have been crafted into the physical environment, where different knowledge systems have evolved and co-existed, and where the past continues to reverberate across time’.

“When travelling in cities overseas I’ve often been told to ‘look up’ to truly appreciate a city. Mackintosh asks us to look down, at the ground, at the tracks in the grass and beneath the earth, and consider that what we see now not only whispers our history back to us, but directly influences our present-day understanding and experience of Tāmaki Makaurau.”

8  Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (Simon & Schuster, $35)

The newest, beloved novel by the author of All the Light We Cannot See. 

9  The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk (Text Publishing, $40)

When Olga Tokarczuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature, most of the judges’ praise was focused on The Books of Jacob – which at the time wasn’t available in English. Now, dear readers, it is. Here’s what the Washington Post has to say: “It’s just as awe-inspiring as the Nobel judges claimed when they praised Tokarczuk for showing ‘the supreme capacity of the novel to represent a case almost beyond human understanding.’ In terms of its scope and ambition, The Books of Jacob is beyond anything else I’ve ever read. Even its voluminous subtitle is a witty expression of Tokarczuk’s irrepressible, omnivorous reach. Deep breath: ‘A Fantastic Journey Across Seven Borders, Five Languages, and Three Major Religions, Not Counting the Minor Sects. Told by the Dead, Supplemented by the Author, Drawing From a Range of Books, and Aided by Imagination, the Which Being the Greatest Natural Gift of Any Person. That the Wise Might Have It for a Record, That My Compatriots Reflect, Laypersons Gain Some Understanding, and Melancholy Souls Obtain Some Slight Enjoyment.’”

10  It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover (Simon & Schuster, $23)

Did somebody say, “These books all look too intense, or else include a questionable ‘dessert salad’. Where’s the light, girly beach read?” Well, your brooding complaint has been answered.


1  Leadership Levers: Releasing the Power of Relationships for Exceptional Participation, Alignment, and Team Results by Diana Jones (Routledge, $55)

Leaders with sensitive souls and thin skins, cover your eyes – the publisher’s blurb is coming at you with harsh realities: “There’s an epidemic of leadership failure – whether something as small as a meeting, or as large as implementing enterprise wide change. Leaders know that sinking feeling when a gap emerges between themselves and the groups they most need to engage with. Leaders and business schools are looking in the wrong places for the cause.”

Luckily, leadership coach Diana Jones has written this book – and apparently Wellingtonians are ready for her guidance. 

2  To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador, $38)

3  Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention by Johann Hari (Bloomsbury, $35)

A very convincing review from Arianna Huffington: “If you want to get your attention and focus back, you need to read this remarkable book. All over the world, Johann Hari interviewed both the leading scientists investigating why we’re losing our focus, and the people developing solutions. He has cracked the code of why we’re in this crisis, and how to get out of it. We all need to hear this message.”

If you’re reading this bestsellers list when you should be working, consider these words carefully.

4  She’s a Killer by Kirsten McDougall (Victoria University Press, $30)

An excellent local novel about a future dystopian version of New Zealand, by the outgoing and beloved publicity-juggler at Te Herenga Waka University Press (formerly known as VUP). She’s A Killer rightfully landed on the Ockhams longlist last week; you can and should read this eerily familiar excerpt set in a supermarket.

5  Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It by Oliver Burkeman (Bodley Head, $38) 

Life is short (around 4000 weeks, I heard somewhere), so we may as well use our time wisely. Oliver Burkeman steps up to the plate to help.

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

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

Oprah’s favourite is back in the running to be Wellington’s favourite. 

8  The Promise by Damon Galgut (Chatto & Windus, $37)

9  Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (Faber, $23)

The first of the Rooneys, published pre-world takeover. 

10  He Pou Hiringa: Grounding Science and Technology in Te Ao Māori edited by Katharina Ruckstuhl, Merata Kawharu and Maria Amoamo (Bridget Williams Books, $15)

Another excellent BWB publication. Broaden your mind for just $15. 

Keep going!